The 2012 ZiPS Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

It’s been an annual tradition of mine to review the numbers from each major projection system every winter, and this year Yankee fans have been granted a very early Christmas present in the form of Dan Szymborksi already releasing his 2012 ZiPS projections for the Yankees despite the fact that the World Series has yet to conclude.

SG at RLYW took a brief look at the projections on Monday, while Mike Axisa wrote about Jesus Montero‘s 2012 ZiPS projection, so be sure to have a look at thise posts as well. In the immortal words of SG, it’s critical to remember that “Projections are inherently limited, so remember to take these for what they are.  They are rough estimates of a player’s current talent level.  They are not predictions for what a player is going to do in 2012, and they are not playing time predictions either.”

Basically, just remember to take preseason projections with a grain of salt. They’re a reasonable barometer for what a given player might be expected to do, but as SG said they not meant to be predictive. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t also have some fun with them. One other note — though ZiPS doesn’t allocate playing time for the offense, some of the other systems — such as SG’s own CAIRO, which is probably the best projection system currently in existence — do. For what it’s worth, SG feels that ZiPS is among the best publicly available projection systems, so that may be worth keeping in mind as well as you peruse the numbers.


Derek Jeter

2011 ZiPS projection: .280/.347/.393, 95 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .297/.355/.388, 97 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .268/.329/.362, 82 OPS+

Derek appeared to be on his way to performing well below the 95 OPS+ bar ‘s set by his 2011 ZiPS projection until his scorching-hot second-half enabled him to actually surpass it and turn in a near-league average season. ZiPS doesn’t think much of Derek’s resurgence, and pegs him for a near-replacement level performance in 2012. For as tough as I was on Derek throughout his wretched year-and-a-half slump, and while it seems unlikely he’ll continue to rake at the .327/.383/.428 rate he did during the second half of 2011 over a full season, I saw enough of a change in his approach that I feel comfortable in expecting at least a league average year from Derek.

Curtis Granderson

2011 ZiPS projection: .261/.338/.494, 115 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .262/.364/.552, 138 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .256/.346/.495, 118 OPS+

Curtis’ breakout year was obviously one of the best surprises of the season — his 2011 projection seemed reasonable enough, but his revised approach against lefthanders proved to be a lasting one. ZiPS’ 2012 projection is essentially unchanged from its 2011, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a similar season from Curtis, who has joined Robinson Cano as the team’s two best hitters.

Mark Teixeria

2011 ZiPS projection: .273/.375/.516, 132 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .248/.341/.494, 117 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .263/.359/.495, 122 OPS+

There’s no way around it: Tex’s 2011 was a big disappointment, andthat OBP is scarier than anything you’ll see during Halloween next Monday. ZiPS actually sees a slightly improved season from Tex, although his 2012 projections is significantly less robust than the 2011 iteration.

Alex Rodriguez

2011 ZiPS projection: .277/.369/.527, 132 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .276/.362/.461, 116 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .264/.350/.474, 115 OPS+

Alex had a disappointing, injury-plagued season in 2011, and the ZiPS projection essentially sees a repeat of that effort. On the whole, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing for a player who will be entering his Age 36 season, though while we have to expect a certain level of decreased effectiveness, I’m not entirely sure A-Rod’s true talent level has declined to the point of him being a sub-.500 SLG hitter. I’ve always been an A-Rod apologist, but he pretty clearly wasn’t playing a 100% during the last month of the season along with the playoffs, and I’d like to see what a 100% healthy A-Rod can do before writing his obituary as a legitimate middle-of-the-order force.

Robinson Cano

2011 ZiPS projection: .298/.346/.491, 117 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .302/.349/.533, 129 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .299/.347/.506, 121 OPS+

Projection systems always seem to underestimate Cano, who turned in another excellent season, and is now the Yankees’ best all-around hitter. While they may wait to see how both players hit in spring training, it seems likely that Cano will begin the year in the three-hole that he ascended to at season’s end.

Nick Swisher

2011 ZiPS projection: .258/.356/.485, 119 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .260/.374/.449, 117 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .253/.358/.456, 113 OPS+

Swish’s severe slump during the first two months of the season more or less ensured that no matter how hot he’d get, his overall SLG would take a hit, and he did end up posting the lowest SLG of his three-year Yankee career. That said, everyone’s favorite whipping boy still put up the second-best season among AL rightfielders, and seems like a pretty good bet to putperform his 2012 ZiPs projection.

Jesus Montero

2011 ZiPS projection: .276/.334/.503, 116 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .328/.406/.590, 159 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .271/.333/.486, 112 OPS+

As Mike Axisa noted in the aforelinked post, ZiPS’ 2012 forecast is essentially unchanged from last offseason, as Montero’s laser-hot September debut wasn’t a large enough sample to meaningfully impact the projection. That said, that’s still a pretty robust projection for an 22-year-old, and while it’s pretty unlikely he’ll be a .400 OBP player (only six players in the entire league bested a .400 OBP in 2011), he showed a healthy recognition of the  strike zone (10.1% BB%) and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a .350-plus OBP out of the Yankees’ likely full-time DH next season.

