How Much Better Are the Yankees Compared to Last Year?

The 2013 edition of the New York Yankees had one of the worst offenses in franchise history. They hit just .242 as a team and put up their lowest run total in a non-strike year since 1991.

This winter, the Yankees have had more roster turnover than any other offseason in decades. Robbie Cano and Alex Rodriguez are gone. Derek Jeter is the last of the Core Four. New faces are here, including the fierce bulldog catcher Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, who will man a newly rebuilt outfield.

But how much better are they? Let’s take a look. These projections are from FanGraphs.com so they probably won’t entirely be accurate, especially in January.

Infield-

2013 results:

1B Lyle Overbay- .240/.295/.393/.688, 87 OPS+, 14 HR, 24 2B, 59 RBI, 0.0 WAR

2B Robinson Cano- .314/.383/.516/.899, 145 OPS+, 27 HR, 41 2B, 107 RBI, 6.0 WAR

3B Jayson Nix- .236/.308/.311/.619, 71 OPS+, 3 HR, 9 2B, 24 RBI, 0.7 WAR

SS Eduardo Nunez- .260/.307/.372/.679, 86 OPS+, 3 HR, 28 RBI, -1.4 WAR

2014 projection:

1B Mark Teixeira- .247/.341/.465/.806, .350 wOBA, 26 HR, 78 RBI, 2.3 WAR

2B Brian Roberts- .251/.314/.379/.692, .306 wOBA, 25 XBH, 29 RBI, 0.7 WAR

3B Kelly Johnson- .231/.311/.393/.704, .311 wOBA, 38 XBH, 53 RBI, 1.4 WAR

SS Derek Jeter- .281/.339/.376/.715, .317 wOBA, 23 XBH, 49 R, 1.3 WAR

Thoughts: Last year, it was just Robinson Cano and a load of nothing with Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, and Teixeira hurt. This year, Cano and A-Rod are gone, but Jeter and Teixeira are back. Only question is how many games Jeter can actually play at short, because the dude is going to be 40 in June. Brendan Ryan is a fantastic backup. As long as his wrist is healthy, Tex should have no problem eclipsing 25 homers, really should get to 30 and closer to 100 RBI. He’s still only 34.

Now, the real problem is second and third. Replacing Cano is impossible, but how many games can the Yankees get out of Brian Roberts? He’s played just 192 games in the last four seasons. Kelly Johnson has played just 16 games at third in his career. But hey, third base was already a blackhole last year and Johnson is certainly an upgrade over the likes of Jayson Nix and the rest of that revolving door.

Outfield:

2013 results: 

LF Vernon Wells- .233/.282/.349/.631, 72 OPS+, 11 HR, 50 RBI, -0.8 WAR

CF Brett Gardner- .273/.344/.416/.759, 108 OPS+, 52 RBI, 24/32 SB, 3.2 WAR

RF Ichiro Suzuki- .262/.297/.342/.639, 75 OPS+, 25 XBH, 20/24 SB, 1.1 WAR

2014 projection:

LF Brett Gardner- .260/.342/.381/.724, .322 wOBA, 68 R, 26/35 SB, 1.8 WAR

CF Jacoby Ellsbury- .276/.334/.417/.751, 15 HR, 86 R, 35/47 SB, 3.8 WAR

RF Carlos Beltran- .277/.343/.473/.816, 21 HR, 68 R, 73 RBI, 1.9 WAR

Thoughts: Other than Gardner, the Yankee outfield was also an unmitigated disaster. It got some huge upgrades with Ellsbury and Beltran. I think these projections are bearish on Gardner. He is clearly one of the most undervalued players in the game, at least 3-4 wins in each of his last three full seasons. Beltran will be great. If Ellsbury is healthy, he should be fine and show off the power stroke he had in 2011 and manage to steal bases with ease. Honestly, this OF is fantastic.

