This piece coincides with David Schoenfield’s post over at the ESPN SweetSpot Blog. He started ranking all 30 MLB teams on February 3 and made his own predictions about the 2014 Yankees this morning, ranking the Yankees #14 in MLB. Here are mine. -Stacey
How they can get to 90 wins: Score 80 more runs, allow 20 fewer. They can also pray to the baseball Gods for a miracle or better yet, make voodoo dolls, dress them up in Rays and Red Sox uniforms and stab them repeatedly until those teams have tons of injuries. Okay, I’m only kidding about the voodoo dolls.
Big offseason moves: Signed C Brian McCann, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Carlos Beltran, IF Brian Roberts, IF Kelly Johnson, P Matt Thornton and P Masahiro Tanaka; Re-signed P Hiroki Kuroda, P Mariano Rivera and P Andy Pettitte retired, Lost IF Robinson Cano, OF Curtis Granderson, P Phil Hughes, P Joba Chamberlain, P Boone Logan, IF Alex Rodriguez suspended 162 games; Traded C Chris Stewart to the Pirates for Minor Leaguer Kyle Haynes; DFA OF Vernon Wells
Most intriguing player: The obvious answer is Masahiro Tanaka. Most casual baseball fans don't know much about the $155M man from Japan and are wondering how Tanaka will adjust to life in the States and more importantly, life in New York. Some pundits are also wondering if maybe the third time will be the charm for the New York Yankees as they haven't had the best of luck with signing pitchers directly from Japan – Hello, Kei Igawa and Rest in Peace, Hideki Irabu. Personally, I think having Hiroki Kuroda in the same rotation will help Tanaka adjust to the MLB way of life and the transition will be a lot smoother than most are predicting. I am also in agreement with PECOTA which sees an ERA of 3.42 in 2014 for Tanaka. I think that's a nice number and not out of the question but don't bookmark this post and come back to it if he does worse than that. I do not have a crystal ball, it's just a gut feeling.
Due for a better season: CC Sabathia is coming off his worst season as a starter and in order for the Yankees to do well, he needs to have a better season in 2014. His numbers in 2013 were down across the board except for earned runs allowed and runs allowed/scored which are supposed to be lower. He allowed 112 and 122 respectively – he only allowed 75 and 89 in 2012. A positive coming into this season is that Sabathia will not be coming off a surgery and he will have had a regular offseason workout routine which hopefully will result in a bounce back season.
Due for a worse season: Hiroki Kuroda? Carlos Beltran? Both? Kuroda seemed to hit a wall near the end of 2012 but came back strong in the beginning of the 2013 only to hit the wall again near the end of the season. Last season, he hit it in August and never seemed to recover. But even with his rough last two months of the season, Kuroda’s numbers weren’t far off from 2012 and he even finished with a slightly lower ERA (3.31 in 2013 & 3.32 in 2012). Will the same thing happen in 2014 or will the wall make an appearance earlier in the season? As for Beltran, he’s getting older, his power numbers have dipped a bit and he's not getting on base as much (his OBP has gone down each year since 2011) but on the positive side of the coin, he hit very well for average last season (.296). Both guys have age against them so it will be interesting to see how 2014 treats them.
I’m just the messenger: The Yankees lost their best player to free agency and while people will say, "Well they went out and got McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran!" they really replaced him with a combination of Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts which is not good. Another problem for the Yankees is that it seems they want to rely on Derek Jeter returning to form after a lost 2013 season in which he only played 17 games thanks to his injured ankle. The infield defense was iffy even before Cano bolted for Seattle and but now it could be among the worst in the league especially with an older Jeter manning shortstop. They re-signed Brendan Ryan who is great defensively but his bat leaves a lot to be desired and would create a large hole in the lineup. His combined numbers between Seattle and NY last year were .197/.255/.273/.528. Yikes.
Final word: In order to make the playoffs, the Yankees have to hope that everyone stays healthy, that the loss of that really good player who had manned second base since 2005 won’t leave too much of a hole in both the infield defense and in the lineup and that the guys who are nearing 40-years-old play like it's 1999 again.