Ivan Nova has improved and should continue improving in the second half. (Image: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

Yankees Second-Half Predictions

Earlier today, the Yanks Go Yard staff looked back at some of the biggest surprises and disappointments from the first half. Now I’d like to look forward to the second-half for the New York Yankees. Will the top performers keep performing? Will the slackers pick up the pace? Who will be the biggest surprises and disappointments in the second half? Will another mediocre relief pitcher refer to the Yankees as some sort of farm animal? I don’t know about the last question, but I can make some educated guesses about the others.

Disclaimer: I’ll be using some sabermetric stats in this post. If you’re unfamiliar with any or just want to brush up, check out this primer.

Prediction 1: Russell Martin ends the year with a batting average above .200.

As almost all of our writers said earlier today, Martin has been the biggest disappointment for the Yankees this year, mostly due to his putrid .179 batting average. I’m not sure what happened to him, and I am definitely not optimistic about his future performance, but I think he has enough in him to bring that average back above the Mendoza line.

Russell Martin should see some improvement in the second half, but not much (Image: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Martin’s BABIP is extremely low at .193. While hitters do have a lot of control over their batted balls, it is nearly impossible to sustain a sub-.200 BABIP for an entire season (Aaron Hill in 2010 is the only hitter to do so since 1990). When we look at Martin’s batted ball profile, we can see that Martin’s line drive, groundball, flyball, and infield pop-up rates are right on line with his career, in which he has a .288 BABIP. So even if he’s hitting the ball a bit weaker than before, we should see a significant jump in the number of balls that fall in for hits in the second half, which should boost his average significantly.

Prediction 2: Robinson Cano wins MVP.

While Cano is behind Mike Trout in the AL in WAR, Trout’s performance has been backed up by close to a .400 BABIP, which is almost certainly not sustainable. Cano is just tearing the cover off the ball right now, and all signs point to that continuing for the rest of the season. While his relatively low number of RBIs may hurt him among traditionally minded voters, his performance has a second baseman makes him well worthy of an MVP award.

Prediction 3: David Robertson is the Yankees’ closer in the playoffs.

This prediction is a little more bold than the others. While Soriano has been lights out as the closer, there are signs that he’s pitching a little over his head right now. His ERA and FIP have been fantastic, but they are largely bolstered by the fact that he hasn’t given up a home run all season, despite a low 38% ground ball rate. I think there’s a chance that we’ll see Soriano hit a rough patch in the near future, giving up crucial home runs and blowing saves. If Robertson gets back to his usual self, which I have full confidence that he will, I would not be surprised to see Girardi switch up the roles when it matters most: the playoffs.

Prediction 4: Ivan Nova ends the year with a lower ERA than Hiroki Kuroda.

Right now, Kuroda’s ERA sits at 3.50, and Nova is at 3.92. Although I like Kuroda as a pitcher, I don’t think he is well suited for Yankee Stadium, and I see his performance worsening as the season wears on. He sports a 3.97 xFIP and a 4.01 SIERA, indicating that we can expect closer to a 4.00 ERA going forward, based on how he has pitches so far. Nova, on the other hand, not only has a 3.79 xFIP and a 3.68 SIERA, but is young and is showing signs of significant improvement from previous years. The biggest hindrance to his success this year has been the home run ball, so Nova will have to work on keeping the ball down and getting groundballs. I believe that he can do that, and even if he doesn’t, the ERA should still drop to well below 4.00. Kuroda and Nova will probably end up with fairly close ERAs by the end, and really, the winner will largely be determined by luck. But the point is, Nova and Kuroda are not as different as the surface numbers indicate, and we should expect similarly solid yet unspectacular performances from both going forward.

So there you have it. I’m not going to pretend to be confident in any of these predictions, but if nothing else, making these predictions is a fun way to look at some of the performances of Yankees players, and determine whether they will continue or not. If you disagree with any of these predictions, or have any of your own, please share your thoughts below!

Tags: Aaron Hill BABIP Batting Average David Robertson ERA FIP Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Joe Girardi Mike Trout MVP New York Yankees Predictions Rafael Soriano Robinson Cano Russell Martin Sabermetrics Second Half SIERA XFIP Yankees

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