Various Notes About the Upcoming Season
By Brendan Fitzgerald – Feb 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am
Feb 26, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran (36) after he stuck out during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Cashman came out and said that the 2013 Yankees were a mirage. The fact that they won 85 games was extremely lucky. Their Pythagorean Record based on runs scored and allowed bears this sentiment out. They should have only won 79 games. Cashman went on to credit the manager, the coaching staff, and the players for squeezing out every ounce of talent and success that they could. He likened it to the luck of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles and called them an anomaly which was pretty funny. Anyway, the fact that the Yankees went into the off-season trying to improve on a 79 win team rather than an 85 win team is very relieving to hear. I just wonder what their internal projections are for the team in 2014.
We don’t have the Yankees’ internal projections, but Fangraphs came out with their projected standings and playoff odds for the 2014 season. These are based on ZiPS and Steamer individual player projections along with depth chart and playing time estimates through manual work. The Yankees are projected to finish 82-80 while scoring 4.36 runs/game and allowing 4.27 runs/game. They would be tied for the 15th best record in Major League Baseball. They would miss the playoffs and finish 3rd in the AL East behind Boston (88-74), Tampa Bay (84-78). They would tie with Toronto (82-80) and surpass Baltimore (78-84). This projects to be a very tight race for the division.
Of course, the projected records also come with odds of certain events happening. Fangraphs has the Yankees at a 15.6% chance of winning the division, 17.9% chance of winning the wild card, and a 33.4% chance of making the playoffs. Additionally, they have a 24.8% chance of making the division series, a 12.1% chance of winning the division series, a 5.6% chance of winning the league championship series, and a 2.9% chance of winning the World Series. These odds would be of interest to bettors and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs ran a piece about this. He compared these odds to the odds of a Sportsbook to look for differences and identify good bets if you have faith in Fangraphs. The Sportsbook chosen gave the Yankees a 5.8% chance of winning the World Series compared to just a 2.9% chance from Fangraphs. For comparison, the Dodgers had the highest World Series percentage from Sportsbook at 10.1%. Fangraphs projections seem to be a little bearish on the Yankees compared to Vegas.
In the end, the Yankees are an extremely high variance team for this coming season. This means that the error bars on their final win total are very high and a plus/minus for a confidence interval covers a wide range. The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays were a great example of a high variance team (Would Jose Reyes hold up on turf? Could Josh Johnson throw 150+ innings? What is Brett Lawrie?) The variance is due to having a fair amount of players that could put up 4-5 win seasons or be replacement level. The 2014 Yankees will follow the same model. Can Derek Jeter stay healthy and play shortstop? Is Mark Teixeira‘s power sapped from wrist surgery? Can Alfonso Soriano/Carlos Beltran produce offensively despite spending substantial time at DH for the first time in their careers? Can Michael Pineda be the 3-win pitcher from 2011? Will the middle relief pitching be a strength or a weakness? Every team has questions like these. The Yankees just seem to have many more of these questions for 2014 that they haven’t had in the recent past.