Rival Roundup – The Boston Red Sox

RedSox

The last of a four-part series, Rival Roundup has been an overview of the Yankees’ American League East rivals. As stated throughout the series, almost half of the Yankees’ games will be against these four rivals. This last installment looks at the Boston Red Sox. Like the first three in the series, we have enlisted the thoughts of member sites of The ESPN SweetSpot Network. For this installment, my good friend, Jeff Polman, of Fire Brand of the American League will provide some insight throughout the piece.

Of course the last installment had to be the Boston Red Sox. Cue the bad-guy organ music! Actually, a lot of steam has gone out of the antipathy between the two teams. They spend too much time respecting each other these days. Even so, the bottom line for both teams and the teams’ fans is that both ends of the “rivalry” are shooting for the same prize. Only one can win the division.…

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Rival Roundup – The Toronto Blue Jays

20111118-blue-jays-logo

Part three of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at the American League East rivals the New York Yankees will have to navigate for almost half of the team’s games in 2014. After visiting the Orioles on Friday and the Rays on Monday, our next stop is the Toronto Blue Jays. To offer insight and perspective of someone who covers the Jays closely, we turned to one of our fellow members of the ESPN SweetSpot Network, Matthias Koster of Mop Up Duty. Koster’s thoughts will pop up throughout.

Imagine being told by someone close to you that you were going to get a shiny new car for a present, but when the day finally arrives, you find out the car was a Matchbox car and it wasn’t even one that was made in England. That’s what it felt like to be a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays last season when a series of moves were made after the 2012 season and everyone predicted a renaissance of Canada baseball.…

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Rival Roundup – Tampa Bay Rays

Rays

The second of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at each team of the American League East. The Yankees will play almost half of their games against these four clubs so it is really important to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. We have reached out to our ESPN SweetSpot Network partner sites to contribute their thoughts to the series. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Rays and Tommy Rancel of The Process Report has been kind enough to provide his thoughts that will be sprinkled throughout.

Remember the days when the Yankees only had to worry about the Red Sox and the rest of the division was fairly incompetent? For the past several years, the Tampa Bay Rays have also been tough to beat. In fact, the entire division is strong if you were to look at one set of projections. The Rays won 92 games last year, seven more than the Yankees. Not only did the team finish ahead of the Yankees, they pretty well thrashed the Bronx team in the season series, winning 12 of the 19 games and outscoring the Yankees by 32 runs.…

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Rival Roundup – Baltimore Orioles

This is the first of four installments looking at the 2014 American League East rivals. After all, the New York Yankees will play close to half of their games this season against these four division rivals. As we look at each team, we have reached out to our friends in the ESPN SweetSpot Network. Throughout this look at the Orioles, we will hear from Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot. 

The Orioles and the Yankees finished with the exact same record in 2013. But both got there by different routes. The Orioles scored a lot more runs, allowed more runs and played better defense. The Yankees pitched better but lagged behind the Orioles both offensively and defensively. Despite the differences, the rivalry has really been exciting the last two years as the two teams battled for the division title in 2012 and played to a 9-9 tie during that season. The Yankees were one game better in 2013 with a 10-9 record against the Orioles.…

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Over/Under: 2014 Statistical Predictions

I’ve got a pretty bad cold going right now, so I wanted to keep this as simple as possible.  There are a lot of high expectations for new players this year and just as many uncertain expectations for some of the holdovers.  I want to set an over/under line for some of the more important players on the roster to gauge what kind of seasons people are expecting from them.  Let’s get into it.

CC Sabathia- Over/Under 4.00 ERA

The big fella came in at 4.78 last year, a full run over his career ERA coming into the season.  It wasn’t only the first time he’d posted an ERA over 4.00 since 2005, it was the first time he’d posted an ERA over 3.50 since 2005.  The hope was that another season removed from elbow surgery would get CC back on the right track, but so far his early ST results have left some to start wringing their hands over his velocity.  …

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Projecting 2014: Brendan Ryan

Associated Press

Associated Press

The Yankees have two polar opposite shortstops, Derek Jeter being one of the greatest offensive contributors with an awful reputation as a defensive player, and , Brendan Ryan as one of the greatest defensive shortstops in the game with a bat that hardly belongs in a major league lineup. Despite Ryan’s offensive inabilities, the Yankees extended him a 2 year $5 million contract with a 3rd year option this offseason. It’s uncertain exactly how he’ll fit into the 2014 club, with Jeter earning the vast majority of starts, but he’ll be a welcome addition to a number of ground ball pitchers.

Ryan’s career offensive numbers aren’t pretty, he’s a .237/.299/.320 hitter, but most of these numbers have been on the decline for the last two seasons. In 2013, the Mariners, who aren’t exactly recognized as the biggest offensive club, grew tired of his bat, and traded him to the Yankees after he hit just .192/.254/.265 with a 43 wRC+.…

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Projecting 2014: Preston Claiborne

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

To be honest, at this point last year, I knew of Preston Claiborne but didn’t know who he was. In 2012, the right-handed reliever pitched to a 2.22 ERA with Double-A Trenton before earning a promotion to Triple-A and posting a 4.05 ERA in 33.1 innings. Mediocre strikeout and walk rates failed to make him a standout pitcher in a system that has produced some statistical flamboyant relief pitchers of late. With Mark Montgomery, Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma, and Shawn Kelley trying out for a loaded bullpen last season, there was no reason to know who Claiborne was.

After starting the season in the minors, Claiborne became the Yankees’ next best option after Chamberlain hit the disabled list in early-May. The reliever was extremely productive in his first few outing, pitching a clean 9.0 innings in 7 appearances before giving up his first run. In fact, in his first 37 relief appearances, Claiborne pitched to a 2.78 ERA in 45.1 innings.…

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Projecting 2014: Brett Gardner

Charlie Neibergall AP

Charlie Neibergall AP

The Yankees’ new $52 million man didn’t even know if he’d be a Yankee in 2014. After the team signed Jacoby Ellsbury in the beginning of the offseason, trade rumors indicated that the Yankees may have been willing to part with the speedy outfielder for a starting pitcher or infielder. By the end of February, Gardner’s name popped up in the news again, but this time it was for a 4 year $52 million extension with an option, giving the Yankees team control over him until 2019, his age 35 season.

With Ellsbury in center field, Gardner projects to be the Yankees’ left fielder for the next five to six seasons. Though he was a highly effective center fielder, his defense in left field looks much more valuable according to most of the advanced defensive metrics. UZR/150 gives him a 36.5 in left field, while DRS holds him at 50 runs saved across what’s essentially two full seasons.…

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Projecting 2014: Matt Thornton

Charles Wenzelberg

Charles Wenzelberg

After losing Rafael Soriano, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan over the last two seasons, the Yankees have made one Major League free agent addition to their bullpen, Matt Thornton. Thornton won’t be replacing Rivera, but he’ll step in as a greater-LOOGY to a Yankee team that just lost Boone Logan to the Rockies.

Thornton spent most of his career with the White Sox where he was a highly successful left-handed setup man. Unlike most left-handed reliever, Thornton throws in the mid-90′s and his stuff was once good enough to retire left-handed and right-handed hitters alike. Since 2010, his fastball velocity has declined from 96.1 mph on his four-seam to 94.3 mph in 2013. This velocity drop has correlated with his efficiency, as his strikeout rates have continued to drop from 12.02 K/9 in 2010, to 9.50 K/9 in 2011, to 7.34 K/9 in 2012, and finally 6.23 K/9 in 2013. His ERA has subsequently increased, but not all that substantially.…

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