ONE STAT THAT SUMS UP EACH YANKEES’ POSITION PLAYER

1 Stat That Sums Up Each New York Yankees Position Player’s 2013 Season

By

(Featured Columnist) on February 14, 2013

Hi-res-156795356_crop_650x440 Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s a strange time to be a New York Yankees fan.

The team is currently in a transition with a goal of lowering payroll to $189 million, and while they still have several high-priced players on the roster, those same players are either aging badly or not playing at all.

As a result, the baseball world isn’t giving the Yanks much of a chance—but that’s okay.

This will enable the Yanks to fly under the radar in a way, thus allowing Bombers fans to throw it back in the face of every person who doubted their squad en route to the postseason.

Start taking names.

Let’s take a look at one stat that is vital to the success of each Yankees position player in 2013.

Francisco Cervelli/Chris Stewart, Catcher: Team ERA

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Al Bello/Getty Images

I would venture to guess that Cervelli and Stewart have the inside track to take the starting and backup catcher jobs going into spring training, so let’s go ahead and anoint them as such in this piece.

Quite honestly, it really doesn’t matter who starts as long as they can have the kind of success behind the plate that Russell Martin did.

You may not love Martin—especially now since he’s left town—but you can’t argue the fact that he did a great job handling this pitching staff last season with all the injuries and new faces rotating in and out.

The Yanks don’t need much from either Cervelli or Stewart on the offensive end, but rather as leaders behind the plate who call good games.

Offense will come in many forms for this team in 2013, but only two men can handle the pitching staff effectively and that’s up to Cervelli, Stewart or anyone else that goes behind the plate this year.

Mark Teixeira, 1st Base: Batting Average

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Teixeira has seen his batting average decline mightily since joining the Yankees, and that has made him an all-or-nothing hitter.

That’s all well and dandy and has still enabled Tex to drive in runs, but he simply isn’t getting normal base hits on a regular basis. If the Yanks hope to get away from homer or bust in 2013, Tex needs to be the poster boy for it.

Just imagine if Tex could keep his power while raising his average 30 points. It would be a huge lift for this offense and a nightmare for opposing pitchers because Tex wouldn’t be chasing after bad pitches anymore just to make a big connection.

If he’s healthy, Tex will always put up the numbers to help the Yanks succeed on the offensive end. The issue remains his batting average, and a better showing this year will make him a much more productive player.

Robinson Cano, 2nd Base: Average with RISP

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Cano is the undisputed best player on the Yankees right now, and the Bombers need him to drive in runs as such.

His RBI totals took a bit of a dip last season, as he posted 94 after two consecutive seasons of 100 or more. Normally, the best offensive player on a team is one of the biggest run producers, and Cano finished second on the team in 2012.

The biggest thing stopping Cano from reaching 100 RBI was his average with runners in scoring position. Cano hit at a .268 clip for the season and was even worse with two outs and RISP (.207).

Those numbers must come up if Cano is to be more productive and drive in 100 runs. The Yanks need more from him in the clutch and RBI departments if he is to help make up for the losses of Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher.

Derek Jeter, Shortstop: Games Played

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Al Bello/Getty Images

I think at this point we can all assume that as long as Jeter is healthy, he will have a productive season at the leadoff spot for the Bombers.

In last year’s playoffs, Jeter battled injuries and ultimately had to be shut down before the season ended after suffering a gruesome injury against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

Jeter finished with a .316 average and even led the league in hits.

The questions will remain about how his ankle will hold up during the long grind of the 2013 season, but as long as it does, expect another great year from the Yankee captain.

Kevin Youkilis, 3rd Base: RBI

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Youkilis will be taking over for the injured A-Rod for as little as half the season and potentially as much as the whole season.

Despite A-Rod’s recent struggles in the past few seasons, he is still depended on to be a major run producer, so Youk has some big shoes to fill.

The former Boston Red Sox star finished with just 60 RBI in 122 games last season, but that was during a season in which Youk played with two lackluster clubs.

With the Yanks, Youk will always have a chance to win and their lineup will give him countless opportunities to drive in runs. New York doesn’t need much more from Youk other than a solid defensive effort and, more importantly, a ton of RBI to replace their slugger.

Brett Gardner, Left Field: Stolen Bases

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There’s a good chance Gardner is moved to center field to start the season, but we’ll leave him in left until it’s certain.

Gardner battled injuries during a depressing 2012 campaign, and the Yanks certainly missed his defense and speed on the basepaths. Without him, the Yanks were forced to play wait-and-see with the homer instead of having the option to move baserunners in other ways.

When healthy, Gardner is a candidate to steal up to 50 bases, and the Yanks need him to do so if they hope to change their offensive approach.

As long as Gardner can stay on the field, manager Joe Girardi will have no excuses as to why he continues to wait on the long ball. You’ll have a great idea of how the Yanks’ skipper did in that department when you take a look at Gardner’s stolen-base numbers at the end of the 2013 season.

Curtis Granderson, Center Field: Strikeouts

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Jason Miller/Getty Images

We saw that picture above way too many times last season. As a matter of fact, we saw it 195 times, and that was far too many to stomach.

Granderson routinely came up flat in some big spots last season, most likely because of a strikeout with runners on base. As one of the team’s top run producers, Granderson must change this immediately.

At the very least, Granderson needs to let bat meet ball in order to make more productive outs. Instead of striking out with a runner on third and one out, maybe Grandy can lift one to the outfield in order to make that productive out.

It’s little things like that which will help Grandy become more productive. I don’t know, maybe Granderson should take a little bit off his swing and concentrate on making contact more consistently.

Clearly, hitting 40 homers per year isn’t endearing himself to fans or franchise when he can’t put bat to ball in big spots.

