MLB – WHY THE YANKEES WILL WIN THE 2013 AL EAST

A funny thing happened to the American League East division during the off-season.  Suddenly the Toronto Blue Jays became the favorite to take the division from the New York Yankees and win the World Series.

How can that be when in 2012 the Blue Jays finished 22 games behind the Yankees, who incidentally had the best record in the AL?

Of course it had a little something to do with a monster trade the Blue Jays made with the Marlins late last year.  One in which involved a 12 player swap and the Jays acquisition of such high-caliber players as Reyes, Bonifacio, Buehrle, and Johnson .

And then the Blue Jays also picked up the Cy Young winning pitcher R.A. Dickey from the Mets, the last knuckleballer left in the game.  A couple of more additions here and there, and now Toronto looks to compete on the highest level.

But, are they for real?

And, what about the Yankees?  Despite the organization’s cost-cutting measures, are they still viable to make the post-season?

Well, I think it’s going to be darn close.  But, I do feel that Yankees will win the AL East, if the team can stay healthy and intact.  They will duke it out with the Blue Jays and prevail by a slim margin.

I don’t see the Orioles, Red Sox, or Rays any real threat for this division.

My assessment on talent between the teams:

Toronto

Yankees

=

Starting Pitching

Starting Pitching

=

Bull Pen

Bull Pen

=

Catcher

Catcher

=

1st Baseman

1st Baseman

2nd Baseman

2nd Baseman

Short Stop

Short Stop

3rd Baseman

3rd Baseman

♦+

DH

DH

=

Out Field

Out Field

=

♦+

Age

Age

Stolen Bases

Stolen Bases

Experience

Experience

Coach

Coach

STARTING PITCHING

By looking at last year’s statistics, both the Yankees and Blue Jays seem to have equal starting rotations.

Fearful to some may be the knuckleballer, Dickey.  But, I think the Yankees previous experience with Tim Wakefield, formerly of the Red Sox, will help them handle Dickey fairly well.

Also, both potential 5th place starters (Romero & Nova) fared better in earlier years and both have the potential to do much better.

The Yankees pitchers may also be older than the Blue Jays, but I don’t think it’s a factor when it comes to Pettitte, looking very youthful for a 41 year old.  His pick-off move is also one of the best in the business.  This could help the Yankees against the Blue Jays who now have much more speed on the bases.

Equal to both teams.

BULLPEN

I’m giving the edge to the Yankees due to Mariano Rivera.  The “Sandman” is back from injury and if he’s still got it, then this is a huge advantage to the Yankees.

David Robertson is also a strike-out machine and another weapon that the Yankees have at their disposal.

Boone Logan is also a nice option for the Yankees to have.  He is a warrior, having appeared in 80 games last year.

CATCHER

I’m calling this a push for both teams.

The Yankees let go of their starting catcher, Russell Martin, in a trade to the Pirates during the off-season.  They now plan to split time between Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Stewart actually did sub in for Russell on 55 occasions last year.  They also have young prospect Austin Romine at the ready.

As for the Blue Jays, they seem to be in a similar situation.  While they have Arencibia, who played in 102 games last year, he doesn’t seem particularly strong as a batter.  The Jays also brought on other options such as Henry Blanco, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to help catch Dickey.

But, nothing stands out for me in this category.  Equal.

1st Baseman

I’m giving the advantage here to the Yankees.  Their first baseman, Mark Teixeira, has had some injury issues in the past, but when he’s in, you can be assured that 99% of the time, no ball will go past him.  He is superb defensively and saves runs/extra bases for the Yankees.

Tex is also a good solid batter.  While his average was only .251 last year, he contributed 24 home runs and had a .332 OBP and 84 RBIs.

Compare that to the Jays’ first baseman Adam Lind who also is a good solid hitter.  But, he had half the amount of home runs and RBIs than Tex and just not as solid defensively.

2nd Baseman

I’m also giving the edge to the Yankees in this category.  Their second baseman, Robinson Cano, is a future hall of famer.  And at 30 years of age, he still improves.  Last year he batted .313, had 33 HRs, 94 RBIs; and .379 OBP, the highest in his career.

