Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A sneak peak at PECOTA's projections for some key Yankees

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are in the midst of the stat geek's favorite time of year. With most baseball fields still covered in snow, all of the "numbers savvy" baseball fans are perusing the projection spreadsheets looking for signs of hope for 2009.

This past weekend, election guru and PECOTA creator Nate Silver from Baseball Prospectus released the first version of the infamous PECOTA weighted means spreadsheets for 2009. Without getting into specifics (since it is paid content), there are some items of note about the Yankees projections.

According to PECOTA, only two Yankees will have an OPS above .800 - Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. I don't mean to sound the alarms since the games are played on the field, but PECOTA does not say nice things about the balance of the Yankees lineup. Derek Jeter? Full decline phase. Johnny Damon? Age getting older, numbers getting worse. Nady? Flukey 2008 leads to the infamous regression to the mean in 2009. Cano? Development has reached a plateau, likely will never become the elite batter that most (including PECOTA in 2008) thought he would become.

The pitching is a bit more of a bright spot, but not without concerns of its own. On a positive note, A.J Burnett is projected to throw nearly 200 innings with a 3.80 ERA and Andy Pettitte is projected to be a solid #5 starter - both of which would be a huge boost to the Yankees' playoff hopes. Further, PECOTA sees the potential for a shutdown bullpen with Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras and David Robertson all projecting well. On the flipside, CC Sabathia projects to have his worst season since age 24 (will Steve from be a soothsayer?), Joba is only projected to throw 120 innings and PECOTA absolutely HATES Wang and Hughes (evaluation of these projections warrants standalone blog posts).

From a subjective standpoint, Yankee fans have no reason to panic. Last year, the early PECOTA projections showed the Yankees running away with the American League East by winning over 100 games and they were playing golf by October. The concern here is that PECOTA predicts the Yankees lineup to get old and regress and the pitching to be hit or miss. The team's upside (based on PECOTA's projections) APPEARS to be minimal, while the downside is clearly defined.

In the next couple of weeks, there will be more specific discussions of individual player projections and analysis of the PECOTA projected standings when those are released.

For some additional reading on the PECOTA 2009 projections be sure to check out Monday's post on Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.

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