Back of the Envelope 2020 Yankees Projected Wins
I thought that it might be fun to do a back of the envelope analysis of the projected win total for the 2020 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 113 games in 2020, but it is better to read on and see how I came up with that number.
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 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 2019 WAR number, in some cases I have changed the 2019 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 31.0 wins in 2020.
I’m guessing that Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman will again split time in the outfield and at DH along with Mike Ford (who will play some first base) and Miguel Andujar (who will play some first and third base). I’m guessing that Clint Frazier will be the odd man out to start the season. 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.
The Starting Rotation
The Yankees starting rotation is also very good. The addition of Gerrit Cole and the hopeful return of Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery should make it even better than 2019’s version. I’m projecting that it will add 21.3 wins in 2020. I’m projecting Montgomery as the fifth starter for most of the season partially because he’s the 5th best starter with Domingo German out and partially because I like him better than the ageing J.A. Happ. I think that Happ will get traded if another team loses a starter.
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 6.4 wins. It could be more – relievers are hard to predict. I have German finishing out the season here although I think that he has more upside than Montgomery.
The Yankees bench should be quite well integrated into the lineup in 2020. The Yankees have several injury and exhaustion prone players (Stanton, Judge, Gardner and Voit) and will need to rotate players in and out of the field to lessen the risk of injury (and to substitute for injured players). I’m projecting 5.0 wins from the bench because the Yankees really have two starter quality players on the bench. I’ve left Aaron Hicks out for 2020. Who knows what will happen with him?
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.
I should also point out that the juiced ball likely skewed results in 2019. If this is corrected, I would not be surprised to see several players who benefited from this have worse seasons in 2020. Of course, pitchers vulnerable to the long ball would benefit in this scenario so this cuts both ways.
The Yankees had a great year in 2019 despite injuries to a number of key players (Judge, Severino, Voit).
They should be even better in 2020.