Saturday, 10 March 2012

AL East Match-ups: Toronto v. New York

Wrapping up my series of previews with the AL East contenders (you'll note there was no post on the Orioles) with a look at the New York Yankees.

I will follow the format of my previous post with all the standard caveats. As before, my opinion of the potential of the Blue Jays players is reflected in my team preview post, and the same philosophy is applied to the opposing team - that is a reasonable view of what is possible, without being overly optimistic or pessimistic, assuming health. also, one should NOT see these INDIVIDUAL projections as a TEAM projection. some players will exceed my guesses, others will fail them, and some will get hurt. this is a 100% guarantee. It's just impossible to know WHICH will do what.

Catchers: Arencibia v. Martin

This comparison is hard to make a distinction on without making some assumptions. Martin is the better defender, at this point. JPA stands to be the better hitter going forward, given age and injury consideration. How much better he hits, and how much that might outweigh defensive considerations remains to be seen. For now it's safest to just mark this one a push.

First Base: Lind v. Teixeira

There's really no point in a long winded analysis here. Tex seems to be slacking off but he's young enough to rebound to previous levels. Lind obviously has been at that level before but only once and with a much steeper drop-off. Bottom line is that whatever they might in theory be capable of, you have to give this one to NY.

Second Base: Johnson v. Cano

Even less analysis here. Johnson's best year doesn't really compare to Cano's routine year.

Shortstop: Escobar v. Jeter

Jeter is, of course, a hall-of-fame player, or was in his prime. But those days are years in his past. He's not remotely the fielder Esco is and lately he hasn't been the hitter Yunel is either. This is an easy win for the Blue Jays.

Third Base: Lawrie v. Rodriguez

I'm inclined to call this a slight win for Lawrie given A-Rod's recent health record. but one must grudgingly acknowledge that, as wildly unlikely as it seems, Lawrie could in theory have a "sophomore slump" which would impact his results as well. I really do expect the Jays to get better results but I'll call this one a push for this year.

Right Field: Bautista v. Swisher

Swisher was down a bit last year, and might regress to his former levels or might be in somewhat of a decline. But his best work is not on par with what Bautista has been doing. Easy win for the Blue Jays.

Center Field: Rasmus v. Granderson

Granderson was an MVP candidate last year, but before we get all intimidated about how good he is, let's remember that he came into 2011 with an OPS of .822 and an OPS+ of 113. He had another year like 2011 in 2007, but outside those two seasons he's been on a much more approachable level. I'm prepared to assume he's much more likely to be in the .810-.820 range going forward than to expect he's going to keep hanging around in the .900 neighborhood. In that lower neighborhood, he's actually not as good as Rasmus was in 2010 (at 23!) but there's the matter of the much shorter track record. As strange as it sounds to say coming off their respective 2011 seasons, Rasmus COULD outhit Granderson in 2012. But even i can't base this comparison on that possibility. For now, the edge goes to New York.

Left Field: Snider v. Gardner

This gets tricky because of the considerable differences in the skill set of the two players in question. but before i get into that let me boil it down to a baseline. Here are their slash-line stats and OPS+ from 2010:

TS: .255/.304/.463/.767/105
BG: .277/.383/.379/.762/105

For each player, it was their best season to date. Snider was 22, Gardner was 26. Gardner actually fell off to his previous level last year and probably and OPS+ of 85-90 is pretty much all that he is. As a hitter. However, he's also blazing on the basepaths and an insanely good defender (by all accounts). These matter. Snider, on the other hand, is probably at least as good as he was in 2010 and very likely well better than that. He's capable of stealing 20 or so bases and is an above average fielder, so he's not a complete zero on those points. I'm not in the school that places a huge amount of value in relative defense between two good defenders (it would matter more if Gardner were being compared to, say, Vlad Guerrero) and I still find Snider's offensive upside compelling. Though I'm suitably impressed with 49 SB, I'm going to call this a push in an effort to compensate for any homerism in my urge to pick Snider.

Ibanez will be 40 before mid-season and is apparently in steep decline. Andruw Jones - or whomever he's relieving in the outfield - will probably fill this spot against every LHP and he'll be very good if he repeats last year's pattern. But even when protected from lefties, Ibanez isn't good and is getting worse. EE still has the potential to step up another level (remember that from May 29 until the end of 2011, his OPS was .869), but where he's at right now is good enough to come out ahead here. Edge Blue Jays.

While admittedly I'm being generous in LF based on my confidence in Snider, that works out 3 for the Jays, 3 for the Yanks, and 3 as a push. But hold your criticism for a second.

