A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: 4/30-5/2 @ New York, 8/27-8/29 at home
Offense: A potential lineup: Derek Jeter-SS, Nick Johnson-DH, Mark Teixeira-1B, Alex Rodriguez-3B, Robinson Cano-2B, Jorge Posada-C, Curtis Granderson-CF, Nick Swisher-RF, Brett Gardner-LF. Bench: Francisco Cervelli-C, Marcus Thames-UTIL, Randy Winn-OF, Ramiro Pena-INF.
You know what's going to be really fun? Facing the best offense in the American League. That's what happens when only two of your regulars are hitting below average and two more are hitting way over their heads. Its slightly surprising that Jeter has gotten off to such a good start, as he's not drawing walks like he usually does and his BABIP is low for his standards. It doesn't really matter though since as soon as his numbers bounce back to normal, he'll be an even more above-average hitting shortstop. Don't let last year fool you, he's still not good defensively. He's pretty much a sure thing to get his 3,000th career hit in April or May of next season. In a nice coincidence, Nick Johnson returned to the team that drafted him during the same off-season they re-signed the player he was traded for (Javy Vazquez). Despite his atrocious .143 batting average, he still has an OBP of .385 due to already having drawn 20 walks. The hits will start falling, as he can't maintain a .200 BABIP all season, the only question is will this be before or after his nearly annual trip to the 15-day DL. Mark Teixeira is taking his annual April vacation (career .754 OPS). Last season's homerun king has been off to a horrific start, due almost entirely to an ungodly .153 BABIP. His bat will heat up, and he will be a force of nature again once it does. A-Rod already had his batch of controversy for the season, running back to first across the mound. It's like, A-Rod, we want to like you. You're a super-talented freak of nature who may be the best player to ever play our beloved game: STOP ACTING LIKE SUCH A DOUCHE!. A-Rod is off to an okay start, but will post an OPS over .900 before its all said and done.
Robinson Cano has been the main story when it comes to the Yankees' offense. Robby currently has a 1.235 OPS with 8 homers. He's bad defensively and has no chance to keep this hot start up, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him set another career high in homeruns this season. And he was named after the great number 42. Jorge is the other Yank off to a killer start (184 OPS+). His rate stats are all normal other than striking out slightly less. Jorge seems ageless when it comes to hitting. Something tells me he'll surpass his ZiPS prediction of 16 homers. Curtis Grandserson,a local product, seems like he could be next in line to inherit the Jim Thome/Mike Sweeney Nicest Guys in Baseball Crown. King K will always be a strikeout machine who will probably always have difficulties with lefties. Unless he returns to his previous defensive prowess, 3-4 WAR seems to be his ceiling. He'll put up another 20-20 season without doubt. Nick Swisher is still Nick Swisher. He rebounded well from a bad 2008 with us, hitting 29 homeruns with an .869 OPS. He's currently hitting over his head (.321 BABIP) and the days of 30 homer seasons (well, technically season) seem to be behind him. His defense in right is bad. To call Brett Gardner fast would be an insulting understatement. To call him the Flash would be fun hyperbole. I'm going to go with hyperbole. He will never have power, but his ability to get on base at a league-average clip and steal 40+ bases will keep him employed until his legs start going. He played excellent defense in center, so left really shouldn't be a big problem for him.
Pitching: A potential rotation plus closer: CC Sabathia-LHP, A.J. Burnett-RHP, Andy Pettitte-LHP, Javier Vazquez-RHP, Phil Hughes-RHP, and Mariano Rivera-RHP.
Don't let the 3-1 record fool you, Captain Cheeseburger is not off to as hot a start as it may seem. His K/9 is down a bit, his BB/9 is up, his BABIP is an unsustainable .248, and there is no way his HR/9 can stay at .52 pitching in the bandbox that is New Yankee Stadium. The tubby workhorse will most likely crack 220 innings pitched again for the fourth consecutive season. You have to figure it will catch up to him eventually, but probably not for another season or two. He has a good chance of cracking the 200 strikeout plateau as well. He has abandoned his curveball this season, throwing only a low to mid-90s fastball, changeup, and slider. His changeup is his best pitch (22.5wCH last season). Maybe my favorite thing about A.J. Burnett is that other than velocity, his scouting report hasn't change a bit since the day he made the Marlins in 1999. He has great stuff, trouble locating it, and the tendency to miss large chunks of the season. Both his K/9 (5.4) and HR/9 (.27) are due to spike upwards. He throws a powerful mid-90s fastball and a sharp, biting curve. He occasionally mixes in a changeup, but usually sticks to his bread and butter. Andy Pettitte (or Henry Hill as I like to think of him) has pitched like the spirit of Warren Spahn has possessed him. I know its only been 28 innings, but a 313 ERA+ from a 37-year old grabs one's attention. Regression will hit, and once it does Andy will be a slightly above-average lefty again. He has a high-80s fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. His cutter is his best pitch. Javy! Welcome back to the American League! Javy Dent's triumphant return to Gotham has gone about as poorly as possible. You'd expect better from him, coming off the best season of his career and being traded to the reigning World Champs. So far its felt like the last time he dominated the Senior Circuit and became a Bronx Bomber. His BABIP is way too high (.342), as is his BB/9 (4.95). Regression will help, but it would be cathartic to get to add some more ugly numbers to his season totals this weekend. Phil Hughes beat Joba Chamberlain for the last spot in the rotation. Good choice. Hughes is pretty awesome, but won't maintain his current blistering pace. I'm thinking something along the lines of 160-170 IP with 145-165 Ks in his first full season as a big league starter. He throws a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball (in the mid-90s and high-80s respectively), a solid cutter, a knuckle curve, and a changeup. He could develop into one of the premier pitchers in the league over the next few years. I don't know if Mariano Rivera will ever pass Trevor Hoffman in total saves, but he has definitely been the best closer ever. He has just simply been a consistent and dominating force in the 8th and 9th innings over the past 15 years. Its going to be a little sad when Mo retires, as he was the last player to be grandfathered into being able to wear 42 everyday. He almost exclusively lives on his cutter, and when you throw one pitch as well as he does you don't really need anything else.
Outlook: We know that the Yankees are a very good team. We don't really know what we are, other than frustrating. Prediction: 2-4 record this season.