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Which Yankees have raised expectations the most so far?

After an excellent first month, which Yankees have seen the greatest bump up in their projections?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have surpassed all but the most optimistic expectations so far this season. They've dominated on offense, they've gotten mostly strong starting pitching, and their bullpen has been lights-out. Full-on contention probably wasn't part of the plan for this year's team, but the Yankees certainly won't complain if it is now.

After such a roaring start, it's only fair that we adjust our expectations. I know I certainly have been forced to alter what I expect of this team: before the season, I picked the Yankees to finish fourth in the AL East. Now, with one of the best records in the league and the game's best run differential, they have to be considered contenders to win their first division crown since 2012.

But how much should we adjust expectations? Which players have changed their baselines the most? We all have our own intuitions which will dictate how we feel about certain players. Those intuitions probably would nudge us toward raising our expectations regarding Aaron Judge, or toward reining in our hopes regarding CC Sabathia.

The most objective way to measure a shift in expectations is to look at the projections. Yes, they are cold, calculating, and fairly rigid, but even projections are liable to shift significantly when presented with new, surprising information. These Yankees have presented us with some surprises. So let's compare the preseason projections for each Yankees hitter with what is currently forecast for them over a month into the season:

Preseason vs. Updated wOBA

Player Preseason wOBA Updated wOBA Difference
Player Preseason wOBA Updated wOBA Difference
Aaron Hicks 0.293 0.316 23
Aaron Judge 0.328 0.35 22
Matt Holliday 0.331 0.345 14
Starlin Castro 0.309 0.322 13
Brett Gardner 0.317 0.324 7
Jacoby Ellsbury 0.303 0.31 7
Chase Headley 0.307 0.312 5
Austin Romine 0.281 0.285 4
Ronald Torreyes 0.289 0.292 3
Gary Sanchez 0.339 0.341 2
Didi Gregorius 0.306 0.308 2
Chris Carter 0.346 0.341 -5
Greg Bird 0.322 0.312 -10

Here, I took the preseason wOBA projection for the Yankees' hitters and compared it to their updated, rest-of-season wOBA forecast, per Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections. Intuitively, we should think that the bar has been raised for the Yankees' hitters, based on their excellent early performance. The updated ZiPS projections match that intuition.

Aaron Hicks and Judge, that fearsome duo, have seen the largest bump in their projection. Hicks, considered a bit part before the year, projects as a near-average bat, to go along with his solid outfield defense. Judge's updated .350 wOBA projection isn't exactly as Ruthian as he has been thus far, but it's still a huge jump to coax out of a conservative projetion system in just one month.

Interestingly, Matt Holliday's forecast has increased substantially as well. He stands out as the only Yankee over 30 to see a double-digit increase in projected wOBA. Prior to this exercise, I figured it would be difficult for the Yankees' older players to get a projection system to budge, given the projections have so much past data to go on regarding such players. But Holliday's hot start has boosted his projected wOBA all the way up to .345, perhaps soothing ZiPS' innate concerns that a player of Holliday's age could suffer a severe drop-off any year now.

He stands out though, while other older veterans like Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner have all had strong starts, they all see relatively smaller bumps in their projections. ZiPS probably sees their longer track records as more significant than their good Aprils. Even so, it's probably fair to raise our expectations a tad with regard to the Yankees' vets, just as the projection systems cautiously raise the bar.

The only major downgrade here is Greg Bird, as his forecast has decreased by ten points. The hope, from a Yankees-perspective, is that ZiPS is unaware that Bird has been battling ankle issues throughout the season, and that once healthy, Bird will bounce back and easily beat his projection. All ZiPS sees is one month of pitiful (if a bit unlucky) numbers, and the system has adjusted accordingly.

I've only covered the Yankees' hitters here, but it's clear that it's not crazy to expect more from the Yankees based off of one hot month. The projections have raised their expectations, just as most fans probably have.

This should be taken as a good sign, and definitely not as a given: Ben Lindbergh noted at The Ringer yesterday that the Orioles, the other AL East surprise, have actually seen their team-wide projections fall after a scintillating first month. So while we can't expect the Yankees to remain this great all year, we can and should expect more from them than we did just a few weeks ago.