Dec 13, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; the New York Yankees introduce new center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury during press conference at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Yankees: Better Talent, Same Record


The Yankees will certainly have a more talented team in 2014 than they did in 2013. The acquisitions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts should more than offset the losses of Chris Stewart, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano. A full season of Alfonso Soriano over Ichiro Suzuki is a net positive. A healthy Mark Teixeira would be an upgrade over Lyle Overbay and a healthy Derek Jeter would produce more than Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, et al. The pitching side of things would take a slight hit with the losses of Andy Pettitte, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera assuming no further free agent additions beyond Matt Thornton. The Yankees should win more games in 2014 than they did last year.

The 2013 team went 85-77 and missed a playoff spot. However, the true talent of the team was actually only a 79-win team according to their runs scored and allowed. The team scored 650 runs and allowed 671 runs. Bill James‘ Pythagorean Win/Loss Record is calculated as (runs scored^2)/((runs scored^2)+(runs allowed^2)). Plugging in 650 and 671 gives a win percentage of .484. Multiply that by 162 and the Yankees should have won 78.4 games (rounded up to 79 to even out the zero-sum game that is the MLB standings). This calculation strips out peculiar runs scored and allowed distributions (The extreme example being a team that alternates games of scoring 10 runs and 0 runs versus a team that always scores 5 runs) and luck in close games (The Yankees at 30-16 had the best record in the MLB in 1-run games). On paper the 2013 team was bad. In the standings, they were above .500 and okay.

Despite all of the upgrades, the 2014 team might finish with a similar record. Fangraphs.com projects the Yankees’ pitchers to accrue 18.2 WAR and their batters to accrue 19.0 WAR. An exactly replacement level team would be expected to win 47.7 games. This would make the Yankees a projected 84.9 (47.7+18.2+19.0) win team. They would be expected to win exactly the same amount of games as last year despite a much more talented team. Essentially they would have added around 6 WAR to go from a lucky 2013 85-win team to true talent 2014 85-win team. They would actually finish 4th in the division based on other teams’ projections and miss the playoffs again.

These projections should not be taken as 100% guaranteed. These projections are the median outcome based on past performance, ballpark factors, aging curves, regression, etc. Positive or negative variance at the individual player and on the team level would alter the actual record. Additionally, injuries, mid-season acquisitions, and call-ups change the calculation. However, an 85-win projection seems reasonable and +/- 3 (the average positive or negative “luck” across MLB last year) wins either way wouldn’t change the overall outlook. At this projection the Yankees would miss the playoffs due to the 90+ wins needed to win the loaded AL East and the 90+ wins needed to get either of the wild card spots due to 3 good teams in the AL West and the Royals making a push in the Central.

This exercise highlights the dire need to add more talent. The Yankees are at that sweet spot on the marginal win curve (85ish wins) where each additional win is more valuable due to the playoff implications (both the extra revenue generated during a heated playoff race and the revenue generated from actual playoff games if they were to make it).

This is where a team is justified in slightly overpaying for a player. The low-hanging fruit right now is in the rotation and bullpen as they can more easily upgrade over a David Phelps, Preston Claiborne, or Michael Pineda than they can upgrade over  Johnson or  Roberts. Combine this with the fact that there are better pitching free agents than hitting free agents at this point and the Yankees should really focus on adding arms to complete the off-season.

Adding all of this talent and then finishing with a similar record as last year while missing the playoffs again would be a disappointing outcome for the Yankees. The 6 wins of luck they received in 2013 will not happen again. This is similar to the Orioles, a team that won more games in 2012 but was more talented in 2013. They just received a lot of luck in 1-run games in 2012. Pushing hard for some combination of Masahiro Tanaka, Ubaldo Jimenez, Grant Balfour (if his medicals check out), and Fernando Rodney would put the Yankees into contender territory.

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Tags: New York Yankees

  • Thomas Katona

    Don’t know what yanks are waiting for! Let’s face it Robertson isn’t gonna b able to b the yanks closer.It’s just not him, he seems to choke! Not much left out there to grab maybe someone from the minors? Know they need someone plus a another good starter. Then they could have a good shot at a division title.

  • Bigchief

    Yea same record as last year if they lose half their starters,like they did last yr

    • artie999

      Obviously, the major injury toll to the Yanks was as profound as it was incredible – in fact historic! Great point, but it should not have been necessary to make. However, the loss of Mo, Andy, Joba and Cano with no comparable replacements, I think, is not offset by the new FAs McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran, Ryan, Roberts, Johnson, and Thornton – to date, let alone an overall improvement. Sadly, the Yanks let a very important FA that thay had last year walk in Reynolds, who, given a full season, which I believe he would have had with the Yanks given the massive injuries they have in the IF, would have hit .230 27 85. They further say they won’t add another IF. But, not to be too depressing, hopefully they will add Tanaka and Balfour, AND other players during the season depending on injuries. And we have a full season of slugger Soriano to look forward to. I’m, as always cautiously optimistic. What do you think?

      • Bigchief

        I agree 100%

    • artie999

      CcObviously, the major injury toll to the Yanks was as profound as it was incredible – in fact historic! Great point, but it should not have been necessary to make. However, the loss of Mo, Andy, Joba and Cano with no comparable replacements, I think, is not offset by the new FAs McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran, Ryan, Roberts, Johnson, and Thornton – to date, let alone an overall improvement. Sadly, the Yanks let a very important FA that thay had last year walk in Reynolds, who, given a full season, which I believe he would have had with the Yanks given the massive injuries they have in the IF, would have hit .230 27 85. They further say they won’t add another IF. But, not to be too depressing, hopefully they will add Tanaka and Balfour, AND other players during the season depending on injuries. And we have a full season of slugger Soriano to look forward to. I’m, as always cautiously optimistic. What do you think?

  • Arthur C Herrforth

    They also need another infielder that can hit ( Reynolds) to be serious contenders for post season play. What do you think?

    • William

      Don’t be concerned. the best organization in baseball will land that infielder.

    • Bigchief

      Yanks will do what they have to to get better always have and always will

  • William

    Excellent comment Bigchief. Why has the most obvious reason for the failure of the Yankees to make the playoffs always left out of the discussion. The Bombers were absolutely destroyed by injuries. Destroyed! We are talking about 8 or so more wins to launch them into the playoffs. Fatalistic sportswriters are less than honest. Always trying to soundy fancy while omitting the obvious truth. Then you throw in this sabremetrics garbage and what you are left with is an article tainted with group speak nonsense. Truth is the Yankees are an excellent ball club that could have easily gone all the way last year. Fact is, with what they have now, can easily win it all if healthy. The Sox would have finished under 500 with the rash of injuries the Yankees faced last year. Go Bombers!

    • Bigchief

      Amen