Catcher and Designated Hitter:

2013 results:

C Chris Stewart- .211/.293/.272/.566, 57 OPS+, 10 XBH, 25 RBI, 0.5 WAR

DH Travis Hafner- .202/.301/.378/.679, 85 OPS+, 12 HR, 37 RBI, -0.4 WAR

2014 projections:

C Brian McCann- .255/.334/.452/.786, .340 wOBA, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 3.7 WAR

DH Alfonso Soriano- .238/.293/.434/.727, .315 wOBA, 23 HR, 76 RBI, -0.1 WAR

Thoughts: Going from Chris Stewart to Brian McCann is like the Yankees just got the reincarnation of Yogi Berra. Catcher was one of the biggest blackholes they had. McCann has been arguably the second best catcher in baseball in the last nine years. Soriano will be Soriano: Hot streaks and cold streaks and home runs and strikeouts. He’s still better than Hafner and any right-handed bat the Yankees had before he returned to the Bronx in the July trade with the Cubs.

Bench:

2013 results: A revolving door of garbage. Last year’s team featured scrubs like Reid Brignac, Eduardo Nunez, Brent Lillibridge, Ben Francisco, Kevin Youkilis, Austin Romine, and more.

2014 projections: The Yankees’ bench again looks to be an Achilles’ heel, especially in the infield. You have Brendan Ryan, who can’t hit but is a stellar shortstop. Eduardo Nunez can’t hit, can’t field, can’t throw. As long as McCann is healthy, any of a trio of backup backstops including Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, or J.R. Murphy should be fine.

Starting pitching:

2013 results:

CC Sabathia- 211 IP, 14-13, 4.78 ERA, 85 ERA+, 3.76 xFIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.7 K/BB

Hiroki Kuroda- 201.1 IP, 11-13, 3.31 ERA, 122 ERA+, 3.60 xFIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.5 K/BB

Andy Pettitte- 185.1 IP, 11-11, 3.74 ERA, 108 ERA+, 3.88 xFIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.7 K/BB

Phil Hughes- 145.2 IP, 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 78 ERA+, 4.39 xFIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.9 K/BB

Ivan Nova- 139.1 IP, 9-6, 3.10 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.68 xFIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.6 K/BB)

2014 projections:

CC Sabathia- 207 IP, 3.87 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.9 WAR

Hiroki Kuroda- 191 IP, 3.95 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.4 WAR

Masahiro Tanaka- 200 IP, 3.72 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 3.9 WAR

Ivan Nova- 168 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.8 WAR

Thoughts- Obviously the 5th starter has yet to be determined. It will likely come down to between David Phelps, Adam Warren, or Michael Pineda, or even somebody still on the free agent market. I think Sabathia will bounce back and have a good enough season. I’m more worried about Kuroda, as the to-be 39 year-old has slumped towards the end of the year last two seasons due to fatigue and innings. But overall, I think this could be a very good rotation.

Relief Pitching:

2013 results: Mariano Rivera excelled in his final season. David Robertson continued to be one of the elite relievers in the game. Shawn Kelley was inconsistent but struck batters out at a ridiculous rate. Joba Chamberlain of course, stunk and is now gone. Boone Logan was ok but he also left. Preston Claibourne at times looked good but fell apart in the waning weeks.

2014 projections: It looks like Robertson will be the new closer for the New York Yankees. Other than that, the bullpen is currently a mystery. Matt Thornton is the new lefty specialist, but other than that? Question marks. You could have guys like Kelley, David Phelps, and P Claibourne step up. But there are also plenty of options waiting in Triple-A, such as Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, and Jose Ramirez. Joe Girardi’s greatest strength as a manager is his handling of the bullpen, unlike his predecessor. He always has somebody step up.

