AS WE GO UP WE GO DOWN
Down in the comments, longtime reader/frequent commenter Louis writes:
I have been wanting to make that point about the Blue Jays and their league-leading 3.77 runs per game allowed for awhile, but somehow keep bypassing it, and I thank Louis for reminding me. The Jays scored just 4.41 runs per game The Yankees were almost half a run better, plating 4.87 runners a game. “Better” isn’t “best;” the Yankees ranked only seventh in the league in runs per game.
The question for next year, insofar as any potential Blue Jayism goes, is if the Yankees offense gets better, worse, or stays the same. Brian Cashman is on record as saying “Better.” He bases this on getting a full season out of Jorge Posada; a fixed Robby Cano; a divorced A-Rod; a healthy Matsui. Is he correct? With all respect, probably not:
Posada is a year older and very probably won’t be up to his old 140-game workloads. Whereas almost anything Posada is likely to do will be an improvement on Jose Molina, giving one-fifth or more of the starts behind the plate to Mr. Career .237/.276/.339 is potentially devastating. And if Posada’s shoulder isn’t what it used to be and he can’t catch, look out.
Alex Rodriguez hit at about his career levels last year. Sure, he was well down from 2007, but 2007 was not his typical year. Maybe a more relaxed, Maddona-ified A-Rod will hit better in the clutch, but that adds fewer runs than you might thing.
If Matsui is healthy, he should be reasonably productive at DH, but the Yankees actually did quite well at DH last year thanks to Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi. Overall, Yankees DHs hit .282/.378/.461. Matsui is a career .295/.371/.478 hitter and he’s 35. He’s not likely to give the Yankees a whole lot more than they got last year.
Cashman is probably right about Cano, but we haven’t even gotten to the other aspects of the offense: Johnny Damon will probably lose some production. No one knows what the team will get out of center field. Xavier Nady in right field is a likely step backwards of around 20 runs. Nick Swisher could put first base on a par with what it got last season (.246/.349/.460) or even a little more assuming the return to form we all figure is coming.
So what does that all add up to? Without playing with projected numbers (which I did in a previous entry), it seems like there might be something less than short of a decisive improvement. As for the defense, it’s where it was, and that ain’t good. Figure that if the Yankees want to win 98 games next year, and scoring remains constant or just ticks up a little bit, they would still have to saw nearly 80 runs allowed off of this year’s total. Sabathia replaces Mike Mussina plus (because he pitches further into games) some bullpen innings. Add a healthy Chien-Ming Wang, a full year of Joba Chamberlain, and about 40 starts from pitchers (whoever they are) who should be better than Sidney Ponson, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, and Carl Pavano… It seems doable, but if the offense slips, look out. Things will go backwards as they go forward.