Conventional wisdom says Yanks team to beat
December, 23, 2008
And just like that, the equation has changed. Just like that, the conventional wisdom is now going to be that the Yankees are the team to beat. You know what, though? I'm here to tell you that the conventional wisdom is, as usual, exactly right. Of course the Yankees are the team to beat. The Yankees won 89 games this past season, and they've added the best pitcher in the majors and the second-best first baseman. They're also likely to get more production next year from Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada, and Chien-Ming Wang is probably going to (roughly) double his eight wins of this year. And what have they lost? They've lost Mike Mussina, with Andy Pettitte perhaps to follow. We should not minimize their absences, but at the same time should note that many of the innings pitched last season by Darrell Rasner (5-10, 5.40 ERA), Sidney Ponson (4-4, 5.85), Ian Kennedy (0-4, 8.17) and Phil Hughes (0-4, 6.62) will be replaced by those of A.J. Burnett, who went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA as a Blue Jay. It's worth reviewing in detail: In 2008, Kennedy and Hughes combined to start 17 games, and the Yankees lost 12 of them. That simply won't happen again. Even if Kennedy and/or Hughes are pressed into duty again, it's exceptionally unlikely that either will pitch so poorly again. Possible problems for the Yankees? Good luck. They're not likely to have much speed in the outfield, and the bullpen may be a little soft after the top three, especially from the left side (though rookie Phil Coke was fantastic in September). But when your biggest problem is that you've got too many hitters, you're probably in good shape. A week ago, the Yankees were merely another of the fine teams in the American League East, no worse but no better than the Red Sox or the Rays. Today, though? If you pride yourself on holding unconventional views, then by all means, you should predict one of those other teams will win the East. Just don't bet good money on it.