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Louis DiLullo

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LDILULLO@AOL.COM

 

Are The 2014 Yankees 10-Games Better Than Last Year?

You Bet They Are!

 

Last season, the New York Yankees were able to win 85 games with a team mostly filled with second string, AAA, and AA players. Think back for a bit. The 2013 Yankees never really had a catcher, a first baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, and a centerfielder that could do anything offensively. Injuries to Francisco Cervelli, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson, crippled the "Bombers" chances of making the post-season. Things got so bad for the Yanks, that even their substitutes saw long stretches of time on the disabled list. The fact that the Yankees won 85 games last season, is still astounding to me.

This past off-season, Brian Cashman and the Yankee brass got to work, and rebuilt this team into what I believe will be a world series contender. The idea that many of the "experts" out there are picking the Yanks to win only 86 games, is laughable to me. As the team is constituted, just days before the season is about to begin, I feel this Yankee team is at least 8-10 games better than last season's seemingly always depleted squad.

Let's take a closer look at the new and improved 2014 New York Yankees


PTICHING ROTATION:

1) CC Sabathia (L)
2) Hiroki Kuroda (R)
3) Ivan Nova (R)
4) Masahiro Tanaka (R)
5) Michael Pineda (R)

Though the Yankees lost Andy Pettitte from last year's rotation, the 2014 starting staff looks to be very solid, and if Tanaka, Pineda, and Nova pitch like they did in the spring, the Yankees will have one the top staffs in the majors. CC Sabathia looks like he has found a way to pitch without an over-powering fastball, and you can bet the Yankees will keep a close eye on Hiroki Kuroda's work load. Due to the lack of offense last season, Kuroda pitched deep into many close games, and it took its toll on him the last month of the season as he completely ran out of gas.

Of course, all eyes will be on Tanaka. How can one guess on how a 24-0 record in Japan will translate in the majors? I watched him very closely this spring and can say one thing is for sure, he is no Kei Igawa. Look, the guy knows how to pitch. He has poise, and he knows what he is doing on the mound. He moves the ball around the zone well, and can throw all his pitches for strikes. His "out" pitch is his devastating splitter. It is as good as advertised. Tanaka's success will depend on how he can get ahead of good major league hitters so he can effectively use the splitter. In a few outings, I saw him lay the ball over the plate early on in the count. He's not going to be able to get away with that with stacked lineups. Masahiro will learn what he can and can't get away with as he gains experience in this league. That said, this guy is going to be very, very good.

While Tanaka got most of the publicity in the spring, I feel the star of the staff in Tampa was Michael Pineda. This guy has nasty stuff, and he looks like a very confident competitor on the mound. It's always tough coming back from a shoulder injury, but all signs this spring say Pineda is ready to become a real contributor to the Yankee starting staff.

What I love about the Yankees rotation right now is, if all goes the best it can, any one of these guys can be a number one on this staff. No longer do the Yankees have an "aging" rotation, as Nova (27), Tanaka(25), and Pineda (25) are all entering their prime years.


BULLPEN:

1) David Robertson (Closer)
2) Shawn Kelly (Setup man)
3) Dellin Betances (R)
4) Matt Thornton (L)
5) Vidal Nuno (L)
6) David Phelps (R)
7) Adam Warren (R)

When the best closer ever retires from your team, the bullpen has to be question mark for the next season. This is exactly the case for the Yankees. Look, there never will be another Mariano Rivera. Just like there will never be another Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. David Robertson is not Mariano Rivera, and fans should not expected him to be. Robertson is a very good pitcher, who I feel (because he can strike people out) will be successful in the closer's role. We really don't have a track record on David, so there has to be questions concerning how good he will be closing out games. I hope the Yankees and Yankee fans will give this guy a chance, as it is never easy replacing a legend.

