NOTE: This originally posted before the Curtis Granderson injury.
It happens every year, and this year is no exception. The cries that the 2013 New York Yankees are too darned old began as soon as
the 2012 American League Championship Series ended. They did little to get younger, so speculation says that they cannot win another American League East title. I disagree.
Tougher A.L. East
Yes, I fully understand that the competition in this division has improved. The Toronto Blue Jays made major acquisitions and may have become the favorites to win the A.L. East. The Boston Red Sox changed managers and made roster moves that will improve them from 2012. The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles will be just as tough as they were last year. The competition is stiffer, but I believe that the Yankees still have what it takes to win. They have the experience, and after a dreadful loss in the ALCS following a 95-win season, they have unfinished business to finish.
The biggest concern is team health. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and Mariano Rivera all had more than significant injury. Rodriguez is out for at least the first half and possibly the entire season. However, Jeter, Gardner, Teixeira, Sabathia, and Rivera are healthy, and until anything shows otherwise, they are still among the best at what they do.
At the plate
The Yankees have only two major offensive changes entering Opening Day. Kevin Youkilis will play third in place of Rodriguez, and Travis Hafner takes over as the left-handed DH. Youkilis is very similar to Rodriguez at this point of both their careers, and the same holds true for Hafner and Raul Ibanez, whom Hafner replaced. The Yankees have an offense very similar to the one that scored 804 runs in 2012, good for second in the American League. They have not yet replaced Andruw Jones, but I expect that to happen soon.
On the mound
There is also very little change on the mound. The starting rotation consists of Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and Phil Hughes. Yankee starters were eighth in the league in total runs allowed at 489. They were 71-50 with a 4.04 ERA, but they came through at the end of the season when the offense sputtered. Do not blame the pitchers for the postseason collapse. They had a 2.97 ERA in nine games. The Yankees will return the same rotation and expect Michael Pineda back to full strength mid-season.
In the pen
The Yankees had the second-stingiest bullpen in 2012 – 179 runs and 3.43 ERA – without Rivera. Boone Logan, David Phelps, Clay Rapada, and David Robertson will set up Rivera. The one negative is that the Yankees no longer have the proven closer to replace Rivera should he go down again or need some time off for any reason. Raphael Soriano left via free agency and took his 46 saves with him. Therefore, Rivera needs to stay healthy in what could be his final Major League season.
Defense always a plus
It is tough to find a better overall defense than the Yankees have. The infield of Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Jeter, and Youkilis does not make many mistakes. In the outfield, Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson, and Garder can track down fly balls as well as any other outfield.
One big weakness
The Yankees lost catcher Russell Martin to Pittsburgh. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart will battle throughout the spring for the starting nod with prospect Austin Romine fighting for his chance. None have the power that the Yankees normally have behind the plate (Posada, Martin), but the rest of the offense can make up for that.
Cervelli and Stewart have little experience behind the plate at the Major League level. Stewart threw out less than 25% of the runners who stole against him, so that could pose a problem for the Yankees with runners on base.
Here is the starting lineup I would use most every day to start the season:
- Ichiro Suzuki, RF
- Derek Jeter, SS or DH
- Mark Teixeira, 1B
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Curtis Granderson, CF
- Kevin Youkilis, 3B
- Travis Hafner, DH (Edwardo Nunez, SS if Jeter DH)
- Chris Stewart, C
- Brett Gardner, LF
I predict the Yankees to win the A.L. East even though the entire division has improved. The Yankees have the most pennant race experience and now the desire to have a much better postseason.They do lack the depth they had in recent years, but general manager Brian Cashman is known for acquiring the right players at the right time, and manager Joe Girardi puts his players in the spots in which they produce the best. This will be one heck of an A.L. East division race.
New York Yankees, 40-Man Roster, Yankees.mlb.com as of February 18, 2013.
Major League Baseball, Sortable 2012 Team Stats, mlb.mlb.com
Raymond became a baseball fan at a very young age. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. His favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. Follow Raymond on Twitter@RayBureau
Filed Under: Major League Baseball