A few weeks ago, a popular casino in Reno, Nevada published their expected 2014 win totals for each Major League Baseball team, to be used for over/under prop bets. The Yankees came in at 83.5 wins, which seems low considering that a team that trotted out an everyday lineup of Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and a crew of misfits that would make Rachel Phelps proud managed to win 85 games last year. A few days later, the Reno numbers came in, the SuperBook in Las Vegas posted their expected win totals, which included a figure closer to last year, though still seemingly low: 85.5 wins for the Yanks. After spending roughly $500 million on new players in the off-season, shouldn't the Yankees, and their fans, expect more than a game or two's worth of improvement this year?
By looking at win values of Yankee regulars in 2013 and comparing to the projected win values of those who should be the regulars in 2014, we can take a stab at measuring just how much improvement we can expect in the wins department. The wonderful people at FanGraphs make this easy since they report the results of various projection systems for each player leading up to the start of the season. For more detailed information on the Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS projection systems you can click here and here.
|2013 - Actual WAR||2014 - Projected WAR|
|C||Chris Stewart||0.5||C||Brian McCann||3.9||4.1||3.1|
|1B||Lyle Overbay||0.0||1B||Mark Teixeira||2.7||1.5||1.8|
|2B||Robinson Cano||6.0||2B||Brian Roberts||0.4||0.5||0.2|
|SS||Eduardo Nunez||-1.4||SS||Derek Jeter||0.7||1.2||0.4|
|3B||Jayson Nix||0.7||3B||Kelly Johnson||1.0||1.1||1.5|
|LF||Vernon Wells||-0.8||LF||Brett Gardner||3.1||3.5||2.4|
|CF||Brett Gardner||3.2||CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||3.9||3.8||4.1|
|RF||Ichiro Suzuki||1.1||RF||Carlos Beltran||2.7||2.4||1.8|
|DH||Travis Hafner||-0.4||DH||Alfonso Soriano||0.5||1.5||2.2|
|SP||CC Sabathia||2.7||SP||CC Sabathia||3.4||3.7||3.6|
|SP||Hiroki Kuroda||3.8||SP||Hiroki Kuroda||3.1||2.8||2.8|
|SP||Andy Pettitte||3.2||SP||Masahiro Tanaka||3.5||6.4||5.1|
|SP||Phil Hughes||1.3||SP||Ivan Nova||2.6||2.0||2.1|
|SP||Ivan Nova||2.5||SP||David Phelps||1.5||0.5||0.5|
|CL||Mariano Rivera||1.5||CL||David Robertson||0.9||1.1||1.2|
If 85 wins is the baseline that the Yankees are working with going into 2014, the numbers above tell us that they should improve by somewhere between nine and twelve wins and be a 94-97 win team. That's a far cry from what the casinos expect, but hey, great things can happen when you add a few stars and replace some of the worst players in baseball with merely competent ones.
The thing about betting lines, though, is that if a gamble looks too good to be true, it probably is. More astute fans know that the Yankees actually surrendered more runs than they scored last year. So Pythagorean-wise, they performed more like a 79-win team. Using 79 wins as the baseline means that the nine to twelve win improvement would put them somewhere between 88 and 91 wins this year. That's still pretty good and certainly puts them in playoff contention, but betting the over isn't quite the slam dunk that it originally seemed.
In the end, money talks and the Yankees were the Chatty Cathies of the off-season. With all those shiny new toys on the roster, gamblers have and will continue to throw cash at the over and that expected wins line should increase steadily as we get closer to April. Tell us how many wins you think the Yanks will end up with below.