MLB Preview: New York Yankees

Timothy DavisCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2008

The Yankees have a lot going on this summer: the closing of their stadium, the All-Star game in their stadium, a new head coach, starting pitching rotation conflicts, a new owner (kind of) in Hank Steinbrenner, extra hitting (which is never a problem), players named in the Mitchell Report, and 8 years since their last world championship on their shoulders. To get the focus on baseball and not all of these other distractions the Yankees got the biggest free agent in the offseason, in my opinion, Joe Girardi.  

Girardi is a former catcher (and everyone knows catchers make the best managers) for such teams as the: Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, and St. Louis Cardinals. Recently he was the manager of the Florida Marlins in 2006, where he was awarded the National League Manager of the Year. What Girardi did with the Marlins in 2006, in one word is, astonishing.  

With the Marlins he had the lowest payroll in the whole Major League, a record setting Opening Day by having six rookies in his lineup (this doesn’t include his rotation), and had the team in competition for the playoffs in a tough division. I’ll say it again, astonishing.

The Lineup: 

The batting order is still in the works and of course there’s the DH competition that can really go in any way, but in the end Matsui will probably win out because of his past seasons and his professionalism.  

This is the lineup that I think the Yankees should use; I know it’s a heavy left handed lineup, but these are the guys that give you the best chance to win at the plate and in the field. 

1. Johnny Damon (LF) There’s really nothing bad to say about Mr. Damon, especially since he moved over to left field; everyone in the majors knew how bad of a throwing arm he has.  

His numbers are consistent, there’s been a fall of in BA since becoming a Yankee (down 31 points in 2006 and down 15 points in 2007), but his OBP hasn’t suffered too much. 

He’s a decent defensive left fielder and is that crazy person in the locker room that every team should have. Hopefully he can stay healthy all year. 

PREDICTION: 119 runs, 18 HRs, 84 RBIs, .291 average, 28 stolen bases 

2. Derek Jeter (SS) Oh Capitan, My Capitan. How can you not be a Derek Jeter fan (Boston fans excluded)? He’s made the plays that needed to be made in the playoffs, the best inside out hitter I’ve ever seen, and his cut throat mentality (i.e. A. Rod, Mariah Carey, and the kid from the Make-A-Wish foundation special on ESPN).  

He leads the team on the field and helps set the table for the rest of the lineup, in case Damon doesn’t. This is proof by his OBP which has gone up from .352 in 2005, before Damon signed with the Yankees, to .417 in 2006 and .388 in 2007. 

PREDICTION: 111 runs, 13 HRs, 81 RBIs, .329 average, 19 stolen bases 

3. Bobby Abreu (RF) He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does in right field and especially what he does at the plate.  

In the field he gives you the most consistent play you can expect out of a right fielder, last year he had only 4 errors in 313 chances. He also gives the runners something to think about before advancing to second or third.  

At the plate he is quite possibly the most patient person in the league; this is by far the biggest reason for A. Rod’s huge year last year (not taking anything away from A. Rod). He lets A. Rod see the pitchers’ whole arsenal before he steps up to the plate.  

This spring he showed up weighing less and looking faster than ever, expect big things from him this year; think 2004 numbers 118/30/105/.301/40 

PREDICTION: 114 runs, 24 HRs, 107 RBIs, .293 average, 33 stolen bases 

4. Alex Rodriguez (3B) What can be said about him that hasn’t already been said?  

Is he the greatest position player to ever live? When it’s all said and done, probably.  

Is he greedy? A lot of people would say yes.  

Is he cursed? As of right now it seems that way, but only time will tell.  

Will he ever be able to perform in the playoffs? History usually doesn’t lie, so maybe 2000 (4/2/5/.420) and 2004 (11/3/8/.320) are going to be his fondest memory of the playoffs.  

Can he put up the same numbers two years in a row? He’s done it once before and he’ll do it again to prove he’s worth every penny! 

PREDICTION: 132 runs, 50 HRs, 147 RBIs, .316 average, 21 stolen bases (can you say MVP?) 

5. Jason Giambi (1B) You can read it here first (?) and quote me, “Giambi will stay healthy and have a rebirth this year!”  