Ichiro Suzuki, Right Field: Hits

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When at his best, Ichiro is a hit machine, and that’s exactly what the Yanks need him to be in 2013.

Suzuki will be at the top of the Yanks’ batting order for a full year and will be a major table-setter for this ball club. Hits will be his major source of production during the season, as he no longer possesses as much speed to affect a game that way.

Along with Jeter, Suzuki could complete a 1-2 punch at the top of the order that is nearly unmatched in the MLB today. It would create a ton of scoring opportunities for the Yanks’ biggest bats, thus leading to more runs and possibly more wins.

Also, Ichiro is just 394 hits away from 3,000 for his career, so there will be plenty of people keeping an eye on that total in the hopes he can break the milestone during the 2014 season.

But the only way he does that and helps the Yanks win at the same time is to rack up some major hit totals in 2013.


EDB

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CAN THE GERIATRIC CREW DELIVER IN 2013?

Excited in 2013

By

(Featured Columnist) on February 13, 2013

NEW YORK YANKEES: CAN THE GERIATRIC CREW DELIVER?

Number 20

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43-year-old closer Mariano Rivera is one of several veterans poised to lead the New York Yankees back to the postseason.
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees clubhouse should be well-stocked with vitamins this year—the legal kind, of course.

Their older roster is going to need all the energy it can muster.

The Yankees return with a roster loaded with 30-somethings, with a sprinkling of 40-somethings as well. While much talk has centered on the aging core of veterans, fans will be looking forward to their favorite geriatric stars as they again attempt to deliver a postseason berth.

The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs only once since 1995, and they’ve done it in the past with aging stars. Yankees fans will have no trouble pointing out that very fact as they watch this season unfold.

This is the best that they can do.  Mo is always a player to get excited about.  Cheapskate Hal, Clueless Hank, B.S. Artist Randy Levine and Genius Cashman, have given fans a taem with many holes and a Farm System, not ready to deliver.  EDB

YANKEES COMPLETE 2013 PREVIEW

Complete New York Yankees 2013 Season Preview

By

(MLB Lead Writer) on February 13, 2013

Hi-res-152373261_crop_exact Al Bello/Getty Images

By any reasonable set of standards, the 2012 season was just another wildly successful campaign for the New York Yankees. They won 95 games and their third AL East title in the last four years, and then advanced to the American League Championship Series.

By Yankees standards, on the other hand, 2012 wasn’t so great. They failed to win the World Series, getting swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. The series saw them collect only six runs and 22 hits. It also saw Derek Jeter’s apparent immortality get punched in the face ankle.

The Yankees followed their ALCS sweep with one of their more disappointing offseasons in recent memory. They lost Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano to free agency, and general manager Brian Cashman made few upgrades and did nothing to lower the collective age of the club’s roster.

With said roster all but complete, here’s a look at how the Yankees are shaping up heading into the 2013 season.

 

2012 Record: 95-67

 

Key Arrivals: OF Matt Diaz (FA from Atlanta), DH Travis Hafner (FA from Cleveland), OF/1B Juan Rivera (FA from Los Angeles Dodgers), 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis (FA from Chicago White Sox).

 

Key Departures: 3B Eric Chavez (FA to Arizona), RHP Freddy Garcia (FA to San Diego), OF Raul Ibanez (FA to Seattle), OF Andruw Jones (FA to Japan), C Russell Martin (FA to Pittsburgh), OF Nick Swisher (FA to Cleveland), RHP Rafael Soriano (FA to Washington).

 

Projected Starting Rotation (Record, Innings, ERA, WHIP and K/BB from 2012)

1. CC Sabathia, L (15-6, 200.0, 3.38, 1.14, 4.48)

2. Hiroki Kuroda, R (16-11, 219.2, 3.32, 1.17, 3.27)

3. Andy Pettitte, L (5-4, 75.1, 2.87, 1.14, 3.29)

4. Phil Hughes, R (16-13, 191.1, 4.23, 1.27, 3.59)

5. Ivan Nova, R (12-8, 170.1, 5.02, 1.47, 2.73)

Depth: David Phelps, R (4-4, 99.2, 3.34, 2.53)

 

Projected Starting Nine (AVG/OBP/SLUG)

C: Francisco Cervelli, R (.246/.341/.316 in 99 games at Triple-A)*

Hi-res-156387636_crop_exact Teixeira had the lowest OPS of his career in 2012.
Elsa/Getty Images

1B: Mark Teixeira, S (.251/.332/.475 in 123 games)

2B: Robinson Cano, L (.313/.379/.550 in 161 games)

3B: Kevin Youkilis, R (.235/.336/.409 in 122 games)

SS: Derek Jeter, R (.316/.362/.429 in 159 games)

LF: Brett Gardner, L (.323/.417/.387 in 16 games)

CF: Curtis Granderson, L (.232/.319/.492 in 160 games)

RF: Ichiro Suzuki, L (.283/.307/.390 in 162 games)

DH: Travis Hafner, L (.228/.346/.438 in 66 games)

*Chris Stewart will compete with Cervelli for playing time in spring training. He had a .241/.292/.319 slash line in 55 major league games in 2012.

 

In the Bullpen (Appearances, Innings, ERA, WHIP, K/BB)

Closer: Mariano Rivera, R (9, 8.1, 2.16, 0.96, 4.00)

David Robertson, R (65, 60.2, 2.67, 1.17, 4.26)

Joba Chamberlain, R (22, 20.2, 4.35, 1.55, 3.67)

Boone Logan, L (80, 55.1, 3.74, 1.73, 2.43)

Clay Rapada, L (70, 38.1, 2.82, 1.20, 2.24)

David Aardsma, R (1, 1.0, 9.00, 2.00, 1.00)*

*Missed most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

 

Analyzing the Starting Pitching

The Yankees’ starting rotation was in a near-constant state of disarray in 2012, but it fared pretty well nonetheless. Yankees starters only ranked 15th in MLB with a collective 4.05 ERA, but they worked more innings than all but three other teams.

