The Hardball Times' 2011 Forecasts, which features projections utilizing its Oliver forecasting system, and if you thought Bill James was too optimistic and CAIRO too realistic, Oliver's got the pessimism end of the spectrum covered for you.
While I appreciate the hard work that obviously goes into these Forecasts, which include six-year projections and MLEs for minor leaguers, I have a difficult time taking a forecasting system seriously when it tells me that Jorge Posada is going to hit .244/.326/.401; .321 wOBA in 2011. That would be a drop of .031 from his 2010 OBP and a .051(!) fall from his career rate. The dip in SLG is even more severe -- .053 down from 2010's .454, and .078 down from his career number.
Now I know Posada isn't exactly a spring chicken and he's undergone quite a bit of wear-and-tear over the years, but considering that he'll only be squatting behind the plate maybe a fraction of the time, if that, and getting the majority of his reps at DH, I don't see how a system could realistically project such a dramatic fall in OBP and SLG. These are two skill sets that have remained constant through Posada's career, and typically regress less severely as sluggers age. The projection has Posada playing 70% of his games at DH, and I'd imagine the projection draws fairly heavily from Posada's career stats in that role, which are not very good (.223/.336/.358 in 351 plate appearances). While that's not quite a dismissible sample size, it's still a poor indicator as to how Posada will fare as DH because he's never been asked to do it for a full season. I have to imagine a professional hitter like Jorge will figure out how to adapt to and thrive in a role that only asks him to bat.
As for the rest of the offense, Jesus Montero currently projects to be the third-best hitter on the team! And that's in only 152 plate appearances. The remainder of the lineup is in for a world of hurt according to Oliver, who doesn't believe Derek Jeter (wOBA in the mid-.320s) or Alex Rodriguez (wOBA in the mid-.360s) can bounce back, sees Robinson Cano somehow losing nearly .040 points of wOBA, Nick Swisher losing .026 points (although so far all three projection systems see Swisher taking a hit, but this is the most severe), Curtis Granderson posting a wOBA barely being above league average and Brett Gardner wOBAing .001 more than Posada! The only two projections that seem semi-reasonable are for Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin.
With an offense projected to be this putrid, you might be asking yourself how Oliver is still calling for the Yankees to finish in 2nd place in the AL East with a Wild Card-winning 87-75 record. The answer, to a certain extent, lies in the pitching staff.
Oliver sees slight regression for CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, and very slight improvement for A.J. Burnett, but nothing to write home about. I guess the good news is Oliver really likes Phil Hughes, projecting a substantial decrease in ERA (though a higher WHIP), a rise in K/9 and a drop in his HR/9. Oliver also likes Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre for some reason. I'm fairly certain the world would explode if Mitre threw 125 innings of 4.21 ERA ball.
The bullpen looks to be around where you would expect it, so no real surprises there. I'm not sure if THT's projected standings include Pettitte on the Yankee roster, though on his player card they have him listed as a free agent, so I'm guessing not. If that's the case, I guess 87 games seems like a reasonable estimate for the roster as currently constructed, although the bats would really have to outperform their paltry projections to reach that level.