It's taken me forever to put this together, mainly because there are so many variables for the Yanks coming into the season. Could they win 100 games and walk away with the A.L. East? Absolutely. Could they win 85 games and miss the playoffs? Yes. How will they finish? Well, that's the big question.
For me, this season will come down to starting pitching, as most do. Unfortunately, the Yankees rotation is full of question marks. No one was happier to see Johan Santana go to the Mets than I, because as soon as the Twins accepted that half-assed offer for Johan, it meant we'd get a chance to see Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in pinstripes this year. That being said, we're expecting an awful lot of production
from those three kids.
Before we look forward, let's look back. Last season, the Yankees
finished with a record of 94-68, their starting pitchers compiled a
record of 68-49, threw 943.1 innings with an ERA of 4.59, a WHIP of
1.43, averaged 5.6 K/9 and 5.8 innings per start.
numbers, but they were good enough for the Yanks to allow the sixth
fewest runs in the league. More than enough for the Yanks to win more
games, especially given their explosive offense.
break it down a little further. Three spots in the rotation will remain
static, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. Those three
combined for a record of 45-26 in 566.2 innings of work over 91 starts
and compiled an ERA of 4.22, a WHIP of 1.39, while averaging 5.3 K/9,
6.2 innings/start. Chien Ming-Wang lost time to injury, Mike Mussina
lost time to futility, Andy Pettitte was healthy all year. For the sake
of argument, let's say these numbers remain static. This is a big if
considering Pettitte is already hurt and Mussina has been throwing
batting practice for over a year now, but let's stay somewhat
This leaves us with the rest of the rotation. Last
year, the other starters used by the Yanks combined for a 23-23 record
in 376.2 innings of work over 71 starts and compiled an ERA of 5.14, a
WHIP of 1.49, while averaging 6 K/9 and 5.3 innings/start. These
numbers include solid contributions from Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy,
who we'll get to in a moment. The other guys who accounted for these
stats were Roger Clemens, sans PED's apparently, Carl Pavano, Darrell
Rasner, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, Sean Henn, Matt DeSalvo, Tyler
Clippard and who could ever forget Kei Igawa. Not a single one of those
players is on the major league roster for Opening Day, and they
When you look at that last paragraph, there is absolutely reason to to
be optimistic. Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and later in the season, Joba
Chamberlain can't possibly be that bad, can they? Barring an injury, you have to believe the Big Three can beat those numbers. I'll go as far as to say they should
blow them out of the water. So why am I cautiously optimistic about
this season going in? Well, they're all young. Extremely young. No
matter how much potential these guys have, no matter how much success
they've had in the minors and no matter how great they looked in the
bigs last year, they're still unproven. I wouldn't be shocked if they
all posted ERA's under 4.00. By the same token, I wouldn't bet you
money that they won't have a collective ERA of over 4.50 when all is
said and done. I feel good about them, but I'm just not sure.
I know I've spent a lot of time here talking about starting pitching,
but honestly that's the only real area of concern heading into the
season. The bullpen should be better than it was last year. Proctor and
Vizcaino have been replaced by LaTroy Hawkins and Joba. Definite
On offense, I'm going to say they take a step forward. 2007 was a
career year for A-Rod and Posada, expect both of them to slip a bit
this year, Posada more than A-Rod. In the plus column we have Cano, who
will only get better, Melky, who's game is progressing and possibly the
most important position to the offense, first base. Jason Giambi is in
a contract year, and he should be platooning with Shelley Duncan all
year. I'm expecting much, much more production out of that position
this season. It would be hard to do any worse than the numbers Doug,
Andy Phillips et al put up last season.
On defense, they'll have Melky in center and Damon in left from the
get-go, which is an upgrade over Damon in center and Matsui in left.
Jeter's knee can't possibly be as bad as it was last year, so there
should be some kind of improvement there. Giambi is a step down at
first, but overall, I'd say it evens out or the Yanks have a slightly
better D this season.
My prediction: 97 wins and a division title. I've seen these kids pitch, and having them in the rotation for a full season, in whatever form they take, is a huge improvement over the garbage they threw out there last year. The bullpen is solid from the get-go, and we'll see how it rounds out after Joba goes to the rotation, if he goes. Their lineup is still the best in the league. The thing that has me the most worried at this point is Mike Mussina. The Yanks have to trot him out there every fifth day and I'm really afraid he's going to get shelled and tax the pen for about 30 starts. Maybe another kid like Jeff Marquez can jump ahead of the pack and join the team in June. Otherwise, the Yanks may have to make a trade for a starter who can eat innings without posting a 6.00 ERA, like Mussina.