LADY AT THE BAT: 2018 Yankees Predictions, With An Assist From Hoch's New Book

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2018 Yankees Predictions, With An Assist From Hoch's New Book

A book, and a little Yankees history: 2018 predictions as only Pete can make them.

I just finished reading The Baby Bombers by Bryan Hoch. This book is intended  to set the stage for the new Yankees Dynasty. As you know, the last dynasty ran from 1996 to 2001, or thereabouts. In another book, The Last Night of the Yankees Dynasty,  Buster Olney determined that dynasty ended one night in the Phoenix desert in 2001. I once had a drink at the Game Seven Grill next to Chase Field, feeling uncomfortable with the name as I sipped my cocktail. But so what if the D'backs had one moment of glory in the desert at the expense of the Yankees?  Meanwhile, in the Bronx, the Yankees have had twenty seven similar moments over the years. Anyone for 28? 

Back to Bryan Hoch and his new book. Are we really in a "new dynasty?" Many believe the dynasty has started.  The Yankees made it to within one game of the World Series last fall. So any improvement over 2017 would mean a World Series appearance in the coming autumn of 2018 and nothing less.

Which brings me to my annual "Yankees Prediction for the Coming Season" the subject of this post.

Realistically, there are two levels of predicting a season. One is the regular season of 162 games in approximately 180 days. That's the easy part. The hard part is sitting here in March and projecting what will happen in the short post season which begins in October and often  carries over a little into November. Anyone can predict division winners of Yankees, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, Cubs and Dodgers. There, I just did it.  In fact, let's go with that. The wild card and how it plays into the post season is anybody's guess. Remember, it was the top wild card  team that took down defending AL champion Cleveland last October. Who would have predicted that? And that same wild card winner nearly took the pennant. So you read it here: picking a division winner is easy but predicting October/November baseball is not. Over time the cream rises to the top, I've heard. In a short time, like baseball in the post season, anything can happen, especially when we're looking seven months down the road.   

But it is time to go out on a limb and pick exactly what the Yankees will do. The AL East appears to be a no brainer. We will roll with that thought. No need to bother with the single elimination Wild Card Game in 2018 for the Yankees. But what about the post season? The Baby Bombers book sets the stage for the coming dynasty. The Yankees are no longer doing a fantastic rebuilding job, though the farm system remains one of the game's best. Instead, they have reached the pinnacle. They are rebuilt. Sink or swim for these Yankees. They are expected to be good, maybe even great. The "Evil Empire" is back. Let the clich├ęs roll all night.

So the only thing I can predict is an improvement over last season which translates to a World Series appearance. And while we're there we might as well win the whole 'bleeping" thing. No turning back. The Yankees will win their 28th championship and celebrate in the Canyon of Heroes in early November.

But what can go wrong?

Well, lots of things can go wrong. I would be remiss if I didn't at least approach the subject.

1. The Astros are good, really good.

So are the Indians and maybe even the Red Sox. There is good competition. It's not just the Yankees who have built a contender from the ground up with a massive youth movement. In particular, the World Champion Astros are every bit as good as last season, maybe better. To be the best you have to beat the best like the 1996 Yankees did in come from behind fashion against the defending 1995 champion Braves. Beating the Astros this time around might be the big challenge in the Yankees quest for a title.  

2. Home run and strikeouts

I am not a fan of all this talk concerning how many home runs the Yankees will hit. One fan page recently speculated on how many Yankees players will hit 40 home runs and they came up with four: Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and Bird. Judge and Stanton will combine for 130 home runs, right? All this talk is a sideshow to what is really important. Winning is the answer and doing the little things, such as extended at bats and drawing walks can make all the difference. There is no question there are a lot of strikeouts in the Yankees lineup, but quality at bats must be stressed in order to reduce the strikeout numbers. Winning in the fall will depend on it. Good pitching can exploit a team with a high volume of K's.  

3. Winning is always about pitching

It's great news for the Yankees in their bullpen, but what about the rotation? It's set with Severino, Tanaka, Sabathia, Gray and Montgomery, but most teams require additional starts outside their opening day five. I know there have been rumors of this free agent or that trade for a pitcher, and Brian Cashman has not seized the moment. That's probably because that moment hasn't arrived, Cashman has shown a lot of patience and is willing to wait to seize the moment to strengthen the rotation for the stretch. There appears to be room in the budget for one deadline deal, most likely for a starting pitcher. Of course, the need might arise sooner and we shouldn't overlook pitching help from the farm either. .  

4. You can't predict injuries

Don't we know this one?  At the top of the list of the walking wounded is Greg Bird. The list also includes probable 5th outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and likely AAA outfielder, Clint Frazier. All the others are healthy at the moment, but a season can change drastically with one or more injuries to key players.  

5. Sophomore Jinx

I think I first saw the term in a column in 1969 regarding 1968 AL Rookie of the Year Stan Bahnsen, a member of the Yankees rotation. Whatever you might label it, Bahnsen struggled in his second season in pinstripes falling from 17-5 2.05 ERA in '68 to 9-16 and 3.83 ERA in '69. The Yanks have a lot of young players close to sophomore status. Sometimes a player needs to adjust to the league that has adjusted to him. Don't get me wrong, if the Yankees win it all, I will accept Aaron Judge hitting "just" 30 home runs if I have to. Everyone has to go through adjustment periods but I hope there is little of that for this group of Baby Bombers. By the way, what were the Yankees thinking prior to 1972 sending Stan Bahnsen to the White Sox for Rich McKinney? Yes, that is a bit off topic, but some of the worst trades are difficult to forget. At least these Yankees under Brian Cashman have exercised some restraint in their dealings, and it is beginning to show.    

So there you have it: The 2018 Yankees will win the World Series and the dynasty Byran Hoch imagined will be in full bloom. Let's just set all the concerns aside and enjoy the upcoming season.The evil empire is back. Number twenty eight awaits.

After reaching the doorstep of the World Series last fall, we won't have it any other way.  

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