The Yankee offense is the best in the league! That sums it up pretty nicely. Last year, the Yankees led the league in runs scored and I predict the offense will be better! Combined with the best bullpen is baseball, this team will once again win in the mid 90’s regardless of what the “experts” say. A few weeks ago you could put down money on the Yanks over/under at 90.5. Nothing is guaranteed, but the over is a good bet.
Let’s go position by position with the infield today and OF with bench in the next day or 2:
DH: Last year Thames did a really good job for us putting up an OPS of .841 in 237 AB’s. Others did pretty poorly; guys like Juan Miranda, Kearns, Berkman and even Nick Johnson (in only 20 games). I don’t have the exact numbers at the DH position for the Yanks, but Posada had an OPS of .811 last year and while he did struggle when he DH’d last year, it is reasonable to think he can give you above an .800 OPS. He is 39 and adjusting to the DH role, but I can tell you form experience that catching wears on your body and hands and staying free of all those dings should be enough to offset his age and the changed role in DH’ing. Posada has had an OPS of .835 over the past 3 years. His adjustment is the hardest thing to predict as sitting on the bench gives Jorge a lot of time to decide how he is going to guess pitches (Jorge is a notorious guess hitter); but this is probably a negative for him as you can out think yourself. Overall, I think the DH position will be better overall as Posada’s hitting skills have not eroded; again I do worry about the adjustment.
Catching: This is an area that where the defense will be better than last year, but the offense will not be as good. Jorge hit the ball very well as a catcher last year (.844) and this year we have a question mark in our new starting catcher Russell Martin. I flip flopped on my opinion of signing Martin when I saw the price to sign went from a 3 year 30+ mil contract to a $4 mil deal with arbitration next year (and incentives). This was well worth the risk as prior to the last 2 years Martin was one of the brighter young catcher stars. After his first 3 years, his OPS was over .800 as a full time catcher who caught most every game; he followed then with 2 poor years (OPS of .680). So who is he? I honestly have not watched him so I can’t give an educated opinion, so while I normally lay it out there, I can’t say anything at this time other than we should expect about a .700 OPS and see what happens. The offense is supposed to come from Montero, but our young hitting stud did not have a good spring training, although he hit better than anyone else who would be our backup (Romine, Gustavo Molina) the Yanks will probably send him down to get into a groove before bringing him back up. Montero looks to be the past of an excellent hitter and I would not let the spring training change my overall view; this means I would probably bring him north with the club and let him start getting acclimated to the club. However, his defense is not strong so some more work would be OK and getting his batting stroke going with a lot of AB’s makes sense also; tough call that is hard to take a absolute stance on, but I slightly lean toward bringing him north with the club and this is mostly because the backup options are worse. The latest feeling is Molina (the one who got 7 AB’s with Boston last year) would be the backup and probably rarely play. He would only be there if Martin got hurt. Martin is a horse so he will probably play almost every day if Montero is down in the minors. If Montero is sent down, I would not be surprised if it is just for a month. This would give the Yanks another year of control of him. Montero looks the part of a very solid major league hitter and if he is sent down I think he will be back in May if not sooner.
1st base: Texiera will once again man this area. After a .948 OPS in his first year with the Yanks, Tex had his worst offensive year of his career (not counting his rookie year). His .846 was 67 points below his career OPS which is now .913. Tex has become much more pull happy, especially from the left side of the plate, but I expect him to make adjustments and get his OPS up back close to that .900 mark again…
2nd base: What can I say about Cano that I haven’t said already? I made very bold predictions about him the last 2 years and he hit both of them (after his OPS of 715 in 2008). His OPS was .915 last year and it is hard to predict an uptick from here, but is surely would not surprise me. His wrists and hands are as good as you can see. His mental game is the part that still has some room to improve. His ability to hit anything hurts him because he thinks he can swing at everything. His ability to lay off the bad pitches is the only think stopping him from breaking the .950 and then 1.000 area of OPS. His rise in walks and thus better control of his “I am going to swing at this pitch no matter what” is the reason his OPS was over .900 for the first time in his career. I still think Cano can see a little increase in his OPS this year; around .925.
SS: Jeter is back and after a very weak hitting year had a slight change in his batting approach. His .710 OPS was very poor and I was expecting them to stop his swaying of his bat before the pitch, but they have not done that. They did shorten (almost stop) his step during the pitch and this will help with all the movement he had but I was very surprised they didn’t calm his bat down like the Yanks did for Granderson, Swisher and even ARod. While Jeter’s defense will be worse this year, I am looking for the 36 year old to bounce back with an OPS around 40-50 points higher than last year. Some people think he is what he is now, but he is going through an adjustment that older players have to do and last year was a little farther of a drop than one could have expected. In 2008, Jeter had an OPS of .771, I see Jeter more like that than last year or 2009.
3rd Base: Like Jeter, I expect ARod to have a bounce back year also, but unlike Jeter, I expect a full bounce back from ARod. His relaxed bat really suits him well. He is over his hip injury and was able to work out all off season. I know ARod is a lightning rod for people, but he guy works as hard as anyone and I always felt he stood and took the heat when he didn’t do well. I was almost by myself in my support of ARod when everyone said how un-clutch he was. Well I have discussed that to death, but his postseason OPS is higher than his regular season OPS so hopefully people now realize that if the poster child for “un-clutch” is not un-clutch, perhaps people will realize the truth that players at this level really don’t have an issue with pressure, they have dealt with it their whole lives and if there is a rare exception the entire clutch and un-clutch discussion is blown way out of proportion. So what do I expect from ARod? I think a mid .900’s of OPS is in line. I see ARod increasing his OPS by about 100 points this year. I have very high expectations of him this year.
So, looking at the infield and DH, we have one position where the offense will be weaker (catching) and I see improvement every where else; slightly at DH and 2nd base, decent amount at SS and 1B and then a large increase at 3rd base.
All predictions are assuming no large injuries, but one has to assume normal dings and bruises.
Feel free to comment!