I’m thinking he’ll have numbers close to his 1999 season (115/33/123/.315), not 2000 (his MVP year when he put up 108/43/137/.333).  

All the signs point to it: he’ll be playing in the field and his numbers do better when he does, he came to spring trimmed out of granite, and he’s got protection around him.  

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s playing for another contract either. 

PREDICTION: 108 runs, 35 HRs (if not more), 116 RBIs, .295 average, 0 stolen bases 

6. Hideki Matsui (DH) He is a professional hitter if there ever was one.  

He doesn’t try to do too much with the ball and with the short porch in right field at home it helps his home run count go up, plus he’s got the best hair in the league.  

I mean really, what does he use in his hair? Every time his hat or helmet comes off his hair is always perfect and flowing like silk.  

Expect DHing to help his numbers A LOT and for them to possibly move him back to the five hole. 

PREDICTION: 101 runs, 36 HRs, 118 RBIs, .303 average, 5 stolen bases 

7. Jorge Posada (C) Talk about rebirths, hell first born! Where did his numbers come from last year?

He was hitting everything, everything, in sight and he’s a switch hitting catcher!  

I can’t honestly say that I see him putting up the same numbers this year; last year he was playing for a contract and is in one of the most beefed up lineups in the league, so that’s probably were the numbers came from.  

Expect good numbers for a catcher, but not nearly the same average. 

PREDICTION: 83 runs, 18 HRs, 91 RBIs, .273 average, 1 stolen base 

8. Robinson Cano (2B) Everyone thought that he was going to have another monster year in 2007 because of his race for the batting title in 2006 but he left us all shaking our heads to what happened to his bat.  

Usually players get sophomore slumps, this writer is hoping he got a junior slump; calling a 93/19/97/.306 year a slump is ridiculous for a second baseman, I know, but for the numbers he put up in 2006 it was.  

Even with his batting average dropping 36 points his on-base percentage only dropped 12 points. Look for another stellar season from one of the premier 2nd baseman in the American League. Expect Girardi to move him into the 7 spot in the lineup. 

PREDICTION: 89 runs, 21 HRs, 92 RBIs, .333 average, 5 stolen bases 

9. Melky Cabrera (CF) He is the most overlooked guy on this team. If it wasn’t for him the last two years where would the Yankees be?  

Melky was the man last year when the whole team was hit with the injury bug and two years ago when Matsui went down he stepped right in and filled the position nicely. Wasn’t he the guy they were trying to get rid of in the 2006 offseason too?  

His bat leaves something to be desired because in a lineup full of home run hitters, hitting .273 with 7 HRs isn’t sexy by any means, but the .360 in 2006 and the .327 OBP is pretty sexy.  

But his defense, arm strength, and accuracy throwing would be runners out (14 assists in 130 games in centerfield last year) are the only things you need from a center fielder. Also, when you have a lineup filled with studs, you can have one dud.

PREDICTION: 78 runs, 9 HRs, 71 RBIs, .283 average, 14 stolen bases 

Starting Rotation: 

The starting rotation for the Yankees is, for the first time in a lot of years, pretty young. They have the possibly to have 3 young guns in the starting rotation, all which are home grown.  

Home grown by the Yankees you say? Yes, believe it or not the Yankees realized there’s this thing called the minor leagues that have kids on teams, which they manage, and that they can put these kids on their team which they are already paying.  

It only took Brain Cashman 8+ years to realize this and to realize that some of these kids are extremely good! You don’t just have to use them as trade bait right before the trade deadline to get overrated, overpaid bums to help for a playoff push. But this could also possibly be the Achilles Heel of the rotation, it’s always proven that players, especially young players, get intimated pitching in Yankee Stadium.  

They’re going to face adversity and be tested all year long: falling behind to a great hitter, giving up home runs in key situations, keeping their stamina up, and carrying whatever embarrassing bag out to the bullpen on their days off full of gum and sunflower seeds.  

If the kids can just eat up innings and stay consistent all year, they should have good numbers, because this lineup is going to score runs for them and play defense behind them. They just have to remember not to try and do too much and just trust their ability.  