The key for the Yankees rotation this year—and this never needed to be said in years past—is for staff ace CC Sabathia to stay healthy. That’s something that he was unable to do last season, as he found himself on the disabled list twice with groin and elbow issues. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow in October.

The bright side is that Sabathia’s performance didn’t suffer when he was able to pitch. He logged exactly 200 innings in 28 starts, finishing with a solid 3.38 ERA and an AL-high 4.48 K/BB ratio.

Hi-res-154031327_crop_exact Sabathia is still the money pitcher he’s paid to be.
Elsa/Getty Images

Sabathia struggled with gopheritis (career-high 22 homers allowed) last year, but I wouldn’t expect that problem to persist. He actually upped his ground-ball rate from where it was in 2011, while his fly-ball rate stayed steady (see FanGraphs). He was burned by an elevated HR/FB rate of 12.5 percent, well above his career rate of 8.8 percent.

If there’s a real concern about Sabathia, it has to do with his average fastball velocity. PITCHf/x data shows that it dropped last year from an average of 93.9 miles per hour in 2011 to an average of 92.4 miles per hour. He can get by with a fastball like that, but flashing red lights will go off if his heater slows down even more.

Regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees will need Hiroki Kuroda to do precisely what he did last year all over again. He was the horse of the rotation, as he pitched just about 220 innings and had only eight starts that lasted fewer than six innings.

The one worry about Kuroda is that he benefited from a low BABIP mixed with a low strikeout rate last year. He had a new career-high ground-ball rate (see FanGraphs) to thank for that, but ERA estimators like FIP, xFIP and SIERA show that Kuroda’s ERA should have been higher than 3.32.

Still, we’re talking about a relatively minor disagreement between the ERA estimators and Kuroda’s actual ERA. He shouldn’t do any worse than an ERA in the mid-3.00s if all goes well in 2013.

The Yankees liked what they saw from Andy Pettitte last year, who was a pleasant surprise in his surprise comeback from retirement. He had a 2.87 ERA that he achieved thanks to a surprisingly high 8.2 K/9 and a very high 56.3 ground-ball percentage (FanGraphs), all with a fastball that averaged fewer than 88 miles per hour.

A regression is in the cards for Pettitte, as his ground-ball rate is likely to regress more toward his career norm of 48.8 percent, which will likely mean an elevated BABIP. That said, the bigger concern about him is how many innings he can provide, not how good his pitching is going to be (more on this later).

Hi-res-156865576_crop_exact Hughes gave up 35 home runs in 2012.
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Phil Hughes only managed a 4.23 ERA in 2012, but he took his pitching to another level. His 3.59 K/BB was the highest of his career, and he also worked a career-high 191.1 innings.

Home runs were a problem, but they’re always going to be a problem for Hughes because he’s such an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Per FanGraphs, he had the highest fly-ball percentage of any qualified starter last year. That he managed a modest 12.4 HR/FB rate is actually somewhat impressive.

Hughes’ ERA will only go so low as long as he’s giving up so many fly balls, but it could dip under 4.00 if he increases his strikeouts. It’s a fair bet that he will.

Based on what he did in 2011, Ivan Nova has the potential to be baseball’s best No. 5 starter. He just has to put 2012 behind him…but not totally.

Nova’s 2012 campaign was undone by a huge increase in hard contact, as he led all starters in opponents’ slugging percentage (see ESPN.com). Such is life when your ground-ball rate drops, and your line-drive, fly-ball and HR/FB rates all increase (FanGraphs).

What’s encouraging is that Nova’s K/9 jumped up from 5.33 in 2011 to 8.08 in 2012. That was a product of an elevated swinging-strike rate, and Nova has the stuff to repeat that trend in 2013.

If Nova keeps the K’s coming while keeping his stuff down in the zone more consistently, he should have his ERA dip back into the 4.00s. The Yankees will take that and about 180 innings out of their No. 5 starter any day of the week.

There are some potential pitfalls, but the Yankees have a darn good rotation on paper. If all goes well, their starting rotation will keep them slump-proof in 2013.

 

Analyzing the Bullpen

The loss of Mariano Rivera for the season in early May didn’t end up being a crushing blow for the Yankees bullpen. It ended up with a solid 3.43 ERA, and only the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays blew fewer saves.

All the same, the return of Rivera is the big storyline for this year’s bullpen. Exactly how it’s going to pan out is anyone’s guess.

Hi-res-143312961_crop_exact The injury bug finally got Rivera in 2012. In 2013, it may be Father Time who gets him.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The track record that Mo has carved out with his cut fastball speaks for itself, but returning to form after a torn ACL at his age will be no easy task. As it is, no 43-year-old reliever in history has ever logged 60 appearances and 30 saves, customary numbers for Rivera.

If Rivera can’t hack it in his return to action in 2013, the Yankees will be in a spot of bother. They had Rafael Soriano to come to the rescue in 2012, and he’s gone now.

There will be pressure on David Robertson to perform one way or the other in 2013, as he’s either going to be Rivera’s primary setup man or his replacement in the ninth inning.

The key for Robertson will be to further hone his cutter in 2013. PITCHf/x shows that he threw it way more often in 2012 than he did in 2011, but with mixed results. Left-handed batters had a higher OPS against him last year than they did in 2011, and in general, his cutter was hit at a .258 clip while his four-seamer was hit at a .203 clip. He should take some pointers from Mo.

Joba Chamberlain will be doing the Yankees a big favor if he builds on his strong finish to the 2012 season, as he didn’t give up a run in any of his final 11 appearances. The bright side where he’s concerned is that PITCHf/x data shows that his injuries didn’t impact his fastball velocity, as it was right where it was in 2010 and 2011. His slider velocity also stayed steady.