Robertson is not the only question mark in the pen. As a matter of fact, there are concerns with all these guys. Keep your eye on Dellin Betances. He had a great spring, and he is showing a very lively arm. Phelps and Warren add great protection if one of the starters goes down with an injury. Like Robertson and Betances, Shawn Kelly has a power arm. Again, we do not have a track record on how he can handle the setup role, but I love power arms in a pen. The fact that Yanks now have two lefty arms in the bullpen pleases me, but I have concerns about Matt Thornton, who had a very poor spring. Vidal Nuno can play a vital role on this team. Like the other Yankee young arms, he shows no fear on the mound, and has very good stuff.

POSITION PLAYERS:

C) Brian McCann
1B) Mark Teixeira
2B) Brian Roberts
SS) Derek Jeter
3B) Kelly Johnson
LF) Brett Gardner
CF) Jacoby Ellsbury
RF) Carlos Beltran
DH) Alfonso Soriano

With the loss of Robinson Cano to Seattle, the Yankees had to find some offense, not only to offset the loss of their best hitter, but to upgrade a run scoring challenged team. With the additions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, Brian Cashman succeeded in upgrading an area which sunk the team last season. When you add a full year of having Alfonso Soriano in your lineup, along with the versatile, Brett Gardner, to the new additions, the Yankees now boast 5 very good hitters in their every day batting order.

The already improved lineup can be a great one if Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira can return to form. Teixeira is going to be a huge key for the Yankees this year. Mark has to find his power stroke in order for the Yankee lineup to become an elite one. Coming off a wrist injury is very tough, and that's why there are questions about how much Teixeira can help the Yankees. With weak bats at second and third, and Jeter coming back from an ankle injury, "Tex" has to carry the infield load at the plate. As far as Derek Jeter goes, no one should doubt what this guy can do. If he is healthy, the Yankees will be just fine batting Jeter second in this order.

The new additions are really going to help the Yankees. Ellsbury's speed coupled with Gardner's, should enable the Yanks to "steal" runs when they have to. Jacoby will also love hitting in 81 games at Yankee Stadium. Those long flies he used to hit in Fenway to right and right center field are going to be homers in New York. Look for McCann's power numbers to also rise in the Bronx, as will Beltran's.

Another feature I love about this lineup is Joe Girardi now has three (Beltran, Teixeira, Roberts) switch hitters starting every day.


BENCH:

The Yankees found themselves full of catching talent this spring. Francisco Cervelli, who had a great spring, will be McCann's backup. In the minors, the Yankees have Austin Romine, John Ryan Murphy, and Gary Sanchez. Romine and Murphy both showed they can step in, if any injury sidelines either McCann or Cervelli. They, along with Sanchez, can be used as trade bait if the Yankee need to upgrade any one of their questionable positions.

As of this preseason writing, Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano will see some time in the outfield. If an injury occurs, you may see the Yankees call up Zoilo Almonte.

The Yankees plan to have backup infielders, Brendan Ryan, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte, and Eduardo Nunez at the ready in order to rest Jeter, and spell Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts at times.


SURPRISING NAMES WE MAY HERE FROM DURING THE SEASON:

The Yankees may get help from the following pitchers during the 2014 season.

Andrew Bailey
Alfredo Aceves
Shane Greene
Manny Banuelos


RECAP:

The question here is simple. Are the 2014 New York Yankees better than the 2013 team which posted 85 wins? I believe Brian Cashman's off-season moves, coupled with a healthy Michael Pineda, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira, do make the Yankees better than last year's 85 win team. The starting pitching looks very strong and deep, and that is very important in posting high win totals. I say, as constructed now, and even with questions marks at various positions, this team is at least 8-10  games better than last years team. My win total for the Yankees will be 95 games, which will be 10 games better than last year, and enough to win the Eastern Division.

Projected Order Of Finish:

1) New York
2) Tampa
3) Baltimore
4) Toronto
5) Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yankeetradition.com is site for Yankee diehards that embrace the past with the present. It is in no way affiliated with the New York Yankee Baseball Club. All comments or suggestions may be sent to ldilullo@aol.com. Yes that's me, a Yankee fan since 1967 who has seen the likes of Celerino Sanchez,  Charlie Spikes, Jimmy Lyttle, and Walt "NoNeck"Williams. Yes, thank God for the George Steinbrenner era!

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