Offensive Totals:

2013 results: .242/.307/.376/.683, 87 OPS+, 144 HR, 4.01 R/G (10th in AL), 10.4 WAR

2014 projections: .256/.324/.406/.730, .320 wOBA, 159 HR, 4.33 R/G  19.4 WAR

Pitching Totals:

2013 results: 1447.1 IP, 3.94 ERA (8th in AL), 103 ERA+, 7.7 K/9, 18.4 WAR

2014 projections: 1458 IP, 3.88 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 7.5 K/9, 19.8 WAR

Now, that isn’t all that bad on paper? This Yankee lineup has a lot of potential to wreck havoc on the AL. They’re a bit more well-balanced having both Gardner and Ellsbury providing the speed. You got right-handed and switch-hitting power in the middle of the order in Beltran, Tex, and Soriano, something the Yankees were deprived all of 2013.

Also, their rotation looks a lot better this year, especially if Sabathia rebounds, Nova continues his renaissance, and Tanaka pays off.

But, this ship also can go down in flames because of age and fragility. Jeter and Beltran are not getting any younger and had recent injuries that threatened both careers. Teixeira is an old 34 coming off wrist surgery. Roberts and Ellsbury, famously, are made of glass. The bullpen could still be a big issue all season.

Granted, it’s still only January, and another free agent signing or trade (Stephen Drew?) could shake things up yet again. Things may just fall into place on their own.

Honestly, if that Red Sox team last year could win it all, there’s absolutely no reason why this Yankees team can’t simply make the playoffs.

NFL Conference Championship Picks and Predictions

Last Week: 2-2

On the Season: 152-111-1 (5-3 in the postseason)

 

AFC Championship:

Match-up: #2 New England Patriots (12-4) @ #1 Denver Broncos (13-3)

Time: 3:00PM on CBS

Line: DEN by 6 (OVER)

Score prediction: DEN 31- NE 21

Why: In Denver, can the Patriots’ 26th ranked defense stop arguably the greatest offense in NFL history? They have play-makers that could make Peyton choke, but other than that, Brady is going to have to outduel him again for him to advance to his 6th Super Bowl appearance in 13 years. I think Tommy Boy will have a great game against a swiss-cheese Denver secondary, especially with DB Chris Harris done for the year. But it’s hard to say the Pats will be able to run the ball this time. The Broncos rush defense was 8th best in the league.

 

NFC Championship

Match-up: #5 San Francisco 49ers (12-4) @ #1 Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

Time: 6:30PM on Fox

Line: SEA by 4

Score prediction: SEA 23 – SF 13

Why: CenturyLink Field has been a real house of horrors for the 49ers over the past decade. Under Kaepernick they’ve gotten dismantled last two times there. That menacing Seattle secondary will give Davis, Boldin, and Crabtree fits. Not having Harvin will be a problem for Wilson,  It could end up coming down to which young QB can make the biggest plays with their legs, but also could end up being a competition between running games, Lynch vs. Gore. I think Seattle’s homefield advantage will again be too much for San Fran.

So that’ll set up the matchup I’ve penciled in since July: Seattle vs. Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

In a league of phonies and liars, Bud Selig is baseball’s biggest fraud

This is what separates reality from the movies: Sometimes there are no good guys; everyone is the bad guy. That is evident in the saga of Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball. The BioGenesis War took a step towards conclusion, as the arbitrator held up Rodriguez’s suspension throughout the entire 2014 season on Saturday. The ban could very well end A-Rod’s career.

For some reason, the mainstream media is labeling the decision as a “victory for baseball, and a victory for commissioner Bud Selig”. This idea that Major League Baseball is somehow heroic in defeating Rodriguez is very misguided. If anything, baseball comes off even worse than A-Rod now.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes did a piece on the entire case, interviewing BioGenesis founder Anthony Bosch, Rodriguez’s lawyer Joe Tacopina, MLB COO Rob Manfred, and briefly Bud Selig. Bosch claims he injected A-Rod with several illegal substances, but also injected him with substances that helped Rodriguez pass several league mandated drug tests.

