Are the Yankees now a last-place team? Grab a chair and let’s discuss.

Let’s not bury the lead, to use a time-tested newsroom phrase. No, they are not. On the other hand, it’s not a ridiculous discussion either. You can make a case for them winning the American League East again. If Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and C.C. Sabathia can go the distance. If Phil Hughes pitches 200 innings. If Ivan Nova or David Phelps grab the fifth spot in the rotation and emerge as solid, consistent performers. If all those things happen, the Yankee rotation will be as good as any in the American League East.

In fact, given the circumstances in which he operated this off-season, this might end up being GM Brian Cashman’s finest hour. Unlike previous years when he was given a checkbook and told to start spending, he has had to pick his spots. He has also had to find some bargains, Travis Hafner being the latest. I suspect this off-season has been terrific fun for Cashman. He has worked relentlessly to construct a first-rate front office, a front office that combines the best of the new-age analytics with the traditional gumshoe scouting.

Those huge payrolls have sometimes overshadowed the great work Cashman and his people did in acquiring and developing Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano and others. The Yankee farm system had a tough 2012 with a combination of injuries and disappointing performances. But smart work always pays off, and it could look completely and dramatically different a year from now. That’s how it goes with kids. They thrill you one minute, break your heart the next.

The Blue Jays have gotten way better, adding 600 innings to their rotation and Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to their lineup. The Red Sox filled a bunch of hole without spending outrageous money and got a new manager, John Farrell, who should help change the environment. The Rays are significantly different and still good. The Orioles were quieter, but if some of those young pitchers take a step forward, they could very well be right back in contention. GM Dan Duquette did an amazing job acquiring talent last season, so it would be a mistake to count them out.

With Opening Day still 60 days away, here’s a quick power ranking of the AL East:

1. Blue Jays

2. Rays

3. Yankees

4. Orioles

5. Red Sox

But the division is so tight that the Rays, Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox seem capable of finishing anywhere from first to fifth. Nothing in this division should be a surprise.

Now about the Yankees.  I count 112 home runs gone from their 2012 lineup with no dramatic addition. Still, this being so close to the start of Spring Training and all, let’s look at the glass as being at least half full. The Yankees can win again because:

  1. The starting rotation will be the best in the American League East, better than Toronto’s, better than Tampa Bay’s.
  2. Mark Teixeira will be healthy and productive, which means he’ll be a huge presence in the middle of the lineup.
  3. Kevin Youkilis will show that 2012 was a fluke and have a huge comeback season.
  4. Brett Gardner will stay on the field and match his .723 career on-base-plus-slugging.
  5. Bullpen depth.
  6. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter. Yes, the band is back together. And the band will again lead the way.
  7. Brian Cashman will watch some of his best kids have break out seasons at Double-A, and this will give him the flexibility to either make a deal or fill a hole in the second half.
  8. The Yankees go to the playoffs every year, and you can check my math. This core of players knows how to win.
  9. Addition by subtraction, and you know who I’m talking about.

34 Comments

I don’t think that it’s unrealistic for the Yankees starters and bullpen to be the best in the A.L. East. I know all the pundits have been jumping on the Blue Jay bandwagon due to the team’s active offseason, but I am simply not sold with that rotation. How will Dickey and Johnson respond to the AL East? Plus, there are injury concerns with Johnson and Morrow. Also, will the Romero of 2010-2011 show up or the player from last year with the 5.77 ERA?

Romero is a question mark but Happ is good. Dickey pitched lights out against AL last year but all pitchers get touched.Jays have exciting hitting attack. Anything can happen, injuries etc. But Jays only area of looking up to Yankees is relief pitching and second base.

david Cohen, valid point. But relief pitching is a very important part of the game. It’s what got the Orioles to where they were last year. They outscored their opponents by only 7 runs all year. Their Starting Pitching ERA was only ranked 11th in the American League I believe.

A not so average bullpen can easily be a difference maker in what I think will be a tight race.

I don’t think the Rays are as good as many say they’ll be. The James Shield trade was a great trade, but it’s a great trade for their future, not for 2013. They still traded away their 2nd best starter and I don’t expect anyone else in their rotation to replace him.

The Orioles, well as I mentioned, they only outscored opponents by 7 runs this year. I do not expect luck to happen 2 years in a row. They haven’t done anything significant this offseason either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish with only 80 wins or so.

I think it will be down between the Yankees and Jays.

MB923 in saying relief is better is expecting Mariano to walk on water. In Baltimore, God took the role last year and still Detroit, with stronger starting, won in the AL. All 5 teams have degrees of very good relief in the AL. Expectations of a full season of Petite and others leads to a feeling that by late August, any NY bubble will burst.

Hard to argue your comments. If oldet players have better seasons, Yankees have good depth and can win division. Not as optimistic however on the Red Sox chance of a successful season. Interesting but only in Boston do they talk of clubhouse camaraderie. On the field, they lag behind in pitching and hitting. Farrell was not a magician in Toronto.

