The 2013 Yankees are going to look very different from the 2012 version of the franchise. There will be different faces in the starting lineuo, a familiar face returning in Brett Gardner, and no Nick Swisher. But it might not just be the players who aren’t around anymore, we may be bidding adieu to the hand-wringing over “too many homers” as well.
The 2012 Yankees hit a lot of home runs, more than any other Yankees team has ever hit. As such, the exodus of 3-5 lineup regulars means that a lot of those long balls will go with them. Swisher, Russell Martin, Andruw Jones, and Eric Chavez, all of whom will be playing elsewhere next season, combined to hit a total of 75 home runs last year. Add in the 19 the as un-signed Raul Ibanez hit, and that’s a reduction of 94 total long balls. Some of that production will be made up for elsewhere, don’t get me wrong, but with two outfielders and a catcher who may not combine to hit 20 home runs between the three of them penciled in to the Opening Day lineup right now it’s pretty much a given that this year’s team will be hitting many fewer balls into the stands than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
On the bright side, that’s not the same thing as saying that they’ll be a worse team, just that they’ll go about accumulating runs (and runs saved) in a different manner. For example, home runs or no home runs a full season from Brett Gardner will almost certainly make them better in left field than they were last year, and even right field probably won’t be too much of a drop off with Swisher gone. As crazy as it may sound, Swisher was only worth an additional 2.6 fWAR over Ichiro in 2012, despite a 38 point advantage in wRC+. That’s because Ichiro defense and baserunning skills combined to net 15.9 runs above average, or roughly 1.5 wins. If we assume that his pinstripe bounce wasn’t a complete mirage and factor in the right handed hitting outfielder the Yankees desperately want to obtain, it’s entirely possible that the Yankee will be able to get the ~4 wins from right field that they’ve become accustomed to getting from Swisher.
But unless something drastically changes next month, for better or worse, there will almost certainly be many fewer home runs.