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Total WAR Project VIII: New York Yankees

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

So we’ve covered the six NL teams (Braves, the Mets, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Brewers), plus the Mariners. I honestly think that these Yankees are the team to be worried about. It goes against the pessimist in me, but short of Chase Utley and Roy Halladay engaging in and acting on a suicide pact over the All-Star break, I can’t see any way this team doesn’t get back to the Fall Classic.

They were the best team in baseball by a huge distance last year, and they got even better this offseason. They go legitimately 4-deep in the rotation, they have the best lineup in baseball, and they’re in the process of rotating older talent out of the lineup and inserting younger talent, but more on that later. In short, the best team in baseball continues to get better. More on this after the jump.

2009 Roster

C1: Jorge Posada (3.9 WAR)
C2: Jose Molina (0.0 WAR)

1B: Mark Teixeira (5.2 WAR)
2B: Robinson Cano (4.4 WAR)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (4.4 WAR)
SS: Derek Jeter (7.4 WAR)
INF: Jerry Hairson, Jr. (0.6 WAR); Ramiro Pena (0.5 WAR)

OF1: Johnny Damon (3.1 WAR)
OF2: Melky Cabrera (2.7 WAR)
OF3: Nick Swisher (3.6 WAR)
OF4: Hideki Matsui (1.7 WAR)
OF5: Brett Gardner (2.0 WAR)

SP1: CC Sabathia (6.0 WAR)
SP2: Andy Pettitte (3.3 WAR)
SP3: A.J. Burnett (3.1 WAR)
SP4: Joba Chamberlain (1.5 WAR)
SP5: Sergio Mitre (0.2 WAR)
SP6: Chad Gaudin (0.1 WAR)

CL: Mariano Rivera (2.0 WAR)
SU: Phil Hughes (2.2 WAR)
RP: Alfredo Aceves (1.2 WAR)
RP: David Robertson (0.7 WAR)
RP: Phil Coke (0.1 WAR)
RP: Brian Bruney (-0.1 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 59.8

Yeah. Ok. That’s not even fair. I don’t know if anyone’s seen the Disney animated classic Hercules, but at the very end, Meg (the love interest) is telling Hades (the badguy, voiced by a particularly florid James Woods) why she believes in the title character. “You can’t beat him,” she says. “He has no weaknesses.”

That’s really how last year’s Yankee team worked. They had the best infield in baseball, a good outfield, a great bench, a workhorse ace, two of the eight best relievers in the game and no real stinkers in the bullpen. How could you beat them over seven games? Well, you’d need to score enough runs to keep up with that ridiculous offense, a good enough pitching staff to slow their offense down, and you’d have to steal games against starters not named Sabathia while not letting your own back-end starters and relievers get knocked around.

Believe it or not, the Phillies were probably the team best set up to beat the Yankees last year, and they still lost the World Series in a six-game series that wasn’t really as close as the game differential would make it seem.

In short, Brad Lidge, Pedro Feliz, and Cole Hamels were not to blame for last year’s World Series loss—the Yankees were just head and shoulders above any other team in the league.

The scary part? They’ll be just as good, if not better, this year.

2010 Projected Roster

C1: Jorge Posada (2.9 WAR)
C2: Francisco Cervelli (0.8 WAR)

1B: Mark Teixeira (5.1 WAR)
2B: Robinson Cano (4.2 WAR)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (5.1 WAR)
SS: Derek Jeter (3.5 WAR)
INF: Nick Johnson (2.4 WAR); Ramiro Pena (0.7 WAR)

OF1: Curtis Granderson (4.9 WAR)
OF2: Nick Swisher (2.8 WAR)
OF3: Brett Gardner (2.1 WAR)
OF4: Randy Winn (0.8 WAR)
OF5: Jamie Hoffman (0.0 WAR) 35.3

SP1: CC Sabathia (5.5 WAR)*
SP2: Javier Vazquez (4.9 WAR)* 45.7
SP3: A.J. Burnett (3.2 WAR)*
SP4: Andy Pettitte (2.9 WAR)*
SP5: Chad Gaudin (0.9 WAR)*–note: split between starter and reliever

