Heading into 2014, expectations were high for a Yankees team that had just spent nearly half a billion dollars on improving their roster. Many fans and sportswriters had the Yankees pegged as the favorite to take home the AL East title. However, oddsmakers out west weren't fooled. Depending on the source, sportsbooks in Nevada expected the Yankees to win somewhere between 83 and 86 games last year. Sure enough, they fell right in that range with just 84 wins. They didn't just fail to contend for a division title, they were actually one win worse than the disappointing 2013 Yankees who inspired the spending spree in the first place.
After a much more subdued off-season, Vegas has set the line for Yankee wins in 2015 at just 81.5. Can this team really be worse than last year's stink bomb? By comparing the win values of Yankee regulars in 2014 to the projected win values of the expected regulars in 2015, we can make an educated guess. Three different projection systems, all courtesy of FanGraphs, are used below. Two of them, Steamer and ZiPS, have become something of an industry standard in recent years, while the Fans projections use the "wisdom of crowds" and tend to be very optimistic. For more detailed information on the Steamer, ZiPS, and Fans projection systems you can click here and here.
|2014 - Actual WAR||2015 - Projected WAR|
|C||Brian McCann||2.3||C||Brian McCann||3.2||3.0||3.6|
|1B||Mark Teixeira||0.8||1B||Mark Teixeira||1.3||1.3||1.7|
|2B||Brian Roberts||0.2||2B||Stephen Drew||0.9||0.7||1.4|
|SS||Derek Jeter||-0.3||SS||Didi Gregorius||1.0||1.6||1.7|
|3B||Yangervis Solarte||1.1||3B||Chase Headley||3.8||3.9||4.4|
|LF||Brett Gardner||3.2||LF||Brett Gardner||3.2||2.5||3.5|
|CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||3.6||CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||3.7||3.8||4.3|
|RF||Ichiro Suzuki||0.4||RF||Carlos Beltran||0.7||0.6||0.9|
|DH||Carlos Beltran||-0.5||DH||Alex Rodriguez||-0.2||1.2||0.5|
|SP||Hiroki Kuroda||3.5||SP||Masahiro Tanaka||3.5||3.4||3.7|
|SP||Masahiro Tanaka||3.2||SP||Michael Pineda||2.1||1.4||3.0|
|SP||David Phelps||0.7||SP||CC Sabathia||2.5||1.1||2.0|
|SP||Brandon McCarthy||1.9||SP||Nathan Eovaldi||1.0||1.1||2.8|
|SP||Shane Greene||1.2||SP||Chris Capuano||0.8||0.6||1.3|
|CL||David Robertson||1.7||CL||Dellin Betances||1.0||1.9||1.6|
|RP||Dellin Betances||3.2||RP||Andrew Miller||1.2||1.0||1.5|
Both Steamer and ZiPS agree that they Yankees should improve by around three wins in 2015 thanks to a full season of Chase Headley and upgrades by default at shortstop and second base. The view through the rose-colored glasses of the fans yields a much more dramatic improvement of about 12 wins this year. Using 84 wins as the baseline, that means the Yankees should expect to win around 87 games this year with a 95-win season still within the realm of possibility. In this scenario, betting the over on that Vegas line is a no-brainer.
However, in 2014 the Yankees surrendered more runs than they scored for the second straight year, so their 84 wins was not representative of how they truly performed. According to their run differential they played more like a 77-win team last year. If 77 wins is used as the baseline heading into this year, Steamer and ZiPS sees them as about an 80-win team with a ceiling of around 88 wins via the fans.
Yankee fans may not like it, but the underwhelming wins line set by Las Vegas seems to be accurate. The hope, though, is that another mediocre season will be indicative of growing pains and not a team that's continuing to spiral downward. There's currently more young talent in the Yankees organization than there's been in a long time. If one or two of those players establish themselves as legit major leaguers by season's end, it won't be considered a total loss.
Tell us how many games you think the Yankees will win in 2015 below.