There is no doubt that 2016 has been a frustrating season for the New York Yankees. They are barely hovering .500, and at times, both their pitching and offense have made them feel even worse than mediocre. Teams don't often stay at .500 with a run differential around -20; the 2013-14 Yankees were the exceptions.
Yet even the minor Yankee accomplishments this year have only put a minor amount of lipstick on this pig. Before the campaign began, PECOTA pegged the Yankees as an 85-win team, question marks and all. A few Yankees have managed to exceed expectations, but for the most part, they have been disappointments. Taking a page from Eric Garcia McKinley at BP Mets, it seemed like a good idea to compare the team's individual performances to what PECOTA projected prior to the season.
For simplicity's sake, I only looked at position players with at least 100 plate appearances, and starting pitchers (not relievers). Since PECOTA projections were used, I compared the go-to Baseball Prospectus stats for hitting and pitching, TAv (Total Average) and DRA (Deserved Run Average). Obviously projections run deeper than one statistic for each part of the game, so they only tell a portion of the story.
|Player||TAv||Proj. Percentile||Median RoS TAv||TAv Diff.|
The positives of the 2016 Yankees offense essentially begin and end at the top of the lineup. Beltran has been absolutely phenomenal with the bat, turning back the clock to his prime Mets form with what should end up being an All-Star campaign. Ellsbury and Gardner have done a mostly fine job setting the table at the top of the lineup, though it should be noted that Gardner is just barely in the preseason 70th percentile and given his decline in power, does not really seem like he should be that much higher above the expectation.
Other than these three, the only plus on the whole has been Gregorius, who just recently started to heat up at the plate. Castro's hot start did not last, and Headley's recent success has only done so much to counteract his abysmal April. Teixeira and A-Rod have been absolute nightmares. The possible 70-point improvement in Total Average indicated on Teixeira's line comes with a huge grain of salt since he is presently injured with a cartilage tear in his knee. It would be a stunningly good recovery for him to simply return and be a decent hitter, let alone a .271 TAv one (better than all but Beltran). Given that A-Rod will be 41 in a month, a 32-point jump for him also seems like a reach.
There is some reasonable optimism for Castro, Headley, and especially Hicks to recover. At the same time though, Beltran is on pace for 44 homers based on his home run rate over 162 games. That is highly unlikely to happen, and PECOTA agrees, projecting just 12 more homers and a 30-point drop in TAv the rest of the way. A Hicks breakout would be nice, but the Twins waited on that for years. If he is the best hope to make up for a potential slump, then the Yankees could be in trouble. Maybe smaller improvements for Castro and Headley in addition to consistency from Ellsbury and Gardner will do the trick, but the outlook remains bleak.
|Player||DRA||Proj. Percentile||Median RoS DRA||DRA Diff.|
DRA has a somewhat curious evaluation of the 2016 rotation in that it likes Pineda's performance so far better than Tanaka's, but that is simply the nuance of the stat. Although it's not perfect by any stretch, pitching is especially tough to assess, particularly since there are different methods of doing so. Tanaka's strategy on the mound has been far better than Pineda's, so even though the latter has a 10.2 K/9 that greatly helps his DRA, he is eminently more hittable.
Perhaps the scariest part of Pineda's DRA is that PECOTA thinks he will get worse. Since the ghastly 11.2 H/9 and 1.5 HR/9 that make a bigger difference in other pitching stats like ERA and FIP still linger, it will probably be grim. On the bright side, Tanaka is expected to lower his DRA, which should mean positives for the rest of his game considering he already has a borderline All-Star season. DRA doesn't like Eovaldi much either, but that is more understandable since despite his high velocity, he's not as strategically sound as Tanaka and he still doesn't strike many batters out. The inconsistent yet present Eovaldi could very well be the best the 2016 Yankees can expect.
Sabathia and Severino present intriguing cases on opposite sides of the spectrum. Sabathia is the Beltran of the pitching staff, putting together a superb year that far exceeds his projections. It would be lovely for him to continue like that, but he probably won't. At the same time, Severino is not a 5.70 DRA pitcher, no matter his age. Whenever the Yankees decide to re-insert him into the rotation, he should rebound. He is certainly doing a fine job in Triple-A making his case to return, and it's not like Nova offers much anyway.
Nonetheless, both projection fields agree that the shaky times for the Yankees will probably continue unless multiple players have surprising Beltran/CC-like surges. That is certainly possible; just unfortunately not probable.