Before spring training began, I wrote about the Yankees' projections from both ZiPS and Baseball Prospectus. They were both pretty flat on the Yankees as a whole, and rightfully so. PECOTA had the Yankees as a true-talent 80-win team, and while ZiPS didn't have exact win totals published, their individual player projections seemed to have a very similar sentiment as PECOTA. This was a mediocre team going into the year, plain and simple. So, how have they kept up with that pace?
Let's start with playoff odds. Going into the year, the Yankees had a 22% chance--by PECOTA--of making the postseason. This was obviously predicated on the Red Sox being a contender, and they've since gone down the tubes. Now, the story is a bit different:
Their playoff odds have more than doubled in the past few months, and their median win projection sits at 83.9 wins, instead of just 80. And if we look at the updated odds via Fangraphs, it's even more favorable:
Here their playoff odds sit at 58.1%, and they're projected to win 85.4 games. Even if we split the difference between the two systems, they both agree that the Yankees have banked a few wins more than expected, and that bodes well for a late season playoff run.
Now, there are the projections. There's a clear difference between the updated projections and the updated playoff odds and standings. Changes in overall projections could show a change in talent level, while a change in updated playoff odds/standings could really be a matter of luck. Here is where the Yankees stand, talent wise.
The overall talent level hasn't really moved that much, there a few notable differences. The first is Mark Teixeira, who is projected to have his first three-win season since 2011. The other is Alex Rodriguez, who is a full win better than his projection, and ZiPS says he should hit over 20 home runs. The only real detraction is at third and second base, where Stephen Drew looks to finish at replacement level, and Chase Headley might not even be a league-average player. That doesn't bode as well for the beginning of a four-year contract. And now, pitchers:
In the preseason projections, only Masahiro Tanaka was supposed to be a three-win pitcher, and the rest of the staff was supposed to hover around one win apiece. But now both Tanaka and Michael Pineda should finish with better than three wins this year, and only Adam Warren as bad as one win. The bullpen is actually going exactly as planned, but the rotation here is a nice surprise, at least so far.
The needle hasn't moved that much since all of the projections were published a few months ago, but the Yankees have shown modest improvements in the first half of their season. They have already banked a few more wins that many thought already, and obvious changes in perceived talent from Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Chase Headley have moved the rest-of-season winning percentage projections a bit. There are no remarkable conclusions to be drawn, and maybe that isn't a bad thing. With some better teams not performing to expectations others just completely collapsing, a modest playoffs odds improvement is not the worst outcome so far. And with some more success and a little bit of luck, a playoff push is indeed possible.