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ZiPS and the Yankees

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I'm always fascinated by prognosticative software like PERCOTA, ZiPS, Chone, and Marcel.

It's a holy grail I've always been skeptical of, predicting the future performance of ballplayers based on past performance, body shape, age, and previous injury.

As I've learned more about the logarithms, and as they've been refined, I've come to respect the best systems.  I'm not quite to the point of trust, but it's getting close.

ZiPS is one of my favorites because it runs a variety of stats and it's free through the baseball Wonderland that is FanGraphs.

I thought it'd be fun to take a look at how ZiPS predicted the Yanks' lineup would be performing against their actual performance.  Prediction first, then performance in bold.

Derek Jeter: .302/.370/.421. .325/.402/.459 

Much has been made of how Damon has taken advantage of the short porch in right, but the thing looks like it was designed for Derek Jeter: 9 homers at home, 2 on the road. According to HitTracker, 4 of those 9 were 'Just Enough' homers, and that doesn't consider the jet stream in right.

Johnny Damon: .291/.362/.438   .279/.364/.504

I'll offer one year, $8-10M.  The Yanks aren't likely to replace his mix of speed and power.

Mark Teixeira: .292/.390/.517  .282/.379/.551

Is he trying too hard to hit the ball, swinging when he should be taking?  Tangent: I think with so many quality 1B having a great year in the AL, Joe Mauer stands all the taller.

Alex Rodriguez: .292/.392/.539   .248/.392/.525

Considering his BABIP stands at .235, Arod is monstrous.  His LD% is only 1.2% lower than last season, which means he's due for a rebound.  Read that sentence again; that's truly frightening.

Jorge Posada: .286/.381/.455   .285/.367/.522

He's a 37 year old catcher.  Every productive swing is a blessing.  That said, another player underperforming his OBP and outperforming his SLG.

Hideki Matsui: .290/.368/.476   .252/.358/.485

You've been a good Yankee, sir.  Best of luck in the future.

Nick Swisher: .254/.364/.471    .237/.367/.475

ZiPS just about nailed this one.

Robinson Cano: .296/.334/.474   .311/.348/.501

Refocus, rebound, reborn.  Robbie is not only performing at an elite level (5th in the AL in Total Bases), he's been above average in the field for only the second time in his career.  League average defense is easy to underrate, but it means that Cano isn't giving back any of his value at the plate while in the field. 

Brett Gardner: .249/.329/.321  .275/.354/.400  and Melky Cabrera: .265/.320/.383  .290/.356/.438

When was the last time the Yankees received such unexpected production at a single position?  Cano in 2006?  Soriano in 2002?  Brosius in 1998?

An astute observation from RJ Anderson (writing here for FanGraphs, but also a member of SBN's DRays Bay and Beyond the Box Score):

As a team the Yankees are batting .273/.360/.487 at home and .278/.357/.452 on the road. So while a lot has been made of the park, the main difference does indeed appear to be home runs hit. 53 in 1,866 plate appearances on the road and 91 in 2,015 plate appearances at home. Or, in percentage form: 2.8% versus 4.5%.

Looking up and down the lineup, I'd argue that those homers have come at the cost of OBP.  I'm happy to make the trade-off because, for now, the dip in OBP among the main hitters has been slight.  On the other hand, I could easily see someone new coming to the team and mess up his approach going homer happy, a la Abreu after the '05 Home Run Derby