Stacking up the Offense Against 2012

It won’t be easy to make up for the offseason’s losses.

The 2013 Yankees aren’t going to be as offensively productive as last season. This isn’t a profound statement by any means, but just how much can of a downturn can we expect?

We know that the likes of Ichiro, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Travis Hafner, and Kevin Youkilis all come with questions of age, ability, and health; and are substantial downgrades against Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. Furthermore, there are questions of health (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and age (just about everyone in the lineup).

Let’s attempt to quantify the difference. Using the actual amount of runs scored in 2012, ZiPS projections for 2012 and 2013, and Baseball Musing’s lineup tool, we can roughly estimate just how many wins the Yanks will be short in comparison to the year prior.

In order for this tool to work, it needs a lineup to be inputted, with each player’s OBP and SLG. I used the ZiPS projections for both seasons in order to compare vs. the actual outcome in 2012. For 2012, the lineup I used was Jeter, Curtis GrandersonRobinson Cano, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Swisher, Ibanez, Martin, and Breett Gardner. This was essentially the lineup projected going into the season. For 2013, I created a lineup as follows: Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, Cano, Youkilis, Hafner, Suzuki, Stewart, and Gardner. See the table below for results:

[ahm-wp-tabular id=1883 template=Web2]

As you can see, the Yankees greatly underwhelmed ZiPS’ offensive projection in 2012. Obviously, much of this was due to injuries (A-Rod and Teixeira). At first glance, the 2013 projection actually looks pretty good. However, this lineup tool assumes perfect health, which is the main reason for the difference between ZiPS and actual 2012.

If the Yankees’ fell short 37 runs of its projection in 2012, it’s probably reasonably safe to say the team will be in a similar if not worse territory in 2013. Hafner and Youkilis are brittle, Teix has battled injuries and decline in recent years, who knows when/if A-Rod will return, and Jeter is coming off surgery, just to name a few concerns. All things considered, it’s probably reasonable to estimate the Yankees scoring roughly 775 runs, or 4.784 per game. While it is a large decline from a year ago, the Yankees would still be one of the top offenses in baseball. In fact, 775 runs would have placed them 4th in the league in 2012.

Despite still being a top scoring team, a drop from 804 to 775 runs would equate to about 3 less wins. Why? 10 runs is roughly equivalent to 1 win, as explained here:

RS^2/(RS^2 + RA^2) = Pythagorean Winning Percentage. So, if a team scored 775 runs and allowed 775 runs, they’d have a .500 Pythag Win%, or 81 wins and 81 losses – even amounts of runs scored and runs allowed should lead to something like an even record. Not as scary as it sounds.

What happens if we subtract 10 runs from the runs scored column, so that we now have a 765 RS/775 RA team? Pythag spits out a .4935 win%, and .4935 * 162 = 79.95 wins. So, instead of 81 wins, you’re now expected to win just barely less than 80. By subtracting 10 runs, you lost a fraction more than one win.

Thus, losing 29 runs levels off just about 3 wins from the Yankees’ total. Pitching, defense, or some sort of external acquisition will have to make up for those 3 games. Although the pitching staff was impressive last season, that’s a lot of pressure when factoring in health and age issues.

Most importantly, this offensive dip could be the difference between making the playoffs or going home at the regular season’s end. A wildcard spot may not simply be a fallback option when considering the improvement of the Jays, the threat of the Rays, and the Rangers’ and Angels’ luxury of beating up on the AL West’s newest team, the lowly Astros.

Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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