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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:

The Big Change [2021 Season Review]

Regardless of what one does for a living, one’s career will be filled–almost always–with peaks and valleys. Before 2021, Jameson Taillon experienced a barrage of valleys: two Tommy John Surgeries and testicular cancer. That his baseball career is still intact after those is, at the very least, admirable. That the 2021 season was full and reasonably successful for him is impressive. 

Taillon came to the Yankees by way of a January trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, exchanged for minor leaguers Maikol Escotto, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Rosany Contreras, and Miguel Yajure. The Yankees saw something of value in Taillon, which isn’t surprising given his former high draft status and pitching successes. They thought–as they often do–that they could unlock something in  him that the Pirates could not. And, thus, Jameson Taillon, a 6’5”, 230 pound right handed pitcher from The Woodlands, Texas, changed not only organizations, but philosophies as well. 

With the Yankees, Taillon switched from his 2-seamer to his 4-seamer and moved from working down in the zone to working up in the zone, all in addition to changing his mechanics.

This approach changed his 4-seamer into a true weapon. Pre-2021, Taillon surrendered a .263 average and a .329 wOBA against his 4-seamer with 108 strikeouts (20.8%). In 2021, those numbers fell to .201 and .286 and rose to 88 (in just one season; 28.9%). As he gets more used to this approach, these numbers–especially the home run numbers (13 this year) could get even better.

With his new approach, Taillon notched career highs in both K/9 and K%, but he also suffered career worst marks in HR/9 and FIP. These competing data sets, if frustrating, are logical. More 4-seamers up in the zone will produce way more strikeouts than 2-seamers down in the zone. The tradeoff, of course, is the home run ball. Given this new approach, some growing pains were to be expected. At times, he had it figured out–like when he won AL Pitcher of the Month in July. At other times, he didn’t. 

But we’d be remiss, negligent even, if we did not acknowledge the great success Taillon had–mostly–in terms of health this year. Coming off his second TJS, he still managed to log 144.1 innings in 29 games. He will unfortunately miss Spring Training–and time in the 2022 season–with a surgically repaired ankle.

This changes the calculus for 2022 a bit. 

When I originally outlined this piece, my closing was going to be about how, with the health question answered, 2022 would have to be results-focused, or Taillon would fall into the pile of previous pitching projects that didn’t prosper in pinstripes: Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Sonny Gray, James Paxton, Lance Lynn. Now, though, that changes partially. Whenever he starts his 2022 in the Majors, there will be a necessary grace period for Taillon. How long that does or should last is a question to be answered. 

Considering the litany of changes and challenges faction Taillon, it’s safe to call 2021 a success for him. Resoundingly so? No. But something to build on, something to work from? Absolutely. 

A Perfect Ending

Before we get into the post itself, I wanted to take a moment and recognize Ken Singleton, YES broadcaster, who’s retiring after today’s telecast. Ken’s professionalism, passion, and love for the game of baseball have all been a joy and a privilege to hear over my many years of baseball fandom. Without a doubt, he is my favorite play-by-play announcer in the game and his color commentary is also near flawless. He knows baseball inside and out from a life well-lived in the game. He appreciates the players of today. He is knowledgeable without being a know it all. He is informative without being condescending. He is funny and witty without trying too hard. And, let’s be honest, his voice is a perfect voice for baseball. He will be sorely missed in the YES booth and we here at Views wish him well in all his future endeavors and time with his family. Thank you, Kenny, for sharing your love of baseball with us for so many years. We love you.

Game 157: Judge and Stanton. Name a better duo, I’ll wait

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The Yankees’ magic number is down to three. Tonight’s 7-2 win over Toronto and Boston’s 4-2 loss to Baltimore (!!) has put the Bombers in prime position to snag one of the two Wild Card spots with five games to play. They’re now up two on Boston for the top spot and have a three game cushion (pending the Mariners game tonight) overall.

Tonight’s game got off to an inauspicious start, but thankfully, ended comfortably in the Yanks’ favor. Toronto grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first and Jameson Taillon reinjured his ankle and left after three innings, but it didn’t matter. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton drove in five of the team’s seven runs scored, with Stanton’s three-run homer in the seventh representing the knockout blow.

More on this game in the takeaways after the jump:

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