Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Fourth Outfielder Roulette
Despite my less than enthusiastic response to the Yankees signing Rafael Soriano for too much money and for too many years, it has upgraded the team. When I last ran my CAIRO projected standings for 2011 I had the Yankees at around 89 wins, with about a 23.2% probability of winning the AL East and with a 21.7% of taking the wild card, which put them at around 44.9% for qualifying for the postseason.
I’ve run more projections since then but am not going to post the full set because you’d be amazed how many people ignored my recommendation that they were too early to be taken seriously and went ahead and took them seriously. However, I can say that the Yankees have moved up a bit and are now looking more like a 91 win team. Here are the revised projected standings for the AL East as of roster moves from yesterday.
Div: Percentage of times team won division
WC: Percentage ot times team won wild card
PL: Percentage of times team qualified for the postseason (Div + WC)
The Yankees’ odds didn’t increase as much as my initial estimates of Soriano’s potential impact because Toronto and Baltimore have both made some moves that increased their projected win totals. In fact, they now sit in almost a dead heat for fourth place at 77 wins. That is the primary reason Boston’s gone from 98 projected to wins to about 96 now.
It’s looking like there’s a pretty good chance the Yankees will be adding Andruw Jones to the mix, although that’s still not certain. The Yankees do need to add someone as a fourth outfielder because right now their fourth outfielder would be one of Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis or Greg Golson, none of whom project to be any better than replacement level.
The names that have come up either here or other places are Jones, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and Scott Hairston. As far as which one would be the best fit, let’s see what the numbers say.
For now, the primary Yankee lineup is probably going to look something like this.
wOBA: Weighted on-base average
Outs: Outs made batting (PA times 1 minus OBP)
BR: Linear weights batting runs for PA (not position-adjusted or compared to average/replacement level)
Def: Estimated runs saved defensively compared to average over nine innings.
I’m showing the lineup based on 27 outs and nine defensive innings, or one game.
Here’s how that lineup projects vs. LHP.
They lose almost one-half run per game.
And here’s how it projects vs. RHP.
The good news is that the lineup vs. RHP is strong. Since the Yankees will probably get around 2/3 of their PA vs. righties, that’s a good thing.
Because of the drop-off vs. LHP, I do think it’s imperative for the Yankees to get a right-handed hitting OF. I will include Damon’s projection here since his name’s come up as well.
Jones’s defensive projection is based on a very limited sample in LF that shows him around -15, but I’d say he’s probably closer to average since that’s what his RF and CF numbers show.
In terms of offense, Ramirez is the best of the bunch but Jones is second. While Ramirez as DH over Posada would be an upgrade, I’m not sure it’s what I’d want the Yankees doing. If Posada can’t hit as DH or gets injured and Martin’s doing the bulk of the catching then I’d rather see Jesus Montero as the primary DH. He probably wouldn’t hit as well as Ramirez would in 2011 but he’d be a hell of a lot more fun to root for, at least for me.
Hairston projects similarly to Jones with a bit less offense and a bit more defense.
Here’s the team’s bottom line vs. LHP with each of the four players assuming Brett Gardner shifts to CF and they play LF with Posada at DH.
If Jones is more like an average defender then the net is 5.54. So he probably does make more sense than Damon or Hairston if hitting LHP and playing adequate defense is the primary concern. Over 200 PA vs. LHP the difference between Jones and Ramirez is only about five runs total.
That being said, we can’t just ignore how these players may do against RHP since they will almost certainly be used against them at some point, and may have to play a lot if one of the starters gets hurt, so here’s how the team’s net lineup looks with each of the four in LF vs. RHP.
And getting right back to the basics, here’s how the lineup would look overall with each of the four players.
Given the margin of error with projections in general and especially with defensive projections, I just can’t say definitively that the Yankees are better off with one of Jones, Damon or Hairston. While the idea of Ramirez in the lineup may be interesting, I just don’t think he’s up to playing defense full-time if the need manifests. This team doesn’t need a second full-time DH. If they need to replace Posada’s bat, they can rotate their OF through DH and play whomever they sign in the outfield, or they can use Montero and hope he’s ready.
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