Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tough Decisions Ahead

"I'm not going anywhere"

Over at River Avenue Blues, Stephen Rhoads looks ahead and the Yankees' payroll, including the impending free agencies of Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano. He comes to the conclusing that having all three of those guys re-sign, while also getting Cole Hamels, would make it pretty much impossible to get at or under the $189 million Luxury Tax threshold in 2014. You can read the post here, as Stephen does a really good job of going over things. Although I think the projected AAV of Cano's future contract (which Stephen had the other guys at RAB guess), $22 million, is a bit high. But I digress.

By the end of the post Rhoads says he'd rather see the Yankees sign Cole Hamels, at the expense of Curtis Granderson. Well after reading this and giving it some thought, I'm leaning towards letting Cole Hamels go elsewhere (hopefully that's not Boston). Don't get me wrong, a top 4 of Sabathia-Hamels-Pineda-Nova would be incredible, but it's starting to feel like "too much".

Look at the 2009 Yankees. You know, the team that won the World Series. For all intents and purposes, that team didn't even have a #5 starter. They had 4 guys start 31-34 games (Sabathia-34, Burnett-33, Pettitte-32, Chamberlain-31), and the rest of the starts were split between 5 different relief pitchers (Hughes-7, Mitre-9, Wang-9, Gaudin-6, Aceves-1). If you take Joba's ERA of 4.75 (note, his ERA+ of 97 shows that he was about average as a starter), and the combined ERA of those 6 relievers (4.57), then you'll clearly see that the bottom of the Yankees rotation in that championship year was hardly dominant. Not bad, but far from incredible. That team honestly was led by it's top 3 starters, and only Sabathia could be considered well above average (the ERA+ for Sabathia was 137, Burnett's was 114, and Pettitte's was 111). Well Sabathia should still be pretty damn good, Pineda could be a 2nd "ace" on the team, and Nova could be a very good #3. And that's without even guessing at what guys like Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, or Mitchell can do.

Moving on, and looking at the offense, the 2011 lineup scored 867 runs, good for 2nd in MLB. And remember that the 2012 lineup is pretty much exactly the same. That's even with a "lesser" hitter taking Montero's place as the DH, since Montero's contributions didn't effect that much due to not being called up until September (oh, and improving upon Posada's 2011 contributions should not be hard at all). The 2009 team scored 915 runs, so I can understand somebody saying that it's actually the offense that needs to improve... not the pitching. I'm not one of them though.

That '09 team may have scored 915 runs, but it gave up 753 runs, for a run differential of +162. The 2011 team may have scored only 867 runs, but they gave up only 657 runs, for a run differential of +210. So I don't believe the offense has to improve at all, while the pitching (a large part of run prevention) has already gotten better than the proposed rotation before last Friday. In all, the 2012 team looks to be a serious World Series title contender, and should be for years afterwards.

Frankly, if the Yankees can keep this team in place through 2014, which would mean not signing a Cole Hamels, then they have just as good a chance of winning it all than with Hamels, and minus guys like Granderson, Swisher, and Cano.