Over at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli has been rolling out the ZiPS projections for each team, and today he finally got to the Yankees. ZiPS is a projection system created by Dan Szymborzski of Baseball Think Factory, and is one of the most accurate projection systems out there.
A disclaimer: ZiPS is entirely computer-based, meaning there are absolutely no human corrections. So if there are projections that seem off, don’t blame Dan – blame the formula itself. However, I will tell you to think carefully before you criticize a projection to harshly – ZiPS has been around for a while, and it has shown time and time again to be very reliable, or at least as reliable as any projection system can be.
One other note: don’t take the projected playing time numbers too literally. They are based on previous seasons but in general don’t take into account current injuries or depth charts. The rate stats are most important here.
That being said, here are some pertinent projections for the Yankees. First the hitters:
Cano needs to play at a very high level in order to make up for the rest of the aging, injury-prone lineup. (Image: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
– As expected, Robinson Cano is projected to be the best position player on the Yankees, and it’s not close. The combination of great contact skills, great power, and good fielding at a tough position make him one of the best players in the game.
– Also as expected, the Yankees catching situation is absolutely brutal. Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine are all projected to be very bad hitters, even relative to other catchers. This will be a very weak spot for the Yankees in 2013.
– I was disappointed by Brett Gardner‘s projection when I first saw it, but then I noticed that it is based on only 342 plate appearances. If he can stay healthy for a whole season, that projection should be closer to 3-4 WAR, which is a much more encouraging number.
– Kevin Youkilis, if he can stay healthy, could be one of the best hitters on the team, primarily due to his patience at the plate and solid power.
Now, the pitchers.
– ERA- and FIP- measure the pitcher’s ERA and FIP relative to league average, where 100 is average and every point below 100 is a percentage point better than average (as in, lower is better).
– Ivan Nova, despite my arguments to the contrary, has a very pessimistic projection. ZiPS doesn’t like Nova’s chances of keeping up his high strikeout rate, and although it expect him to improve on his home run rate somewhat (1.24 instead of 1.48), it won’t be enough to make Nova an above-average starter. I still have hope that he can rebound significantly, but we will just have to see.
– Overall, Yankee pitchers are not projected to do well. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are the only starters projected to have an above average ERA/FIP. While David Roberston and Mariano Rivera look good, the rest of the bullpen is only average. Nevertheless, it does seem as if the bullpen will be very important for the Yankees’ success in 2013.