Inside Look at Dan Szymborski’s New York Yankees ZiPS

In 2015 the New York Yankees made the playoffs for the first time in since 2012, which felt like an eternity in the Bronx. The Yankees, however, did not last long in the playoffs, losing to the Houston Astros in the Wild Card Game. So, despite making the playoffs, many within the organization and many Yankee fans view the 2015 season as a disappointment. One playoff game in three years is not going to meet expectations for the 27-time World Series winners. Kiss the rings.

The calendar has turned to 2016, which means the new baseball season is not too far off. That means that every team has a chance. Well, technically. Not sure if anyone will bet on the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves, but who knows? The Yankees, with the acquisitions of Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro, and Aroldis Chapman, certainly hope to reach the playoffs again and – this time – make a deep run into October.

A new year also means that Dan Szymborski, the creator of ZiPS (a prediction model), is releasing his 2016 predictions for each team. Let’s look at how the model sees the Yankees performing in 2016.

  • The model sees the Yankees starting five combining for 10 zWAR in 2016. It sees Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino leading the pack producing 3 zWAR apiece, with both Pineda and Eovaldi producing 2 zWAR each. The model does not see Sabathia improving as they are predicting that he produces a 0 zWAR. The combined 10 zWAR for a starting rotation would have ranked 10th overall in the AL in 2015 and is 2.9 zWAR less than their 2015 rotation produced.
  • ZiPS sees the Yankees offense producing a total of 19 zWAR – or 1.4 zWAR less than their offense was able to produce in 2015. However, it should be mentioned that this is just their starting lineup and does not include the WARs of Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. If they do get a chance to start – or play – ZiPS sees Bird producing a 2 zWAR and Judge producing a 1.5 zWAR. Moreover, ZiPS does not see Beltran having a very good 2016 campaign as they have him listed as producing a 0.0 zWAR.
  • ZiPS does, however, love the Yankees bullpen. I mean who doesn’t? The trio of Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances will make you salivate. Szymborski published the 2016 Yankees ZiPS before they had acquired Chapman, but later tweeted out ZiPS for Aroldis Chapman in New York. With Chapman in New York, ZiPS expects the Yankees bullpen to produce a zWAR slightly over 6.0. Only the Orioles had their relievers produce an fWAR over 6. Last season the Yankees bullpen produce a 5.3 fWAR – which was tied with the Houston Astros for the second highest in the majors.

ZiPS likes the Yankees roster, but does not love them. It appears that ZiPS is projecting the Yankees to have a season similar to their past two in which they made the playoffs once and landed between 80 and 90 wins both seasons. Injuries are a huge question mark for the Yankees. The Bombers also have to wonder if Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez can repeat their production at the plate. With both being a year older, it remains to be seen how much production these two guys have left in the tank. How much does Carlos Beltran have left? Can Jacoby Ellsbury stay healthy and can Brett Gardner shake off the poor second-half showing of 2015? You see what I’m getting at when I write that there are plenty of questions with the Yankees’ lineup.

The Yankees have much better organizational depth on the offensive side. Aaron Judge could bring an impact bat to the big club at some point, and Rob Refsnyder should provide more depth. On the other hand, the Yankees lack rotation depth and, thus, any long-term injuries to their starting pitchers could greatly hinder their chances of reaching the playoffs again. Entering the 2016 season, the ZiPS model is not incredibly bullish when it comes to the playoff hopes for the Yankees, and that seems fair.

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