Posted 10 December 2012 - 03:42 PM
The argument for the Yankees over the Rays relies on some assumptions. Here are the two teams with fWAR/rWAR from last year (2011 for Rivera, Gardner and Joba, 2010 for Aardsma since it was his last healthy season and assuming Ichiro re-signs).
C: Cervelli (0.0/0.0), 1B: Teixeira (2.9/3.6), 2B: Cano (7.8/8.2), SS: Nunez (0.5/0.3), 3B: Nix (0.4/0.2), LF: Gardner (5.2/3.7), CF: Granderson (2.6/2.7), RF: Ichiro (2.6/1.6), DH: Dickerson (0.3/0.3)
BN: Romine (DNP), BN: Almonte (DNP), BN: Stewart (0.5/0.9)
SP: Sabathia (4.8/3.3), SP: Kuroda (3.9/5.2), SP: Pettitte (1.7/2.4), SP: Hughes (1.9/1.5), SP: Nova (1.6/0.4)
CL: Rivera (2.4/3.1), RP: Robertson (1.7/1.7), RP: Logan (0.6/0.9), RP: Aardsma (0.1/0.6), RP Rapata (0.5/0.8), RP: Chamberlain (0.4/0.7), RP: Phelps (0.8/2.0), RP Warren (-0.2/-0.3)
C: Molina (0.8/0.9), 1B: Loney (-0.1/-0.3), 2B: Zobrist (5.9/5.5), SS: Escobar (1.8/2.5), 3B: Longoria (2.4/.2.3), LF: Jennings (3.5/3.0), CF: Fuld (0.3/0.5), RF: Joyce (1.8/1.8), DH: Guyer (0.0/0.1)
BN: Rodriguez (0.7/1.0), BN: Johnson (0.3/0.5), BN: Brignac (-0.3/-0.3)
SP: Price (5.1/6.4), SP: Hellickson (1.0/2.9), SP: Moore (2.3/1.2), SP: Cobb (2.2/1.7), SP: Niemann (0.9/0.6)
CL: Rodney (2.4/3.7), RP: McGee (2.0/1.8), RP: Ramos (0.2/0.6), RP Gomes (-0.2/-0.3), RP: De La Rosa (-0.1/-0.2), RP: Archer (0.5/-0.2)
NYY Total = 43.0 fWAR and 43.8 rWAR
TBR Total = 33.4 fWAR and 35.7 rWAR
So, assuming a full recovery by Rivera, Chamberlain and Gardner we're looking at accounting for between 43 and 44 wins above replacement. That estimate may be high because of the optimistic assumption of healthy seasons from the above with full recoveries, but that probably cancels out the choice to not include ARod or Jeter since both are recovering from injuries and will miss significant time. To be a bit generous we can estimate the total contribution from players we can account for at somewhere around 45.
For the Rays, their numbers are assuming a few things as well, though mostly in the negative. To start, we're assuming that Longoria doesn't return to the 6-7 fWAR and rWAR player he usually is with a healthy season. We're also assuming no growth from Moore or Cobb and that Archer won't improve upon his first taste of the majors and no step forward for Jennings. There is also no mention of Myers in the above breakdown who is a wildcard at this point. If Longoria is healthy he's probably worth an additional 4 WAR in both metrics, the pitchers could certainly add another 4 of their own with some growth from the young guys and perhaps another 1 WAR from Jennings as he continues to mature. We should probably subtract 1 WAR by assuming Rodney will not be historically good again which gives us a rough adjustment of +8 or so.
With a few tweaks on each roster we're looking at something near 45 for the Yankees and 42 for the Rays with both teams still needing to make some moves before the season starts. The Rays need to fill out their bullpen at the very least and the Yankees may sign Youkilis or another player to fill in at third base. In short, I could see an argument for either team being a stronger contender in the division, but with so many variables in flux on both rosters, I could definitely see the Rays having a much better season. Their youth and athleticism should help them stave off injury better than the Yankees at any rate, and they have more reason to hope for improvements from some of the key members of their roster.