Currently Girardi is still working on the rotation, but lets just pretend that Joba Chamberlain is starting the year in the bullpen. Also, I’m not going to include WHIP in my predictions because it’s an overrated stat: 

Chien-Ming Wang, is the leader of this rotation and should always, always, be in the running for the Cy Young because he’s almost a lock for 19 wins a year. 

History proves that he only needs at least 30 starts to win 19-which is insane. He’s lights out in the second half and can almost guarantee 10 wins after the All-Star break. 

He’s not an overpowering guy, he’ll use his sinker and slider to perfection, but his new pitch, the changeup, just might help his strikeout total and (dare I say) help him get a couple of more wins.  

Expect consistency from him and to maybe improve because of the addition of Girardi.  

PREDICTION: 20-8, 3.34 ERA, 121 strikeouts 

Andy Pettitte, has a huge test in front of him this year, a mental test.  

Everyone knows how great he is in the playoffs, which some could argue is more mental than physical, but he’s going to have some of the biggest media attention of any player this year.  

I expect some of the same numbers, maybe for those numbers to even fall off a little, but I’ll take a veteran lefty any day (excluding Barry Zito), especially when he’s almost automatic in the playoffs. 

PREDICTION: 16-9, 4.18 ERA, 140 strikeouts 

Phil Hughes, you need to know one word and one word only when it comes to Mr. Hughes-stud.  

This kid is always overlooked because of another stud on the pitching staff, Mr. Chamberlain, but Hughes is, in my opinion, the best young stud they have on this team.  

Do I need to remind anyone about his possible no hitter against Texas last May?  His curve ball is nasty, his fastball has movement, and he has a good head on his shoulders; do you need anything else?  

Expect great things from such a young pitcher, but don’t forget he is young and he will struggle at times. 

PREDICTION: 15-9, 3.99 ERA, 182 strikeouts 

Mike Mussina, does anyone remember the days when he was in Baltimore and you asked yourself, “I wonder what his numbers would look like on a decent team, let alone a good team?”  

Remember that 1992 season when he put up 18-5, 2.54, 130 Ks in a season? I do!  

The Mousse (what he is commonly known as) is old now though and didn’t see anything close to those numbers last year, not even close; last year was his worst as a major and he looks to prove that pitchers get better with age and that he can bounce back this year. 

I don’t expect a resurgent, but better numbers then last year because he is pitching for a contract too. 

PREDICTION: 16-11, 4.19 ERA, 151 strikeouts 

Ian Kennedy, is hard to predict how he’s going to react to pitching a whole season in the majors.

In his Tour De Force last year, doing a tour of all levels of baseball play, he posted: A 6-1 record in 10 GS, 1.29 ERA, 72 Ks; AA 5-1 record in 9 GS, 2.59 ERA, 57 Ks; AAA 1-1 record in 6 GS, 2.08 ERA, 34 Ks. 

He has the ability, obviously, and consistently hits his spots so he should be fine, right? Well the biggest problem facing him is that his scouting report is spot on about him, but it’s not the positives that are spot on, it’s the negatives.  

He’s the shakiest in the first couple of innings and throws too many pitches early which doesn’t allow him to go deep into the game. 

The two big question marks are: his inability to keep the ball in the yard and if he has the stamina to pitch a whole season in the majors. 

PREDICTION: 14-8, 4.11 ERA, 149 strikeouts


The person with the biggest weight on his shoulders this year is Girardi. He was brought in to bring the pin stripes back to glory THIS YEAR and to consistently put them in the World Series.  

Even though “The Boss” isn’t steering the bus anymore, his off spring is, so don’t expect a longer plank for Girardi to walk on.  

Girardi is a first class guy with the ability to lead some of the best players in the league to a World Series Championship.  

He’s got speed, amazing hitters, an MVP candidate (if not two), and one of the biggest payrolls in the league on his side; but he’s also got his need for perfection working against him too. He should lead them to a World Series at least one year, I’m not saying it will happen this year, but here’s hoping! 

The Yankees will win the East again with their young pitching and solid offense: 95-67


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