Rodriguez’s lawyers have claimed that MLB bought off stolen evidence with cash, which is a crime in the state of Florida. They threatened lawsuits against Bosch and everyone else. In fact, Bosch is now on baseball’s payroll, despite the fact he sold drugs to its own players.

How are Selig and MLB allowed to get away with this? They are not the FBI. The government should not allow them to deal with criminals just to pursue vigilante justice. Witch hunt or no, it is completely unethical the way they have dealt with the situation and I am shocked that absolutely nobody is questioning MLB’s tactics (well, other than Mike Francesa). Instead, like the article I linked above, they’re doing total P.R. spins for the commissioner.

Why didn’t Selig testify in the Rodriguez hearing? He lead the entire investigation with Manfred. The arbitrator should have forced him to make an appearance. Rodriguez is in the wrong, but he had all the odds stacked against him and the house is corrupt.

But do you know why baseball did all this? To save face, of course. Only explanation. With Selig retiring after the 2014 season, he’s even considering doing a farewell tour around a’ la Mariano Rivera. He’s going to walk away with the appearance of a hero, when he just got away with total corruption.

But the fact is this: Selig has done more to catalyze the spread of performance enhancement drugs throughout baseball.

The game was saved by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s juiced home run race three years after the end of the strike, but they ignored and blackballed the reporter who found andro in Mark McGwire’s locker. They profited from Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds breaking records in what should have been their career twilights. The players union ignored the warnings of Rick Helling of the steroid culture.

Selig never did a thing about steroids until he was finally pressed by Congress to take action. That wonderful drug testing system that was claimed to be the toughest out of any sports league in North America is apparently a total joke, if Bosch’s claims are true. They are likely even more players still juicing, and that’s been clear as day right when this scandal first broke.

You know what? Baseball had it out for Alex Rodriguez, even if he is a liar and a fraud. They made an example out of him to save face. Now they’re doing their victory laps with the 60 Minutes appearance and soon with Selig’s inevitable farewall.

Selig celebrated Sosa and McGwire and Bonds, but is now damning Alex Rodriguez just two and a half months after hugging fellow cheat and World Series MVP David Ortiz.

In a league of phonies and liars, Bud Selig is baseball’s biggest fraud.

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Picks

 

Last Week: 3-1

On the Season: 150-109-1 (.579)

Saturday:

4:35PM on Fox

#1 Seattle Seahawks (13-3) over #6 New Orleans Saints (11-5) (SEA by 10, UNDER)

Score: 31-23

Why: The two teams are pretty even. The difference is the homefield. If this were in New Orleans, I’d pick the Saints. But I can’t say they’re really due for a win in Seattle after being shell-shocked there twice in the last few seasons. The Hawks are 15-1 at home since last year. It’ll be a good game, but if it gets close, New Orleans could get stunned again.

 

8:15PM on CBS

#4 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) over #2 New England Patriots (12-4) (NE by 8, UPSET)

Score: 30-21

Why: The Patriots have pulled off so many close games this year. They really should have won nine or 10 games this year, especially the way Tom Brady played in the first half of the season. I have a hard time seeing a mediocre Patriots defense stopping Andrew Luck, whose Colts have a team of destiny look on them. Both quarterbacks should be able to move the ball. If it gets close, both teams have the QB to pull it off.

 

Sunday:

1:05PM on Fox

#2 Carolina Panthers (12-4) over #5 San Francisco 49ers (12-4) (SF by 1, UPSET)

Score: 17-10

Why: The Panthers beat the Niners in San Fran 10-9 back in November. Any reason this should be any different on the east coast, at an earlier time? Both teams have two of the best defenses in the league and are led by two talented yet erratic quarterbacks. Personally, I’ll take the team with the more reliable, stronger quarterback and that is Cam Newton. Oh, and the Panthers defense is arguably better.

