Fangraphs added the 2011 Bill James projections on Monday. In the vast wasteland of offseason nothingness that has enveloped my baseball-obsessed soul, this is like manna from heaven.
This will be the first in what I'm sure will be many offseason Yankeeist posts looking at the various projection systems and toying around with potential starting nines, and if you're like me, this is where the real winter fun begins.
For this exercise I want to take a look at what a couple of potential 2011 Yankee lineups with their Bill James projections look like, along with what they might reasonably be expected to produce. If there's one primary caveat, it's that James has historically been the most bullish of the esteemed projection systems (CHONE, ZiPS, Marcel, PECOTA and CAIRO), so probably best to temper our excitement just a tad if we see anything that looks a little too good to be true.
Here's how the most frequently used 2010 Yankee lineup projects for 2011:
Good news for Derek Jeter fans: James likes the chances of Jeter rebounding to his 2008 iteration, which, while still a far cry from the Jeter we know and love, would be a significant improvement over the 2010 vintage. I'm not so sure I agree with Jeter picking up .025 points of OBP and .040 points of slugging, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, and if he does in fact put up a season along the lines of James' projection I'll happily eat all of the negative words I've written about Derek this past season and offseason.
The rest of the projections aren't terribly surprising: James sees Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner all declining after career years. While it's unrealistic to expect them to repeat their 2010s, with Cano entering his prime years he seems like a good bet to stay pretty close to his .389 wOBA rather than fall down to .371. Not that .371 is bad, mind you -- far from it, especially for a second baseman -- but it'd be a bit of a disappointment after Robbie's breakout season. James forecasts a decline in both AVG and SLG for Swisher but the same exact OBP. I wouldn't be surprised to see his average drop, but I see his OBP climbing and power remaining steady, and after two seasons as a Yankee with wOBAs in the mid-.370s, he seems a decent bet to repeat those performances. Also, I'll eat my hat if Jeter out-OBPs Nick Swisher. As for Gardner, a .349 wOBA does seem about right.
What is a tad surprising is James' optimism for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. We all know they had significantly down years in 2010, but James sees both of them rebounding to matching .393 wOBAs. If that happens, I will do a jig. I don't think it's unrealistic to expect Tex to get there, but Alex's bat looked slow to me for much of the season, and without his red-hot September he might've ended his year with a wOBA in the .350s. As it was, Alex ended the month of August with a season wOBA of .351. Alex should be able to better his career-low .363 mark from 2010, but doing so by .030 points seems like a bit of wishful thinking.
And for the Curtis Granderson haters out there, a group which is inexplicably plentiful, James has Curtis at a .355 wOBA, up from .346 in 2010. While still not quite the number the Yankees would ideally like to see from Granderson, it's still better than Austin Jackson's .344 projection, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Curtis outperform it. Jorge Posada's the only Yankee projected at the exact same wOBA he put up in 2010, .357, which is a solid, if not spectacular number. If Posada does end up mostly DHing, I'd like to see a slightly more robust stat line out of him.
Here's how the lineup looks if you swap Marcus Thames out for Adam Dunn:
If the Yankees were to sign Dunn, he'd project as the team's third-best hitter, with a mighty appetizing .383 wOBA. Delightful. Too bad it's not happening.
And here's how the team would project with Jesus Montero and Posada in the lineup:
Unless the Montero projection is for AAA (and from what I can tell, James only projects for the Majors) then the Yankees have absolutely no need for Adam Dunn, as they apparently have one in-house. I know Montero's supposed to be amazing and everything, but a .376 projected wOBA, after a .375 year at AAA? That's pretty tough to swallow, and if it were to happen it would be one of the greatest homegrown Yankee debuts ever -- even Mickey Mantle "only" wOBAed .360 in his first season. The last time a homegrown Yankee hitter had such an auspicious debut might have been Joe DiMaggio, who burst onto the scene with a .410 wOBA in his very first season in 1936.
I also ran each of these lineups and their projected 2011 numbers through Baseball Musings' Lineup Analysis tool (1998-2002 model). The first grouping with Thames at DH projects to average 5.77 runs per game, and the best iteration of that lineup would score 5.83 per game.
The second version with Adam Dunn would crush to the tune of 5.92 runs per game, with the best iteration scoring 5.96 per game.
And the third version, with Jesus and his insane projection, would rake at 5.87 runs per game, with the best iteration scoring 5.93 per game (also, the best iteration has Montero batting fourth!).
Keep in mind, the 2010 Yankees led the American League with 5.3 runs per game, which means that if we do in fact experience the expected regression of certain players, bounceback years of others, and the potentially monster arrival of Jesus, Yankee fans could be in for something special offensively in 2011.