Wednesday, February 18, 2004



Oh, man. That's funny.

Coming from anybody else, sure, OK, maybe. But from Henry?

I mean, why should Henry and the Red Sox be allowed to spend double what Rogers and the Jays spend on payroll, but Steinbrenner shouldn't be allowed to spend double what Henry is willing to fork out? I didn't hear Henry complaining about lack of caps when he took on Schilling's contract, or was able to out bid Oakland for Foulke.


Yesterday, I implied the A-Roded 2004 Yankees would have a serious shot at scoring 1,000 runs, regardless who was playing 2B.

Following the Baseball Crank's example of calculating Established Performance Level for Win Shares, I decided I'd have a look at how many runs we could expect from the Bronx Bombers' everyday lineup using Established Runs Created Level (ERCL). ERCL looks at how many Runs Created (RC) we can expect from a given player based on his past three years' performance. It's more usefull than simply looking at a player's average RC over that period since the previous year is weighted more heavily.

ERCL '04 = [(RC '03 * 3) + (RC '02 * 2) + (RC '01)] / 6

Here are the ERCL for the 2004 Yankees, with their single season highs and lows in RC over that three-year stretch (RC totals courtesy of Baseball Reference):

Player ERCL RC high RC low
Lofton 79.3 86 ('03) 66 ('01)
Jeter 92.0 108 ('01) 82 ('03)
Rodriguez 145.2 153 ('01) 140 ('03)
Giambi 129.8 162 ('01) 111 ('03)
Sheffield 126.3 145 ('03) 99 ('02)
Posada 92.0 98 ('03) 82 ('01)
Williams 92.8 124 ('02) 66 ('03)
Matsui 95.0 95 ('03) 95 ('03)
total 852.4 971 741

What does this chart tell me? Well, even if everyone 1 through 8 performs at their peak, they're still 100 runs shy of the record.

But wait, we're not done.

500 AB of .260/.320/.350 Almonte at 2B should be good for 50 RC.

Posada's main back-up, John Flaherty, had 14 RC last year.

Enrique Wilson will somehow get 100 ABs, and even that should be good for 10 more runs.

Even healthy, Giambi's not going to play everyday and neither will Sheffield or Williams... assuming replacement level talent taking their place (Lee, Sierra, Clark), I guestimated that there will still be about 25 RC for the bench, which means....

OK, so my enthusiam got the best of me.

And even if Cashman is able to get Vidro and his 97.5 ERCL, 1,000 runs aren't a sure thing.

Because a lot of things (basically, everything) has to go right for this team to score 1,000 runs, let alone 1,068.

With a Replacement Level hitter playing 2B and taking the bench into consideration (granted, it's a pretty weak bench), ERCL suggests they're more likely a 900-950 run team.

When you consider that the '03 Yankees scored 877 runs, and Cashman and Co. have also improved the rotation and especially the bullpen, that's still a damned good team. Maybe not historically great. But probably still the best in Major League Baseball next year.

ERCL aren't flawless as a predictive tool. (Heck, Runs Created aren't perfect either.) Injuries skew ERCL in a not completely meaningful way. I mean, a healthy Bernie Williams should be worth closer to 110 RC next year, not the 92ish RC ERCL predicts. And just because he was injured in '03, doesn't mean he'll be hurting in '04--doesn't mean he won't be hurting, either.

So, is there any reason to believe ERCL is still too conservative (or too liberal)? ERCL for Lofton, A-Rod, Sheffield, Posada (a little high), and Matsui (a little low) all seem about right to me. And now that Huckaby has been relegated to AAA, Jeter should be good for at least 110 RC again. It's Williams and Giambi I'm worried about. Well, not worried. Concerned. If healthy, I think Giambi should be good for the 130 RC ERCL predicts as he begins to age past his prime, and Williams should return to 120 RC territory. Combined with a full season of Mr. Clutch, that would be 45 more RC than ERCL would predict.

Is that reasonable?

Both Giambi and Williams had knee problems last year, and that doesn't strike me as the sort of thing a player recovers from completely. Obviously, they'd probably both be suited to extended time DH-ing (especially if you want them strong for October and possibly the first week of November), but if one DHs the other has to field or sit on the bench. And when Giambi takes a day off, the options for his spot in the lineup are Tony Clark or Travis Lee. Sure, if Lee's renaissance at the plate is for real, he'll be a valuable back-up especially given his fine glove. But I don't think he'll help too much in the quest for 1,000. And while we're talking about "concerns", we all know Sheffield's a ticking time bomb waiting to go off who could easily pull his own "Operation Shutdown". Sure, on paper, the Yankees are still the team to beat. But if Sheffield, Giambi, and Williams were all out of the lineup for an extended period of time, and then another unforseen accident should befall another player, then the Red Sox win the AL East and one of the Jays, A's, or Angels snag the Wild Card.

So, to conclude, by my estimate, the 2004 Yankees should score anywhere between 740 and 1,070 runs next year. (If I had to bet, you could put me down for 950.)

If they're closer to the top of that estimate, it honestly should matter that Jeter's still the worst defensive shortstop in the league, or that Brown and Quantrill probably aren't as good as their Chavez Ravine deflated ERAs would have you believe, or that Jose Contreras really is older than Fidel Castro.

I can't wait to read Will Carroll's Team Health Report.

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