Expectations for the Yankees were certainly tempered a year ago after back to back seasons of disappointment. The preseason over/under for Yankee wins reported by Vegas sportsbooks reflected this thinking as they set the bar at just 81.5. However, the Yankees defied the odds with a resurgent season that yielded 87 wins and a Wild Card berth. Unfortunately, that playoff run lasted only one game but the future was starting to brighten in the Bronx.
In a winter atypical of the Yankees' past, they avoided free agency and decided to upgrade the roster via trades for Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman. Despite those acquisitions, Vegas wasn't impressed as their expectation for the Yankees sits at just 85 wins for 2016. Will this team really be two wins worse than last year's Wild Card team? By comparing the win values of Yankee regulars in 2015 to the projected win values of the expected regulars in 2016, 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.
|2015 - Actual WAR||2016 - Projected WAR|
|C||Brian McCann||2.9||C||Brian McCann||3.0||3.1||3.3|
|1B||Mark Teixeira||2.9||1B||Mark Teixeira||1.6||1.5||2.7|
|2B||Stephen Drew||0.2||2B||Starlin Castro||1.3||2.2||2.3|
|SS||Didi Gregorius||3.1||SS||Didi Gregorius||2.3||2.4||3.8|
|3B||Chase Headley||1.5||3B||Chase Headley||2.5||2.7||3.0|
|LF||Brett Gardner||2.6||LF||Brett Gardner||2.1||2.0||2.8|
|CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||0.9||CF||Jacoby Ellsbury||2.3||2.2||3.1|
|RF||Carlos Beltran||1.9||RF||Carlos Beltran||0.4||0.3||1.3|
|DH||Alex Rodriguez||2.7||DH||Alex Rodriguez||0.4||1.5||1.7|
|SP||CC Sabathia||1.2||SP||CC Sabathia||1.7||0.2||1.9|
|SP||Michael Pineda||3.5||SP||Michael Pineda||3.5||2.0||4.2|
|SP||Nathan Eovaldi||3.2||SP||Nathan Eovaldi||2.0||1.6||4.2|
|SP||Masahiro Tanaka||2.2||SP||Masahiro Tanaka||3.9||2.8||3.7|
|SP||Ivan Nova||0.5||SP||Luis Severino||2.3||2.7||2.5|
|CL||Andrew Miller||2.0||CL||Aroldis Chapman||1.4||1.8||1.6|
|RP||Adam Warren||2.2||RP||Andrew Miller||1.4||1.3||1.9*|
|RP||Dellin Betances||2.4||RP||Dellin Betances||1.2||2.4||2.3*|
* - Fans projections are not yet available for Miller and Betances and were estimated by adding 0.5 WAR to the average of their Steamer and ZiPS projections.
Both Steamer and ZiPS agree that the Yankees will be about three wins worse than they were in 2015 due in large part to an expected sharp decline from the aging Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez. On the flip side, the rosy outlook of the fans actually yields a dramatic improvement of more than 10 wins. Using 87 wins as the baseline, that means the Yankees should expect to win about 84 games, one fewer than Vegas is predicting, with a 97-win season still within the realm of possibility.
However, in 2015 the case could be made that Yankees should have performed better. According to their run differential, they should have won 88 games. If 88 wins is used as the baseline heading into this year, Steamer and ZiPS are in complete agreement with Vegas as they would all expect about 85 wins for the Yankees. That pushes the win ceiling to about 98 according to the fans, which would be the highest Yankee total since the World Series champs of 2009.
While the Fans projections point towards great success for the Yankees, the more sober projection systems indicate that age may catch up with them in 2016. The reality will likely fall somewhere in between those viewpoints. It's hard to imagine that the Yankees front office will remain stagnant if the team is hovering around .500 by mid-season, so the smart money will be placed on the over of that Vegas line.
Tell us how many games you think the Yankees will win in 2016.