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Which Yankees do fans and projections disagree on the most?

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Fans never seem to completely agree with the computer projections of their favorite players. Over which Yankee players do the fans and projection systems disagree the most?

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FanGraphs hosts two of the most prominent projection systems in the public domain, Steamer and ZiPS. However, they also allow for fans to weigh in and offer their own projections for all major leaguers. The sample sizes are admittedly small (most players don't receive many more than a couple dozen fan projections). Still, it's interesting to see where the fans diverge most from the cold, calculating algorithms.

To get a sense of what fans think of the Yankees as the season nears, I compared the fan projections for the Yankee players with their actual Steamer projections. Fans are generally an optimistic bunch, so I certainly expected their projections to skew a bit higher than the actual projections, in most cases.It turns out that there was not a single Yankee who had received a fan projection that was lower than his actual projection.

There were no Yankees players that the fans seemed to be pessimistic about. Perhaps that's a good thing! It is spring training after all, and what fun is baseball if there isn't a sense of hope in the air in March? The table below illustrates which Yankee pitchers fans are most optimistic about, relative to Steamer projections.

Pitcher sIP sWAR sWAR/200 Fan IP Fan WAR Fan WAR/200 Diff.
Nathan Eovaldi 150 2.1 2.8 181 4.0 4.4 +1.9
Michael Pineda 156 3.1 4.0 176 4.2 4.7 +1.1
Aroldis Chapman 45 1.0 4.4 59 1.5 5.1 +0.5
Luis Severino 152 2.2 2.9 155 2.4 3.1 +0.2

Fans didn't seem to stray too far from Steamer when it came to the Yankees pitchers. However, it does seem notable that Eovaldi and Pineda are the two pitchers that fans are the most hopeful about, relative to the actual projections. Fans peg Pineda to set a career-high 176 innings, compared to Steamer's 156-inning projection, along with a strong 3.52 ERA and 3.20 FIP. Likewise, fans project Eovaldi for a healthy 181 innings, 31 more than Steamer, plus a 3.79 ERA and 3.27 FIP.

Both Pineda and Eovaldi have spent much of their careers frustrating fans with their great stuff, shiny peripherals, but ultimately unsatisfying results. They have been the object of much consternation this offseason, as many have posited that their underlying peripherals would make them promising extension candidates, while the Yankees seem to be taking a more cautious approach, with each two years from free agency. However, these fan projections would suggest that fans still believe in their potential. If the fans are right, in this case, Pineda and Eovaldi would be in line for career-years.

Beyond those two, the fans and Steamer didn't differ on much with regards to the hurlers. Other notable pitchers, such as CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, had extremely similar fan and Steamer projections. The Yankee hitters, however, are a different story.

Batter sPA sWAR sWAR/600 Fan PA Fan WAR Fan WAR/600 Diff
Alex Rodriguez 531 0.4 0.5 578 1.9 2.0 +1.5
Didi Gregorius 539 2.3 2.6 594 3.6 3.6 +1.3
Starlin Castro 559 1.3 1.4 610 2.4 2.4 +1.1
Mark Teixeira 468 1.6 2.1 525 2.6 3.0 +1.0

The fans appear more aggressive in projecting the Yankee hitters. The fans seem to admit that Teixeira and Rodriguez should see a bit of regression from their excellent 2015 campaigns, but not much. While Steamer sees that A-Rod should fall all the way back to Earth, the fans still like his chances of being a productive hitter in the form of a still strong 119 wRC+. The fans also still project Teixeira to be a first-divison starter at first base, while Steamer sees him as a bit more mediocre.

While the fans do stick by a couple of aged players in Rodriguez and Teixeira, they appear to be most optimistic when it comes to younger players who are loaded with potential. With the exception of the pair of older veterans, the other players that the fans and projections disagree on are young, and there's an argument to be had that says they have not yet fulfilled their potential.

Players like Gregorius and Castro are young hitters upon which fans can pin their hopes. The fans project both of the Yankees' middle infielders to post near-league average batting lines to go along with strong defense at tough positions. The actual projection systems are understandably skeptical about those players' chances of turning into solid offensive players, but it's hard to fault the fans for believing in their potential.

The same goes for the pitchers the fans are highest on. Eovaldi, Pineda, and Severino have inconsistent–or limited–track records, but all are exciting talents. Eovaldi flashes triple digits with his fastball, Pineda strikes out 16 opponents on occasion, and Severino seems to possess poise beyond his years. It's unlikely that every member of this trio will live up to fan expectations. Yet, it's impossible not to dream a little about the potential of the Yankees' best young starters.

In general, though, the fan projections are pretty optimistic. There will be cases this season where systems like Steamer will prove to be correct about their mediocre numbers. However, here's hoping that, when it comes to the Yankees this season, the fans prove to be a bit more prescient than the projection systems.