December 27, 2002

Very Offensive

Remember when the Yankees said they were going to cut payroll this off-season?
So much that, huh?

In the past week (or so) they signed the best baseball player in Japan and the best pitcher in Cuba, each to multi-year deals worth $7 and $8 million per year.

I am neither a Yankee fan or a Yankee hater.
I often watch their games on DirecTV because they are a very good team with a lot of good players and I enjoy most of their announcing team.

All that said, I must admit that the way they spend bothers me occasionally.
I should re-state that: It isn't really the way they spend, but the way they spend more than other teams.
I read on that their 2003 payroll will most likely be somewhere around $150 million, depending on whether or not they can unload a big contract or two on another team.
The Minnesota Twins, my team, will likely have a payroll around $45 million this year.

Now, quite obviously, there are other teams like Boston or Texas or Los Angeles or whomever, that also spend a ton of money every year.
The difference is that while those teams are spending around $100 mill a year, the Yankees are at $150 million!
When you are spending 300% more than a lot of teams and almost 50% more than the teams with the next biggest payrolls, that's a big deal.

I guess, more than anything else, it is jealously.
Obviously I am jealous of all their success, but who wouldn't be.
Really though, I am jealous that they can sign big name free agents whenever they want.
I am jealous that my team is never even involved in the discussions for guys like Matsui and Contreras, while it is almost predetermined that they will end up in New York.

Looking at their lineup for 2003, there is also a lot to be jealous of...

Pos     Player       '02 EqA    AVG EqA      +/-
C Posada .300 .246 +.054
1B Giambi .351 .287 +.064
2B Soriano .304 .259 +.045
SS Jeter .296 .256 +.040
3B Ventura .295 .264 +.031
LF Matsui .335 .283 +.052
CF Williams .324 .270 +.054
RF Rivera .265 .283 -.018
DH Johnson .268 .270 -.002

A couple of notes here...

"'02 EqA" is simply the player's Equivalent Average from last season.
"AVG EqA" is the average EqA of all players at their position last season.
"+/-" is how much better or worse the Yankee player was than the league average at their position.

I put Hideki Matsui's EqA as basically the average of his last 3 years in Japan, translated to the Major Leagues.

Juan Rivera may or may not start in right field, I really have no idea because the Yankees currently also have Raul Mondesi and Rondell White on the (massive) payroll.
I just took a guess that he will start there and I used his EqA from the minor leagues last season, translated to the Major Leagues.

Most good lineups have several places where they are significantly better than league average, several places where they are slightly above average, some average and one or two below average.

Using last year's stats, the Yankees have 7 spots where they are significantly above average, 1 spot almost exactly average and 1 spot significantly below average.
That is pretty amazing, but it gets even better when you consider which two spots they are near or below average at.

2002 was Nick Johnson's rookie year and he definitely was not great and struggled a lot at times.
That said, he was basically a league average DH and he is young and very talented and extremely likely to improve quite a bit in 2003.

Right field is the only place where the Yankees appear to have any problems at all.
I don't think that Rivera, White or Mondesi are good bets to have EqAs of .280+, so they may just have to settle for being slightly below average at one position.

The Yankees scored 897 runs last season, which was the most in Major League Baseball by almost 40 runs.

They appear to be significantly improved in left field, where Hideki Matsui will be a very good hitter for them and a whole lot better than the combined .238/.282/.366 they got from their left fielders (mostly White and Shane Spencer) last year. It wouldn't surprise me if Matsui was 50 or 60 runs better than the New York left fielders of 2002.

I also think Nick Johnson will be much improved in 2003 and (assuming they don't trade him) he should be worth at least another 10-20 runs in 2003.

Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada - all of those guys should collectively be about the same in 2003.

My gut tells me that Alfonso Soriano will decline a little bit from his magnificent 2002 season, but I could definitely be wrong - after all, I didn't think someone could walk 25 times and have a season like he had.

Robin Ventura also seems like a likely decline to me, just because he had his best season since 1999 and he is 35 years old.

Okay, let's do some very simple estimations....

Let's say Giambi, Posada, Jeter and Williams play about the same as they did last year.
And let's say Soriano and Ventura each decline by 10 runs.
We'll say Juan Rivera starts in RF and hits at about the same level as the Yankee right fielders did last year, which was .260/.331/.416 and might even be a low projection for Rivera.
And finally, let's say Matsui is worth 50 runs more than their left fielders were last year and Johnson improves by 10 runs.

Add all that up and it comes out to a gain of about 40 runs over last season, which would put them at about 940 runs scored in 2003.
And I think that is a conservative estimate.

If a team scores 940 runs in a season and they don't play in Coors Field or have the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' pitching staff, they are going to make the playoffs.

But we knew that already, didn't we?
And I guess that is why I am starting to not like the Yankees.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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