Thursday, October 15, 2015
I did this earlier for the Red Sox. In that case, it was about finding the bright spots in a season that resulted in yet-another last place finish. In this case, with the Yankees, it's more about digging for the disappointments.
Make no mistake; this Yankee team over-performed relative to just about everybody's expectations. There were plenty of die-hard Yankee fans who looked at this team and thought third place would be doing well. But on the back of their most devastating late-game pitching duo since the late 90s and some productive years from aging veterans, the Yankees made it into the wild-card playoff game. And that is after leading the AL East for the majority of the season. All stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.
Projected: 495 Plate Appearances | 132 H | 9 HR | 48 RBI | 35 BB | 95 K | .251 BA | .307 OBP | .369 SLG | .676 OPS | 1.8 WAR
Actual: 578 Plate Appearances | 139 H | 9 HR | 56 RBI | 33 BB | 85 K | .265 BA | .318 OBP | .370 SLG | .688 OPS | 3.1 WAR
Projected: 377 Plate Appearances | 77 H | 17 HR | 65 RBI | 41 BB | 73 K | .236 BA | .326 OBP | .433 SLG | .759 OPS | 1.5 WAR
Actual: 462 Plate Appearances | 100 H | 31 HR | 79 RBI | 59 BB | 85 K | .255 BA | .357 OBP | .548 SLG | .906 OPS | 2.9 WAR
Projected: 407 Plate Appearances | 82 H | 15 HR | 57 RBI | 40 BB | 99 K | .229 BA | .312 OBP | .399 SLG | .711 OPS | 1.3 WAR
Actual: 620 Plate Appearances | 131 H | 33 HR | 86 RBI | 84 BB | 145 K | .250 BA | .356 OBP | .486 SLG | .842 OPS | 2.7 WAR
Projected: 4-1 | 2.39 ERA | 66 Game Appearances | 82.7 IP | 116 K | 33 W | 1.10 WHIP | 1.5 WAR
Actual: 6-4 | 1.50 ERA | 74 Game Appearances | 84.0 IP | 131 K | 40 W | 1.01 WHIP | 2.4 WAR
Projected: 5-2 | 2.59 ERA | 58 Game Appearances | 48.7 IP | 76 K | 21 W | 1.11 WHIP | 0.7 WAR
Actual: 3-2 | 1.90 ERA | 60 Game Appearances | 61.2 IP | 100 K | 20 W | 0.86 WHIP | 36 SV | 2.0 WAR
Projected: 8-9 | 4.51 ERA | 28 Games Started | 159.7 IP | 121 K | 48 W | 1.37 WHIP | 1.6 WAR
Actual: 14-3 | 4.20 ERA | 27 Game Started | 154.1 IP | 121 K | 49 W | 1.45 WHIP | 3.2 WAR
As big a surprise as A-Rod was this year, I was blown away by what Didi Gregorius did for the Yankees. Viewed as placefiller for the retired Jeter, nobody was expecting much from Didi. The idea was his glove would be a little better but his bat would be worse. It would, in essence, be a wash.
So here's a stat to tell you what actually happened: Didi's 3.1 WAR is the highest for a Yankee starting shortstop since 2009. He performed so far above and beyond expectations that he is, to me, the MVP of the team. He is only 25 years old and all he cost the Yankees in trade is Shane Greene. Without a doubt, this is one of Brian Cashman's best deals in his career.
At the other end of the "unexpected production" scale are Teixeira and A-Rod. Both aging veterans, both with declining numbers, one injury-prone and the other coming off a year-long suspension...the expectation was that they would be average at best, being paid way too much for their production.
And while they may still be overpaid, they also both pretty much doubled their expected WAR. Even playing only 111 games, Teixeira gave the Yankees a year's worth of production. And Rodriguez may have unintentionally shown all of baseball that giving an aging superstar a year off to rest could be beneficial. All his PED baggage aside, he was solid this year and is one of the big reasons the Yankees even had a chance to make it into the ALDS.
But the main reason the Yankees made it that far was their 1-2 pitching punch at the end of the game. Betances and Miller reminded me a lot of the '96 Yankees with Mariano Rivera setting up John Wetteland. If the Yankees carried a lead into the eighth inning, or were even tied or just a run behind, they knew they had a good chance of winning with Betances and Miller pitching. That kind of support on the mound makes a good team better. And while they faded late in the season, there is no reason to doubt if they can do it again next year.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
For finishing in last for the 3rd out of four years, there is a lot of positive momentum in the Boston franchise going into the off-season. With a young outfield clicking on all cylinders, a start shortstop in the making, a young catcher breaking out and a couple of bright spots on the mound, there is reason to believe that Boston can be a contender in 2016 with a couple of key moves.
