2011 New York Yankees: All Good Things...
BaseballEvolution.com Spring Preview
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
February 10, 2011
This offseason, the New York Yankees were supposed to reunite Cliff Lee
C.C. Sabathia and form the best left-handed pitching tandem in baseball.
Not only did they fail to land Lee, but they lacked a Plan B and lost Andy Pettitte
to retirement. The starting rotation behind Sabathia is now as
thin as it has been since the days of Andy Hawkins. Could this be the
beginning of the end for this Yankees dynasty?
C.C. Sabathia has thrown more innings over the past four seasons than anyone and has
thrown 58 more innings than the #3 pitcher on that list. He underwent offseason knee surgery to repair a small meniscus tear, but has also dropped
nearly 30 pounds to take pressure off of it. I'm not going to bet against
him. Everyone beyond Sabathia, however, warrants considerable doubt, if
not all-out panic.
A.J. Burnett is coming off the worst year of his career (and the
highest season ERA ever for a New York Yankee who made at least 30 starts), but it
is hardly an isolated occurrence. The 34-year old had been in decline for
years now, having led the AL in walks two years ago and failing to post an ERA
under 4.00 for the past three seasons. Burnett has never been much better
than an ordinary pitcher despite his extraordinary stuff, and there is no reason
that he should suddenly harness his talent this season.
But surely the Yankees can rely upon 18-game winner Phil Hughes,
right? Not so much. Hughes threw more innings in 2010 than he did in
'08 and '09 combined, and that kind of workload bump generally wreaks havoc on a
young hurler's arm. He may have even begun to feel the effects of that
last year, as he had a 4.90 ERA after the All-Star break, a 5.15 ERA over his
final 20 games, and arguably cost the Yankees the ALCS single-handedly.
| Key Transactions |
| Acquired || Pos. |
| Rafael Soriano|| RP |
| Pedro Feliciano|| RP|
| Russell Martin|| C |
| || |
| Departed || Pos. |
| Javier Vazquez|| SP |
| Andy Pettitte|| SP|
| Kerry Wood|| RP|
| Austin Kearns|| OF|
| Marcus Thames|| OF|
| Lance Berkman|| DH|
| Nick Johnson|| DH|
| Dustin Moseley|| P|
| Chad Gaudin|| RP|
With all their warts, Burnett and Hughes at least have the potential to be
solid. That cannot be said of the rest of the candidates for the rotation, each
of whom looks more like an emergency starter who could give you a few spot
starts if your rotation is decimated by injuries rather than a viable candidate
for the #4 spot.
A former first-round draft pick, Andrew Brackman is 12-23 with a 4.77
in his minor league career. The 6-foot-10 Brackman backs that up with some
solid peripheral numbers and is generally considered to be among the top 100
prospects in baseball for reasons beyond my understanding. Even if you're
sold on the 25-year old's potential, is there any doubt that he needs more
seasoning, given that he has never pitched above Double-A nor even performed
well at Single-A?
Ivan Nova, who is a full year younger, was effective down the stretch
for the Yankees, and has a solid minor league track record, is somehow
considered less of a prospect than Brackman is. I think Nova is the
Yankees' best option, but he still does not seem like the #4 starter on a
Last, and certainly least, we have Sergio Mitre. He is 13-29
with a 5.27 ERA for his big league career. As a starter, his ERA jumps to
5.48. Mitre turns 30 next week and should only be considered for the fifth
starter's role if Kei Igawa, Hideki Irabu, and Chien-Ming Wang
are all unavailable.
What starting pitchers are available, anyway? It's early February, and
surely the Yankees won't enter the season with this shambles of a rotation,
right? By my reckoning, Jeremy Bonderman, Doug Davis,
John Maine, Kevin Millwood, and Ben Sheets are the only
starting pitchers left on the market. While I think any one of them would
represent an upgrade over Mitre or Brackman - especially if this were 2007 - I
don't believe the addition of any one of them would turn this into an even
|Alex Gonzalez Candidate|
36-year-old SS had 2 HR and 28 RBI over his final 96 games
Expectations have lowered, and he did have a 2.98 FIP last year
Instead of strengthening their rotation, the Yankees focused on
rebuilding their bullpen. While Mariano Rivera and Rafael
Soriano appear to form the best relief tandem in the game outside of Boston,
remember what happened the last time a New York team acquired a closer to be a
setup man. The Mets made J.J. Putz the setup man to Francisco
Rodriguez, both pitchers disappointed, and the Metropolitans limped to 70
wins. There's no such thing as a sure thing with relief pitchers.
