2012 Outlook: New York Yankees

The 2011 New York Yankees led the American League with 97 wins, but the offense went flat in the ALDS, losing to the Detroit Tigers.  That was surprising due to the great offense, and the pitching seemed maligned, but was also pretty good.  This is a fairly old team, especially on the offensive side.  As always, with the Steinbrenners supporting them, they will spend money and likely field another great team.

Curtis Granderson led the charge last year, amassing nearly 7 WAR, bouncing back to his 2007 form.  He won’t hit for a great average with his high K rate and flyball stroke, but he’s walking at a double-digit rate and is good for 30+ home runs.  I expect regression, but 5-6 WAR is a good estimate.  Brett Gardner covers all of left field, putting up +25 UZR’s the past two seasons.  His offense dipped last year, walking less and hitting a lot more popups.  While he isn’t a traditional corner guy, he still is very valuable as a 4-5 WAR guy.  Nick Swisher returns to right field, coming off another 3-4 WAR season.  His walks returned, but the power faded some.  He’s another possible 4 WAR player.  Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez should see a bit of time in the outfield if one of the starters gets injured.

Robinson Cano put up a very similar season to 2010, minus some walks.  His UIBB% was under 4%, and his K rate jumped to a career high.  However, he still squares the ball up well and hits it far, so he’s a 5-6 WAR player even with the poor plate discipline.  Derek Jeter recovered some from a poor 2010, but he’s still only an average player at best nowadays.  His power is poor, mostly due to a 65% groundball rate, and his range is definitely poor, though the metrics say it never was good.  Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena will provide the starters with some days off.

Alex Rodriguez had his most injury-riddled season yet, only amassing 428 PA, but he performed well when healthy.  He managed a 125 wRC+ and had his best UZR of his career at third base at +11.  The defense will not be sustained and his line drive rate has dropped significantly the past two years, but if he can compile 500 PA, he should put up another 4 WAR season.  Across the diamond, Mark Teixeira has seen his BABIP plummet, but all other skills remain intact.  If his average returns to the .260s, he will likely approach 5 WAR with his good plate discipline and great defense.  Eric Chavez returns as a backup for both spots.

Russell Martin returns, hoping to build off of his power rebound last season.  Posting an above-average ISO for the first time since 2007, he would have had a great season if his BABIP luck would have been better.  If last year was indicative of his improvements, he should provide 3-4 WAR.  Francisco Cervelli returns as the backup, with Jesus Montero off to Seattle.  Ibanez and Jones are expected to be platoon DHs.  Ibanez had some poor BABIP luck and lost almost half his walks, plus he also proved he can’t play the outfield anymore.  Andruw can only hit lefties and play an average corner outfield, sad to see from a guy on a shoo-in Hall of Fame pace through age 30.

As you see, Ibanez was the only newcomer on the hitter’s side, but there are a couple new faces in the rotation.  CC Sabathia returns as the ace and major workhorse, throwing at least 230 innings the past five seasons.  His walk and K rates improved, returning him to elite status.  A mirror image of Sabathia, Michael Pineda was the return in the Montero trade.  The similarly enormous 23-year-old righty posted good numbers as a rookie.  His K/BB ratio was great, but he struggled a bit with lefties and flyballs.  These situations will be exposed more pitching in Yankee Stadium, creating a bit of concern to some.  Hiroki Kuroda signed a one-year deal to bring a consistent arm to the rotation.  He is 37 years old and pitching in the American League for the first time, so regression could come fast, but Kuroda has been quite underrated during his time in the US.  Despite going 16-4, Ivan Nova was a very average pitcher, posting a 4.01 FIP and 4.29 SIERA.  An average pitcher is valuable, but he will likely be viewed as having a sophomore slump when it’s really just his true talent level.  Phil Hughes slots at the 5 spot, struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness last year.  He stopped missing bats and allowed a lot of line drives.  His ERA should fall back down towards 4.25-4.50.  Freddy Garcia had a nice comeback season, but he looks to be the odd man out.

The bullpen had another great year, with the best closer of all-time leading the way.  Mariano Rivera posted another sub-2.00 ERA with just as impressive peripherals at age 41.  He has hinted this could be his last season, despite still being one of the best in the game.  David Robertson posted huge numbers in a setup role, striking out almost 37% of all batters and allowing one home run.  His walks are still high, but his 1.08 ERA and 1.82 FIP show that it did not limit his performance.  Rafael Soriano struggled in his first year of his big contract, only pitching 40 innings and posting a 4.00 ERA and similar peripherals.  Joba Chamberlain was off to a nice starting before needing Tommy John surgery in June, so he should be with New York by mid-season.

The Yankees have more depth in the rotation, even if it’s not to the level of the Rays.  The offense is the same, but a year older.  Injuries will play a big part in the lineup, and there isn’t a lot of depth currently.  I see the Yankees having more pitching than the Red Sox and more offense than the Rays, giving them another 95-win season and a division title.

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