Happy Friday, everyone. Tonight is an atypical off day for the Yankees as they travel from Iowa to Chicago to resume the series against the White Sox tomorrow. It’s a much needed reprieve, too. The Bombers just completed a 17 games in 17 days stretch with a number of players on the injured list and the bullpen stretched thin. Regardless, they went 12-5 during this portion of the slate, which is an unmitigated success. Were there a few blown games? Sure, but that’s par for the course with the 2021 Yankees. I’d have signed up for 12-5 before this part of the schedule, that’s for sure.
Today, we have a few good mailbag questions to address before we head into the weekend. As always, shoot your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll answer our favorites in future editions. Now, let’s get to this week’s best.
The answer to this has to be no, right? I don’t think there’s a single hitter outperforming preseason expectations. There have been a number of disappointments (DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres) or a combination of injuries and disappointments (Luke Voit, Clint Frazier), but no one has broken out. You don’t need a projection system to know that. Nonetheless, let’s take a closer look. For the purpose of this response, I’m going to use PECOTA with the team’s preseason expected regulars, sans the injured Aaron Hicks while adding Rougned Odor.
PECOTA happens to be my projection system of preference, but I’m sure the forthcoming results would look similar if I had used ZiPS. While projection systems have their differences, it’s rare to see any significant divergences in their assessment of various players. With that said, let’s take a look at individual hitters’ actual OPS to date vs. their projected OPS at the start of the season.
There are actually more players meeting expectations, at least by PECOTA’s standards, than I anticipated. Aaron Judge, Rougned Odor, Gio Urshela, and Giancarlo Stanton are all virtually doing what was projected. Meanwhile, Gary Sánchez is the lone guy noticeably outperforming the forecast.
I’m not surprised to see Judge’s actual and projected OPS closely aligned, but I am surprised to see a few other things. I’d have figured Stanton’s and Urshela’s seasons were underwhelming, while Odor would have significantly beat his projection. On the flipside, the laggards are who you’d expect by now.
One of the nice things about PECOTA is that it also offers a range of projections, with the 1st percentile being its worst case scenario and 99th its most optimistic. Here are the projection percentiles to which each hitter’s actual OPS matches the closest:
|Player||PECOTA Percentile||Proj. OPS||Actual OPS||Variance|
Voit, Torres, Frazier, and LeMahieu have had practically their worst possible seasons under PECOTA’s lens. Sheesh.
So, to get to the bottom of Michael’s question: Gary is the only guy doing better than anticipated from a projection’s perspective. If you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you’d probably know we aren’t surprised that Sánchez has bounced back this year, so for us, it really feels like no one has done better than we had hoped.
Carlos asks: What are reasonable expectations for Sevy and Kluber once they come off the IL?
We’re planning to do a more in-depth article on Luis Severino’s return next week based on other post-Tommy John surgery hurlers, but I’ll throw in my personal opinion here: I’m pretty optimistic about Severino’s return.
Sevy was terrific in his most recent rehab appearance. He threw four perfect innings and struck out five for Somerset a few days ago and touched 97 on the stadium radar gun. I don’t want to make too much of Sevy dominating Double-A hitters, but at the same time, it’s better than struggling. Hitting 97 is big too. He was in the 92-95 range in his prior outing, so he’s clearly adding strength still. The slider also looks sharp.
Things may not be so pretty in his first couple of major league outings back, but that’s OK. There are surely some jitters to shake off after not pitching a major league game since 2019. But as long as the stuff is present, Severino should be quite good. He’ll also have a a month and a half to round into form. There’s a nonzero chance he’s a bona fide number two behind Gerrit Cole at that point.
On the other hand, my expectations for Corey Kluber are low. For one, he just made his first rehab start yesterday and it didn’t go well. He won’t be back until the beginning of September at the earliest. I know he has a lot of rust to shake off, but the Yankees don’t have much time to wait for him to figure out his control whenever he does end his rehab assignment. Remember how much he struggled with command to start the regular season? It took him four starts before he got into a groove from late April through May. There’s not much runway to figure things out now. He’ll need to be sharp immediately.
I’m not sure Kluber will even get four regular season starts before 2021 is all said and done. I hope he comes out dominating like he did in his last six starts before hitting the injured list (2.11 ERA), but I can’t say I’m confident. Anything the Yankees get from him is gravy. This is the second time he’s hurt his shoulder in the last year and he’s not getting any younger.
Ideally, both Sevy and Klubot come back firing on all cylinders. But if only one of them has a strong return, that’s totally fine. A playoff rotation of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Severino/Kluber, and Montgomery is pretty formidable. Hell, even if neither Severino or Kluber look good, Cole-Taillon-Monty ain’t bad itself.
Jack asks: I love the mic’d up players in All-Star games and in last night’s [Field of Dreams] game. If you could have one current and former player mic’d each game so you could listen to them the entire game, who would you choose? Personally I’d favor CC formerly and probably Voit currently.
This is a fun question. I too enjoy hearing what the players are saying during the game and I wish it was done more often.
CC Sabathia is definitely a good choice for a past player. I think I’d probably go with him too. The other guy that comes to mind is Nick Swisher, who certainly had plenty to say in his time and always seemed to have fun on the field.
As for the current team? I think it’s an easy choice, though it’s not Luke Voit. What’s the appeal there? Maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, my choice is Rougned Odor.
Odor is everywhere. He’s constantly making mound visits and I’d love to be a fly on the wall for those. Odor is also the first guy out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate after scoring. With those things in mind, he has to be the guy, right? I mean, to be honest, the rest of the team is kind of bland. A big part of that stems from how sterile the Yankees organization is, which stinks. Sure would be nice for the team to loosen the reigns a bit, but that’s a conversation for another day.