The two lefties the Yankees have in their pen probably don’t get the credit they deserve. Boone Logan’s control comes and goes, but he’s upped his strikeouts each of the last three seasons thanks mainly to his nasty slider. PITCHf/x shows that opponents hit only .155 against it in 2012.

Clay Rapada, meanwhile, is one of the better lefty specialists out there. He held lefty hitters to a .518 OPS in 2012, striking out nearly 30 percent of the lefties he faced.

Things will go swimmingly for the Yankees bullpen in 2013 if Rivera stays healthy, as they have enough depth in front of him to handle the middle-to-late innings as well as they did last year.

If Mo gets hurt, though, Cashman won’t be able to stand on ceremony. Either Mark Montgomery will have to get the call to the majors, or a trade will have to be made.

 

Analyzing the Offense

It was business as usual for the Bronx Bombers in 2012. Only the Rangers scored more runs, and the Yankees led baseball in OPS and with a new franchise-record 245 home runs.

The bad news is that the Yankees lost some power this winter, as Martin and Swisher took 45 combined home runs in 2012 out the door with them. Replacing this power won’t be easy, as Swisher’s right field spot is now occupied by Ichiro and Martin’s catcher spot is occupied by two catchers in Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart who have very little power.

Travis Hafner could give the Yankees a boost, but that’s a big maybe. He posted his highest ISO (Isolated Power) since 2006 in 2012, but he’s played in more than 100 games only once since 2007. The Yankees might get 20 homers out of him if they’re lucky, but they shouldn’t expect more than 15.

Hi-res-6579162_crop_exact Youkilis isn’t a .900 OPS guy anymore.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations also shouldn’t be too high for Kevin Youkilis. He wasn’t half bad with the Chicago White Sox last year, and he surely won’t be any worse than Alex Rodriguez was in 2012, but his best offensive days are behind him. Youk still walks enough to maintain a solid OBP, but his recent track record makes it clear that he’s not going to post a BABIP over .300 or an ISO over .200 again.

So the pressure will be on the usual suspects to keep on producing the power in 2012, namely Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.

Cano set a new career-high with 33 home runs in 2012, which he got thanks to an elevated HR/FB rate and a career-best .238 ISO (FanGraphs). His power has been increasing steadily for four years now, so he should still be able to hit .300 with 30 homers even if his BABIP is hit by bad luck.

Granderson has hit more home runs than anybody over the last two seasons, and he should flirt with 40 home runs again in 2013 if he keeps his ISO well over .250. His issue is plate discipline, as his walks declined and his strikeouts increased last year because of an elevated swinging-strike rate (FanGraphs). He’ll have to stop obliging pitchers if he wants to get back to where he was in 2011.

Teixeira, meanwhile, just needs to stay on the field. His BABIPs have fallen too much over the last three years as his age has advanced to expect a return to the days when he used to hit .300, but he’s still capable of an ISO over .200 and, in turn, upwards of 30 bombs over a full season.

The Yankees’ power production won’t fall too far if Cano, Granderson and Teixeira take care of business, but their offense needs to be more multidimensional in order to maintain its traditional dominance.

Having Brett Gardner and Ichiro for a full year will help. The Yankees sorely missed Gardner last year, as he’s a true pest who’s capable of providing a .360 OBP and upwards of 40 stolen bases. He averaged a .364 OBP and 48 steals in 2010 and 2011, and that’s what the Yankees will be looking for in 2013 if he stays healthy. The extra run-scoring opportunities he can create will help account for some of their lost power.

Ichiro still has some speed of his own, as he stole 14 bases in 67 games for the Yankees last year. But be careful about expecting him to hit .300 again, as his BABIP rose from .279 when he was with Seattle to .337 on the Yankees. Such a spike likely isn’t sustainable, especially not at his age.

Hi-res-152433153_crop_exact Jeter had his highest line-drive rate since 2006 in 2012.
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Speaking of BABIP spikes that may not be sustainable at advanced ages, such talk leads us to Derek Jeter. He enjoyed a renaissance season that saw him hit .316 in 2012, but it’s going to be very hard for him to do so again.

Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory wrote in a piece for ESPN Insider last month that even greats like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Rod Carew were unable to maintain their career-norm BABIPs in their age-39 seasons. That’s what Jeter will be attempting to do in 2013, as he’ll be looking to replicate a .347 BABIP from 2012 that was pretty well in line with his .354 career BABIP.

He’ll need to maintain the high line-drive rate he had last year to do that, and he’ll also need plain, old-fashioned good luck. He’ll also need his surgically repaired left ankle to cooperate, which is no small hope at his age.

Age in general is a concern for the Yankees offense. The average age of a Yankees hitter in 2012, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was 32.7. That number won’t go down this year, and it doesn’t bode well for the Yankees that no World Series champion since 2000 has won it all with an average batter age over 32.

 

Analyzing the Fielding

The Yankees are going to be something of a mixed bag in 2013. On the whole, though, they should be solid enough.

They’re going to be fine on the right side of their infield, as Cano and Teixeira were their two best fielders in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved in 2012 (FanGraphs). That’s par for the course for them, as Cano is one of the best in the business at second and Teixeira may be the best in the business at first.

Hi-res-146529338_crop_exact With a 3.31 career catcher’s ERA, Stewart calls a good game too.
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Yankees should also be solid defensively behind the plate, especially if Stewart beats out Cervelli to earn the bulk of the playing time. He’s a very strong defensive catcher, with a career caught-stealing percentage of 34.0 and a total 2.4 Defensive WAR over the last two seasons (see Baseball-Reference.com).

The left side of the Yankees’ infield defense won’t be so great. We can talk all we want about Jeter’s instincts and positioning, but he has no range to speak of. He was the worst defensive shortstop in the majors in 2012 in the eyes of both UZR and DRS. He’s going to be no better in 2013 on that surgically repaired ankle.

Youkilis isn’t a total disaster at third base, but he’s no prize either. Between his time with the Red Sox and White Sox in 2012, he posted a minus-4.5 UZR and a minus-one DRS at third base (FanGraphs).

With Gardner in left, Granderson in center and Ichiro in right, the Yankees’ outfield defense will be decent enough. Granderson was one of the worst defensive center fielders in the league in 2012, but he was adequate in 2011 when he had Gardner playing alongside him on a daily basis. He’s got a ton of range in the outfield, and Ichiro still covers plenty of ground of his own in right field.

Gardner and Ichiro will make things easier for Granderson in 2013. Worse comes to worst, the Yankees can always shift Granderson to left and Gardner to center, an experiment that Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says the Yankees have already considered.

 

Most Important Pitcher

Hi-res-154080392_crop_exact Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees’ best pitcher is CC Sabathia. Their most important relief pitcher is Mariano Rivera.

But their most important pitcher overall? That’s Andy Pettitte.

On paper, the Sabathia-Kuroda-Pettitte trio stands out as being one of the best top-end rotation trios in the league based on how they performed last year. The catch is that the Yankees know they can count on 200 innings from Sabathia and Kuroda, but not so much from Pettitte.

Pettitte last logged 200 innings in a season in 2008. He last made over 30 starts in a season in 2009. The odds of him doing these things in 2013 are slim, as only five 41-year-olds have started more than 30 games and logged more than 200 innings since 2000. The last to do it was Tom Glavine in 2007.

If Pettitte can deliver between 25 and 30 starts for the Yankees, he’ll be a solid bridge between the very strong front end of the Yankees rotation and the merely decent back end. The club’s rotation will thus have the ideal structure: great to good to good enough.

If Pettitte can only give the Yankees, say, 20 or so starts in 2013, more pressure will be put on Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. The club’s starting pitching depth will also be tested, and that’s not a good thing seeing as how all they have is David Phelps and Michael Pineda, who won’t be ready to return from shoulder surgery until later in the year.

Pettitte was something of a luxury when he made his surprise comeback in 2012. This year, he’ll be a much more vital cog in the Yankees rotation.

 

Most Important Hitter

Hi-res-153329596_crop_exact Al Bello/Getty Images

I may be stating the obvious here, but there’s no understating how important it will be for Robinson Cano to have a big season in 2013.

Cano is the only hitter the Yankees have who’s in the absolute prime of his prime, and they stand to get a huge season from him seeing as how he’ll be in salary drive mode with free agency approaching. He could give them 35 home runs this year. Maybe even 40.

But as good as he is, you just never know with Cano. Consistency has a way of eluding him, as he tends to be much better in one half of a season than he is in the other.

The pattern repeated itself in 2012. Cano had a .953 OPS and was on pace to hit about 40 homers at the All-Star break, but his OPS fell to .902 in the second half. Things would have been worse had it not been for a late-season surge against the worthless pitching staffs of Toronto and Boston.

Cano was even worse in the postseason. He managed only two hits in the ALDS against Baltimore, and only one hit in the ALCS against Detroit. The Yankees struggled offensively in both series.

The way in which Cano was hit or miss down the stretch and into October last year wouldn’t have been a catastrophe in years past when the Yankees had an array of dangerous hitters around him. But given the state of their lineup these days, he’s no longer just another guy. He’s the guy.

He’ll have to take that sentiment to heart in 2013. The Yankees will be counting on him.

 

X-Factor

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This may be the first time in recorded history that anyone has ever referred to Alex Rodriguez as an X-factor.

But that’s precisely what A-Rod will be in 2013. The Yankees have no idea what they’re going to get out of him. Their only hope is that they’re going to get something out of him.

Rodriguez has to actually play for that to happen. The New York Daily News would have everyone believe that he’s done as a Yankee, but the prognosis following his latest hip surgery is that he could be back by the middle of the season.

Expectations will be low for A-Rod if he does return in 2013, and rightfully so given the fact that he’ll be playing on two surgically repaired hips. However, the Yankees might be lucky enough to get the .806 OPS they were getting from A-Rod in 2012 before Felix Hernandez broke his hand with a stray fastball.

Or A-Rod won’t return at all. Or maybe he’ll return and do nothing, in which case the Yankees will stick with Kevin Youkilis at the hot corner for the remainder of the season.

A pleasant surprise or a nonessential cog. That’s an X-factor for you, and it’s what A-Rod has become.

 

Prospect to Watch

Hi-res-140779641_crop_exact Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Yankees have some intriguing outfielders down on the farm, but the guy Yankees fans will want to monitor in 2013 is 20-year-old catching prospect Gary Sanchez.

Sanchez was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, and since then he’s garnered more and more attention. This year, he checks in at No. 36 on MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s rankings, and at No. 18 on ESPN’s Keith Law’s rankings (Insider piece).

The book on Sanchez is that he has a very high offensive upside, and the numbers certainly back up that notion. He has an .847 OPS for his career in the minors, and he’s hit a total of 35 home runs in A-ball over the last two seasons.

Sanchez wasn’t supposed to be much of a defensive presence behind the plate, but he made enough strides in 2012 to stay in line to be a catcher in the big leagues rather than a DH or a first baseman.

Catchers who can hit are a rare commodity. The Yankees got to enjoy a good one in Jorge Posada for many years, and Russell Martin had his moments at the plate for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012.

Given the state of the Yankees’ catcher position these days, Sanchez can’t arrive soon enough.

 

Best-Case Record: 95-67

While seemingly everyone and their uncle is forecasting doom for the Yankees, club manager Joe Girardi is optimistic about his club’s chances in 2013.

“This team could win 95 games, and win the World Series,” he told Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger.

As long as the operative word is “could,” that sounds about right to me.

The age concerns everyone has regarding the Yankees are warranted, especially where their offense is concerned. But they will end up among the league’s top run-scoring teams if their key pieces stay healthy for the majority of the season, in part because their offense will feature more versatility with Brett Gardner returning and Ichiro sticking around for a full season.

The Yankees don’t have the deepest pitching staff in the league, but it’s good enough on paper. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda should make for one of the top duos in the league, and other clubs wish they could have Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova rounding out their rotations.

The ninth inning will be as safe as ever if Mariano Rivera returns to form and his cutter keeps cutting, and it’s hard to bet against that happening seeing as how he’s the closest thing to a Terminator the league has ever known. The underrated David Robertson will be the club’s eighth-inning closer.

A 100-win season is too much to ask given the various weaknesses the Yankees have and the strength of the AL East around them, but 95 wins and yet another postseason berth are attainable.

 

Worst-Case Record: 67-95

Every club has its share of pitfalls, but the Yankees have a lot of them.

The biggest concern is Derek Jeter’s ankle. He may not be able to stay on the field, and he may not be himself even if he is able to stay on the field. The Yankees will be further screwed on the left side of their infield if Kevin Youkilis’ health acts up, and Mark Teixeira is an injury risk as well over at first.

How many games will the Yankees win in 2013?

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The Yankees will need great pitching if their offense crumbles due to age, but their mound staff has pitfalls too. The health of CC Sabathia’s elbow is a question mark, and Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have seen close to 80 winters between then. Phil Hughes has struggled with injuries in the past, and Ivan Nova spent some time on the DL in 2012.

Rivera may not be able to stay healthy in 2013. Even if he does, it may take him a long time to shake off the accumulated rust after nearly a full year off. The Yankees don’t have a comforting insurance policy if he can’t hack it in the ninth.

The Yankees won’t be able to scrape by if they develop more and more weaknesses in 2013. The AL East is too strong from top to bottom, featuring exactly zero pushovers for the first time in a long time.

In a strange twist of fate, it could be the Yankees who serve as the division’s pushover in 2013. Such a fall from grace would be shocking, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

EDB

THE “GREAT” FRED WILPON SPEAKS…BUT WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO SAY?

Baseball

Quote of the Day: Fred Wilpon on the Mets’ finances

By Dayn Perry | Blogger

February 14, 2013 11:33 am ET

Clearly, Mr. Met is the “smarter” of the two.
Are better days ahead for this embattled duo? (Getty Images)

If Mets owner Fred Wilpon is to be taken at his word (ha!), then better days are ahead for his team.

Wilpon, of course, lost a great deal of redeemable U.S. currency in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal. That, by extension, limited his ability to invest in the Mets. But now the New York Post‘s Ken Davidoff quotes Wilpon as saying the following, insofar as the Metropolitans’ balance sheet is concerned:

“There’s no one in family — there’s the Katz family, the Wilpon family, the kids — no one has any personal debt. Zero. Everything has been paid. We don’t owe a dollar to anybody. That’s what made us tight. We were still getting lots of revenues, but those revenues were going to pay off debt. That’s done.”

As Davidoff notes, this flexibility isn’t all that noticeable at present because of the weak free-agent class. But next winter, perhaps, we’ll see looser purse strings in Queens. Perhaps.

I get what Fred is saying.  The framus and the terpi are iridescent and closer to the parameters of the circular square.  This comes from the team that always has a reason not to make any major moves.  The future will tell.  Even when they make a move, it is on the cheap side and backfires.  EDB

LATEST YANKEES NEWS 2/14/13

New York Yankees News & Notes: 2/14/13

By on Feb 14, 6:00a 20

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Don’t have a Valentine? I do, but thankfully the Yankees are always there for you if you don’t.

The Yankees made a trade last night. They traded fringe outfield prospect Abraham Almonte to the Mariners for right handed reliever Shawn Kelley. Last season he put up a 9.1 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9 while also giving up 8.7 hits per inning in 44.1 innings of work. The 28 year old is under team control until 2016 and while he might be a worthwhile investment it’s unsure how he will fit into the bullpen scenario.

Will Cano Regress?: Robinson Cano was ridiculously good in 2012, but can Yankee fans expect another year like that in 2013? Not very likely. Cano reaches the age of 30 this year and will be hitting the end of his peak years. As history has showed time and again, players will begin to decline even in their early thirties. Robinson was so good in 2012 that it’s very unlikely he can duplicate that season at this stage of his career. He’s certainly not over the hill, but it’s hard to believe Cano can get even better than he has been. Could Cano start regressing?

Can Hughes Improve?: The Yankee Analysts examine Phil Hughes in 2012 and though he was very successful in the second half his home run totals prevented him from really breaking out. It seems that pitching in Yankee Stadium is not doing him any favors and his pitch selection is not helping him any. He relied too heavily on the fastball (duh) and gave up too many home runs in pitchers counts (16 home runs in 0-0 or 0-1 counts). Still, Hughes is working on improving his repertoire by introducing a slider to replace his cutter, which could give him success in 2013. Then he can leave in free agency and make a bunch of money somewhere else.

The Solution is to Do Nothing: Mark Teixeira is not going to do anything new this year. Every year he’s been tampering with his swing or workout routine or approach and every year leads to more disappointment. This year Tex is simply trying to be himself and do what comes naturally to him. This will mean he’ll probably start off on the same slow footing that he does every year, but if he’s more comfortable at the plate he might be able to become more consistent and reach his career rates. That might be all we can ask of him at this point.

