Back of the Envelope 2019 Yankees Projected Wins: Version 1
The Yankees are getting close to being a complete team. The potential Machado signing is still a possibility but otherwise, the Bombers seem mostly set.
I thought that it might be fun to do a back of the envelope analysis of the projected win total for the 2019 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 should win 107 games in 2019.
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. The WAR statistic measures how many wins a player can contribute in a season above that imaginary 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 could expect to win in a year.
The estimates I am using are my own. In some cases, I have used a 2018 WAR number, in some cases I have changed the 2018 number to adjust for expected improvement or regression or injury. In some cases, I had to guess.
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 30.4 wins in 2018.
I’m guessing that Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks will again split time in the outfield and at DH. Clint Frazier might play his way into more or fewer at bats depending on how Gardner and he perform. I’m sure Gary Sanchez will play some DH as well to spell the other four (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.
C – Sanchez – 4 WAR
1B – Voit – 2 WAR
2B – Torres – 3 WAR
SS – Gregorius – 1.5 WAR (partial season, coming back from injury, see Tulowitzki below)
3B – Andujar – 3 WAR
RF – Judge – 6 WAR
CF – Hicks – 4.9 WAR
LF – Gardner – 2 WAR
DH – Stanton – 4 WAR
The Starting Rotation
The Yankees starting rotation is also very good. The additions of James Paxton and JA Happ (for a full season) should make it even better than 2018’s version. I’m projecting that the rotation will add 17.4 wins in 2019 (up from 16.9 in 2018).
SP1 – Severino – 5.7 WAR
SP2 – Paxton – 4 WAR
SP3 – Tanaka – 2.7 WAR
SP4 – Happ – 3 WAR
SP5 – Sabathia – 2 WAR
The Relief Corps
The Yankees have 3-4 relievers that could close for many teams. This is certainly a strength of the team and I’m projecting that it will add 8.7 wins. It could be more depending on how well Zach Britton does and if Tommy Kahnle can return to form. I’d love to see some of the kids (e.g. Loiasiga and Acevedo) get some quality innings here as well.
RP1 – Chapman – 1.9 WAR
RP2 – Betances – 1.8 WAR
RP3 – Green – 1.8 WAR
RP4 – Holder – 0.4 WAR
RP5 – Britton – 1 WAR
RP6 – German – 1 WAR
RP7 – Cessa – 0.5 WAR
RP8 – Kahnle – 0.25 WAR
Given the quality of their starters, the Yankees don’t use their bench very much. 2019 will be different as Troy Tulowitzki (hopefully) will have to substitute for Didi while he recovers from surgery. I’m projecting 2.0 wins from the bench. It could be 1. It could be 3. 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 not much so it doesn’t make sense to boil the ocean in this section. My big hope is that Clint Frazier gets some quality at bats and shows that he can replace Gardner in 2020.
Bench1 – Tulowitzki – 1 WAR
Bench2 – Romine – 0.5 WAR
Bench3 – Frazier – 0.5 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 2018 and will benefit from full seasons of impact players like Paxton and Happ. They should be slightly better in 2019.