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Mailbag: Aaron Judge extension, Hicks in center, Gardner rumors

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It doesn’t feel like baseball season in New York this morning, but Opening Day is merely ten days away. Exciting stuff! But seriously, I thought we were done with winter weather. This cold spurt will be long gone come April 7th, which currently has a forecast in the low 60s (yay) with showers (gulp).

Today marks the return of the mailbag from a long hiatus. As always, you can send your mailbag questions to viewsfrom314@gmail.com. We’ll [try] to answer them every Monday. Now, let’s get to this week’s edition:

An Obligatory Preseason Lineup Post

As obligatory as a post about the lineup, so is the following statement. Overall, lineup construction doesn’t mean a whole lot unless you really screw it up. We may not be Aaron Boone’s biggest fans here, but we know he’s not going to hit Isiah Kiner-Falefa leadoff and Aaron Judge ninth. Still, it’s a fun thing to muse about and when there isn’t any real action to dissect yet, it’s a good thought exercise.

This one in particular was brought on by the lineup the Yankees put out in their Spring Training matchup with the Blue Jays yesterday:

For one reason or another, one I couldn’t entirely place and really still can’t, I liked the top-6 of that lineup, not just the players, but the way they were ordered. I’d probably flip DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, however, and the addition of Anthony Rizzo would necessitate those previous two moving down. Putting Rizzo in there means it’s the full strength lineup. Here’s how I’d order them.

Reviewing the Yankees’ 2022 Projections: PECOTA

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As we await the daily updates from the league and union’s collective bargaining sessions, the Yankees made some news this morning. The team will retire Paul O’Neill’s no. 21 on August 21, finally putting an end to its unofficial retirement for two decades. That’s a Sunday afternoon game against the Blue Jays. There’s been some consternation about not issuing O’Neill’s number over the years, so if you want to discuss any of this news in the comments, have at it.

This morning’s news aside, today I’m breaking down Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections for the 2022 season, which were released last week. As rosters currently stand, PECOTA envisions a second place finish for the Yankees, projecting a hair under 94 wins, trailing the Blue Jays by a game. Obviously, signing one Freddie Freeman or Carlos Correa would change things. For now though, allow me to break down some of PECOTA’s individual projections on the Yankees’ current roster.

Reviewing the Yankees’ 2022 Projections: Steamer

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Earlier this month, I broke down the Yankees’ 2022 ZiPS projections which are published at FanGraphs. Also on display at FG is Steamer, another projection system that I’ll take a look at today. And once Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA is published, I’ll get to that one as well.

On the whole, Steamer projects the Yankees to accumulate roughly +49 WAR. That’s three more than ZiPS and translates to a high-90s win ballclub as presently constituted. Granted, the process of adding up the WAR is often foolhardy, but it serves as a reminder that the Yankees should still be very good in 2022. Now, to the individual player projections:

Fun with ZiPS

On Thursday, Derek took a look at the Yankees’ 2022 ZiPS projections. Today, let’s do something similar and have some fun–since there’s very little fun to be had in the baseball world these days–and run these projections through an old friend: the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool.

For those unfamiliar, the concept is simple. You drop in player names and their OBP and SLG numbers and the tool spits out a bunch of lineup permutations to see which one is the best. Now, the models that the tool uses are a little outdated and it isn’t foolproof, but, like I said, it’s fun! I’ll use the 1959-2004 model to cover more dates, get more of a variety of run environments in there.

First, let’s roll with players currently on the Yankees, so we’ll exclude Anthony Rizzo and Brett Gardner. The lineup will look like this (OBP/SLG):

C: Gary Sanchez (.304/.432)

1B: Luke Voit (.342/.468)

2B: DJLM (.344/.402)

SS: Gleyber Torres (let’s just roll with it for now; I’ll play with other versions later) (.332/.426)

3B: Gio Urshela (.318/.458)

LF: Joey Gallo (.352/.507)

CF: Aaron Hicks (.340/.400)

RF: Aaron Judge (.369/.538)

DH: Giancarlo Stanton (.338/.491)

Assuming the batting order is as follows, this team should score 5.257 runs per game, about 852 over the course of the season:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Gallo
  4. Stanton
  5. Voit
  6. Urshela
  7. Hicks
  8. Torres
  9. Sanchez

The best possible lineup–5.293 runs per game, 857 per 162 is:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Voit
  4. Gallo
  5. Stanton
  6. Sanchez
  7. Torres
  8. Urshela
  9. Hicks

Even without any upgrades at the plate, the Yankees figure to be a good hitting team. Granted, we thought that last year…but I doubt they’ll be as shaky as last year and that the team will be as it is above. So let’s get frisky and do some wishcasting on this roster.

Last night, someone asked me, while I was tweeting from the Views account, what I want the infield to look like in 2022. I said I’d want Matt Olson at first, Carlos Correa at short, with DJLM at second and Gio at third. Let’s keep the rest of the team the same and fit that infield into the tool (while remembering that the Correa and Olson projections wouldn’t be adjusted for being Yankees). If that were the case, I assume the lineup would be:

  1. DJLM
  2. Judge
  3. Olson
  4. Stanton
  5. Gallo
  6. Correa
  7. Urshela
  8. Hicks
  9. Sanchez

That lineup would average 5.448 per game, 882 over 162. The best possible lineup with those projections would be

  1. Correa
  2. Judge
  3. Stanton
  4. Olson
  5. Gallo
  6. Sanchez
  7. Hicks
  8. Urshela
  9. DJLM

Is any of that going to happen? It’s highly unlikely! But it’s still fun to think about. Next time, I’ll revisit this with some other players plugged in and fool around with positions and playing time. Until then, be well and hope this owner-enforced lockout gets resolved.

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