The Yankees have been dealt a major blow for the second time in 10 days, learning that Mark Teixeira will be out for 8-10 weeks with a strained wrist. The news comes following Curtis Granderson fracturing his forearm after being hit by pitch on February 24th. Initial news of Teixeira’s wrist barking surfaced yesterday forcing his withdrawal from the World Baseball Classic, while the hammer came down late this afternoon.
Needless to say, the season is off to an inauspicious start. The latest news leaves the Yankees without two of their best power hitters for roughly 40 games, if you assume a May 15th return for both. That’s just about a quarter of the season. As it stands, Dan Johnson and Corban Joseph are the in-house favorites to fill in for Teixeira. Juan Rivera, Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, and Ronnier Mustelier are in the mix to play for Granderson. None of those names will bring Yankees fans any solace, and the lack of depth acquired in the offseason is coming back to bite the team.
After Granderson went down, I used Baseball Musings’ Lineup Tool in order to quantify how much offense the Yankees would lose over a 30 game period. I’m going to do the same analysis for this article, but bump it up to a 40 game period which is likely a bit more realistic for the two of them. Like how I used the ZiPS projections with the lineup tool, I’m going to do an additional breakdown using projected WAR, which will factor in more than just offensive production.
How did I wind up with a 40 game absence? May 15th is 10 weeks from today, and 40 games into the season. Using Granderson’s 10 week ETA given on February 24th, he’d be back May 5th. Obviously, these estimations are rarely correct to the tee, so admittedly I’m selecting an arbitrary date to make the analyses a bit simpler.
For the lineup tool analysis, the lineups I used are the same as those from the article linked to in the previous paragraph. For the lineup without Teixeira, I bumped everyone up one spot, and slid Johnson inbetween Rivera and Stewart. Take a look at the following table, using ZiPS OBP and SLG projections, comparing lineups with and without Granderson and Teixeira:
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Losing 10 or 11 runs would be the equivalent to losing one win from the season total. Here’s why:
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.
So, 10 or 11 runs doesn’t seem like much, but let’s look at this in the grand scheme of an entire season. If you multiply that by 4 (Remember, 40 games is roughly 25% of the season), that brings the total to anywhere between 40 and 44 runs, which is at least 4 wins taken away. That just goes to show that the duo makes a huge impact.
Let’s take this analysis one step further, factoring in more than offensive production by using ZiPS’ WAR projection. Take a look at the following table:
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One assumption here: I came up with 150 PAs because it is 25% of 600, which is what I’m assuming to be a full season. Again, this amount can and likely will vary depending on the rehab.
As you can see, this analysis pegs the loss of Granderson and Teixeira, with Johnson and Rivera as replacements, as one less win. I initially expected this to be higher than the result from the lineup tool, but I guess the defense is a wash. Assuming Granderson in left field, I would think he’d be substantially better than Rivera. Additionally, we know Johnson is a substantial downgrade defensively considering Teixeira’s prowess. Playing with the numbers, if Teixeira and Granderson combined are worth 9 WAR, while Rivera and Johnson as an aggregate are worth 1, the difference over a quarter a season is 2 wins. Sounds more reasonable.
Both of these analyses have their flaws. On the precipice, they seem to make the injuries relatively inconsequential over 40 games. One less win, what’s the big deal? But remember, these are just projections. Plus, players don’t perform linearly throughout the entire season. Lastly, either of the two could be out longer than 40 games. Going back to linear performance: I’ve already heard/read some people say Teixeira’s usual April swoons won’t be missed, but that’s just ridiculous. The talent downgrade is undeniably massive.
Given the expected tight divisional race, it would be wise for Brian Cashman to look for an upgrade outside the organization. 1 or 2 wins (potentially more) could be the difference between a playoff spot or hitting the links immediately after the season. It looked like Cashman might have been willing to stand pat after losing Granderson, but with Teixeira down, his hand might be forced. Whether it’s the waiver wire or the trade market, the front office will certainly be active in seeking out an upgrade over the in-house options.
By Keith Allison (Flickr: Mark Teixeira) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons