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So here I am, back in the fray. It's been a week or so since I last posted. It's not that I didn't want to, per se, but rather, it's that I realized I need to conserve my energy in anticipation of my life being swept into the maelstrom of awesome that commences on April 4. Plus, I think it took about 4 days to recover after my birthday this past weekend...But I digress. Here we go. The holistic look at what the Yankees are dealing with it as they inch closer and closer to Opening Day in Fenway on Easter Sunday. Giddy-up.

2009 Review

Let us go back and revisit the bold words that concluded last year’s Baseball Daily Digest Yankee preview: “Trust me on this one. The Yankees are winning the 2009 World Series.” And on November 4, they did indeed, capping off the first season in the new stadium by saturating it with champagne and glory.

The thing about last year’s championship was that it wasn’t won in the prototypical “Yankee Way.” Despite the enraged whining and protests of devastated haters everywhere, the 27th ring wasn’t found on an itemized AmEx bill.

Rather, it was the natural prize for a team that—f0r the first time in a decade—looked like a real team, and not a fantasy one. They refined a bullpen a no-name talent, galvanized the youthful exuberance of their rookies, harnessed the resolute power of juggernauts, and capitalized on the classic dependability of their old guard.

They had fun, they were exciting. They threw at batters, stole bases, slammed teammates with pies, came from behind, embarrassed the Sox, christened their new digs (“Greatness’s New Home”), and shed the monkeys on their back. They deserved the trophy. And they got it.

2010 Outlook

Can they repeat? Of course. But it will be markedly more challenging, and a much more impressive feat when they do. The offseason was punctuated with a slew of wheeling and dealing, but has the overall face of the team’s talent improved? It’s splitting hairs.

On the surface, it would appear that the upper management acted impulsively and maniacally in their whirlwind of moves that saw the departure of World Series heroes Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.

But perhaps their 2009 successes have prompted The Powers That Be to do something they haven’t done since my days of being decked out in HyperColor t-shirts: think long-term and big picture.

2010 Team


The immoveable anchor of Jorge Posada still headlines the catching spot. To quote my mother’s impassioned marriage discourses to me: “You’re not getting any younger.” Regardless, the 39-year old managed to stay healthy last year and sidestep all the “HE’S DONE!” finger-pointing that our fabled closer seems to now have the market cornered on.

It would appear that the real concern would be that Posada seems to alternate his banner years, posting league-leading numbers in 2007, succumbing the injuries all of 2008, and rebounding last year with 22 dings, 81 RBIs, and a .285 BA.

I hate to say this, but I think he’ll see a bit of a drop this year. But beloved Francisco “Henry Rowengartner is my doppelganger” Cervelli is a strong Plan B. And waiting in the wings is highly touted prospect Jesus Montero, who I already hate for showing up to spring training 30 pounds overweight. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.


You’d be hard pressed to find a better infield than the 2010 Yankees. And I don’t just mean this year. I mean ever. Last year team captain Derek Jeter officially reached legend status, surpassing Lou Gehrig’s career hit count, but the bigger feat seemed to be his discernible excelling defensively. “The worst SS in the game” played like he was on a hell-bent mission to throw muzzles on all who cried “He’s got no range!!” Expect that agility to continue through 2010.

Opposite of Jeets is the second baseman who divides his time equally between the overrated and underrated realms. Robinson Cano and Jeter are the first and only SS/2B combo in history to each have 200 hits in the same season.

While Cano’s slugging potential is undeniable (25 HRs, .320 BA, and .871 OPS), he faces one critical challenge this year in the 5-hole…his categorical aversion to hitting with RISP. Last year his .207 was nothing short of pathetic, and now with A-Rod and Tex batting ahead of him, he stands to hemorrhage ribbies all season.

Based on his demonstrated ability to be more patient at the plate and more selective, he’ll most likely rise to the occasion and post outlandish figures in the RBI column.

A-Rod and Tex round out the corners, and last year was proof of the indispensability of our 1B. Not only is he a defensive god, but he was effectively the Wind Beneath A-Rod’s Wings. A-Rod flung from his bodice the anti-clutch stigma to become the most clutch batter in the game.

Of the 30 blasts he shot last year, 26 came when the score was a margin of 2 or less, 8 were when the score was 0-0, 16 were in the 6th inning or later, 9 were when trailing, and 15 were to tie the game or put the Yankees in the lead. To say the duo will only improve in 2010 is an understatement. I would flat-out be terrified being pitted against this infield.


Ah, the tumultuous tale of the outfield. The sole arena into which haters are lumping all their hopes and dreams of a Yankee downfall. When we weren’t debating the finer points of the Joba vs Hughes age-old argument, and when we weren’t questioning the utility of Nick Johnson, or Javy Vasquez’s ability to pitch in the AL, we were musing about the “shaky” outfield situation.

With Johnny Damon’s Gumby arm shipped off the Detroit, the formidable fielding mechanics of Curtis Granderson offer a decided improvement. But Melky “’Rudy’ is my favorite movie” Cabrera was also dealt, and the question of who was going to replace his notably aggressive coverage, moved to the forefront of our minds.

A few weeks ago, we got our answer: speedy little Brett “Am I sniffing glue or is .270 not a respectable BA?” Gardner would be manning the LF spot. And 2010 will be the season where he’s finally recognized as a key asset to this team.

For some reason, he was constantly glossed over, despite unrivaled speed on the base paths, as well as vast outfield coverage. Granderson may get the spotlight for the first few months of the season, but eventually Gardner will be receive his due respect.

Because, let’s face it, NY may love Grandy now, but when he’s coming up empty against the league’s tough lefties, it won’t matter how many runs he saves on defense. .182 against southpaws in ‘09. That’s right. We wouldn’t dare part with our young talent a few years ago, when the Twins wanted Melky, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes for Johan Santana.

But for a .249-batting CFer, we’re willing to sacrifice anything. My prediction? Grandy lucks out with the stadium’s short porch, provides critical defensive value, but sees a year of sub-par OBP.

In RF, there’s Nick Swisher, who arguably had the most pivotal role in the 2009 championship. He single-handedly changed the team’s dynamic, bringing an air of refreshing ease to a historically uptight clubhouse.

He saw his fair share of slumps and defensive gaffs, but he also saw an even greater share of walks. His 97 BB was 1st in the AL, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he supplements this asset in 2010 with a career season of hits.

Designated Hitter

Nick Johnson returns to his old team and is possibly the most quintessential example of a player who could pay off huge, or could just be a supreme bust. Let’s hope for the former, but be prepared if he retains a strict dedication to the world of “so-so.” His numbers last year are actually, for all intents and purposes, immaterial. Because only one of them means anything to the Yankees: OBP.

The 31-year-old’s .429 OBP last year was absolutely the only thing that got him in pinstripes. The Yanks want a warm body on the base path ahead of Tex and A-Rod. They got one. Cheap.

The guy hasn’t hit more than 8 HRs since 2006, and as such, won’t be dazzling anyone in 2010 with his Mendoza-line. But he’ll do what he’s brought here to do, and I wouldn’t worry about him dragging the team’s offense.

Quite the contrary: hitting coach Kevin Long has been working his magic on Johnson, and our DH has been a pleasant surprise at the plate during Spring Training. Good pick-up, Cashman.


The Yanks made a fresh set of cuts in recent weeks, leaving our bench to be warmed by the likes of Francisco Cervelli (backup catcher), Ramiro Pena (utility infielder), Randy Winn (reserve outfielder #1), and Marcus Thames (reserve outfielder #2).

Both Cervelli and Pena demonstrated last season that they are more than capable of working the understudy role with respectable capabilities. They may not be Evan Longoria-esque rookies, but they’re talented, aggressive, and—best of all—quick studies. Each chipped in a walk-off hit last year, as well as smatterings of clutch hitting in big spots.

As for Winn and Thames…well, let’s just say I felt like I did when I drafted Oliver Perez in the 21th round of my 20-team league. I gulped, but reasoned that the likelihood of him ever having to leave the BN slot on my roster was small, and hence the potential for him to inflict any damage to my team was even smaller.

The biggest value Winn can offer is his ability to fill in if they need him, and to do so in a highly cost-effective manner that will save the Yanks some cash come the free agent bonanza in 2011. He didn't exactly have a banner year last year, and at 35, he's not necessarily guaranteed any kind of a "give him a chance, he'll rebound!" latitude.

Last year, he put up a .671 OPS and while he is a switch hitter, he hit .158 against lefties. If he raises these numbers more than slightly in 2010, I’ll die of shock.

In terms of statistical relevance, Marcus Thames is a near carbon copy of Winn, and hence I approach him in the same manner: Neither reserve will do much for the Yankees, but the net-net will be in the positive side of production.

Starting Rotation

And the rich get richer. You can cite a litany of factors that propelled the Yanks bank into their rightful regency, but perhaps the most acute change came in the shape of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett.

By the time the 2nd half of the season was in full swing, CC had established himself as a go-to game winner, ultimately posting a 19-8 record that was even more impressive given the amount of innings he ate up. Expect more of the same this year.

He could very well somehow improve upon that, when you consider the fact the bullpen won’t be as overworked this year, thereby alleviating the pressure to make round boy throw complete game after complete game.

(To that end, I have a feeling he not only collects 20 Ws, but also that one of those W is a perfect one.)

AJ lived up to his bipolar reputation, leaving fans to play a fun little game of Russian Roulette every time he took the mound. But the bottom line with this guy is that last year smoothed out a lot of his erratic roughness.

He honed his pitch location, and really dialed in on maximizing the potential of his fastballs and slurves. 2010 will see significant jumps in his Ws, and—dare I say—more control? Hell, there’s even talk of reconciling with Posada.

What can you say about veteran Andy Pettitte? Although I admittedly entertain the fear that any pitch may be the one that does him in, I have to concede that he was beyond clutch in the postseason and clinched the 2 more important series of the year.

His 4.85 ERA and 14-8 record belies his raw skill, but that said, I don’t see him going anywhere but down at this point. Which is not to predict a colossal collapse, but the fact of the matter is he’s 38 years old. He’ll win us another ring, then call it a career.

In the 4-spot is ex-Yankee Javier Vasquez. Baseball fans remember him for being one of the best in the NL in 2009, with an obscene K-rate (238) and an anemic ERA (2.87). Yankee fans, however, remember him serving up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. So…that kind of left a bad taste in our mouths.

Will he be able to translate his NL efficacy into the unforgiving AL? Put it this way: anytime a 15-game winner is your 4th starter, you’re in an enviable state.

And finally, rounding out the rotation, after the reality-tv-esque competition to find the 5th starter consumed the Yankees’ preseason, is Phil Hughes. The maturity of this young righty is evident in his commitment to expanding his pitch arsenal, and indeed it was his newfound change-up that sold manager Joe Girardi on Hughes’ role in the rotation.

Hughes spent 2009 as an integral part of the bullpen, mystifying batters with his head-on heat. And fantastic as he was in short relief, he’ll be twice as effective in the rotation. He’ll win at least 14 games, which is already 60% more than last year’s 4th starter.


Have any 2 words invoked more divisive debate within Yankee Universe than “Joba Chamberlain”? The seemingly tireless upheaval around whether he was truly a starter or reliever has mercifully been put to bed, after he offered up an ERA that looked more like the price for a movie ticket than it did a spring training performance.

His scattering of quality starts last year always seemed to blind fans and management to his much more frequent abysmal starts. 9-6. He only got 15 decisions, because most of the time he was getting chased out of the game.

Of course we’ll expect nothing less than otherworldly greatness in the 8th inning set-up man spot. Although he slider has seen more action than a honeymoon suite, and although it’s more predictable than a Real World character, the charmed one will prevail.

Joba and his electric fist-pump will become the player we remember him being in 2007. He ERA then was 0.38. Last year it was 4.75. If he doesn’t improve on his bullpen skills from the last time he worked there, I’m 100% okay with that.

On the opposite end of the reliability spectrum is Mariano Rivera, who is flawless and somehow becoming even more flawless with every year. He defies logic, conventional wisdom, laws of time and space. He led the league in saves last year (44), seemed to be impervious to pitch counts and IP, and worked it straight through the postseason.

How can I predict what this god will do this year? It’d be like betting against David Blaine: you know it’s physically impossible for a ripped up card to appear magically assembled inside a basketball across town. But you also know that David Blaine will somehow make this happen.

As for the rest of the pen, it looks like the Yankees are in better shape than they’ve been in in as far back as I can remember. Damaso Marte, Sergio Mitre Alfredo Aceves, Chan Ho Park, and David Robertson are all not only better than average hurlers, but they all have long-relief possibilities.

Most of them have been starters at some point, and the range of specialty pitches is diverse and deep. For the first time in years, the bullpen isn’t a cause for unbridled panic heading into the season. It’s the opposite, actually.


Breakthrough Performance...

Robinson Cano. Again. I feel like I say this every year. So maybe it’s not exactly a gutsy call. And maybe it’s not even a plausible call, seeing as he’s already pretty damn productive as it is, so how much can he really “breakthrough,” per se?

You put someone like him in the 5th spot after Jeter, Johnson, Tex, and A-Rod, and suddenly it becomes very plausible indeed to explode. Of course, this is all contingent on him learning how to actually hit with RISP, but Cano’s proven he’s moldable through—if nothing else—the dramatic transformation he made from 2008 to 2009 with his plate discipline.

Ready to Rebound...

Rebound? Who on the 2009 Yankees needs to rebound from anything? There was only 1 brick of dead weight last season, as far as I’m concerned: Joba. And as such, he’s the only one who truly needs to bounce back. (We’re not including Winn and Thames in the running.)

Joba will return to the pen, but this team he’ll have matured a bit and become a de facto leader. We need 2007 Joba. 2010 Joba will be like 2007 v2—updated and refined.

Ready to Disappoint...

Curtis Granderson. I hate to say it, but our biggest offseason acquisition has a lot to live up to in the Bronx. Anything less than excellence is booed and mauled. The guy hit 30 HRs last year. Yankee stadium is the size of an acorn—if he doesn’t hit twice that this year, he’ll be disappointing. And God help us if he doesn’t learn how to hit off southpaws.

Don't Be Surprised If...

…Francisco Cervelli sees a lot more action than anticipated. Posada is old. He’s a leader, he’s still good at the plate, and he still calls an amazing game. But he’s old, and all of this will take its toll at some point. Enter Cervelli.

Be Shocked If...

…Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner fail to slowly but surely establish themselves as dependable defensive players as well as offensive ones. This clubhouse is all about rising-to-the-occasion, which is exactly what we need from the outfielders. Both will go on offensive tears numerous times throughout the season. I’d be shocked if they became even slightly muted.

Rock Steady...

Mark Teixeira. While the all-star 1B has a bit of a reputation for coming out of the gate slow sluggishly near inert, 2010 will the year he breaks this habit. Tex has always been a slugmaster, but we’d be remiss in not appreciating the fact he’s maybe the most rock-steady member of this team (with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera).

His unwavering presence at first was invaluable last year (especially when I remember how I’d cringe and cover my eyes 2 years ago whenever an infielder was zipping one over to Giambi).

Achilles Heel...

Ummm…the beer and hot dog prices at the stadium?

In the Next Three Years...

The Yanks will get Carl Crawford and possibly Josh Beckett and whatever other big name enters free agency in 2011. It’s the only reasonable explanation for why they’ve been making these 1-year deals on seemingly lateral moves for dirt cheap players. They’re saving up.

Which is not to say they’ve completely abandoned the idea of cultivating youth. Though many continue to lambast the reigning champions for “buying their team,” the actual roster is comprised of just as many homegrown townies as it is “trendy” stars. Just think of the impact players like Cano, Gardner, Robertson, Hughes, Pena, Cervelli, and Joba have had in the last year.

Like I said earlier, it’s big picture time for the management. And they’re methodical, patient, and best of all, just as concerned with power as with youth. And that’s just the beginning of what’s to come in the next 3 years…

(To say nothing of the fact the upcoming seasons will proffer a pitcher who can come in for relief of himself. Pat “Octopus” Venditte—the 24-year old switch pitcher. Just when you thought their pitching staff couldn’t get more eclectic…)

Goosebumps Moment...

Imminently…when the Yankees take the field at Fenway on April 4 to open the season. Long-term…when the Yankees win their 28th World Series Championship this fall.

1 Comment:

  1. Anonymous said...
    Excellent analysis....I will take your take on the season ove the clowns at Baseball Prospectus and Yahoo Sports who will find their 3rd place predictions for the Yanks wrong for a second straight year. You were plenty balanced too, which is more than can be said of the haters. I disagree with what you said about Cano in the 5-hole. That spot in the lineup will never work for him: the problem is between his ears. Some guys are clutch RISP some are not. Cano will flourish hitting 6th or 7th again. Posada can work well in the 5-hole, especially if they DH him more and more and catch him less and less. Granderson, despite his speed, may end up there. He will have to platoon though if he can't hit lefties better than that. I can hardly wait to rebeat the Phillies in th World Series. =D

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