Monday, October 4, 2010
How Strong Are the 2010 Yankees Heading Into the Postseason? (Position Player Edition)
Now that the regular season is wrapped up, we can think about how the Yankees stack up in a short series and get a better feel for how they match up against the Twins.
As I tend to beat to death, we need to understand that what the players did in the current season should only be part of our assessment of their true talent level. The random fluctuations that happen during a season can skew our perception of how good or bad a player is. For that reason, I’m going to use projections for the postseason series previews instead of the actual 2010 data.
By doing this, I can:
a) Account for anomalously good or bad performances that are not likely repeatable.
b) Acount for the fact that the team that played over the 162 games is not the team that will be playing in a short series. If we want to think about how good the Yankees’ current 25 man roster is, there’s nothing useful in including the performances by people like Randy Winn, Colin Curtis, Kevin Russo or Chan Ho Park. So any analysis based on 2010 Pythagorean performance or what have you is woefully incomplete in my opinion.
That being said, projections are inherently limited. While the general principle behind them is essentially right for the body of professional players as a whole, they will not necessarily capture the nuances of a player’s performance in its entirety. If a player has suffered an actual physical change in his talent that has changed his ability to do some of the things he did prior to the year, the projection for that player is going to be wrong. We try to account for that by making sure we weigh recent performance most heavily.
So for the CAIRO projections that follow, be aware they are based on about 40% 2010, 60% 2007-2009 for position players. For pitchers I weigh recent performance a bit more heavily, around 45%.
First up, here are the Yankee position players’ offensive projections.
|Lineup||Pos||2010 OBP||2010 wOBA||Proj OBP||Proj wOBA||PA||Outs||BR||Def|
wOBA: Weighted on-base average
PA: Plate appearances
Outs: calculated as (1- Proj OBP) times PA
BR: Linear weights batting runs over series estimate of playing time
Def: Projected defense over series estimate of playing time using an average of DRS, TZ, UZR and ZR (links at the bottom)
This is a rough depth chart based on assuming a five game series and assuming 25 outs made while batting per game. I’ve shown the 2010 actual OBP/wOBA as well as the projections. In the picture of a series, you’re looking at a total of about 27 runs in five games, roughly equal to an 865 run full season offense. I’ll get into the defense thing in more detail so ignore that for now.
This depth chart with the 2010 actual data would put up a wOBA of .354. Using the projection data instead puts it to .358. That’s less than a run’s worth of difference over 200 PA.
The other thing we need to think about is platooning. In the postseason, understanding how two teams match up is particularly crucial. If a team that is more susceptible to LHP is facing a team with the ability to throw several lefties against them, they’ll have a more difficult time than they would against an equally talented team which is not able to exploit a platoon advantage. So here’s how the Yankees primary starting lineup project overall as well as against LHP and RHP.
This version of the Yankee lineup is a bit more susceptible to LHP. The difference between a team that scores 5.9 runs per game and one that scores 5.5 runs per game is about five wins over a full season, although it depends on the run environment and the team’s pitching/defense. The Twins are going to have Francisco Liriano potentially going twice, and they may start Brian Duensing as well, and they have Jose Mijares and Brian Fuentes in the pen as useful lefty relievers so that could be an issue.
The good news is the Yankees can improve the lineup versus lefties by a bit if they replace Lance Berkman with Marcus Thames. They go to 5.6 runs a game with a straight swap. They may also want to consider replacing Granderson with Austin Kearns, although with the way the two are playing right now what may seem to be an upgrade on paper isn’t necessarily going to be one.
Now, we need to consider defense. It’s probably been apparent to regular readers that I haven’t talked as much about defensive metrics as I have in the past. The reason for that is the more I learn about the defensive metrics we have, the more I realize that they have some serious limitations that we need to be cognizant of.
That doesn’t mean we should ignore defense all together, it just means we need to probably consider any and all metrics that are based on a solid methodology and temper how much we believe any of them in either isolation or in the aggregate.So, here’s how the Yankee defenders look based on a weighted average of the last five seasons using Chris Dial’s Zone Rating system(ZR), Fangraph’s Ultimate Zone Rating(UZR), John Dewan’s Defensive Runs Saved(DRS) and Sean Smith’s TotalZone. While the data is available to go back to 2002 in all of these metrics, player fielding ability changes enough that I don’t think there’s much use in going back further than that.
These are the full season equivalents of how many runs each player would project to save compared to an average defender. As a team they’re a bit better than average, with the OF being the strong point. I think Cano’s probably better than his projection right now, but I also think Jeter may be worse, but overall defense isn’t a weakness, which is kind of nice after years of it being one.
Last year, the same basic analysis had the Yankees at an estimated 28.6 runs scored over a five game series. With the pitching staff that was projected they were equivalent to about a 107 win team. This year’s team looks more like a 26.7 run team. While a two run difference may not seem like a big deal, pro-rated over a full season it’s around a 60 run difference.This year’s team projects a bit worse offensively, and a hair better defensively, but I think it’s fair to say this year’s position players are not as good as last year’s were.
Of course, we do also have to consider the pitching staff, so that’ll be the next post.
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