Baseball Prospectus recently released its PECOTA – otherwise known as Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm – projections for the 2018 season. It is one of the most anticipated days of the offseason (at least for me) and it also means that the upcoming season is right around the corner. If you have not had a chance to analyze the projections for the 2018 New York Yankees, now you can before Spring Training games begin.
Runs Scored: 823
Runs Allowed: 671
AVG/OBP/SLG (TAv): .251/.323/.438 (.265)
Total WARP: 41.1 (20.1 pitching, 21 non-pitching)
PECOTA projects the Yankees to easily win its first American League East title in six years, beating out the Boston Red Sox by nine games in the standings. The Yankees 96 wins are the fourth most in MLB and third most in the AL behind the two opponents they faced in the playoffs last season, the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. In the past few seasons, the Yankees have typically outperformed PECOTA’s predictions. This season is different as the Yankees are hoping that everything goes as planned and they are able to live up to PECOTA’s predictions.
Offensive Team Leaders
AVG: Gary Sanchez (.269)
OBP: Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton (.356)
SLG: Giancarlo Stanton (.552)
HR: Giancarlo Stanton (41)
SB: Brett Gardner (19)
WARP: Gary Sanchez (4.4)
Unsurprisingly, PECOTA loves the Yankees offense. The 823 projected runs scored are second in MLB just behind the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros (850). Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are projected to hit 37 and 41 HRs, respectively. With the two large adult sons in town, Gary Sanchez’s powerful bat has become lost in the shuffle. PECOTA has not forgotten as it projects Sanchez to hit a career-high 34 HRs in 2018. Greg Bird is the only other Yankee projected to hit over 20 HRs and he is projected to surpass that mark by eight HRs. That would also be Bird’s career-high and it is obviously dependent on whether he can finally stay healthy for a full-season. Meanwhile, I am sure the majority of people would pick Judge or Stanton to lead the Yankees in WARP, but PECOTA sees Sanchez leading the team with a 4.4 WARP. That is not a shot at Judge or Stanton but rather an indication of just how good Sanchez is and can be.
Speed is clearly the glaring weakness. Brett Gardner is well-beyond the wrong side of 30 and no other Yankee is projected to reach double-digit steals this season. Could it hurt them? Of course, but the Yankees are not necessarily a slow team and hitting HRs in every direction should help make-up for any speed they lack on the base path. PECOTA also does not love the Yankees offense in terms of batting average. Judge (.247) and Hicks (.236) are projected to see a steep decline in that department this season and PECOTA has zero Yankees batting over .270. Batting average is far from the most important offensive statistics, especially when you have players that can reach base other ways. Having said that, I would be surprised if the Yankees do not outpace PECOTA’s batting average predictions.
Starting Pitching Team Leaders
ERA: Luis Severino (3.22)
WHIP: Luis Severino (1.15)
SO: Luis Severino (205)
Wins: Luis Severino (15)
WARP: Luis Severino (4.1)
That is a clean sweep for Luis Severino who is coming off a breakout season that saw him finish 3rd in the AL CY Young race. PECOTA thinks Severino is the real deal and expects him to somewhat replicate his all-star numbers from one season ago. I think the Yankees would sign up for PECOTA’s predictions for Severino in 2018. I certainly would. PECOTA is also bullish on Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray predicting that they add 2.4 and 2.5 WARP, respectively. That’s a pretty formidable 1-2-3.
Nonetheless, starting pitching is the weakest part of the Yankees roster and some of that has to do with the fact that the team’s offense and bullpen both have the potential to be the best in MLB. Still, starting pitching is the area that could most likely ruin the team’s aspirations of winning the World Series. As mentioned, As mentioned, the teams 1-2-3 of Severino, Tanaka, and Gray are very strong but PECOTA does not expect CC Sabathia to be the crafty old lefty that he was last year. Sabathia projects to have a 4.85 ERA with a WHIP near 1.50 and contribute just 0.6 WARP. Montgomery projects to have a slightly better season than Sabathia, but you have to believe that the Yankees are hoping that Montgomery can produce more than a 0.9 WARP.
Bullpen Team Leaders
ERA: Dellin Betances (2.07)
WHIP: Dellin Betances (1.05)
SO: Dellin Betances (112)
WARP: Dellin Betances (2.2)
Dellin Betances has reached four-straight all-star games which is quite a feat for a reliever. Nonetheless, Betances’ stock took a major hit at the end of last season due to his immense struggles commanding his pitches. A key part of Betances’ past success is his ability to be effectively wild and PECOTA believes that he will find whatever he lost at the end of 2017. The Yankees would love to have lockdown Betances back and those projections almost certainly would earn him a fifth straight all-star game appearance.
Just how good is the Yankees bullpen? Besides Betances, PECOTA projects four other relievers to add 1.0+ WARP. Aroldis Chapman (1.7), David Robertson (1.4), Tommy Kahnle (1.1), and Chad Green (1.1) round out what should be a fearsome five-some. You add it all together and PECOTA predicts that these five relievers will add a combined 7.5 WARP. That’s spectacular. Let’s not forget about Adam Warren either. The Yankees bullpen is filled with flamethrowers and has the depth to sustain success over the course of a 162-game season.
The bottom line is that PECOTA really likes the 2018 New York Yankees and, with the offseason moves the team made, that should not come as a huge surprise. Spring Training is here and the regular season is rapidly approaching. Buckle up and sit back while we watch to see if the Yankees can live up to PECOTA’s expectations.