Should be a fun year!

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Homer – please this team is horrible starting with strikeout king Texieria

The Yanks have better pitching that the Jays?
I think most people would argue that point. Well, most people that aren’t Tankee fans.

This team won the AL East last year and could arguably be better this year. I’ll take Hafner over Ibanez and although Ichiro won’t provide the power of Nick Swisher, he will provide better defense and may actually create more runs. I expect Youklis to be productive as well, so I don’t see how this team is not as good as last year. The Jays definitely improved themselves, but I can’t say the same for Baltimore or Tampa. Boston will be an interesting team and should be much better this year. It will be a tough division as always, but my guess is that the Yankees will be right in the thick of things as always.

Better this year? Really??? Losing Swisher is huge. If you think Ichiro is an upgrade, look at his pre-NYY numbers last year. Atrocious. He is coming to the end of his career. Also replacing Soriano with a 42 year old closer coming off a season-long injury. Big question mark. Anyone saying that the Yanks Starting rotation is better than the Jays or Rays is a huge homer. Also, Yankees have no catcher. They have lost key players and gotten older in the offseason. Not a recipe for improvement.

Yes losing Swisher is lose, but don’t forget if he’s healthy they can probably get 30 starts out of Andy Pettitte this year. Last year he only made 12 starts but that was due to a late callup and a freak injury. Freddy Garcia made 17 starts and the Yankees were only 9-8 (and easily could have been 8-9 because 1 of those wins was that game with the huge comeback against Boston)

Disagree that losing Swisher is a huge loss. He was absolutely atrocious in the field and disappeared every single post season. He also was a very streaky hitter with long cold stretches. Like I said, Ichiro will not hit for the power of Swisher, but he is much better defensively even at this stage of his career and he and Gardner provide the element of speed that helps produce runs in ways that the Yankees have struggled to do in past seasons. They weren’t supposed to be any good last year either according to the “experts”, but they won the division. This is just my opinion, but it is based on over fifty years of playing, coaching and watching baseball. No way this team is a last place team as the headline suggested. Will they win the division again? Who knows, it’s anybody’s guess. I stick by my prediction that they will be in the hunt all season.

Agree with your statement about the headline. No way the Yanks are a last place team. However, I see them as regressed from last year. Should be a fun season though. That’s why you play the games.

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MB923, Yes, they might be able to get 30 starts out of Pettitte. But that’s what you are pinning your hopes on? A guy who had his best season since 2005 last year (in limited play) and is now 41 years old? IF Pettite plays the whole year, he will have an ERA in the 4′s, not in the 2′s. I see the Yanks as regressed a lot this offseason. For those saying Toronto or the Rays have question marks, the Yankees have a lot more in my mind. Toronto’s issue is health. They stay healthy, they will win. Rays issue is offence. Yankees issue is health, age, offence, and players coming back in key roles off of big injuries. They need a lot of things to go right for them. I pick the Yankees to finish 3rd or 4th this year. But closer to 4th than 2nd.

I never said Pettitte would have an ERA in the 2′d. I think he’ll have it somewhere in the mid to high 3′s which is more than fine when you pitch half the games at a hitter friendly park.

Toronto’s issue is not just health. It’s the bullpen as well. Their bullpen is still not very good and every other AL East team has a MUCH better bullpen than Toronto. Also, don’t expect RA Dickey and Josh Johnson to put ERA’s in the 2′s either especially in the AL. Mark Buherle sucks against the AL East. Ricky Romero was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last year, and Brandon Morrow also cannot stay healthy.

I’m picking the Yankees to win it by a game or 2 over Boston.

Also, people use the term “too old” too much in baseball. The Yankees have been one of the oldest if not the oldest team in baseball for quitea long time. Mariano Rivera is the oldest relief pitcher and I can bet you every team in baseball except the Braves would use him as their closer.

CORRECTION, I’m picking the Yankees to win it by a game or 2 over Toronto, not Boston.

My AL East order
Yankees
Jays
Rays
Red Sox
Orioles

No argument that Toronto’s bullpen is still a question mark. However, it has the potential to be a huge strength. Jansen was a beast last year. Oliver has been one of the best RP in the game in the past 4 years. Delabar was fantastic after coming from Seattle. Lincoln and Rogers were very good last year in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, respectively. Santos is coming off an injury so he’s a wild card. Lots of questions, but potential to be really really good. And having the SP go deeper in games will be a huge benefit for the bullpen.
As for SP, they have 3 potential Cy Young candidates. Dickey seems to be only getting better as he continues to figure out knuckler. Pitching in a dome will help him too. JJ, when healthy, is unreal. He’s also in a contract year. Morrow’s arm trouble’s seem to be over now that Seattle isn’t flipping him from SP to RP to SP. He has arguably the best stuff in the rotation. RR is a huge question mark. Buehrle isn’t good. But works fine when he’s your 5th best starter! He’ll log 200 innings.
I agree with your comment regarding “too old” used too much. But there is a reason. Because skills start declining. I don’t see Mo being better than Soriano last year. Kurodo had a career year last year. That is unlikely to be repeated. CC is a beast. Yanks have won games with their lineup in the last few years. Their lineup isn’t as good this year. Losing Martin and Swisher and Arod hurts. Jeter is a wild card coming back from injury. Cano and Granderson can still mash. Youk isn’t good. Tex hasn’t been very good. They need to win games through pitching. And their pitching isn’t that good, minus their pen.

