How do the Yankees stack up against the AL East in ZIP projections?

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees thought they were good enough last season. Their performance proved that to be untrue, even though they reached a Wild Card berth that they lost to the Red Sox ending their season. The Yankees, in their inaction before the lockout, may indicate they feel the same this season. If that is true, don’t expect results that stray from last season’s disappointment. Today we look at the ZIPS projections for the Yankees for the 2022 season.

First, it’s essential to understand the terms used. ZIPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski when he was at Baseball Think Factory. According to a Q&A on the Baseball Think Factory website, ZIPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections. Dan uses the last four years in his predictions.

zWAR is, according to MLB.com WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent). Put a z in front of WAR, and the prediction includes all WAR stats. For example, suppose a shortstop and a first baseman offer the same overall production (on offense, defense, and the basepaths). In that case, the shortstop will have a better WAR because his position sees a lower production level from replacement-level players.



Here is where the Yankees stand compared to other AL East foes:

Starting Rotation

The Yankees’ rotation looks pretty good, primarily due to the rotation being led by ace Gerrit Cole; his zWAR is 5.8. He is followed by wins by Jordan Montgomery 2.9, Jameson Taillon 2.1, Luis Severino 2.0, Nestor Cortes Jr. .08, and Domingo German with a zWAR of .06. The entire staff sits at 14.2 zWAR, only behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays have not been lucky even after acquiring Hyun Jin Ryu and last season Robbie Ray. They have a strong lineup of young players but have been let down by their starting rotation. Their zWAR of 16 leads the AL East. José Berríos 3.8, free agent Kevin Gausman 4.3, Hyun Jin Ryu 3.6, and Alek Manoah (3.2 zWAR) round out a formidable starting rotation.

The Red Sox starting rotation zWAR sits in the middle of the pack with 12.2 zWAR led by Nathan Eovaldi at 3.8. The Red Sox and Tampa Bay sit neck and neck at 12 zWAR. The lowly Orioles sit last in zWAR at 5.3. They are so bad they moved their left-field fence back, so fewer home runs will be hit off of them.

Bullpen

The New York Yankees are expected to repeat 2021 with a stellar bullpen in the last few years. They will lead all bullpens with zWAR at 6.6. Tampa Bay’s bullpen will shine again, coming in second – 5.3, followed by a tie between the Red Sox and Toronto at 4.6. Not surprisingly, the Orioles scrape the bottom with a 2.7 zWAR.

Infield

The Baltimore Orioles and Yankees’ infield situation looks the most unstable. The Yankees actually don’t know who will be playing where going into the new season. The Tampa Bay Rays lead with their strong infield at 19.2 zWAR. The tandem of Brandon Lowe 4.5 and newly-extended budding superstar Wander Franco at 5.1 zWAR has created a double play monster.

The Blue Jays trail, not far behind at 17 zWAR, buoyed by AL-East-leading Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at 5.9 and the Yankee killer Bo Bichette at 4.7 zWAR. Meanwhile, the Red Sox sit middle-of-the-pack at 14.7 zWAR, Xander Bogaerts 3.9, and Rafael Devers 3.5 zWAR lead the Sox.

The Yankees come second to the bottom of the pack with a 13.4 zWAR, with no position producing more than the 2.7 zWAR. . The Orioles are far behind with a 8.3 zWAR. The Yankees surely must upgrade the infield and set some permanent positions for 2022. Giancarlo Stanton is predicted to be the best DH in the East.

Outfield

The Yankees fare far better in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. As messed up as the infield is, the outfield is firmed up and solid. Aaron Judge is projected for a monster 5.7 zWAR season which is best across all AL East outfielders. In addition, ZiPS predicts a bounce-back campaign for Joey Gallo 4.3 zWAR in his first entire season in the Bronx. Even Aaron Hicks is expected to contribute some value at 1.8 zWAR. Altogether, the 11.8 zWAR is head and shoulders above any AL East team.

The Toronto Blue Jays come in second at 6.8 zWAR, with George Springer 3.9 in center, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left, Teoscar Hernández in right, and Randal Grichuk as the fourth outfielder. Tampa Bay is next at 6.6 zWAR, with Baltimore surprisingly not far behind at 6.2 zWAR. This time, Boston is projected to have the worst outfield in the East, a distant 3.5 zWAR, with Alex Verdugo 1.9 zWAR the only outfielder under contract with even a full projected win zWAR.

Overall



The New York Yankees actually look in pretty good shape for the upcoming season. Their 44.6 cumulative zWAR leads the AL East, narrowly ahead of Toronto (44.4 zWAR). The Rays 43.1 and the Red Sox 35, with the Baltimore Orioles again at the bottom with a zWar of just 22.5. The entire Yankee season will depend on the lineup hitting, which they didn’t do last season, and acquiring key players after the lockout is over to fill needed holes. There will be much to be decided regarding the Yankees before spring training. 

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