 

4:40PM on CBS

#1 Denver Broncos (13-3) over #6 San Diego Chargers (9-7) (DEN by 9, OVER)

Score: 34-20

Why: San Diego already beat the Broncos in Denver last month, but I think Peyton Manning has that, and last year’s playoff loss to Baltimore in mind. The Chargers’ defense won’t hold him this time. Philip Rivers will keep it close, but it won’t be enough.

Which leaves my conference championship picks at:

AFC: #4 Indianapolis @ #1 Denver

NFC: #2 Carolina @ #1 Seattle

Right on schedule

NFL Playoff and Super Bowl Picks

Yup, it’s that time of the year again. NFL playoffs!

Yup, we’re talking about playoffs.

Last Week: 12-4

On the Season: 147-108-1 (.576)

First Round:

AFC:

#4 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) over #5 Kansas City Chiefs (11-5), 24-16 (KC by 1, UPSET)

Why: After starting 9-0 the Chiefs lost five of their final seven games of the season, including a Week 16 loss at home to these same Colts. They have their fair share of injuries. I trust Andrew Luck much more than I do Alex Smith, especially at Indianapolis.

#6 San Diego Chargers (9-7) over #3 Cincinnati Bengals (11-5), 34-28 (CIN by 7, UPSET)

Why: The Bengals may be 8-0 at home this season, but Marvin Lewis is 0-4 as Cincinnati’s coach. Even in the cold, I feel San Diego has a big advantage on offense, as I trust Philip Rivers more than Andy Dalton, who has 20 interceptions and has been inconsistent this year, often looking elite and often looking just awful. The Bengals defense has yet to play an offense as potent as the Chargers.

NFC:

#3 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) over #6 New Orleans Saints (11-5), 37-30 (PHI by 3, OVER)

Why: This is a very hard game to pick. The Eagles have struggled against quarterbacks like Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton. Philly is just 4-4 at home, but they’ve won their last four there. New Orleans is a totally different team playing outside vs at the Superdome. The Saints are a better team than the Eagles, but the game being in freezing Philadelphia makes a huge difference. If the Birds jump out early, the ‘Aints could get rattled.

#5 San Francisco 49ers (12-4) over #4 Green Bay Packers (8-7-1), 20-13 (SF by 3, OVER)

Why: The weather is going to be a huge factor, as temperatures will drop to historical levels at Lambeau. The Packers have managed to balance their offense with a strong running game and Aaron Rodgers is back. Still, San Francisco’s defense is going to be too much, even in this weather. They can stop just about anyone.

Conference Championships:

AFC: Denver Broncos over Indianapolis Colts

Why: The Colts are a special team. They just have a never-say-die attitude under Andrew Luck, which is why I like them to beat Kansas City today and defeat the overrated Patriots next week, only to fall to the man they let go after 14 years. The Broncos offense is nearly unstoppable.

NFC: Seattle Seahawks over Carolina Panthers

Why: The Panthers are a fun team to watch. Their defense is something to behold and Cam Newton is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. The home-field advantage of Seattle will be too much for both San Francisco and Carolina, and they will clinch their second trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.

Super Bowl XLVIII:

Denver Broncos over Seattle Seahawks

Score: 35-30

MVP: QB Peyton Manning

Nobody is going to stop Peyton Manning. Even with a mediocre defense and a banged-up Wes Welker, it’s #18’s time to return to glory and take his second Super Bowl championship, establishing himself as unquestionably as arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

New Year’s Resolutions for New York’s Teams (Part 2)

2013 was an absolute nightmare for all sports in New York City. That’s pretty hard to do, considering there are nine teams in the area in the big four sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). The Yankees and Mets both missed the playoffs, the Giants and Jets were an embarrassment, the Knicks and Nets were dismissed abruptly in May and now are struggling in a bad East, and all three hockey teams are very mediocre. No championships, just one division title, and five playoff absences.

