Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yankee Season Preview

I was planning on responding to a comment on my previous post, but decided to just write another post because the answer was simply too long and I haven't really previewed the upcoming Yankee season as a whole.

The Rotation
We'll start with the rotation and off the bat I think we can all agree that it's not good, but this is far from the worst rotation they have trotted out there in the past five years... Anyone recall 2008? That's the year that Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano started a combined 42 games while posting an ERA of 5.61. That Yankee team still won 89 games and I would say this team has a better rotation and a better defense. That will help cover some of the pitching deficiencies, something the '08 team and no ability to do.

The Yankees still have a bona fide ace in CC Sabathia. The big lefty is unlikely to slow down right now, especially when he has an opt-out for the end of the season which could earn another $60 million. A.J. Burnett will again fellow Sabathia. Now that is a big question mark. It's hard to speak with optimism about Burnett's upcoming season, but Burnett debuted new mechanics this spring and the results showed. He didn't walk a batter and struck out 11 in 13 innings. Yea those numbers don't really mean anything, but it's better than him blowing up. He could be better this year and it's unlikely he'll be worse.

Beyond Burnett there are even more question marks with Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Both are young pitchers with potential to be solid or, in Phil Hughes's case, better than average. Of course both could also regress and be league average or worse. Hughes is more likely to take a step forward than Nova who might not be long for the rotation if he doesn't start well.

Now we come to the fifth starter. There isn't much to say about these guys. All three are retreads and would be better suited in a 2003 old-timers game. Still New York will be able to get about 100 league average innings out of Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Kevin Millwood. They won't be good or pretty, but the job will get done.

The rotation isn't a finished product either. The Yankees have the monetary ability (obviously) and prospects to acquire a top end pitcher before July 31st. I think its safe to say that these five starters will not be the same five starters who pitch in September.

The Lineup
Here is the Yankee bread and butter. The lineup is as good as it has been for the past ten years. They will score runs and lots of them. They will be in the top three for runs scored and will also be at the top of the leader board for OBP too. This is probably as close to a complete lineup you can create in a non-video game world. Every bat can hurt you in some shape or form. The toughest choice for Joe Girardi will be whether or not to have Brett Gardner lead off or Derek Jeter. Other than that this offense can just be set on cruise control for most of the season and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Bullpen
On paper this is by far the best bullpen New York has put together in years. This will help to cover some of the rotation blemishes that the Yankees will have early on.

Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera and backing him up with Rafael Soriano is filthy if Soriano can stay healthy. Beyond that Joba Chamberlain looked good this spring and if he keeps up the pace he set in the second half of last year, the Yankees won't loss many games when they have the lead beyond the sixth inning.

The back end is just the beginning of the depth that Cashman has assembled in the pen. Dave Robertson will return to the middle innings where his 10.4 K/9 will be very useful. Boone Logan will be fine for use against lefties, and if Pedro Feliciano heals up, Girardi will have two quality lefties to deploy in the late innings.

Bartolo Colon will be fine as a long reliever, although his past injury troubles don't seem to bode well for the physical demands placed on relievers who's use is as sporadic as a long reliever's.

It's fun to hate on the Yankees and this off-season made it easy when two players rejected the Yankees money for the preferences of their families. Many will be looking for New York to falter and slip beyond a Red Sox team that improved over the winter.

While the Sox have plenty of weapons on offense, I don't trust their bullpen at all and I think everyone is overlooking Boston's rotation question marks. The neutral baseball analyst in me would choose the Red Sox to win the division, just slipping by New York for the best record in baseball. But the homer in me will choose the Yankees. I have faith in Cashman to add another pitcher and I think the Yankee lineup is still better than Boston's and the Yankee bullpen has a solid advantage. The slight advantage that the Sox have in the rotation won't be enough to edge the Yankees over a full season.


Joey said...

I agree with your bullpen comparison and I hope the young guns are ready to go in August and beyond. I think the line-ups are a wash. If I have time I will be a complete break down to prove it.

Dennis said...

Another thing that would be better suited for 2003 is the Yankees defense. While most other teams seem to have put an increased emphasis on catching the ball (The ineptitude of my beloved Giants the past two days notwithstanding), the Yankees continue to run out two good defenders, three below average defenders, and three butchers.

Maybe the lineup can cover up the pitching and defense problems, but if a few thirty-somethings end up on the DL, it will be panic-time in the Bronx.