Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Introducing The Triple-R Game: The Infield

The calendar has turned, and with that we move further away from the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft, and the meat and potatoes of the Hot Stove Season, and closer to the hors d'oeuvres of the real baseball season, that being pitchers and catchers reporting.  With the Yankees remaining mostly inactive through this offseason, it's very likely that the team as it's constructed now is how we're going to see the Yankees open the 2012 season.  If you haven't already started to come to terms with that fact, now would be a good time to start.  If you have, then you're probably already starting to think about what kind of team it's going to be this coming season, which is only natural and a much better way of spending your time at the office.  In looking at everybody's 2011 stats and trying to anticipate how they'll perform in 2012, there are really only 3 things a player can do:  Regress, Rebound, or Remain where they are.  Most projections are already out on the Yankee hitters and pitchers for 2012, but rather than try to pinpoint exactly what each player is going to do, I just want to set the bar for them by predicting which of the 3 R categories they best fit under.  Today, we'll start with the infield.

Mark Teixeira, 1B- Rebound

By now we're all well aware of how bad Teixeira was from the left side of the plate in 2011, and what's more important is that he was aware of it and made fixing his left-side struggles a priority this offseason.  Teix isn't that far removed from being a .300/.400/.550 hitter and is still just 32 years old, so he's not running on fumes yet.  He may not leap back up to those levels in 2012, but solving his lefty problems should help boost his numbers above his 2011 totals, especially the .248 batting average, and make him the dangerous all-around hitter he's been.

Robinson Cano, 2B- Remain

A lot of people called for a dropoff in production from the best second baseman in baseball after his monster 2010 campaign, and all he did last season was come out and nearly replicate it.  There should be no more doubting Cano anymore at this point as he's in the prime of his career and he's one of the best hitters in baseball.  Some slight improvements could be made in his BB rate and defense, but to expect anything less than what he's done in the last 2 seasons would be silly.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B- Rebound

Maybe I'm just being too optimistic here because of the blood plasma procedure, but I think A-Rod bounces back some in 2012.  Declining or not, the guy is due for some good health sooner or later, and if he gets it he's shown that he's still capable of being an above-average hitter when healthy.  It's going to take some smart management of his playing time by Joe, but 130 games of A-Rod in 2012 should lead to better all-around production than what he provided in 2011.

Derek Jeter, SS- Regress

Watching Jeter find the fountain of youth after coming off the DL last year was fun, but the sobering reality is that Jeter will turn another year older in 2012.  And 37-year-olds turning 38 in the middle of the season don't typically maintain the .327/.383/.428 pace that Jeter was on post-All Star break.  I'd like to think that whatever Jeter did to help him return to form last year will help him from dropping back down to his late 2010-early 2011 levels, but a dip in production from his final .332 wOBA in 2011 should be expected.

Russell Martin, C- Rebound

Call me crazy here, but I think Russell Martin can have a 2012 that's better than his 2011.  Last year it seemed like he was either on fire or standing at the plate without a bat even in his hand, and his final line of .237/.324/.408 leaves room for improvement.  This year he won't be adjusting to a new stadium, new teammates, new pitchers in a new league, and I think that should help smooth out some of the ups and downs in his production.  A few less bumps and bruises suffered behind the plate should help too, so hopefully the Yanks don't shy away from letting Jesus spell Martin regularly.

So what about you, Yankosphere?  What are you anticipating from the pinstriped infield in 2012?

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