Back of the Envelope 2018 WAR
Today we welcome new writer Matthew Cohen to our site. This is Matthew’s first column for us.
In the aftermath of the Yankees’ trade for Giancarlo Stanton, I thought that it might be fun to do an entirely too soon back of the envelope analysis of the projected win total for the 2018 Yankees. I am using the wins above replacement (WAR) player methodology. For those of you who want to avoid wading through the statistics, my analysis shows that the Yankees will win 101 games in 2018.
A Brief Summary of WAR
As previously noted, WAR stands for wins above replacement (player). First, what is a replacement player? A replacement player is basically a borderline major league player who is the kind of player who plays either because of injury or because his team is not really competitive. He could also be a bench player. The WAR statistic measures how many wins a player can contribute in a season above a replacement player. By adding all of the projected WAR for every player on the team and adding it to the expected number of wins for a replacement team (I’m using 49) you can get a quick and rough estimate of the number of games a team can expect to win in a year.
The estimates I am using are my own. In some cases, I have used a 2017 WAR number, in some cases I have changed the 2017 number to adjust for expected improvement or regression. In some cases, I had to guess (see second base).
The Position Players
This will come to no surprise to Yankee fans but the Yankees have a very solid group of starting position players. I’m projecting that the Yankees starting position players will contribute 28.3 wins in 2018.
C – Sanchez – 4.4 WAR
1B – Bird – 2 WAR
2B – Wade / Torres – 1 WAR
SS – Gregorius – 3 WAR
3B – Headley – 1.9 WAR
RF – Judge – 5 WAR
CF – Hicks – 3 WAR
LF – Gardner – 3 WAR
DH – Stanton – 5 WAR
I’m guessing that Stanton, Judge, Gardner and Hicks will split time in the outfield and at DH. I’m sure Sanchez will play some DH as well to spell the other 4 (he’ll also take some days off). I should mention that time at DH adds less WAR value than time in the field and I have not adjusted for that. This was quick and dirty.
Second base and first are obviously big guesses. It’s not a lot of wins so I hope I’m not off by much in any case.
The Starting Rotation
The Yankees starting rotation is also very good. I’m projecting that it will add 14.9 wins in 2018.
SP1 – Severino – 4 WAR
SP2 – Tanaka – 3.5 WAR
SP3 – Gray – 3 WAR
SP4 – Montgomery – 2.5 WAR
SP5 – Sabathia – 1.9 WAR
I’m predicting that CC will return (on a one year deal, I hope). A bit of regression for Severino from his stellar 2017 season.
The Relief Corps
The Yankees have 5 relievers that could close for many teams. This is certainly a strength of the team and I’m projecting that it will add 7.5 wins. It could easily be more if Chapman and Betances return to form.
RP1 – Chapman – 1 WAR
RP2 – Betances – 0.9 WAR
RP3 – Kahnle – 1.3 WAR
RP4 – Green – 1.8 WAR
RP5 – Robertson – 1.7 WAR
RP6 – Warren – 0.8 WAR
RP7 – Holder – 0.2 WAR
Given the quality of their starters, the Yankees don’t use their bench very much. It’s mostly injuries and days off. I’m projecting 1 win from the bench. It could be 0. It could be 2. Not much of a big deal either way. In truth, there will be a cast of characters moving in and out from AAA as starters get injured. But they generally net out to 0 so it doesn’t make sense to boil the ocean in this section.
Bench1 – Torreyes – 0.6 WAR
Bench2 – Romine – -0.6 WAR
Bench3 – Ellsbury – 1 WAR
There are a host of limitations to this methodology. I list a few in this section.
A single injury can have a huge impact. This is, of course, impossible to predict.
Teams under and over perform these estimates by significant amounts even if players hit their WAR numbers. Some of this is because players may get a lot of WAR points in meaningless games that don’t contribute to wins (22-1 and 2-1 games are both wins but the 22-1 win game creates a lot more WAR points).
Luck can play a big role in teams winning or losing a handful of games each year.
The Yankees had a great year in 2017 and will benefit from full seasons of impact players like Gray, Kahnle and Robertson. Bird should be back and the addition of Stanton is significant. They’ve lost (at least for now) Frazier’s partial season and Castro. They should be better in 2018.