Emilio Bonifacio for the Jays is very solid.  But, he only had 1 home run last year.  Though, his advantage is that he can steal bases (30 in 2012).

Still, the edge to Cano and the Yankees here.

Short Stop

It’s hard to bet against Derek Jeter, considered by many to be one of the best short-stops of all time.  But, due to his age, previous injury, and the fact that Reyes is on the other side of this question, I have to give the edge to the Blue Jays in this area.

Yes, Jeter had a better batting average than Reyes last year (.316 vs .287), but in all other categories, they look pretty equal except age and speed on the bags: Reyes is 29 years old; Jeter is 38.  Reyes stole 40 bases in 2012; Jeter only 9.

This speed is what ultimately separates Reyes from Jeter, needed for a good defensive short-stop. I’m also not convinced that Jeter will be back to himself for the first half of the season.  The type of surgery he had in the off-season does not just entail bones to heal, but also muscles and scar tissue need extra time to bounce back.

3rd Baseman

This was one of the more difficult categories to judge.  But, in the end, I gave the advantage to the Yankees here.

Brett Lawrie is a very young third baseman for the Jays and I’m not sure he’s up for the challenge yet.  At just 23 and with only a couple of years experience in the majors all signs do appear to be that he’s a solid hitter and a bit of threat to steal.  That is, if he can execute properly in this area.  Apparently, he’s been known to exhibit “poor judgment” on the bases and in defense.  And, there is a bit of a discrepancy by the coaches on how to handle his aggressiveness at this point. There’s a learning curve that is yet untapped here.  So, I see this as a bit of a liability for the Jays until he can be reigned in and provide consistency.

I see Kevin Youkilis as a better advantage for the Yankees.  Yes, he is 33 now and had a down year last year, but I think he will be reborn this year with his new team.  Lets it put it this way, he’s probably at the point in his career where long-term contracts are a thing of the past.  He needs to improve for his future prospects and has a new baby in his household.  Thus, I feel he will be motivated to improve and excel for the Yankees this year.  He just has to work on that uhm, awkward batting stance he had acquired with the Sox.

Designated Hitter

This category goes to the Jays with a plus.  I believe that Encarnacion is a far better DH than Hafner will be.

Encarnacion had 42 home runs in 2012, walked 84 times, and 110 RBIs.  He also stole 13 bases.  This is a great advantage to the Jays.  Having a DH with speed is a weapon.

In contrast, Hafner, at 35 years of age, only had 12 home runs in 2012 and 32 walks.  He struck out less, but didn’t steal any bases in 2012.  And, he only had 34 RBI for the Indians.

Outfield

Again, another close call, so I say the teams are equal in the outfield.

It comes down to: where the Yankees excel, they also have liabilities.

For instance, Curtis Granderson is a good outfielder for the Yanks.  He had 43 home runs last year and 10 stolen bases.  He’s also very quick and solid defensively.  But, his strikeout number is a liability and worrisome (195 times in 2012).

And, then there’s Brett Gardner, the quick hard-worker for the Yankees. But, injuries kept him out most of last year.  He seems destined for the DL.

I also see Ichiro as a solid addition for the Yanks in the outfield.  He still gets on base a lot (.282 average in 2012) and he’s still got great speed (29 stolen bases in 2012) but, that age.  39!

Whereas, Toronto has good solid outfielders in Bautista and Rasmus.  32 and 26 years old, respectively.  They don’t seem to be superstars, but no real liabilities that I can see either.

Yet, there’s Melky Cabrera for the Jays and the whole PED saga.  Not sure what to make of him coming back to the MLB free of the juice (maybe).  I won’t assess him and any contributions he could make yet, as this is a kind of wild card.  Just how wild it is, is yet to be decided…

Thus, I’m calling this category a push.

Age

Obviously, I’m giving the major advantage to the Jays here.  Let’s just see a sampling of the Yankees age issue:

Texeira – 32

Cano – 30

Jeter – 38

Youkilis – 33

Pettitte – 41

Rivera – 43

Hafner – 35

Jays have a more youthful team.  Nuff said.

