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How might the Yankees’ offensive numbers have looked in a normal season?

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DJ LeMahieu probably wouldn’t hit .364, but he’d still fare quite well.

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Assuming the earth hasn’t fully rejected human society in a century, our baseball-obsessed great-grandchildren are going to look back at the numbers of the 2020 campaign with one word: “Huh?”

Almost every player who saw significant time this past season will have their year-by-year numbers interrupted by very low totals in 2020. Our descendants might wonder why a seemingly-healthy DJ LeMahieu played just 50 games after appearing in at least 125 every year since 2014. Even when they research and rediscover what hellish garbage caused these problems, it will take a little time to figure out how place them a larger context.

Well, those kiddos don’t have to worry because that weird old hermit Obi-Mearns Kenobi has the answer. After all, it’s clearly the only question they’ll have about anything when investigating 2020.

To produce an approximation of the Yankees’ 2020 numbers, I used the preseason PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus as a guide. I took the Yankees’ actual 2020 numbers and added them to what the PECOTA estimates would have forecasted over a 102-game season with appropriate adjustments. Although it’s not a perfect formula, it led to some fascinating results from the Yankees’ hitters.

The downside is that I had to exclude two prominent position players: Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar. PECOTA didn’t anticipate that Frazier would play nearly as much as he did, predicting only 36 plate appearances in its original 60-game projection. Even weighted to a 102-game season, it doesn’t accurately reflect how much the slugging Frazier would’ve actually played. Andújar has the opposite problem — PECOTA projected almost as much playing time for him as Gio Urshela, but Andújar quickly lost his job in the starting lineup and never returned from the dreaded ALTERNATE SITE after September 13th. Perhaps eventually, he might have returned and caught fire in a full season, but it didn’t feel right to predict that prominent a role for Andújar.

Caveats aside, here’s how everyone else fared.

2020 catcher projections

Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Gary Sanchez (proj.) 510 455 94 63 18 30 205 47 152 .207 .293 .450 103 1.6
Gary Sanchez (2020) 178 156 23 19 4 10 57 18 64 .147 .253 .365 84 -0.1
Kyle Higashioka (proj.) 136 130 31 17 4 9 61 7 35 .237 .271 .468 92 1.1
Kyle Higashioka (2020) 48 48 12 7 1 4 25 0 11 .250 .250 .521 98 0.4

Gary Sánchez was never supposed to be as bad as he was in 2020. He’s a streaky hitter, and PECOTA suggests that he likely just didn’t have enough time in the season to actually hit an extended groove. He didn’t need to turn into 2016 Gary to make his numbers respectable; even a run from 2019 Gary would’ve been a boost. Aside from the occasional dinger here or there, it never came.

For what it’s worth, while the system is not super sold on Kyle Higashioka’s offense, his defensive numbers in limited time almost bring him to Sánchez’s level in terms of WARP. As Josh noted the other day though, it’s still tough to buy the idea of Higashioka as a real hitter since his outlier three-homer game boosted his otherwise-paltry numbers.

2020 corner infield projections

Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Luke Voit (proj.) 588 522 141 87 20 37 276 56 148 0 .269 .348 .529 127 2.8
Luke Voit (2020) 234 213 59 41 5 22 130 17 54 0 .277 .338 .610 133 1.4
Gio Urshela (proj.) 461 421 116 55 26 15 191 33 78 1 .276 .332 .454 108 1.9
Gio Urshela (2020) 174 151 45 24 11 6 74 18 25 1 .298 .368 .490 125 1.4
Mike Ford (proj.) 195 171 36 20 9 9 69 19 36 0 .208 .297 .406 109 0.2
Mike Ford (2020) 84 74 10 5 4 2 20 7 16 0 .135 .226 .270 86 -0.1

Luke Voit was everything that Aaron Boone could’ve dreamed he could be in 2020, launching a league-leading 22 homers. So that had to be about peak Voit performance, right? Technically, yes, but PECOTA doesn’t think he was about to hit a brick wall, either. Earth-2 Voit was perfectly solid in those remaining 102 games, building his dinger output up to 37 while still maintaining a strong .268/.348/.529 triple slash and a 127 DRC+.

Gio Urshela’s numbers dipped a bit in the remaining missed time, but keep in mind that PECOTA’s preseason projections had the difficulty of squaring everything people thought they knew about Urshela entering 2018 compared to his out-of-nowhere explosion in 2019. Sure enough, his expected DRC+ for 2020 was a league-average 97, which was a far cry from his actual 125 DRC+ (an incredible 95th-percentile result). But that’s just life now with Gio.