The Yankees made another seemingly sound addition to the bullpen by acquiring
ex-Met Pedro Feliciano. The rubber-armed Feliciano has made 28 more
appearances over the past three seasons than the next-most used reliever (Carlos
Marmol) and his 92 appearances last year tie him for the fourth-highest
total of all-time. Although his durability will help matters, the rest of the
bullpen is either too young (Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson,
Boone Logan) or too old (Damaso Marte, Chan Ho Park) to be
relied upon. With no one but Sabathia likely to pitch deep into
ballgames regularly and questionable bullpen depth behind the big three,
the Yankees are likely going to have overworked middle relievers and lose a lot
of games in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.
Yankees Team Capsule|
February 10, 2011 – Andy Pettitte and the Hall of Fame . Does Andy Pettitte belong in the Hall of Fame? His 50.2 WAR ranks 77th all-time among pitchers, just ahead of Rube Waddell, but also just behind Kevin Appier and David Wells. He did lead the league in wins once, but never in any other major pitching category. He's only ranked among the top 10 in his league in ERA three times and has never won a Cy Young Award. Known as a big game pitcher, Pettitte has a postseason winning percentage of .655 and a postseason ERA of 3.83, both of which are right in line with his career averages.
Basically, Pettitte was a good pitcher for a long time who benefited from only playing on good teams and performance-enhancing drugs. If he were elected to the Hall of Fame, it would not only open the floodgates for a dozen superior "Steroid Era" players, but also for other fringe-worthy pitchers such as Appier, Wells, Jimmy Key, David Cone, and Brett Saberhagen.
Fortunately, the Yankees did have the best offense in baseball last year and
return basically the same group. According to Yankees hitting coach Kevin
Long, seven of the nine regulars should improve upon last year's performance.
"It would be hard for Cano and Swisher to duplicate what they did last
year,'' Long told Wallace Matthews of ESPN.com. "If they stay even close to
that, great. But I expect the rest of them to do better.''
A-Rod and Jeter
This is, of course, an absurd expectation. Of the other seven, Alex
Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada are each 35 or older
and have a lot of wear on their bodies given the demanding defensive positions
they've played. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will
each be on the wrong side of 30 when the season begins and are each more than
two years removed from their most productive seasons. A couple of these
players could improve upon their 2010 numbers, but to expect all five to do so
is something you might read in the New York Post.
At age 27, Brett Gardner could realistically be expected to improve
upon his breakout 2010 campaign, although his minor league numbers suggest that
he may have already hit his ceiling. We can also expect newcomer
Russell Martin to outperform Francisco Cervelli on both sides of the
ball, but perhaps not by much offensively given Martin's paltry .680 OPS over
the past two seasons. Jesus Montero is an intriguing prospect based
on his accomplishments at such a young age, but the 21-year-old is hardly ready
to be an impact player in the majors and would be hard-pressed to outdo what
the departed Marcus Thames gave New York last year.
Perhaps the Yankees should be less worried about performance and more worried
about durability. They were a remarkably healthy team last year, with
seven players exceeding 135 games played and five playing in 150 or more.
Given the age of most of their position players, you have to anticipate fewer
games played for their starters. The trouble is, neither their fourth
outfielder (Collin Curtis) nor their fifth infielder (Ramiro Pena)
is a good bet to exceed a .600 OPS. At least they are both good defenders
- Pena in particular - since another year of age figures to make the regulars'
defense worse than it was last year.
The New York Yankees have not come particularly close to having a losing
record in the past 18 seasons. To some, that makes it unthinkable that
they could have a losing record this year. But imagine how fans felt going
into the 1965 season, when the Yankees were coming off 39 consecutive winning
seasons and five straight World Series appearances but finished the year in
sixth place. All good things must come to an end, and this Yankees winning
streak has run its course. The question is not whether they will finish
2011 with a losing record, but whether they will finish in the AL East cellar.
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