Spring Training Musings

March 7, 2010 – 10:21 pm

At long last, baseball is back!  In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ll be watching for as Spring Training progresses……

No doubt the biggest change from last year’s team is the outfield.  Clearly Curtis Granderson (3.4 WAR) is a significant improvement over Melky Cabrera (1.7 WAR) — but that said, I always liked watching the Melkman with all his enthusiasm for the game.  However, Granderson seems like a real class act, and someone who will make a good Yankee both on and off the field.

Over in left field, we have Brett Gardner (2.0 WAR) replacing Johnny Damon (3.1 WAR).  Damon is another player that I always enjoyed watching — heck, I even liked him when he was with the hated Red Sox!  But Gardner has the potential to also be an exciting, fun player to watch.  Emphasis on “potential” there, as last year he seemed to disappoint rather often — sometimes not being as aggressive with his speed as you would like, and other times being too aggressive.  But that could be just a case of inexperience — this year I think will be critical for Gardner.

Then there’s the DH position — gone is Hideki Matsui (2.7 WAR) and in his place will be Nick Johnson (1.3 WAR) starting his second tour of duty with the Yankees.  Matsui was another one of my favorites, as I always liked the way he played the game.  Johnson probably has the hitting power to fill his shoes — his OPS last year was .890 compared to Matsui’s .876.  But the big question for Johnson is whether he can stay healthy.  It seems like you were always reading about various physical issues with Godzilla, but the reality is that he played in 142 games last year and it’s been four years since Johnson was that healthy.

So bottom line is that as far as the every day players go, the Yankees have “downgraded” some, at least if you believe in WAR stats (total WAR for the three positions in question has gone from 7.5 to 6.7).  But Gardner has a lot of room for improvement, and if Nick Johnson stays healthy, offensively the Yankees could be just as good as last year.  And that’s saying a lot, given that they led the AL in pretty much every offensive category last year!

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