You’re not going to believe this: according to FanGraphs, the New York Yankees have the best team on paper in the American League East yet again entering 2022, even without any additions being made prior to the season.
According to the same projections, the Boston Red Sox will be the fourth-best team in the division.
Alright, everyone! You heard the publication! Let’s pack it up!
Except … it doesn’t quite seem to work that way for either the Yankees or Sox in recent years, both teams that have gone in opposite directions and followed intangible paths to success/failure as often as they’ve matched up with statistical models.
For better or worse, this is what frustrates fans who wrongly decry analytics. They’ve see the projections that have, over and over again, called the Yankees the “best team in the AL” and have labeled the Red Sox an also-ran, only for that disparity to seemingly never translate to the regular season.
Of course, even if these projections are accurate … they have very little to do with the postseason, a bonafide crap shoot. That’s where frustration sets in, too.
Do Yankees (and Red Sox) FanGraphs predictions really add up?
Now, you’ll notice that FanGraphs doesn’t like to project outliers. Even if they were in love with the Yankees’ roster, they would never project a runaway 99 wins, because it’s statistically unlikely in a division packed with four roughly comparable teams, all projected to win between 83-90 games (with a trio at 88, 89, and 90).
There’s the differentiator, though. In an apparent close race, the projection system believes the Yankees will hold on for dear life and the Red Sox will lose steam. In reality, though, it feels as if the Yankees never separate from the pack, while Boston always manages to win head-to-head battles when they really need to.
After all, one has master motivator Alex Cora, who surged Boston past New York in both 2018 and 2021, unexpectedly. The other is helmed by Aaron Boone, who got an injury-prone 2019 Yankees squad to the finish line, but couldn’t navigate the 60-game season and disappointed tremendously with healthy seasons from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in 2022.
Prior to 2021, the Yankees had a 91.3% chance to make the postseason, outshining their current 74% mark, while Boston clocked in at 38.9%. Swiftly, those figures reversed.
Before 2018 began, New York was preferred by 5.5 points (89.7% to 84.2%). They both won 100 games, but at no point did the Yankees approach Boston’s relentlessness en route to 108 wins and the World Series.
Again … that World Series energy. That playoff magic. Percentage chances indicate the potential for success, but fans of the Aaron Boone Yankees know better than to buy all the way in.
After all, the numbers can’t tell us whether the starting pitcher knows what time the game is, or whether Aroldis Chapman cut his fingernail and didn’t tell anyone, or if Mike Ford will be pinch-hitting in the bottom of the eighth in ALDS Game 5.
This is not to dispute the validity of the projections; we have no doubt that the current Yankees roster — the paper version — should be far better than what we watched in 2021.
Then again … we did watch 2021. And 2020. And watched a roster exodus following the ’21 season that left New York even weaker. Forgive us if it’s hard to believe this team will summon the necessary intangibles to make this projection a reality.