Early last summer, I looked into the Yankees woeful offense, and compared it to its 2012 incarnation. As most every Yankee fan knows, things never really improved last season, despite the better-than-advertised return of Alex Rodriguez, and the addition of the surprisingly effective Alfonso Soriano. The Yankees wrapped up 2013 on an underwhelming note, placing 16th in runs scored and 28th in wRC+ (between the Astros and White Sox). A silver lining did exist, though – the knowledge that the Yankees had a veritable treasure chest to offer free agents, regardless of the stated goal of a $189 MM payroll. And, for the cautious optimist, it seems unlikely that things could get much worse, as the team lost over 400 games to injury in the infield alone.
The additions of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and, yes, even Kelly Johnson bode well for a vastly improved offense – particularly when taken hand in hand with a reasonable expectation for some modicum of health. The degree to which the offense is likely to improve, however, is far more staggering than folks may realize.
For these purposes, I am using Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, as they have an excellent reputation for accuracy. I am also assuming that the Yankees positional breakdown will be:
Ca – Brian McCann
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Kelly Johnson
3B – Eduardo Nunez
SS – Derek Jeter
LF – Brett Gardner
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury
RF – Carlos Beltran
DH – Alfonso Soriano
Without further ado (and with special thanks to Jason Rosenberg):
With the exception of second base (where the Yankees had the best offensive production in the game, thanks to Robinson Cano), the team has improved fairly significantly across the board. That .026 difference may not seem like a tremendous gap, and there is a bit of selection bias here, as we aren’t considering bench production (to be fair, we are also not considering a non-Nunez solution at the hot corner). However, even taken with a grain of salt, the improvement is quite dramatic. The Yankees placed 26th in the Majors with a .301 wOBA in 2013, whereas this group’s .327 mark would have placed third, behind only the Red Sox and Tigers. Even with a hefty discount (say, splitting the difference), the Yankees would have approached the middle of the pack (a .314 wOBA would have tied them with the 15th ranked Diamondbacks). And that might have been enough for the team to reach the postseason.
None of this is to be taken gospel, to be sure. Projections, regardless of the overall accuracy, are little more than highly educated guesses. The key takeaway from this, though, is that the team’s offense looks much better, regardless of the loss of Cano, and the expected severe decline of Jeter. And with even a smidgen of luck, and a sprinkle of health, this offense could be a juggernaut.