LADY AT THE BAT: The 2016 Yankees: A Disappointing, Yet Successful Season

Monday, October 3, 2016

The 2016 Yankees: A Disappointing, Yet Successful Season

Just like that, the New York Yankees 2016 season is over. They lost Sunday's game to the Baltimore Orioles to close out the year at 84-78. That’s just six games over .500 but, as Michael Kay and Ken Singleton pointed out on the broadcast, that’s still an over-achievement. Based on their offensive output, the Yankees should have finished at 78-83 (a losing season!), just 5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.

So, in some ways, the season was still successful and it certainly had some fun moments as Pete outlined on Friday.

We learned a lot about this team, both from the members to whom we said goodbye, the ones we welcomed and the ones we missed. The team will look vastly different in 2017. Joe Girardi, who gave his end of season speech a day early, said to reporters, “ We will do everything we can to bring a championship here next year. That’s everyone’s job in this organization.”

Still, the Yankees missed the playoffs entirely for the third time in the past five years. That’s not exactly in keeping with the Yankees illustrious history. So you have to think that, despite the Yankees second half, but ultimately unsuccessful, surge back to relevance, some changes are going to have to be made.

Those changes could come in the front office / coaching staff but the Yankees tried that two years ago with Kevin Long and the Yankees still struggled offensively. If I had to guess, I’d say Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and rest of the coaching staff are safe for the time being. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if either hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames got the boot, if only just because someone needs to take the blame. 

Still, with so many changes expected in the personnel on the team, that may be enough to satisfy the crowd who is screaming for changes. Take a look at the potential changes for the on-the-field team in 2017:

Infield
1B: With Mark Teixeira having an awful year and deciding to retire, the Yankees 1B position is unquestionably open for the first time since 2009. Tyler Austin acquitted himself well in 2016 but what about Greg Bird, who was almost certain to have a back-up sport on the 2016 team before his injury?

2B: Starlin Castro was as streaky as advertised, but when he was on, he was very good. He’s a lock for 2017.

3B: Chase Headley started off at a terrible pace (going almost 1.5 months without an XBH) and also sat towards the end of the season with injuries. This contract isn’t turning out quite the way the Yankees hoped. Ronald Torreyes was a great burst of energy but he’s not a full time player. Rob Refsnyder, however, is patiently awaiting his turn. If his glove is passable, look for him to get some looks in 2017 (if he isn't traded). Depending on the situation at C, Headley may get more DH time.

SS: Didi Gregorious continued to build on his successful 2015 2nd half (What lefty problems?) and, although he had his slumps, he performed very, very well overall. He's a staple.

C: There’s no doubt that Gary Sanchez is the Yankees starting catcher, and middle of the line-up slugger, for the future. His defense is passable (fantastic arm, decent receiver) and his offense has Yankees fans salivating. He struggled to end the season but that’s to be expected of a rookie. The Kraken has been unleashed for good. The only question here is, what happens to Brian McCann. He was a great sport about the entire transition but will he demand a trade in the off-season so he can play behind the plate? He may not if you believe what he said in his post-game interview on YES: "I hope I'm back....I hope I'm a part of [2017]."


Outfield
LF: Brett Gardner continued his streaky play and, while his speed is still very impressive, he is still not stealing bases at the clip he used to. Gardner could be trade bait, yet again, in the offseason but, if he’s here, he’s the starting leftfielder.

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury is who he is at this point. Nowhere near worth the contract he’s got but still capable of making spectacular defensive plays and going on a hot streak that could carry a team.

RF: Carlos Beltran, who carried the Yankees for the first half, was shipped out of town so the Yankees could start their rebuild and Beltran could get another shot at the playoffs. Aaron Judge started off with a bang and then seemed to lose the strike zone before going down with an oblique injury. Judge will need to work on his contact rates, but safe to say he gets the first shot at starting in RF.

DH: McCann may have a decision to make. Be the full time DH or demand a trade to a place where he could continue to start. He is still a great receiver and, courtesy of his solo shot on Sunday, finished up yet another season with 20 HRs. If he moves on, look for Headley to get his fair share of ABs here.

Bench: Dustin Ackley was largely a non-factor in 2016 but he is with the Yankees for at least another year. He should get another chance. Ronald Torreyes did nothing to lose his role. Look for the Yankees to bring him back, at least for a look in Spring Training, along with Aaron Hicks who was disappointing offensively but changed some games with his defense. Still just 27, the Yankees are likely willing to give him another year to blossom. As for Austin Romine, he acquitted himself very well as the back-up catcher but will the Yankees carry three catchers? Seems doubtful. Are the Pirates looking for yet another former Yankees catcher?


Pitching
SP: Quietly terrific, Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees best starting pitcher, but finished the year shut down with fore-arm pain. If healthy, expect him to lead the rotation again in 2017. 

CC Sabathia had a mixed year with some absolutely dominant starts opposite some terrible clunkers. His repertoire is severely reduced and he needs to live on the edges but he was the 2nd most stable pitcher in the rotation. 

Michael Pineda showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately had a disappointing year filled with “If it weren’t just for that one inning!” performances. Next season is his last arbitration year so he’ll be back and in the rotation. 

Brian Mitchell, if healthy, should slot right into Ivan Nova's spot as he did after Nova was sent to pitchers paradise, aka Pittsburgh. 

Nathan Eovaldi is severely injured and is out for at least all of 2017. The Yankees may bring him back and let him heal up for 2018 but he won’t be of any help in 2017. 

I seriously doubt that the Yankees will put Luis Severino in the bullpen without letting him try starting again. Not with all that talent in his arm. If Severino does struggle, Luis Cessa also has a dominant FB and, despite some shaky starts, has done enough for the Yankees to feel comfortable letting him step into the starting rotation.

Bullpen: The bullpen went through so many changes in 2016, it’s probably not worth itemizing. The biggest changes are that Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller are no longer dominating from the back-end. 

Dellin Betances struggled mightily in September and it’s still not clear if it is physical or mental. Either way, the Yankees need him to straighten himself out. He’s the surest thing out there. Old friends Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard did well in returning to the Yankees, but the bullpen was not a shining point for the Yankees by the end of the year. The Yankees need some certainty here.


So rest up, Yankees. As disappointing as 2016 ended, Spring Training will be here before you know it along with lots of changes, and renewed expectations.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lady at the Bat is awesome. Love your blogs & Yankee knowledge!