CL: Mariano Rivera (2.2 WAR)*
SU: Phil Hughes (2.8 WAR)*–note: mostly as a starting pitcher
RP: Alfredo Aceves (0.7 WAR)*
RP: David Robertson (1.2 WAR)*
RP: Joba Chamberlain (2.5 WAR)*–note: mostly as a starting pitcher
RP: Damaso Marte (0.6 WAR)
RP: Sergio Mitre (0.2 WAR)­—split between starter and reliever

2010 Projected Total WAR: 62.9

In case you were wondering, yes, I did check my math.

So here’s what the Yankees have, of value, that they didn’t last year: 1) Curtis Granderson, 2) a full season of A-Rod, 3) Javier Vazquez, who, according to WAR, was actually better than CC Sabathia last season.

The downside is that they lost Matsui, Cabrera, and Damon, all of whom are serviceable, but not amazing players. Besides, I think the Phillies Nation commentariat has made its feelings on Damon quite clear.

It’s also rather unlikely that Derek Jeter will repeat his 7.4-win season from last year. I think he’s being underrated (along with about three-quarters of the position players on this team) by CHONE, but he’s not going to post his numbers that would have put him in the MVP discussion had Joe Mauer not had the season that he had.

Some things you might want to look out for. Curtis Granderson’s not a big dude, so his power goes overlooked. But if that short porch in right field at New Yankee Workshop lets Johnny Damon (career .489 slugging percentage) tie his career high in home runs at age 35, Granderson (career .484 slugging percentage) could easily hit 30 or more at age 29.

You also might find the battle for fifth outfielder somewhat interesting. The favorite, as of right now, is Jamie Hoffman, a Rule V pick from the Dodgers, who hit .182 in limited action last season. However, Rule V outfielders from the Dodgers have a good track record—just look at Roberto Clemente, Shane Victorino, and…well…anyway…

But the guy who’s up against Hoffman is former Phillies farmhand Greg Golson, who, I’m sure, would appreciate you calling to say hi the next time you’re in the Bronx.

The Yankees are also coping with the aging and potential loss of Jorge Posada with a prospect that, frankly, I’m more excited about than any other in baseball, including the Strasburg/Heyward axis.

Jesus Montero is a 20-year-old Venezuelan catcher. He’s 6-4, 225 pounds, and slugged .562 in two levels of the minors last year. He’s obviously a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but a power-hitting righty bat with great plate discipline (he only struck out 47 times in 379 plate appearances last year, great for a power-hitting teenager) is a tremendous commodity.

I’m really high on Montero, in case you couldn’t tell. Not only do I think that he’d be an able replacement for Posada, I think he’s got a chance to be the greatest player ever named after a car. Who’s he got to beat? Renyel Pinto? Yovani Gallardo? Lew Ford? I guess Ichiro Suzuki counts…I guess I take that back.

Now, because Montero is a big, unweildy dude and he hits so well, the Yankees are considering moving Montero to first base or DH. What a waste. Mashers, I mean, true mashers (or, to offend my good friend Special Agent X, “professional hitters”) are hard to come by, particularly at catcher. How many teams now have catchers hitting 3-4-5 that turly belong there? Three? I figure the list of catchers in the game right now who are truly great hitters is only three players long: McCann, Mauer, and Victor Martinez.

The Yankees got tremendous mileage out of Hideki Matsui (much to our dismay in the World Series), a man who could not play the field at all, as a DH. It’s not necessary to move someone out from behind the plate because he’s a good hitter. Not all catchers field like Yadier Molina or Carlos Ruiz. Those that do hit like Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz. History, particularly Yankee history, is littered with catchers of limited defensive ability but prodigious offensive skill.

But back to the Yankee team that will take the field Opening Day. I’ll be honest with you, boys and girls. I don’t see any way around this team that doesn’t involve some sort of subterfuge. You can’t beat them. They have no weaknesses.

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