Russell Martin

2011 ZiPS projection: .253/.358/.361, 90 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .237/.324/.408, 92 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .249/.346/.382, 92 OPS+

Martin underperformed his expected OBP, but made up for it by posting his highest SLG since 2007. ZiPS sees another slightly below-average offensive season from Martin, which, given his impeccable defense, is more than adequate.

Brett Gardner

2011 ZiPS projection: .260/.355/.367, 91 OPS+
2011 actual numbers: .259/.345/.369, 89 OPS+
2012 ZiPS projection: .260/.352/.370, 91 OPS+

Given the focus on his all-world defense, Brett’s disappointing offensive season seemed to slip somewhat under the radar. While he didn’t really have a “bad” year given his skill set (103 wRC+), it was still a bit of a disappointment after 2010’s robust 120 wRC+. Brett’s best offensive skill is getting on base, and falling from a.383 OBP in 2010 down to .345 in 2011 really hurt his offensive value. Unless Gardner magically develops some Jacoby-Ellsbury-out-of-nowhere-power, he’s probably not a true .380-OBP talent, but he should be able to get on base at least 36% of the time.

If you plug the starting nine’s 2012 ZiPS projected numbers into Dave Pinto’s Lineup Analysis, we get a lineup that projects to score exactly 5.3 runs per game. The 2011 team averaged 5.35 runs per game. Obviously that R/PG figure on the 2011 season is comprised of more than just nine players, but this provides a benchmark for what one could reasonably expect out of the 2012 Yankee offense. Considering that ZiPS is generally a rather bearish system as it is, that 5.3 runs per game mark is pretty stellar. For those wondering, if you swap Jeter and Gardner in the order, it barely changes a thing — 5.313 runs per game.

Starting Pitching

And here’s the pitching staff, even though at this point we obviously have no idea who exactly will be in the Yankee starting rotation next season yet.

CC Sabathia

2011 ZiPS projection: 230.1 IP, 3.32 ERA, 133 ERA+
2011 actual numbers: 237.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 147 ERA+
2012 ZiPS projection: 218.0 IP, 3.55 ERA, 126 ERA+

Sabathia seems to be projected at a 3.50 ERA every offseason, even though he hasn’t finished higher than that since 2005. I see no reason to think Sabathia will be anything other than one of the best pitchers in the league again in 2012.

Ivan Nova

2011 ZiPS projection: 149.2 IP, 5.29 ERA, 84 ERA+
2011 actual numbers: 165.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 119 ERA+
2012 ZiPS projection: 178.3 IP, 4.44 ERA, 100 ERA+

Nova’s an interesting case. ZiPS had him as near-replacement-level heading into this season, but he obviously way outperformed expectations. ZiPS now sees him as a league-average pitcher, but if his improved slider is for real, his ceiling is probably a bit higher than that.

Phil Hughes

2011 ZiPS projection: 147.2 IP, 4.08 ERA, 108 ERA+
2011 actual numbers: 74.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 77 ERA+
2012 ZiPS projection: 122.7 IP, 4.84 ERA, 92 ERA+

No one knows what to make of Phil Hughes, and a disastrous 2011 has ZiPS going from projecting a solidly above-league-average starter to a rather mediocre one. Though he hasn’t given many reasons to stay positive, I still think the Phil Hughes story has yet to be written, and he should be able to bounceback and at the very least better a 4.84 ERA.

A.J. Burnett

2011 ZiPS projection: 182.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 98 ERA+
2011 actual numbers: 190.1 IP, 5.15 ERA, 86 ERA+
2012 ZiPS projection: 159.3 IP, 5.31 ERA, 84 ERA+

Despie a horrid 2010, ZiPS was actually pretty reasonable with Burnett’s 2011 projection, but a second-straight terrible year has ZiPS on the warpath, basically expecting Burnett to repeat both his 2010 and 2011. Given what we’ve seen from Burnett, it’s tough to be optimistic that he’ll be any better at this point, but with two years still remaining on his deal, Yankee fans will have to hold out hope that he can perhaps at least approach league average in 2012.

Freddy Garcia

2011 ZiPS projection: 82 IP, 4.96 ERA, 92 ERA+
2011 actual numbers: 146.2 IP, 3.62 ERA, 122 ERA+
2012 ZiPS projection: 128.0 IP, 4.85 ERA, 92 ERA+

Freddy’s solid showing in 2011 hasn’t influenced ZiPS at all, as the system still sees him as a 92 ERA+ pitcher. While he’s probably not 122 ERA+ starter anymore, the crafty veteran was serviceable enough that if the Yankees need a back-end option and Garcia’s still available later this winter, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they brought him back into the fold. Of course, if they decide to offer him arbitration he’ll likely be back anyway.

3 thoughts on “The 2012 ZiPS Projections: Yankee Offense and Pitching

    • I think A-Rod’s really going to surprise a lot of people next season, provided he can stay healthy. He was never 100% after returning from the DL, and he’s better than a ~.360 wOBA player when he’s right. Of course, I suppose at this point health is really the big question when it comes to Alex.