Entering opening day, I think just about any Yankees fan would signed up for an 18-13 start. The injuries have been aplenty, and the doom and gloom entering the 2013 campaign was prevalent. A 1-4 start didn’t help quell the concerns, either. However, the Yanks have gone 17-9 since that point, just two games off the pace set by the first place Red Sox.
Just because the team has played much better since its inauspicious start doesn’t mean they are out of the woods just yet. The offense is depleted, 17th in the league in runs scored. Vernon Wells has cooled down significantly, and despite Travis Hafner‘s success, his health is a ticking time bomb. As presently constituted, outside of Hafner, Wells (meh), and Robinson Cano, nobody provides much confidence at the plate. Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez (yes, Alex Rodriguez), can’t come back soon enough.
Despite the offensive woes, I’m certainly pleasantly surprised with what the team has done thus far. Am I concerned going forward? Of course. But good thing the team has created a margin of safety of sorts.
Now, let’s look out how the Yankees have performed compared (in terms of WAR) to an objective viewpoint, ZiPS preseason projections. For position players, I prorated projected WAR based on plate appearances. For pitchers, I prorated it based on innings pitched. Click the following “continue reading” button to see the breakdown.
It’s not much, but the Yankees have slightly exceeded ZiPS projections on a prorated basis, with both hitters and pitchers exceeding expectations equally. Considering the 0.6 WAR difference, the Yankees, at best, have won one more game than projected for 31 games. For clarification, the projected figure is not considering the players who are currently injured. So, the difference is based on the team the Yankees have fielded thus far.
For position players, the biggest surprises have been Hafner, Wells, Overbay, and Cervelli, accounting for 1.9 WAR greater than projected at this point. Anecdotal evidence supports this difference. Others to slightly outperform projections include Brett Gardner, Ichiro, Chris Stewart, and Cano.
The biggest laggards of the offense: Eduardo Nunez, Brennan Boesch, and Youkilis, performing 1.6 WAR worse than prorated projections. I’m not shocked by Nunez or Boesch, but I am slightly surprised to see Youkilis .5 WAR less than his projection at this stage. I suppose his back is a contributing factor to poorer performance.
Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes have been the highest above projections for the pitching staff thus far. Kuroda has 1 WAR thus far, while ZiPS foresaw .5 at this stage on an innings pitched basis. Hughes has accumulated .3 WAR more than projected, and his recent string of starts certainly has a lot to do with it.
Of the pitchers, CC Sabathia is farthest behind his projection (.4 WAR less). I don’t think CC has been all that bad, but he’s certainly been adjusting to reduced velocity thus far and has dealt with some struggles. Regardless, he still has a 3.31 ERA and 3.94 FIP. The rest of the staff is no greater than +/- .2 WAR from their apportioned projection.
I have to give credit to this roster of miscasts. It hasn’t been the most enjoyable team to watch, but they are getting the job done while the stars lick their wounds. Time is of the essence, however. This group of guys is much more likely to underperform going forward, so the walking wounded can’t get healthy any sooner.