Friday, February 20, 2015

How Will These Yankees Underperform?

Welcome to Day 3 of How Blank's Convoluted Baseball Ideas. (Still trying to think of a better name.)

Yesterday we highlighted one position player and one pitcher who should perform better than Steamer projects, and today we'll do the same. Except the exact opposite. I apologize in advance for crapping all over your good mood right before the weekend, Yankees fans. Now, let's examine two players who probably won't reach or exceed Steamer's expectations for 2015.

Player: Mark Teixeira
Projected WAR: 1.3

Why Steamer is Optimistic: Teixeira has a history of major-league success, and Steamer hasn't had the ability to watch Teixeira age in dog years over the past few seasons. Steamer forecasts that Tex will accumulate 525 plate appearances, close to a full season of work. The good news for Steamer is that it won't take much for Teixeira to reach 1.3 WAR. Last year, such luminaries as Yangervis Solarte, Alejandro De Aza, and Dexter Fowler eclipsed that total.

Why You Shouldn't Trust the Damn Projection: Teixeira will probably again be less productive than the aforementioned Murderer's Row of Solarte, De Aza, and Fowler. Teixeira's projection is a case of Steamer remembering too much of a player's past. Teixeira was at least a three-win player in each season from 2004-11, and the projection system remembers that he was a really productive player. Key word: was. He also almost always played a full season. Key suffix: -ed.

Last year, Teixeira hit 22 homers and still managed to accrue just 0.8 WAR. Age has robbed most of his once-stellar defense, his base-running reminds me of Jorge Posada's heyday, and he's generally unpleasant to watch. Teixeira's basically just the American League version of Ryan Howard at this point. The 34-year-old can no longer get around on the fastball, a pitch he used to routinely send toward the International Space Station. Considering Tex's recent injury/geriatric history, I wouldn't be shocked if A-Rod spent as much time at first base as Teixeira this season. The good news here is that if Teixeira does indeed reach his Steamer projection, the Yankees will only be paying him $17.3 million per win. That's about the market rate, right?


Player: Masahiro Tanaka
Projected WAR: 3.5

Why Steamer is Optimistic: Because the computer doesn't know that Tanaka will probably need Tommy John surgery at some point in the near future. For every Adam Wainwright who defies the odds and pitches for years without needing surgery, how many Matt Harveys are there? Thirty? Fifty? Steamer can't foresee the precarious situation in which Tanaka and Yankees fans will find themselves every fifth day. Whenever Tanaka takes the mound, we'll all be nervous, especially me and the New York Post headline writers. Because we'll know what Steamer doesn't: that it could easily go to pieces at any second.

Why You Shouldn't Trust the Damn Projection: The majors are littered with Tommy John veterans. Tanaka needed 136 Cy Young-caliber innings last season to amass 3.2 WAR. And this year he's supposed to eclipse that with a UCL that probably looks like this? I'm not holding my breath. (Actually, holding my breath is exactly the thing I'm doing.)

One more fact to keep in mind: Even though Wainwright held off on surgery for years, even he went under the knife after last season. Dr. James Andrews is like the Grim Reaper, just waiting until each of these pitchers reaches his day of reckoning.

Well, I'm sufficiently depressed and need a drink. I really hope I'm wrong about this one. On the bright side, always remember...

Why I'll Probably Be Wrong about Both Predictions: Because computers are smart (and humans -- even ones named Ken Jennings -- are not).

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