But Boston being in last this year is also the function of a horrendous start and the failure of some key free agents. So let's look at projections from April and where some of the players ended up (all stats courtesy of Fangraphs) at season's end.
Projected: 582 Plate Appearances | 148 H | 13 HR | 80 RBI | 50 BB | 73 K | .289 BA | .350 OBP | .428 SLG | .779 OPS | 3.6 WAR
Actual: 654 Plate Appearances | 174 H | 18 HR | 77 RBI | 46 BB | 82 K | .291 BA | .341 OBP | .479 SLG | .820 OPS | 4.8 WAR
Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Projected: 116 Plate Appearances | 24 H | 2 HR | 11 RBI | 9 BB | 28 K | .234 BA | .302 OBP | .349 SLG | .650 OPS | 0.4 WAR
Actual: 255 Plate Appearances | 55 H | 10 HR | 43 RBI | 27 BB | 69 K | .249 BA | .335 OBP | .498 SLG | .833 OPS | 2.5 WAR
Projected: 552 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 16 HR | 63 RBI | 41 BB | 114 K | .260 BA | .320 OBP | .416 SLG | .736 OPS | 2.3 WAR
Actual: 654 Plate Appearances | 196 H | 7 HR | 84 RBI | 32 BB | 101 K | .320 BA | .355 OBP | .421 SLG | .776 OPS | 4.3 WAR
Projected: 92 Plate Appearances | 21 H | 2 HR | 10 RBI | 5 BB | 17 K | .245 BA | .288 OBP | .365 SLG | .653 OPS | 0.3 WAR
Actual: 309 Plate Appearances | 79 H | 5 HR | 31 RBI | 18 BB | 77 K | .274 BA | .319 OBP | .392 SLG | .711 OPS | 1.5 WAR
Projected: 526 Plate Appearances | 126 H | 23 HR | 78 RBI | 62 BB | 88 K | .277 BA | .364 OBP | .492 SLG | .856 OPS | 1.8 WAR
Actual: 614 Plate Appearances | 79 H | 37 HR | 108 RBI | 77 BB | 95 K | .273 BA | .360 OBP | .553 SLG | .913 OPS | 2.8 WAR
Projected: 11-10 | 4.16 ERA | 29 Games Started | 176 IP | 137 K | 59 W | 1.35 WHIP | 1.3 WAR
Actual: 11-11 | 4.46 ERA | 32 Games Started | 193.2 IP | 147 K | 64 W | 1.37 WHIP | 2.6 WAR
Projected: 1-1 | 4.41 ERA | 3 Games Started | 18 IP | 13 K | 7 W | 1.40 WHIP | 0.1 WAR
Actual: 10-6 | 3.85 ERA | 21 Games Started | 121.2 IP | 98 K | 37 W | 1.29 WHIP | 1.7 WAR
If you were alive in the mid to late 70s and a Sox fan, then you know who the "Gold Dust Twins" were. Fred Lynn and Jim Rice came into the majors at the same time in 1975. Lynn won the MVP and Rookie of the Year award that year while Rice was RoY runner-up. From 1975-1980 they were one of the most potent 1-2 outfield combos in the game. Then the Sox traded Lynn to the Angels for Jim Dorsey, Joe Rudi and Frank Tanana rather than pay him what he was worth (and screwing up his contract extension going into free agency). And the Gold Dust Twins were no more.
Betts and Bradley, Jr. are not the Gold Dust Twins, even though I think Betts definitely has it in him to reach Fred Lynn numbers on a yearly basis. But this a young duo that gives the Sox some of the best outfield defense in the majors. And with Bradley now hitting major league pitching successfully, the expectation is going to be seeing these two gentlemen make more than a few All-Star games, with Betts even pushing for MVP a couple of years down the line. Yeah, he's that good.
One guy who might keep Betts from winning an MVP is his teammate at shortstop. In 2015 Xander Bogaerts finally grew into the expectations everyone had set for him. He saw a quantum leap in his offensive numbers in 2015 and was arguably the best overall shortstop in the AL this year. His line this year might even garner him a few goodwill votes for MVP seeing as he kept Boston from completely sucking this year and as a makeup for keeping him off the All-Star team.