Yes, friends, it's time to head into our first 'tilt' with the New York Yankees.
What's changed, in a year? What can really change beyond a lot of players getting older and a lot of other players making a lot of f'in money?
The biggest addition, so far, has been Nick Swisher. We know, of course, about his ability to work the count and hit for power. He's also been pretty versatile for the Yanks, being an option in LF, RF, 1B, and at P. A.J. Burnett has also been a good signee so far, 17 Ks in 19 IP over 3 starts.
Another big change the Yankees made was in CF. While Melky Cabrera saw most of the time out there last year, the Yankees decided to make a change and go with Brett Gardner as the starter. How has it worked? Gangbusters! Gardner's been tearing up the AL to the tune of a 1.211 OPS, while Melky has struggled to a .583 OPS. ...wait. Strike that, reverse it. The long-term for both of these guys is probably as 4th outfielders, but Melky has earned the bulk of the PT thusfar.
Somewhat quietly, a number of Yankee regulars are putting up their usual numbers. Jeter, Damon, Posada, and Matsui have all been as good as could have been expected or better. Swisher and Cano have probably been a bit above their heads, but they've also shown that their respective struggles last season may be behind them.
The offense. 4th in the AL in scoring runs while getting nothing from 3B and CF most of the time, with Alex Rodriguez coming back at some point and Mark Teixeira still having a cold April.
In a small-sample way, this season, the bullpen. Beyond Rivera and Brian Bruney? A huge crap sandwich. It's not even a joke to say that Swisher has been among their best RPs this season.
YANKEES' KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2009
Perhaps a swap out of some bullpen arms? The arrival of Mark Melancon? The offense will be fine, but the pitching isn't shaping up as intended. Pettitte and Burnett have been steady but Joba, Sabathia, and Wang have not been good. I keep waiting for Sabathia to get back on track, and young and inconsistent should actually have been an acceptable outcome for Joba this season. It's still early for both. It's probably pretty obvious to everyone right now that there's something wrong with the Yankees' Wang.
HOW THE SOX CAN BEAT THEM
Knock the starters out early. The Yankees probably have their 3 best (thusfar) going this weekend in Boston. Non-Bruney or Rivera RPs should be a welcome sight on the mound. In general, the pitching gives out a lot of walks, though CC's 14 in 24+ innings might be skewing that data a little bit. The pitchers should keep the ball down; the Yankees are slugging quite well thusfar.