A lot of baseball writing has to do with the median case, or the line of best fit. We consistently ask the question “how well will this player or team do?”, which is another way of asking what is the actual talent level of said player or team. We all know that this is theoretical, that careers are filled with seasons that clearly under-perform, or clearly over-perform. I think it’s interesting to look at the latter for now.
The Yankees are probably going to be an average team. This is in the median case, as I hinted at, and that’s what we really care about. That’s also because in the past few years, the actual talent has tracked the win record pretty well—84, 87, 84, and 85 wins in each respective year since 2013 is about right, if not even a little generous considering their run differential in that time.
The only year in that stretch where they overtly over-performed was in 2015, when Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez’s breakout seasons catapulted the team to the wild card game. Even if you build a mediocre crop, you’ll get a 2015 season in there somewhere.
What would that equivalent look like with the 2017; in particular, the case where every player panned out exactly as you’d hope, either by a recent historical mark or just their next year’s projections? In this case, you’d likely get a 90-win team. I made a brief depth chart list, where each player matches a recent historical season, or their Steamer/Steamer600 projections.
It’s kind of funny that a lot of the best case outcomes are 2014 season outcomes, considering how boring and mediocre that team was. Surprisingly, it contained some pretty excellent seasons from Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner, the few bright spots on that team.
The only below-average player would be Aaron Judge, which is still a decent outcome. This would be an above-average position player group, but without a single star. If that isn’t a major red flag, then I don’t know what is.
Here’s another red flag: there is really no great outcome for the fifth starter spot, which is why I put in Luis Cessa by proxy. Maybe one of the few depth guys have a great year, but who knows. But this also includes a great bullpen, which would keep the whole staff competitive.
Overall this outcome is kind of similar to that 2015 year, and that would be a boon for a team that is pseudo-rebuilding. On the other hand, though, this model further exposes the team’s weaknesses. On a truly good team, the best-case outcomes would make the team truly elite, not just very good.
Without a credible fifth starter and a load of position players banking on matching the better years of the past isn’t a model for success. If the rumor is true that the Steinbrenners are truly tapped out on funds, then I’ll be crossing my fingers for an outcome like this in the coming year.