Opening Day is 17 days away. Expectations among players, management and fans are high with the acquisition of big name players and the return of stars downed by injuries.
This fan has analyzed the team and makes the following predictions:
One major strength of the team. Starting pitching for New York will be greatly improved over the disastrous 2008 season.
Newcomer, CC Sabathia will start 33 games. He will pitch 190 innings in the regular season, have an ERA less than 3.25 and win 21 games.
Chien-Ming Wang will return to the stellar form he showed before a freak foot injury running the bases in an inter-league game in Houston last year. Wang will start 32 games, win 19 have an ERA around 3.75.
A.J. Burnett will have some minor arm problems but will start 25 games, will be great when he starts and will finish with 16 wins, an ERA of 3.15.
Andy Pettitte will struggle from the beginning of the season. By June 15 Pettitte will be relegated to the bullpen for long relief after he has a losing record of 4-8 with an ERA in excess of 5.00.
Phillip Hughes will dazzle in Scranton for the first two months of the season and will return to the Bronx to take Andy's place in the rotation. Hughes will finish the season with 12 wins against 4 losses and an ERA of 3.60.
Joba Chamberlain will be skipped in starts early in the year to save innings and keep him around 175 innings for the year. But he will dominate when he pitches and will finish the year with 15 wins against only five losses and an ERA of 2.35. He will average six strikeouts per game.
Phil Coke and Dan Giese will be called on for spot starts and late in the season Andy Pettitte will once again start occasionally to save Joba innings.
The Yankee bullpen was a strength last year and will be even better this campaign.
Closer Mariano Rivera will be as good as last year and will not be required to pitch as much. Starting pitching will be so good that Rivera will not make as many appearances. He will finish the season with 28 saves and an ERA of 1.75.
Damaso Marte, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Alfredo Aceves and Edwar Ramirez will all pitch well. But when Ramirez goes on the DL in July with elbow stiffness, Steven Austin will be called up from Scranton and will pitch lights out.
Jorge Posada will be limited in his starts behind the plate and will be taken out of games late when the game is no longer in question to save his aging legs. His shoulder will be fine, but he will never regain the arm strength he had before the surgery.
Posada will start 110 games behind the plate, as predicted by GM, Brian Cashman, will play in another 20 games as DH. He will hit .270, drive in 88 runs and score 65 runs.
Jose Molina will be the back-up catcher and will start 52 games behind the plate. He will become A.J. Burnett's personal catcher and will catch most of Chien Ming Wang's games as well.
Burnett and Posada will never be able to get on the same page and their personalities will clash as each are head strong.
Molina will continue to struggle at the plate and hit only .225 with 22 RBI.
Mark Teixeira will start hot and never let up. Understanding that he has to take up for the lack of Alex Rodriguez in the line-up in the first six weeks, Tex will hit .420 in April and lead the league in home runs and RBI by the time A-Rod returns.
Tex will also make the Yankee offense much better and will win the Gold Glove and starting All-Star position at first base. He will finish the year with a .323 BA, 132 RBI and 38 home runs. He will play in 158 games at first base.
Robinson Cano will return to his All-Star form of 2006. He will be solid in the field and will hit .322 for the season with 19 home runs and 79 RBI. He will play in 155 games at second base.
Cody Ransom will start at third base and play adequate in the field. But he will be a disaster at the plate, hitting only .220 with only 10 RBI and no home runs while spelling the injured A-Rod.
When A-Rod does return in May, Ransom will have been such a disappointment that he will be designated for assignment.
Alex Rodriguez will return on May 11 after rehabbing his arthroscopically repaired hip labrum. He will return in game shape and immediately begin to hit. He will finish the year with a .318 average, 37 home runs and 98 RBI.
Captain Derek Jeter will finally begin to show his age of 35, but only in the field. He will learn to compensate some on defense, but will fail to make the All-Star team because of his reducing skills in the field.
Jeter will have some issues with his legs again although he will not go on the DL. But Girardi will give Jete several games off over the course of the year and Jeter will play in only 148 games this year.
But on offense, Jeter will remain a force at the top of the line-up, hitting .318 for the year with 75 RBI and 101 runs scored.
Johnny Damon will start in left field, but will soon prove to everyone that he can no longer play defense. His failed left arm will allow every team to take extra bases and Joe Girardi will have no choice but to make defensive replacements for Damon in left field late in games when the outcome is still in question.
In addition to Damon's arm weakness, he will once again have trouble with his legs and will go on the DL for a 15 day stint in June, being replaced in left field by Brett Gardner who has failed as the every day center fielder.
When Damon returns from the DL he will play primarily as the DH after Hideki Matsui is forced out of the line-up with recurring knee problems. Damon will perform well again as DH and will finish the season hitting .287 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI. He will score 105 runs.
Gardner will win the opening day center field job, but will again be dismal at the plate after the season starts. Girardi will go with him as long as he can, but will eventually have to accept that Gardner will never hit enough to be a regular.
Melky Cabrera will break camp as the fourth outfielder but by June 1, when Gardner is hitting below .220, Melky will be back in center to stay. Cabrera will finish the season with a .315 average and 72 RBI.
Gardner in the mean time will play sporadically as a replacement for Damon in left and will get in 250 at bats over the course of the season, but by July 1 he will have only a .232 average and he will be sent back down to Scranton as soon as Damon comes off the DL.
Xavier Nady will win the starting position in right field and will be great at the plate. He will hit fifth in the line-up after A-Rod returns and Matsui goes down with injuries. Nady will play in 150 games, will hit .303 with 28 home runs and 118 RBI.
Nick Swisher will make the team primarily because there is an opening in the lineup with A-Rod out. He will be played sparingly until June when Damon goes on the DL. At that point Swisher will take over in right field and Nady will move back to left where he played so well in 2008.
Swisher will once again struggle all year at the plate and by the end of July he will be hitting only .237 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI.
The Oakland A's will be out of the race in the West by the trade deadline and the Yankees will trade Swisher, Gardner and Ian Kennedy to the A's for Matt Holliday who will become the Yankees regular right fielder and be signed to a multi-year contract.
The Yankees will win 99 games and win the American League East. They will defeat Cleveland in the Division Series and will go on to defeat Boston in the League Championship Series.
In the World Series, the Yankees will lose in seven games to the Philadelphia Phillies who will win their second crown in a row.
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