The 2015 MLB season is here and Yankees fans need a reality check. Haters unite, as it may be a long season in the Bronx. It’s the ceiling or the floor for these New York Yankees.
Complaining of homerism and bias in baseball is so 2010. Get with the program. Things these days are all about analytics and statistics.
Despite that, anyone from the most Charles-Barkleyish haters of sports analytics to Nate Silver himself can see that the Yankees’ problem this year will have nothing to do with math and numbers unless the number is the amount of DL days. New York’s newest starter is now among the hurt as well as Didi Gregorius sprained his wrist. Does this team really have a likely outcome? To me, it’s just ceiling and floor and nothing in between.
This is going to be sad and uncomfortable, but I want to go through this roster and see where the positives lie. Let’s begin.
C – Brian McCann – a good catcher and receiver who should bounce back at the plate this season.
1B – Mark Teixeira – a rapidly declining bat and glove with tremendous injury risk and little upside at age 34.
2B – Stephen Drew – good bounce-back candidate at the plate and a good defender. Not hard to bounce back from batting .150 though.
SS – Didi Gregorius – good defender with good speed and no pop. Assuming his wrist heals, he should be healthy but may not remain in the lineup anyway if he doesn’t hit.
3B – Chase Headley – solid all-around player who should bring good but not great production all year.
LF – Brett Gardner – Okay defender and questionable power source with very good speed and little injury history.
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury – Great upside if he can get on the field. He says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but he hasn’t even taken batting practice in weeks.
RF – Carlos Beltran – Very poor defender at his advanced age. The bat should be okay when it’s in the lineup.
DH – Garrett Jones and Alex Rodriguez – Neither one has much more than 20-home run potential here.
SP – It’s been dissected. Every starter in the top six is a huge injury risk with the exception of Nathan Eovaldi who is just a production question mark. The front few guys could be Cy Young contenders though if they get 30+ starts.
RP – The back-end should be fine with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. The middle is a question for every team until you see how guys are throwing because relievers are so volatile.
The Yankees have a couple young infielders who could be in the mix for playing time. They have Chris Young as a fourth outfielder who hasn’t batted above .260 in a season, well, ever!
The bottom line is the surest things on New York are slightly above average, nice players like Headley and McCann. I’m not sure how you see a sudden rise in Gardner’s game at age 31 when his steals have dropped precipitously since 2011, and he had 23 career home runs in six seasons before last year.
Unless everyone avoids long DL stints (after the players already primed to hit the disabled list recover of course), I’m worried about a last-place finish. Of course, if the health fairy smiles down upon us, it’s playoff time! So there it is, ceiling or floor with no in-between.
We certainly agree on one thing, it’s the ceiling or floor with no in-between for the 2015 Yankees. Although I’ve rooted for the New York Jets my entire life and am intimately familiar with this boom or bust phenomena, I have a hard time accepting the bust potential of our Yankees.
The Jets bust a lot. No matter how positive I feel about the team entering a new NFL season, the Jets often bust. They also love to settle in that in-between area. But the Yankees? The Yankees rarely bust, trending towards the boom that propels them into the post season at the very least. Yet reality is finally here. The Yankees have been old for years and the writing was on the wall for a bottom out scenario.
We debated at the end of last season whether or not the 2015 Yankees would be rebuilding. This team, as you so honestly outlined, is not a rebuild by any means. Rebuilding teams have youth. Rebuilding teams are growing. The Yankees roster, on paper, looks like a bunch of bold question marks from players we used to know.
Now that I got my pessimism out of the way (you sucked me down the rabbit hole), let me tell you where you’re wrong. It is not impossible, nor is it improbable, for players to improve into their 30’s. It’s true that the physical peak has passed, but this is baseball, not football or basketball. Baseball is a game of technique, mind over matter, and patience. All of that can improve with age.
I see both Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira vastly improving this season. Have you seen Tex lately? I watched him in an interview on Mike & Mike early this year and wow. He’s a new man. Mark slimmed down, muscled up, and is living a healthy and powerful lifestyle. He’s relaxed and knows he has a lot to prove to the league. I fully expect that this is his season to break back out. Teixeira is due for one of those years. He was too good for too long to not bounce back eventually.
Every team’s success hinges on injury, but its infinitely more glaring with the Yankees. The Red Sox went from worst, to first, to worst, to first over several seasons in no small part due to injuries. New York over achieved last year, despite itself. Yet the team still missed the post season. Over achieving again this year will yield a playoff appearance.
Baseball managers are often overlooked, but give Joe Girardi some credit. Give GM Brian Cashman some credit as well. They can keep the Yankees afloat in 2015 and keep them successful. It may be a floor or ceiling situation, but with everyone including their biggest fans expecting them to fall on that floor, I expect the Yankees to do the opposite.
Photo credits: nesn.com and MLB