Earlier this week, I covered where the projection system, ZiPS, expects the Yankees to fall in terms of total wins according to their 50th percentile outcome. That number (89) was a bit lower than expected. Today, I will focus on PECOTA, a system that seems to like the Yankees roster a bit more. As of yesterday, the team is projected for 99 wins, the most in all of Major League Baseball. There are a few reasons why this is, but the main one is the team’s depth relative to the rest of the league.
The Yankees’ roster, both offense and defense, is filled with players who are at worst average. That same thing cannot be said of the vast majority of teams across the league. Depth is extremely important to PECOTA, so teams like the Yankees and Dodgers are rewarded for it. I’ll put it like this; if somebody like Giancarlo Stanton goes out on the injured list and misses three weeks, the team can move around their versatile players and still have solid major leaguers all around the field. If the team loses Frankie Montas for an extended period, as it already has, then they have multiple options in pitchers like Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt who are both at least average starters.
I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but just ask a team like the Chicago White Sox how nice it would be to have that. They employed pitchers like Vince Velasquez for an extended period of time last year and it absolutely tanked their season. Depth matters through the course of the season, and PECOTA recognizes that.
When you compare the Yankees’ roster to the Blue Jays, the star power is very similar. Like the Yankees, the Jays have big thumpers who lead the offense. But where the two teams differ is their pitching depth. Last year, the Jays’ biggest flaw was their pitching. They had to rely on a couple of guys in high leverage situations out of the bullpen all year and were highly susceptible to big fluctuations if any one of them went down with significant injury. The regression of José Berríos wasn’t something they were able to overcome mid-season, even with the great performances of Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were able to overcome multiple significant injuries, particularly with Chad Green and Michael King, and still have one of the more elite ‘pens in the game. They also didn’t skip a beat when trading Jordan Montgomery or losing Luis Severino for multiple months. You may have been surprised to see such a wide gap (~10 wins) between the two teams, but all these factors add up through the course of the season.
Now, in terms of specific players, there aren’t many shockers compared to the ZiPS projections. Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu both still have median outcomes in the same range. However, one notable difference between ZiPS and PECOTA is it standing on Anthony Volpe. According to ZiPS, Volpe’s range of outcomes was very optimistic. His median outcome was a near average hitter, but with PECOTA, things are a little bit different. His median outcome is an 76 dRC+ and his 80th percentile outcome is only an 88 dRC+. Volpe’s 99th percentile outcome sits at a 110 dRC+. In other words, the system sees Volpe’s very best outcome in 2023 being a 10 percent above average hitter. That is starkly different from even his 80th percentile pitch projection which sits at a 120 OPS+. Now, these are different statistics, but they trail closely to one another. For such a wide gap to exist is very interesting.
The last point I want to make focuses on Gerrit Cole. I can’t believe I need to say this, but he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. I don’t think there is any valid argument that he isn’t at least one of the best five pitchers in baseball. He was the highest median projection in all of baseball with a 4.5 WARP. Yes, he may have given up a few more home runs than expected last year, but the pedigree and stuff haven’t faltered. He isn’t going anywhere.
So there you have it! If you were a little disappointed by the ZiPS projection, then block it out of your mind and only focus on PECOTA. It thinks the Yankees will have the most wins in baseball. You can choose which to believe, I won’t tell on you. You could also balance the two and decide on which takeaways are most important to you! Either way, just know the New York Yankees will be very good this year.