Prospect Profile: MiLB.com profiles Mason Williams, the 41st overall prospect in baseball. The article talks about his ability to read balls off the bat. He could maybe teach Curtis Granderson a thing or two as he uses the arm angle of the pitcher and the swing of the batter to judge where the ball is going to be hit to. Originally a shortstop, he uses his athleticism to reach balls he shouldn’t be able to reach and makes amazing plays on a regular basis. He strives to play center field like Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers. If only we had Austin Jackson in our outfield now…

Doooooomed: It’s About the Money responds to John Harper’s article in the New York Daily News, declaring that the Yankees are doomed. The article mentions A-Rod, obviously, and an aging core. Pretty much all the cliches from the mainstream media. IATM believes it’s way too early to be saying anyone will be missing the playoffs just yet. The media has been claiming for years that this is the year everything falls apart, that the Yankees are too old, not good enough, and are going to miss the playoffs. They’ve been wrong every year so lets wait and see what happens.

 

EDB

MO WILL ANNOUNCE IF THIS IS IT!

Rivera plans to announce if this is final season

Associated Press – 20 hrs ago

  • New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte, from left, Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda, of Japan, laugh during a workout at baseball spring training, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    View PhotoAssociated Press/Matt Slocum – New York Yankees’ Andy Pettitte, from left, Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda, of Japan, laugh during a workout at baseball spring training, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, …more 

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  • New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera throws in the bullpen during a workout at baseball spring training, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)View PhotoNew York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera …
  • New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera throws to home during a workout at baseball spring training, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)View PhotoNew York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera …

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said he’s reached a decision on whether this will be his final season and plans to announce it before opening day.

“Yes, I have,” Rivera said Wednesday after the Yankees’ first spring training workout for pitchers and catchers. “But again, I will tell you guys when I think it’s the right moment.”

Baseball’s career saves leader had surgery June 12 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury that occurred while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3.

The 43-year-old right-hander expects to be ready for the regular season. He threw 25 pitches off a bullpen mound and said it felt good.

“It was wonderful to be out there again,” Rivera said.

When asked on a scale of one to 10 how the knee currently is, Rivera said, “around nine, for sure.”

He added: “The other point will be the running that I do here.”

Rivera wore a small, light-weight brace during Wednesday’s workout, which had him also take part in fielding drills, including covering first base. He is planning to use a brace in games this year.

Rivera will continue shagging fly balls in batting practice, an activity that has the approval of Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

“That’s part of who he is,” Girardi said. “So, I don’t want to take it away from him.”

Rivera will likely pitch his normal seven or eight innings in spring training games, but could throw additional batting practice sessions or simulated games.

“We really don’t have a whole lot of restrictions on Mo,” Girardi said. “We will watch him carefully to make sure that we don’t think he’s taxing it too much. We feel pretty good about where he’s at.”

NOTES: LHP Andy Pettitte decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic after talking with team officials that included Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman. “I wanted to play,” Pettitte said. “Obviously, after having some conversations with the Yankees — (who were) not too excited about me playing in it — just decided against it. It was a tough decision. I’ve never had a chance to play for my country, but it was a real big deal to me. And was really, really, really considering do that. It was one of those deals where I felt like this was probably the best move that I could make for this organization and for our team.”

 

EDB

YANKEES SPRING TRAING…DAY 2

New York Yankees Spring Training News: Day 2

By on Feb 13, 6:00p 3

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Retirement: Spring is here and you know that means everyone is going to be declaring this to be Mariano Rivera’s last season before he retires. That was the buzz around camp last year and everyone missed out on the answer after Mo got hurt. This year he claims that he’ll announce his decision before the end of spring training, so an announcement could come tomorrow, or in another month. It seems that everyone is convinced that this is it. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Let’s just hope he stays healthy the whole season. Andy Pettitte, on the other hand, won’t be announcing his plans for 2014 until next winter.

Cervelli Addresses the Media: Francisco Cervelli finally talked to the media today about is alleged involvement in the Biogenesis clinic and Wallace Matthews seems to think there are inconsistencies in Cervelli’s story. While he maintains that he never bought any PEDs and “walked away without nothing in my hands,” (ignore the double negative, OR DON’T!!) he also sticks to his original statement which states that he purchased MLB-legal supplements. I guess he needs to be as specific as possible because, to me at least, the “nothing” he was referring to was banned substances, not literally zero things. I highly doubt they give him a baggie to carry out his supplements either way. But this is the best of what Cervelli had to say:

“Look at me,” Cervelli said, indicating his wiry physique. “You check the numbers. I know it doesn’t matter, but if you check the numbers and everything, I don’t use that stuff.”

Leave the man alone because whether he took anything or not, it clearly didn’t do anything. The man is a fringe backup catcher and this is the opposite of news. Lets focus on other things until there is actual concrete evidence out there. Maybe there is evidence, but we don’t have it.

The Number Game: LoHud has a complete list of all the uniform number assignments in Yankee training camp. A few highlights: Matt Diaz is #22, Travis Hafner is #33, Kevin Youkilis is #36, Juan Rivera is apparently sharing #54 with Kevin Long, which can’t be good, Austin Romine is #66, and Gary Sanchez is #80. Apparently David Phelps has taken back #41 (sorry Jim Miller), and Michael Pineda retook #35.

The Catching Game: Austin Romine thinks that he can make it onto the major league team this spring, even after injury his back last year and spending very little time in Triple A. While the catcher competition is supposed to be an equal battle between Francisco Cervelli, Bobby Wilson, Chris Stewart, and Romine, Girardi believes differently:

“I don’t know if you’d say equal footing because he missed a lot of last year with the back,” Joe Girardi said. “His biggest thing is, he needs to stay healthy and play the whole year. I don’t see why at some time he couldn’t help us this year. I just don’t know exactly when it will be.”

