2014 MLB Preview #9: The New York Yankees

The New York Yankees (90-72)
Team Ace: CC Sabathia
Breakout Player: Michael Pineda

The Yankees have an extremely wide range of outcomes for this season, and I decided to go by the numbers with my favorite team (partly because I felt it was a way to be less bias, and mostly because it seemed really fun to do).  Lets start with the facts; the Yankees had 85 wins last year, after having 95 wins in 2012.  Their team ace, CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career (career worst 4.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .3 WAR and in pitches per inning, and worst K rate since 2005).  They suffered major injuries with four of their previous year’s regular starters, with Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, and Granderson all missing at least 100 games.  The team was forced to mix and match any players they could find, and although they didn’t make the playoffs still managed to be surprisingly competitive relying on guys that were at or below replacement level.   Everything that could have went wrong for the Yankees did in 2013.  To me, this all means that 85 wins is a worse case scenario for this team this year.

This year they entered spring training with an almost entirely different lineup, both compared to last season and 2012.  The chart below shows the team’s projected starting lineup, compared to the last two seasons, and uses WAR as a base to show where they should improve, assuming that their starters stay relatively healthy (start around 140 games).

 

Picture 4

If WAR means anything, the Yankees should be about 4 games better than they were in 2013 thanks to offense alone this season.

Obviously I’m assuming a few things.  I have Jeter and Teix performing at a level about 70% lower than they did in 2012, which I think is a realistic possibility.  Of course they could return to full strength, but it’s just as likely that they return to the DL for a period, or never fully regain their swing.  I have the team’s new players, Ellsbury, Beltran, and McCann, performing at a level slightly below their production with their old teams.  By no means am I giving them a projected WAR that would be considered a best case scenario, more closely the median of likely outcomes.

What I got out of making this chart, is that offensively the Yankees should be improved from last season, but not as great as they were in 2012, when everything seemed to work out in the regular season.  WAR isn’t everything, but if you take it for what it’s supposed to represent, the offense should take this team up to 89 wins on it’s own.

I did the same thing with their pitching rotation.  The numbers here were a little more difficult to come up with….

Picture 5

Their pitching staff is already improved thanks to Masahiro Tanaka, and if Sabathia can at least bounce back  to half of what he used to be, the team could have a strong and underrated rotation.

The first thing to notice is that I have CC bouncing back a bit.  A 1.5 WAR would still be the second lowest of his career, but I can’t imagine him getting back to Cy Young production with the dip in velocity he experienced last year.  When these pitchers fall off a cliff like he did last year, it’s a real struggle for most of them to get back up at all.

The hard part of figuring this out was projecting Tanaka and Pineda, who really have no track record to base my predictions off.  Pineda’s WAR in his one major league season in Seattle was 2.1, and now he moves to a much more hitter friendly park.  I’m clearly giving him the benefit of the doubt here.  I do think that I’m being a bit conservative with Tanaka though.  Yu Darvish had a WAR of 4 his first season, and Kuroda has had a WAR between 3 and 5 his whole career.  Does that mean anything? Probably not, but it’s what I used.

In all, their staff was improved by around 2 wins in all, putting them to 92 wins total for the year.

The last factor in all this is the bullpen, which I think is in worse shape, and has far less depth as before…

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.43.26 PM

Mariano’s retirement is a big reason for the decline, but the Yankees have had some problems outside of the 8th and 9th innings for a while now. The 1.5 WAR decrease this year will bring them back down to 90 or 91 wins, which is how I got my 90-72 prediction.

Does this mean anything? Absolutely not.  A lot of things can happen in a season, but if the numbers mean anything, the Yankees should return to the playoffs this year.

 

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