Monday, March 9, 2009

How Baltimore Can Win The East '09: The Case Against The Yankees

Oh, this will be fun...

1. A-Rod!

A-Rod's hip surgery made this post so much easier to write...

Alex Rodriguez is out until at least the end of May (edit: maybe not) and is the best bat offensive player on the team. Even if A-Rod guts it out, you can't mask a hip injury. He will probably be a diminished player when he returns. This hurts the Yanks more than they would want to admit; only Mark Teixeira could reasonable hit at A-Rod levels during any given season. And as I've said before (and I saw him up close here in Atlanta for a season), Teixeira is not the kind of player who can carry a team alone.

Right now, the Yankees third baseman would be Cody Ransom, a 33 year old journeyman with 183 career major league at bats and a .242 career minor league batting average. Just a bit of a dropoff there.

2. Posada!

Jorge Posada can't catch anymore. Who are they kidding? He's 37 with a bum elbow. He can't throw runners out anymore. If I were Dave Trembley, I'd be stealing second with every player faster than Gregg Zaun during that opening series.

He's a hitter is steep decline. He'll be lucky to hit at league average. And behind him is Jose Molina. Molina has a decent glove but not a great arm and no bat at all.

Posada will will contribute to...

3. The Bad Defense Up The Middle

Posada has been covered. Robinson Cano is a butcher at second. Derek Jeter lives off a reputation but hasn't been a great defensive shortstop in over 10 years. I don't care if you dive for the ball or not Derek; the net result is usually a single to left anyway. Melky Cabrera's defensive prowess is grossly overstated; he is a below-average centerfielder by any reputable defensive metric. Brett Gardner is a great fielder but the fans will never allow his bat (a .250-ish batting average by CHONE and MARCEL projections) is the lineup. These are not patient people. They'll boo him off the field.

In addition, Xavier Nady is just average in right and A-Rod is just average at third. Only Johnny Damon in left and Teixeira at first will be plus defenders.

4. The Elderly...

...swinging the bats. Robinson Cano will be 26 (we think), Melky Cabrera will be 24 (Brett Gardner is 25) and Mark Teixeira will be 29 in 2009. Those are the only position players who will be under 30.

Xavier Nady is 30, A-Rod is 33 (when he actually plays), Jose Molina is 34, Jeter, Damon and Matsui will be 35 and Jorge Posada will be 37.

Excessive age is not good for a club. Player's begin to decline or physically breakdown (see A-Rod now or Posada last season). Don't expect this offense to be some juggernaut. It'll be good but probably not great.

5. Robinson Cano...Hurt or Declining?

Cano's production has always been closely tied to his average (he has never walked more than 39 times in a season) and last year that production fell off a cliff.

What is interesting about this is what pitchers were doing to him in 2009. Were they throwing him a bunch of breaking stuff, getting him to chase outside of the zone? No, they were throwing him more fastballs and cutters than ever before.

The percentage of fastballs thrown to Cano went up from 55.9% to 63.2%. Cutters increased from 2.8% to 3.7% (and the amount of cutters thrown to Cano has increased every season...). They treated him like a rookie. He seems unable to catch up to any pitch approaching 90 mph.

Something's wrong there and and it can't be good...


The Yankees have some glaring problems (I didn't even get into the rotation that, despite all the money spent, could be very average after C.C. Sabathia) , mostly revolving around age and injury of their position players. But the Yankee's deep pockets and willingness to trade their prospects at the drop of a hat allow them to address these issues mid-season. Still, if a few bad breaks happen during the same season, the Yanks may have to blow up the team, save for the recently signed core, and start reloading for 2010 instead.


Anonymous said...

Hey. Great post.

Hate that comment over there from Tex. though.

The Yankees are not the power-house anymore.
A-Rod has a black cloud over him.

Orioles also need to contend with Tampa. They have always had a number, even when they weren't good. And then of course, the Red Sox.

Love that you focused on the decline of the evil empire though!

Oriole Fan from New York said...

ORIOLE FAN FROM NEW YORK! I've been bleeding Orange and Black since 1971, and always will. I love my Orioles, My Colts, and My Bullets/Wizards. I grew up in Brewster, NY, but I chose to root for The Baltimore teams since i was six years old. I still root for all three team: The Orioles The Colts, and The Bullets/Wizards. I'll see everyone for all three games on Opening day week. I'll be there at Yankee Stadium too, when our Birds invade their new stadium. GO ORIOLES!