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.

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