Yanks need to produce for CC to be effective

sabathia_121108.jpgAS WE GO UP WE GO DOWN

Down in the comments, longtime reader/frequent commenter Louis writes:

If, in addition to CC, the Yankees sign 2 more big name FA pitchers without further upgrading the offense/defense, they’re going to resemble the 2008 Blue Jays: great pitching, mediocre offense (though the Jays were a much better fielding team). That’s probably not going to be good enough in the AL East next year.

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.

3 Comments

Getting the big guy is a great 1st step for winter 08/09. But why do I suddenly feel like spitting out my Egg Nog when I read “Teixeira seems a good bet to go to the Red Sox”. If the Yankees can’t sign him, I might be able to deal with that over time. But Boston? Are the Yankees trying to get another Manny-Big Papi 1-2 punch again by not even trying to get an obvious need filled with a big bat a first now that the Giambino era is over?

I suddenly miss the days where worrying about what Boston did ….well, Yankee fans didn?t do such a thing…you could have spent your time better panning for gold in the nearest River. Now I fear watching another close game come down an at-bat in the home half of the 7th / 8th inning at that little band-box they call Fenway?with our mega-starter gone and before Mo comes in?

I really hope they make upgrading the offense a priority ? Nick Swisher, no offense man. But more lumber needs to be added to support the ?09 campaign.

Another glass of Egg Nog is in order!

The Yankees also seem to be assuming things will click right from the beginning which, as we’ve seen over the past few years, is never a safe bet. If the pitching showed up, the offense was absent, and vice versa in the early going.
I’m not comfortable with the Yankees offering a 5-year deal to Burnett, nor am I comfortable with a 4-year deal to Lowe. I’d prefer they pushed the 2-year deal with Sheets or the 1-year deal with Pettitte and then proceeded to fill out their offense a bit more with the extra money. Nobody knows what to expect out of Gardner, nor do we know how other players will produce next season. Jeter might show his age, A-Rod might get a long term injury, Cano may not bounce back, Nady may play like he did with the Mets…the Yankees are playing with fire.
I think Girardi will do a decent job managing the pen again if he doesn’t fall in love with putting a player in a specific inning or has a designated whipping boy (a la Ross Ohlendorf). He should manage based on who will provide the best match for the upcoming batters.
The Yankees definitely improved their rotation by getting Sabathia, but they are making too many assumptions when it comes to their offense.

I’ve been reading speculation that the Yankees are trolling for every pitcher younger than Denny McLain, and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve noticed that their lineup is overflowing with “ifs.” IF Posada is healthy; IF Cano gets frequent tough-love phone calls from Larry Bowa; IF Matsui remembers why they used to call him “Godzilla”; IF Damon can even approach last year’s production. Was there ever a better team/player fit than the Yankees and Mark Teixiera? Are we shareholders (we pay for the seats and the hot dogs, after all) expected to watch the best hitter on the market (and one of the best in baseball) go to the Red Sox and say, “well, that’s okay–we have NICK SWISHER???”

From my POV, um, no.

Sabathia–a great pickup, if questionable in his enthusiasm and way overpriced (considering nobody else was close in the bidding). Good. Sabathia, Wang, Chamberlain. Let’s say Pettitte. Maybe Sheets, if his arm doesn’t fall off. I don’t trust Burnett. Our defense isn’t good enough to make Lowe a great pick-up. Maybe Hughes gets another shot. I can live with that.

But Teixiera in Boston and we have a lineup of IFs? The dark times could be back, folks.

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