Comparing lineups (based on above observations):

Escobar v. Jeter - Jays
Johnson v. Granderson - Yankees
Bautista v. Cano - Jays
Lind v. Rodriguez - Yankees
Encarnacion v. Teixeira - Yankees
Rasmus v. Swisher - push
Lawrie v. Ibanez - Jays
Snider v. Martin - Jays
Arencibia v. Gardner - Yankees

Here things look good for the Blue Jays again. Despite all that, I can't in good conscious rate the Blue Jays on quite the same level as the Yankees here. there's a lot of projection in LF, the places where the Yankees win (1B, 2B, and CF) they don't just win but they win HUGE (with the noted caveat regarding CF). I think there's an argument they are closer than one might have guessed - the Yankees were 124 runs better than the Jays in 2011 - because the Jays have a reasonable expectation of significant upgrades at three positions and a solid possibility of improvement at 2-3 others, while the Yanks should be relatively static.

Turning to the pitching . . .

Sabathia's ERA+ over the last six seasons combined is 143, and it's not been lower than 136 in that span. Romero's was 146 last year (almost identical to CC's 147). All that said, you can't rationally claim Romero is as solid an asset at this point, his very best is CC's day-at-the-office. Give this one to NY until and unless relative ages changes things.

Pinada, 23, was quite good last year, and went through an adjustment/counter-adjustment cycle and came out good on the other side. But most see Morrow as a true-ace in disguise and expect at any given time he might bust out into top-tier production. It's difficult to project how Pineda will handle the adjustment to the AL East, the pressure of NY, or the sophomore adjustments, and it's no easier to project when it comes together for Morrow, but given age and experience i lean towards the latter for 2012. Slight edge Blue Jays.

Cecil has upside, but that upside (say something like 2-3 WAR) is right where Kuroda already lives. It's possible age, and the harder division, will mitigate the difference but for now you have to assume an edge for New York.

When Ivan Nova was 21, he was a mediocre (statistically) pitcher in the Florida State League. When Henderson Alvarez was 21, he was out-pitching the 24 year old Nova in the AL East (albeit in a 10 game sample). Alvarez is simply a better pitcher, right now, and he has a higher ceiling IMO. Edge - Blue Jays

Here's a comparison in which McGowan's injury history doesn't look quite as bad. Garcia accumulated less than 150 innings from 2007 to 2009 and had only 25 starts last year. Garcia is an above average pitcher, albeit last year's results sure look fluky since he hasn't pitched that well since 2004. But McGowan, if he's out there, is a top-of-the-rotation guy. I've explained my reasons for assuming health before, and even though that philosophy is tested sternly by McGowan, I have to be consistent. Get ready for the Summer of Dusty and chalk this one up to the Blue Jays.

No, I'm not going to dance on this one. New York.

If healthy, Robertson deserves the nod here - but he's having some issues this spring so we'll see. For now, edge New York.

Logan has turned into a good little lefty, but Oliver has turned into an excellent one. Edge Blue Jays.

Soriano has a weird sort of "inconsistent" vibe despite being pretty good to very good most years. Frasor's middle name lately is consistent. Still, on pure stats, i have to give the nod to New York.

No real comparison here, Wade had a good hear last year but Janssen has apparently hit an excellent groove. Edge Blue Jays.

In 2009 the Yankees resigned themselves to putting Hughes in the bullpen and he responded with an excellent season. This year they appear to have enough depth to send him back to that role assuming everyone stays healthy and it may be that he will blossom again. The scouting says he should be better than he's shown most years.
Villainueva was very good in relief last year but the track record and scouting says you go with Hughes here. Edge - New York. Slightly.

Perez v. ???

Take away three appearances in the first half of September and Perez was excellent last year, but he doesn't come with the pedigree. Who knows who the Yankees will run out here, but that alone tells you who wins this spot.

I'll take some heat, I'm sure, for supposing these two have a similar rotation - if Dusty pitches 150 innings they would be even apart from CC's edge over Ricky. And that would largely wash out if Morrow does break out. but I think it's solid. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that on paper, they have a bullpen that might be better - and has the benefit of being all returning players (at least six deep) which does matter.

The Yankees are clearly projectable as a better team, and they hardly ever seem to fall prey to the inertia of things going wrong as other teams do. but they do have places where they can fall short of projections. Maybe on of these years they will actually do so.

So based on everything I've said in this and the previous posts in the last month, I'm going to suggest a prediction for the final standings between the four. As always, the win total should be seen as a +/-3 figure since there's just enough variables to make anything more precise kind of silly.

NYY : 96-66
TBR: 91-71
TBJ: 89-73
BRS: 87-75

In coming days, I want to take an in-depth look at the Fangraphs positional rankings but I'm not sure when.

1 comment:

dgapa said...

Your positional reviews at the end of that section do not match up at all by the way. Otherwise looks pretty good. Due to Mo's age I would almost consider it a push vs Santos.