Stolen Bases

Since the exposure of the PED issue in baseball, players (overall) are not as powerful as they used to be.  Thus, I feel that baseball’s future will revert back to the golden days when baserunning was a real threat.

And, now that the Jays have acquired players that possess speed and youth, and have proven to be pesky on the bags, I give this category to them.

Obviously, the Yanks have some threats in Ichiro & Gardner, but they are not known overall as a base stealing team.  And, being an elderly club (in baseball terms), there is no sign that they will improve in this area until younger guys come into the picture.

Experience

If anyone knows how to win, it’s the New York Yankees.  This team was built for winning and many of the veterans have done it many times.  They know what it takes and if they stay healthy, it’ll be great motivation for doing it one more time.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the past for both these teams:

World Series Championships

Yankees  – 27

Blue Jays – 2

Post-Season

Yankees – 18 division titles, 40 AL pennants (both records)

Blue Jays – 5 division titles, 2 AL pennants

Established

Yankees – 1901

Blue Jays – 1977

Hall of Fame

Yankees – 44 players and 11 managers have been inducted

Blue Jays – 5 players, and 1 general manager

Coach

In this category, I’m giving the edge to the Yankees due to Joe Girardi’s experience as a player and coach, and his track record for excellence.

Girardi, 48, was a catcher in the big leagues for 15 years (4 of them with the Yankees).  He is also a 4x World Series Champion (3 as a player, 1 as a manger).  His win/loss record is 557–415, giving him a .573 winning % as manager.  Since 2008, he’s taken the Yankees to the post-season 4 times.

Meanwhile, I unfortunately see Coach John Gibbons as a liability for the Jays and detrimental for any hope of creating chemistry with a team that was pulled together hastily and still smarting from Marlins’ baggage.

For example, Gibbons has an off-again, on-again relationship with the Jays.  He coached the team from 2004-2008, but then was fired at the end of 2008 due to a terrible Jays slump.  He was re-hired in November 2012 as manager again for the club. His winning percentage is average – .500 and he has had no real success with the Jays.

I find all of this rather sketchy, given that Gibbons also has a reputation for being combative with players.  In fact, he’s considered to be one of the most “controversial managers in MLB history” by some.

That said, he seems to have realized mistakes from the past.  According to a recent article by Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports, Gibbons feels that he learned from previous experience and essentially doesn’t “want to (mess) up this thing up twice.”  He also expressed realization that bringing big talent together alone doesn’t win championships.  But, he is motivated, “”You can talk all you want, and I know we haven’t done anything yet, but I think we’ve got a legitimate shot at this thing.”

In the end, this category to me is the most important above all else, especially when it comes to the Blue Jays.  It is apparent from digesting statistical information about both teams that they are both equipped to win.  And, even if the Yankees do seem to be a bit more talented and experienced (yet old) to me, there is room at the top for another club to overtake them.  The Blue Jays are talented, no question, but it will take someone to pull them all together and give them the confidence needed to do it.  Like the Giants who won the World Series last year by beating teams that were probably better than they were, chemistry was the key to bringing it all together, and then some.

Gibbons has his hands full and knows what he needs to do with these Jays.  The ultimate question will be, can he do it?

I’m skeptical.

GUIDE TO PLAYER ROSTER:

Position

Toronto

Yankees

1st Baseman

Adam Lind

Mark Teixeira

2nd Baseman

Emilio Bonifacio

Robinson Cano

Short Stop

Jose Reyes

Derek Jeter

3rd Base

Brett Lawrie

Kevin Youkilis

DH

Edwin Encarnacion

Travis Hafner

Catcher

J.P. Arencibia, et al.

Cervelli, Stewart

OF

Jose Bautista,

Colby Rasmus,

Melky Cabrera

Curtis Granderson,

Ichiro Suzuki,

Brett Gardner


Sources :

Baseball-Reference.com: http://www.baseball-reference.com/
New York Yankees: www.yankees.com
Toronto Blue Jays: http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=tor

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