Friday, February 28, 2014

I've Got Til 5! - Letdown Players

Last week was the debut of this column, in which I count down the top five... whatevers. It started with breakout players. You can click here to read my reasons for including somebody, but here are those players...

5. Brian Roberts
4. Hiroki Kuroda
3. Dean Anna
2. Manny Banuelos
1. Michael Pineda

So naturally, this week, I'm talking about letdown candidates. This isn't about guys I think will stink, this list has to do with players whose effectiveness falls below their expectations. And like how those breakout players could make the difference between the Yankees being part of the postseason or not, so could these letdown players.

So let's get started with #5...

#5 Masahiro Tanaka

Although I've been known to play a video game here or there, I'm certainly not what you'd call a "gamer". I don't think I could have ever been called that. However, back in the days of Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, I regularly enjoyed playing games like Madden football, NHLPA hockey, and Bases Loaded. Unfortunately, I didn't have friends that were into video games, so I would play the computer more often than not.

Anybody that was in the same boat as me can confirm that the computer was not very good. I mean, beating the computer was not something to brag about. It may have been fun to win a the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in NHLPA, but I wasn't going to go to school and brag about it. The worst part was that I wasn't a bad player, I just didn't go up against the best competition.

That's the position that Masahiro Tanaka finds himself in right now. Looking great and impressing your teammates this early in Spring Training is great, but until he faces actual hitters in game situations we just don't know what we're going to get out of him.

Let me go on record as saying I believe, at the very least, Masahiro will be an above average starter. I would put money on him being at the very least a solid #3 starter. But his ability to be an ace in Major League Baseball is still questionable, so let's all chill out so that we're not totally let down.

#4 Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova recently turned 27 years-old, so we're not talking about somebody who's past his prime. So while he could very well keep throwing as effectively as he did last season, we can't ignore these facts...

Last season Nova set career lows in ERA and WHIP, and not by small margins. Through 2012 his career ERA was 4.38, and that number went all the way down to 3.10 in 2013. Ivan's career WHIP through 2012 was 1.406, and that number went down to 1.285. Furthermore, his extra-base hit percentage went down quite a bit from previous seasons too. So Nova's 2013 season, in what I admit is a short career so far, was an outlier.

It all goes back to the how inconsistent Ivan's been. And that inconsistency is why I'm still not comfortable with Nova. When he takes the mound this season I'm not going to expect him to pitch as well as he did last year. I hope I'm proven wrong, and he can be a strong part of the Yankees' rotation for years to come.

#3 Joe Girardi

Okay, Girardi isn't a player, so including him here is kind of cheating. But this is my list, and I'm the co-owner of The Greedy Pinstripes, so deal with it.

One of the positives people will bring up when discussing the Yankees manager is how well he manages the bullpen. Well, in 2014, we're going to see if all those complements are truly warranted. Because up to this point Joe has not only had the greatest reliever of all time, he's also had one of the best set-up men in baseball too. Even in 2012, when Rivera went down with injury, he was lucky enough to have Rafael Soriano step in and take over the closer's role in grand fashion. Heck, Girardi even had another good reliever in the 'pen in Boone Logan, whose ERA in the past four seasons was just 3.38.

Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne, Cesar Cabral, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Vidal Nuno... can two or three of these guys step up and into the spots left by Rivera, Soriano, and Logan? We've heard good things about Betances, Kelley looked pretty good at times last season, the same with Claiborne, and Cabral could turn into a good lefty arm out of the 'pen.

But at this moment those are not certainties, and until we see what they can do then Joe Girardi is one of my letdown candidates for 2014.

#2 Mark Teixeira

We all know that the days of batting near .300 are gone. Between 2010 and 2012 Mark's batting average was a lowly .252. Not only has the batting average gone down, but since he came to New York in 2009, Teixeira's on-base percentage has gone down, down, down, and down.

If it wasn't for his elite defense at first base, along with his ability to hit around 35 home runs a season, then there's a good chance that all the hate people would normally direct towards Alex Rodriguez would now be sent Mark's way. And there's where I see him being a letdown player in 2014.

It's already been said that Teixeira will not be playing in any Grapefruit League games until March, and even then his playing time is going to be limited. In fact, it's been said that the team is only figuring on getting him 50 or so at bats. I'm willing to bet that Tex misses a decent amount of time during the regular season too. And, to be fair, that may be a good thing to make sure he's healthy for 2015 and beyond.

But what about when does play this year? There's reason to believe that his wrist will sap him of some of that power, and on top of that Mark's defense could take a bit of a hit too. So the two things that make him valuable to the team could take a hit, making 2014 a disappointing season.

#1 David Robertson

To reiterate what I said in the introduction... I'm not putting Robertson on this list because I don't think he'll do a good job. In fact, in my opinion, David will be one of the better closers in Major League Baseball. But this list isn't about players that will stink, it's about players that could very well let fans down. It's not fair to DRob, either.

For 17 years Yankees fans have have had the great fortune to have the greatest short-inning reliever of all time in the bullpen. There's been enough written about Mr. Rivera, so I'm going to leave it at that. And therein lies the problem... nobody can live up to that. But that's not going to keep Yankees fans from getting upset the first time Robertson blows a save. Nor will it stop Yankees fans from getting on Twitter and complaining about David's Houdini-like ways when he allows two or three men on base during a save situation in the 9th inning.

So no matter how good David Robertson is, he's going to let some people down.

So what do you think? Should I have left somebody off of this list, and added another player instead?

As for next week I have a couple of ideas for lists, but feel free to suggest something and I'll either go with that or use it later. Thanks for reading... see you next week.

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