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Can the injury-riddled Yankees stay afloat? Latest season projections suggest so

 

Call them depleted, pedestrian, new and unimproved.  Whatever adjective best describes the Yankees who, entering Monday, have a major league-high 13 players stored on their injured list.  

But pump the brakes on rendering them hopeless.  It’s only April, plus the latest odds and figures imply they’re capable of treading water until reinforcements arrive. 

With wins in five of their last six games, the Yankees embark on a nine-game, three-city West Coast trip with an 11-10 record (2nd place in AL East standings).  And according to FiveThirtyEight’s most recent season projections, the team currently has a 73-percent chance of reaching the postseason and a 45-percent chance of clinching the division.

Based on win-loss simulations, FiveThirtyEight projects New York will finish the regular season with 93 wins.  Prior to Opening Day (March 27), they were pegged to win 97 games, and their odds to reach the playoffs and claim a division title were marked at 82-percent and 47-percent, respectively. 

So, for a team besieged by injuries to several key contributors, things could be far grimmer. 

But, how long will the Yankees make one think of a pin-filled voodoo doll?  How long will their lineup bear some resemblance to a lineup posted on a split-squad afternoon during the third weekend of spring training? 

There’s no definitive time frame.

On Sunday, Aaron Judge was placed on the 10-day injured list after leaving Saturday’s game against the Royals with a “pretty significant” left oblique strain.  Altogether, players who hit 175 of the Yankees’ major league-record 267 home runs last season are sidelined, and based on FanGraphs’s preseason ZiPS projections, those 13 injured players — Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Miguel Andujar, to name a few — account for a combined 32.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).  To put that figure into perspective, 17 teams are projected to finish with fewer WAR this season. 

“When you’ve been in this game long enough, adversity is a reality,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday.  “It’s going to come in different shapes, sizes and forms throughout the course of the season and you never really know.  You’ve got to be able to deal with it and roll with it.  I feel like our club, our organization more than anyone in the game, is capable of dealing with these adversities.  I feel like we have, we will, and the expectation doesn’t change: We expect to go out and win games.”

One of the players who has helped the Yankees climb out of an early April hole is Clint Frazier.  The 24-year-old outfielder, who started this season in Triple-A after spending the majority of 2018 dealing with lingering symptoms from a concussion, is hitting .339 with a team-high six home runs and 17 RBI in 62 at-bats (17 games).

And because of Frazier’s timely success at the plate, the Yankees have embraced a new mantra. 

“Like we keep saying, next guy up,” Frazier told reporters on Sunday.  “Everyone’s been in this situation where they probably weren’t a starter coming in to it, and some of them are now.  So, it’s one of those things where it’s, which guy’s going to be the hero tonight and who’s going to be the one who steps up.”

At the moment, FiveThirtyEight projects the Yankees to finish with a run differential of plus-133, which would rank third-best in all of baseball.  As for their elaborate Elo rating — a measure of “team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory, and quality of opponent” — the Yankees are marked at 1,563 (third-best in the league).

While these numbers do convey optimism, of course the coming weeks will determine whether the Yankees can truly withstand their plight. 

“I’m looking forward to our guys coming back, no question,” Boone said.  “But we embrace the opportunity to have guys that can play significant roles for us stepping up and contributing.  That excites me to a degree.  The opportunity to see guys get an opportunity, to try and be a part of helping them continue to develop up here and impact games, that’s exciting.  You feel like this is a great opportunity for us.  It can make the end all that much more sweet.”

The Yankees open a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels (9-13) on Monday night in Anaheim.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, you can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TomHanslin.

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