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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Season Previews, Part 29: New York Yankees

2011 Record: 97-65
Pythagorean Record: 101-61
Games out of first: N/A

2011 Recap
After finishing second in the tough AL East in 2010, the New York Yankees returned to their familiar position atop the standings. The Yankees ran away with the division for the first month of the season, as the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays both got off to very slow starts. Both teams regained their composure and battled the Yankees for the title for the rest of the season. Until September. The Yankees began to run away with the division towards the end of August and kept on rolling while the Sox struggled and the Rays fell far enough behind to have to shift their focus to the Wild Card.

Robinson Cano continued to show why he is the star of this team. He hit .302/.346/.533 with 25 homers and 118 RBI, with a .290 ISO. Despite injury struggles, Alex Rodriguez managed to post a WAR over 4. His power numbers were very good, hitting 16 home runs in only 99 games, but injuries held back his true abilities. Russell Martin enjoyed a bounceback campaign behind the plate. Curtis Granderson had an MVP-caliber season, hitting 41 home runs while stealing 25 bases and driving in 119 runs. His average was only at .262, which is actually his highest since 2008, so there is room for improvement. Derek Jeter collected his 3000th career hit last season and improved on a sub-par 2010 but, like A-Rod, his time is almost up. Jorge Posada struggled in the DH spot and eventually called it quits at the end of the season and announced his retirement. Mark Teixeira contributed power-wse, hitting 39 homers, but only hit .248.

Pitching was...interesting, to say the least. CC Sabathia did his thing, winning 19 games with an ERA right at 3.00. Sabathia finished with 8.2 K/9, a 1.226 WHIP and a 0.64 HR/9 rate, very good in the new Yankee Stadium. Rookie Ivan Nova struggled out of the gate, but picked it up enough to earn Rookie of the Year consideration. Nova went 16-4 and, although his ERA was inflated from his early struggles, finished with very solid peripherals and a 0.71 HR/9 rate. AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes both had very below-average seasons. But bounceback campaigns from Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia more than made up for it. The bullpen was solid as always. Mariano Rivera savd 44 games with a 1.91 ERA. David Robertson emerged as a star. He had a 1.08 ERA and a 0.14 HR/9 rate.

Coming into the playoffs with the AL's best record, the Yankees were seen as favorites to win the pennant. But they were up against a very hot Detroit Tigers team. After Game 1 was suspended due to rain, the Yankees were suspected to have an edge because they would not have to face Justin Verlander twice. New York did win this game, but lost the next two. Down 2 games to 1, struggling pitcher AJ Burnett came up with his most clutch performance of the season, winning Game 4 and forcing a fifth deciding game. The Yankees could not score enough off of Detroit starter Doug Fister and ended the season right there.

Top Performers by WAR
1. CC Sabathia (7.1)
2. Curtis Granderson (7.0)
3. Robinson Cano (5.6)
4. Brett Gardner (5.1)
5. Alex Rodriguez (4.2)
Mark Teixeira (4.2)

Offseason Overview
The Yankees added a few key pieces this offseason. This was one of their quieter offseasons in recent years, electing to make a few cheaper moves instead of signing one big-money superstar. Perhaps the biggest move was the trade of future star Jesus Montero to Seattle. New York could've used his young bat in their aging lineup, but they acquired Michael Pineda, a young pitcher with a very bright future, and minor league pitcher Jose Campos. New York also picked up Cesar Cabral from the Rule 5 draft, and signed Hiroki Kuroda to take Colon's place in the rotation. They also signed Raul Ibanez to take the DH spot, vacated by the trade of Montero and Jorge Posada's retirement. AJ Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh for two low level prospects, Hector Noesi went to Seattle with Montero, and Ayala and Marte were both not resigned.