As for Mike Ford, well, the system is also a bigger believer in his ability than me. He looked awful and then didn’t get another start after September 6th. PECOTA didn’t expect regular playing time from him anyway, but even still, the results seem a touch optimistic.

2020 middle infield projections

Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
DJ LeMahieu (proj.) 592 540 176 84 29 20 273 47 75 8 .327 .383 .506 126 5.3
DJ LeMahieu (2020) 216 195 71 41 10 10 115 18 21 3 .364 .421 .590 135 1.9
Gleyber Torres (proj.) 536 478 121 65 23 22 212 54 111 8 .254 .336 .443 112 2.5
Gleyber Torres (2020) 160 136 33 17 8 3 50 22 28 1 .243 .356 .368 112 0.6
Tyler Wade (proj.) 216 190 39 29 8 5 61 21 51 7 .204 .295 .321 80 0.1
Tyler Wade (2020) 105 88 15 19 3 3 27 12 22 4 .170 .288 .307 92 0.1
Thairo Estrada (proj.) 96 91 18 11 2 3 26 3 28 1 .201 .243 .291 67 -0.1
Thairo Estrada (2020) 52 48 8 8 0 1 11 1 19 1 .167 .231 .229 61 -0.1

Look, I am never going to get tired of seeing “.364” on DJ LeMahieu’s Baseball Reference page. It looks incredible. Those aforementioned descendants are going to throw eggs at me and yell “YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, OLD MAN!!”

They’re right! I can’t. But a .364 campaign was probably not in the cards. Still, a 5.3 WARP season! That’s actually a smidge better than his 4.9 from 2019 and would fit in with Robinson Canó’s best years. Decent.

Gleyber Torres had a somewhat-disappointing 2020, but his actual DRC+ was identical to the projection. It was just generated in a different manner — less power and more walks. Torres hit 19 more homers in the extra games on Earth-2. The results are still shy of his breakout 2019, but flashier.

Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada? Still firmly bench players, at best. Sorry.

2020 outfield projections

Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Player PA AB H R 2B HR TB BB K SB AVG OBP SLG DRC+ WARP
Aaron Judge (proj.) 468 404 103 74 17 29 207 59 144 3 .254 .356 .514 127 3.1
Aaron Judge (2020) 114 101 26 23 3 9 56 10 32 0 .257 .336 .554 111 0.5
Giancarlo Stanton (proj.) 448 384 99 65 22 26 205 58 139 3 .258 .361 .533 130 2.3
Giancarlo Stanton (2020) 94 76 19 12 7 4 38 15 27 1 .250 .387 .500 98 0.1
Aaron Hicks (proj.) 543 460 106 67 24 18 192 82 120 9 .231 .349 .419 111 1.8
Aaron Hicks (2020) 211 169 38 28 10 6 70 41 38 4 .225 .379 .414 124 1.1
Brett Gardner (proj.) 467 407 94 54 19 15 162 57 98 10 .230 .329 .397 99 1.5
Brett Gardner (2020) 158 130 29 20 5 5 51 26 35 3 .223 .354 .392 110 0.5
Mike Tauchman (proj.) 244 214 50 32 11 3 75 28 57 9 .235 .327 .350 92 0.7
Mike Tauchman (2020) 111 95 23 18 6 0 29 14 26 6 .242 .342 .305 94 0.4

Yes, yes, I can hear you in the back. I know it’s been a couple years since Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton accumulated as much playing time as PECOTA projects in the remaining 102 games, and the final total of course accounts for the time they did miss in the actual 60-game season. That being said, those offensive numbers are just dandy. If they’d like to do that in 2021, sign me up.

Both Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner saw their numbers dip in a wider sample on Earth-2, though both turned in decent years considering where each is in his career. A little more offense would, uh, be preferred, but it could be worse. Mike Tauchman, however, is still just fourth outfielder material, even by BP’s sunnier perspective on his numbers than elsewhere. We’ll always have the Sock Man Summer, Mike. We’ll always have that.

So for the most part, the Yankees still had a pretty damn good offense in the completed season on Earth-2. Their numbers all generally adjusted to relative norms to make the hot and cold streaks that were more glaring in a 60-game season fade a little. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a relatively decent approximation.

Thanks to Matt Provenzano for research consultation.