How is their starting pitching not good? You don’t think CC-Kuroda-Pettitte is a very good 1 through 3? Back end is questionable of course.

And you realize the Jays 1 through 3 features 2 guys who are brand new to the division and 1 guy who had his first good year in the bigs, right?

Again, I just think people are saying the Yankees pitching isn’t good because they don’t like the Yankees. None of you have the stats to show me why it isn’t good. Is it questionable? Of course! But as I said, every team has question marks.

I’d be surprised if a team other than the Yankees or Jays won the division though. But I think it will be a tight race.

MB923, I came across a little stronger than I meant to. The Yanks do have good pitching (tho I’m not sold on Pettitte at this point in his career). I just think they have just as many question marks as any other team, maybe more. Your point about the Jays having 3 new pitchers to the AL East is valid, though I believe overstated. The AL East is as competitive as ever, but not the powerhouse it once was. The Red Sox stink. The O’s were lucky last year. The Rays can’t hit. And the Yanks have a lot of questions. I think Dickey and JJ will be fine. I think Beurhle will get rocked. I think RR will bounce back, at least a little bit. I see it being a 3 team race with the Jays, Rays, and Yanks. Really all depends on who has everything go right for them! :) Which is the beauty of baseball. Whatever happens, it should be a fun year! And here is hoping the Red Sox are as dysfunctional as ever!

I’m taking these stances:
Al east
1. Jays
2. Sox ( second wildcard )
3. Yankees
4. Rays
5. Orioles
Al central
1. Tigers
2. Royals
3. White sox
4. Indians
5. Twins
Al west
1. Angels
2. A’s ( first wildcard )
3. Rangers
4. Mariners
5. Astros
NL east
Nationals
Braves ( first wcard )
Phillies
Mets
Marlins
NL central
Reds
Cards
Brewers
Pirates
Cubs
NL west
Giants
Dbacks ( second wcard )
Dodgers
Padres
Rockies

Angels over braves for World Series

Good points there haha. I would be surprised though if the division was not won by the Yanks or the Jays. I think it will be a 2 team race for the most part but the Rays will be just behind.

O’s were definitely lucky last year.

I think this is the last year the Yanks have a shot at winning the title for several years. Next year Pettitte will be gone, Mo will be gone, Jeter might be gone (doubt it but ya never know), Granderson might be gone

This is based on a lot of assumptions.
One being that the Blue Jays are as good as they are on paper.
Two being that the Rays’ pitching is enough without Shields to make up for their meh offense.
Three being that Youk, Gardner, and Ichiro won’t be enough to make up for Swisher, Ibanez, and Chavez.
This is a terrible article title.

Really??? I think that the sox aren’t too bad…
1. Jays
2. Sox
3. Yankees
4. Rays
5. Orioles

I’m not as sold on their additions as some are. Luckily they got out of the Napoli contract and only have him for 1 year. Victorino isn’t very good. Dempster isn’t great and was terrible in the AL last year. Hanrahan walks far too many people. Uehara was a great pickup though. They should be able to mash lefties but that’s about it. They are counting on Farrell to fix all their pitching problems. Watching Farrell in Toronto for the last two years has been painful. He’s been a questionable manager. I don’t see the Red Sox making major leaps forward this year.

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Showalter. I’m a Yankees fan but you can’t disregard his track record. I’m not buying lucky

Really? Showalter’s track record is a .514 winning percentage. He has been fired by 3 different teams, 2 of which won the World Series the year immediately following his firing. The O’s had everything go right for them last year. That’s unlikely to happen 2 years in a row.

No team in baseball will want to play against the Orioles. Whether you think so or not.

How have the Rays gotten better exactly? They lost much of their top talent in Upton and Shields and are going to rely very heavy on young inexperienced guys. They are not going to be in the top of the division this season.

The Rays’ pitching staff last year had a team ERA of 3.19, WHIP of 1.17, far and away the best in the AL, while recording an AL record 1383 Ks. Shields’s 3.52 ERA actually brought them down! Slotting in Niemann, who had 3.08/1.11 in his 8 pre-injury starts, and accounting for development of Moore, Hellickson, and Cobb, gives the Rays a better rotation than the Yankees, who bring basically the same rotation as last season (3.85/1.27).

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