So, each team has a New Year’s resolution as they all try to build for a better 2014 and try to bring home some championships to the greatest city in the world. I’m concluding with the city’s two MLB teams and two NFL squads.

New York Giants: Get Eli some help!

After a nightmarish 0-6 start, the Giants managed to win seven of their final 10 games to finish 7-9, but they still have plenty of work to do in the offseason. Eli Manning had the worst season of his career, throwing a career high 27 interceptions, but he didn’t get much help. Bad receiver play and a terrible offensive line plagued the Giants offense all season. Those are the keys to their offseason in free agency and the draft, in which, by the way, the Giants will have the 12th overall pick.

Kevin Gilbride is finally gone, so maybe a new offensive coordinator will help Eli bounce back. They aren’t too far from being a playoff team again, especially in the NFC LEast. Shore up the line, new OC, better receivers, and an improved defense will make the Giants contenders again, but that’s a lot, of course.

New York Jets: Offensive talent in the draft and free agency a must

The Jets finished a surprising 8-8 this season, knocking out their arch rivals the Dolphins in Week 17. Many expected them to be one of the worst teams in football this year, and they often looked like it at times thanks to a bad offensive line, a rookie QB, and some of the worst play-making talent you’ll ever see. QB Geno Smith had an up and down rookie campaign, but played well enough near in December to be penciled in as the starter next season, so quarterback isn’t entirely a need this offseason.

Gang Green will have a ton of cap space this year after saying goodbye to Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez, and Antonio Cromartie. This will allow them to be aggressive on the free agent market. Top free agents at the wide receiver position includes Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, and Jeremy Maclin (who could be cheap after missing the whole season with a knee injury)

With the 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Jets should look to bring in some serious offensive talent. There are three potentially dominant receivers that could be available. Mike Evans, Johnny Manziel’s 6’5″ #1 target at Texas A&M, Sammy Watkins, Clemson’s speedster who has caught 80+ passes in two of the last three seasons, and USC’s Marqise Lee, a well-balanced receiver. There should also be some top offensive linemen available, as that area is a need for improvement this spring as well.

New York Mets: No Harvey, no problem?

The Mets’ sole highlight of 2013 will be lost for 2014. Matt Harvey, who started the All-Star Game at Citi Field, had a 2.27 ERA and struck out 191 batters in 178 innings pitched before going down to an injury which required Tommy John surgery. He’ll be out for a year, wasting a year of his prime as well as any chance of the Mets being contenders for at least another year.

Which is a damn shame, because the Mets have made some good moves this moves, signing former Yankee slugger Curtis Granderson and 40 year-old Bartolo Colon to multi-year deals. They have good young players coming up like Zach Wheeler and Travis D’Arnaud. If Harvey was healthy, the Mets may have had a potential playoff team on their hands. Instead, they will try to show some decency and show that they’re serious about building a bright future and win the fans back over. Let’s see if they do show something at all.

New York Yankees: Have good health insurance, maybe?

For the New York Yankees’ standards, 2013 was a total nightmare. Practically every player offense dropped like flies and hit the DL. This caused them to miss the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons. They then watched their arch nemeses in Boston go all the way to win the Fall Classic To make matters even worse, Robinson Cano, the only player that was healthy all year, left for Seattle in December for one of the most lucrative deals in sports history.

So how did they respond to all this embarrassment? By doing what they do best: trying to put the best team on the field using the ultimate superpower of money. They filled a huge void at catcher by signing Brian McCann and filled a black hole in the outfield by signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. They’re not done either, as they’re attempting to fill a need in the rotation in Japanese ace Mashiro Tanaka.

What’s the problem here? Well, all three of the Yankees current big signings have injury histories. Plus, they have to rely on some other injury-prone veterans like a 40 year-old (to be) Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira coming off wrist surgery. A lot has to go right for them, first and foremost the general health of the offense. Maybe they’ll be fine with the launch of ObamaCare. NOT!!!!! (Ok, bad political joke).