Notable Additions
SP Michael Pineda
P Jorge Campos
DH Raul Ibanez
SP Hiroki Kuroda
RP Cesar Cabral

Notable Losses
C/1B/DH Jesus Montero
C/DH Jorge Posada
SP AJ Burnett
P Hector Noesi
SP Sergio Mitre
RP Luis Ayala
SP Bartolo Colon
RP Damaso Marte

Projected Lineup
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
C Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

Jeter and Rodriguez return for another season. Both are aging and A-Rod has had injury troubles, so decline from both will not be shocking. Granderson will almost certainly regress, as he outperformed his career averages by way too high a mark last season. Cano will continue to be the new face of the franchise, he will fade in as Jeter fades out. Teixeira hit for a lot of power last season, but his average was much lower than usual. Swisher has become another solid hitter after struggling average wise in his first few years in New York, but has been improving. Ibanez is also aging but will get a chance to produce without having to waste his legs running around the outfield. Martin will look to continue his bounceback from a season ago. Gardner will need to get his average up and potentially add a little power, but his speed makes up for the lack of power. When his average goes up, so will his chances to steal bases.

Defensively, the outfield is very good. The right side of the infield has injury concern, but Eduardo Nunez is a serviceable fill-in. Cano and Teixiera are both very good, while Martin is a good enough backstop.

Projected Rotation
CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Michael Pineda
Ivan Nova
Phil Hughes

Barring some strange occurence, Sabathia will once again be the ace of this staff. Kuroda didn't have much luck with wins last season, but his 3.07 ERA sent his free agency value very high. He will have to keep his homerun rate down in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, though. Pineda started off hot last season and was a Rookie of the Year favorite (didn't win), but moving to a hitter's park might not help him as much as it will hurt him. Nova will need to show that he can consistantly do what he did last season and any improvements from Hughes will be helpful.

Significant Relievers/Reserve Players
CL Mariano Rivera
RP David Robertson
OF Andruw Jones

Roster Strengths
Offense. The Yankees have tons of power in their lineup, and a pretty good balance of average and speed as well. The one question mark is how long their aging veterans can keep it up, but Cano, Teixeira, Gardner, and Swisher have plenty left in them.

Roster Weaknesses
Pitching depth. If an injury occurs, either a very young pitcher or someone from the bullpen will have to step into the rotation. The depth in the rotation is solid, but there are not many options if something goes awry. It isn't as big a concern as last season, but still a weakness.

2012 Outlook
The Yankees have three teams to compete with in 2012, but they have a slight edge due to the balance in their lineup. With the new Wild Card rules, its almost certain that the Yankees will get one of the playoff spots. They are still the front-runners in the toughest division in baseball though.

Potential Breakout Player
Brett Gardner.

Now, how could a player with the third highest WAR of any hitter on his team still be considered a potential breakout? Gardner is severely undervalued. Even with his high stolen base numbers last season, he is still off of many people's radars. Gardner plays exceptional defense, but will need to work on bringing his average (which will also bring plenty more stolen base attempts) up to fulfill his potential and get on the radars he is sliding past.

Potential Bust
Curtis Granderson overperformed last year. By quite a bit. It is very unlikely that Granderson retains the power stroke he had. His average was low and his speed was not on par with what it was in previous season. Do not expect a repeat of 2011 from Granderson.

Prospects with Potential to Contribute
C Gary Sanchez: Sanchez has plenty of power, but plays poor defense behind the plate. He will be first in line to step in if Martin struggles, as he has a much higher offensive ability then backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.

SP Dellin Betances: Betances is next in line to emerge into New York's rotation. He has very good stuff, but his control needs work. With a little more development, Betances could be a very good top of the rotation starter, but he will be called up if necessary.

Record: 96-66
Finish: 1st
MVP: Robinson Cano (6.0)

Final Thoughts
The Yankees won't have much to complain about. They have plenty of good prospects and some of the best players in the game, so unless there is a complete meltdown, they have pretty much locked up a playoff spot already.

1 comment:

  1. Gary Sanchez won't even get a September call up. He's still only 19 and in low A ball. And as for pitching depth, you are dead wrong. They have to Major League ready pitchers in Phelps and Warren plus the higher upside Betances. Not only that but you still have Freddy Garcia as well. That sounds like a lot of depth to me.