The Yankee prospect claims his back is healthy and he’s ready to go, but the organization has already stated their preference is to keep him in the minors for now.

Pitchers and Catchers Team Up: Yankee pitchers and catchers have been divided into different groups with one pitcher assigned to one catcher. So Phil Hughes is being caught by Cervelli, Hiroki Kuroda is being caught by Chris Stewart, and Andy Pettitte is being caught by Romine. In Group 2 David Aardsma is caught by Bobby Wilson, Tom Kahnle is caught by Kyle Higashioka, Jim Miller is with Gary Sanchez, Zach Nuding is with Fracisco Arcia, and Clay Rapada is paired with JR Murphy. In Group 3 Juan Cedeno is with Stewart, Vidal Nuno is with Cervelli, Ryan Pope is with Romine, and Matt Tracy is with Sanchez.

 

EDB

YANKS LAND KELLEY…THE QUESTION IS…IS HE SMELLY

Yankees land reliever Kelley from Mariners

By Andrew Simon / MLB.com | 2/13/2013 9:18 P.M. ET

Shawn Kelley in relief00:00:26
Mariners reliever Shawn Kelley gets the job done and shuts the door on the Royals

The Yankees added some pitching depth on Wednesday, acquiring reliever Shawn Kelley from the Mariners in exchange for Minor League outfielder Abraham Almonte.

Seattle had designated the 28-year-old Kelley for assignment last week, after the right-hander went 2-4 with a 3.25 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 15 walks in 44 1/3 innings last season. Kelley also threw 20 relief innings for Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 0.90 ERA.

He split each of the last four seasons between the Majors and Minors, making 120 big league appearances. The former 13th-round Draft pick has a 10-9 career record with a 3.52 ERA and averages of 8.6 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings.

The Yankees signed Almonte out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. The 23-year-old has posted a .263/.340/.388 batting line in seven Minor League seasons, spending most of 2012 at Double-A Trenton.

To clear space for Kelley on the 40-man roster, New York placed third baseman Alex Rodriguez on the 60-day disabled list. Rodriguez is recovering from hip surgery.

EDB

TOPPS BANISHES PETE ROSE FROM BASEBALL CARDS

Topps erases Pete Rose from baseball cards

By | Big League Stew – 12 hours ago

(AP)

Pete Rose has not appeared on his own Topps card since Major League Baseball banned him in 1989. Any player on the permanently ineligible list is prohibited from being included in any licensed MLB product. And that doesn’t only go for the picture on the front and the “complete batting record” on the back, apparently.

Author Rob Harris of Chicagoside noticed that any mention of Rose’s name has been scrubbed from Topps first new set of cards for 2013 — even when its inclusion seems organic.

He writes about the ’13 set:

On the back of each card, wedged between each player’s personal information and his “Complete Major and Minor League Batting Record,” there’s a little line labeled “Career Chase.” On every card, whether the player is a living legend or a rookie, there is a sentence indicating how close that player is to reaching one of the game’s big records.

So, for example, it says on the card for Paul Konerko that his 422 career home runs “are 340 shy of Barry Bonds’ record of 762.” Everybody in the set gets a blurb like this. “Player ‘X’ is 4,000 shy of Nolan Ryan’s record, or Cy Young’s, etc.” Only, this is what it says on the card of A.J. Pierzynski:

[Related: Topps unveils the world’s largest baseball card]

 

(via Chicagoside)

I guess it’s not Pete Rose’s record anymore! It would be one thing if none of the record holders were named on any of the cards. Then nobody would have noticed Pete Rose’s name not being there for hits. Harris did get Topps to comment, though:

Clay Luraschi, a spokesman for Topps, called the omission of Rose “a simple decision” but declined to elaborate. When pressed, he repeated that it was “plain and simple” that Rose’s name should not appear on cards.

So it appears to be related to MLB ban and not to, say, a dispute over licensing monies (even though players get paid through their union, not the league, when it comes to their likeness, and Rose would seem to be in good standing with the MLBPA). Topps wants to keep its license with MLB, and that’s obviously understandable. It also might be taking Rose’s ban a little far.

(And before you EVEN bring it up: Yes, Barry Bonds’ name has been associated with PEDs and he’s been punished for it by the BBWAA when it comes to the Hall of Fame vote. But he hasn’t been punished by MLB. He’s not ineligible for anything — like Rose, or the Black Sox guys. So he can be on cards, according to the rules.)

UPDATE: Has Topps ever so obviously scrubbed Rose’s name before? @Nightowlcards came across this from 2010:

(Via @Nightowlcards)

No mention of stats that Rose leads in — hits, doubles, runs, walks, at-bats. It’s not proof of anything, but it’s a little curious. And much more subtle. This is how to omit Pete Rose without letting on you’re doing it.

UPDATE II: Rose’s name somehow slipped through the cracks in this 2006 Topps card of Shawn Green:

(Via @nightowlcards)

A slip-up? Or has there been a change in policy?

It seems like Topps could have used some creative license. Not producing new Pete Rose cards is one thing — after all, that’s the rule. And not making it so obvious that he’s banned would have been OK, too. MLB can keep Pete Rose’s plaque out of the Hall of Fame. But the league isn’t going to leave Cooperstown because the museum still shows Pete Rose exhibits that include his memorabilia. The Hall of Fame still acknowledges Pete Rose happened. MLB probably isn’t going to cut off Topps because Pete Rose’s name is on the back of some cards.

Besides, scrubbing his name off the back — in this particular case — comes off as petty. And vengeful, from MLB’s standpoint. OK, we get it, Pete Rose has been banned, you’re all mighty and powerful.

Most of all, it’s also a lie by omission. Pete Rose happened. Remember?