Joe Girardi had a press conference yesterday and discussed many of the concerns people are yelling about as we enter the beginnings of the 2013 season. In true Girardi fashion, he fought off all the complaining with a healthy dose of vanilla, so while he wasn't as informative as you folks at home might have hoped, some of his words did speak volumes. The most glaring thing he mentioned concerned the Yankees' current offense after losing the likes of Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin, and Andruw Jones to free agency.
He was asked how he hoped to make up for 112 home runs lost in the offseason. Girardi believes that the offense has been changed and they'll have to find new ways to score. "We're going to have to find different ways to score runs," but what are those different ways? Stealing, bunting, hit and runs, small ball? But is this team equipped for that? The Yankees have never really employed those methods on a regular basis, even when they've had the tools for them. They might have Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, but beyond that they still have a club filled with power hitters and declining talent. If they truly want to be a speedy, small ball team, then they would have to have a roster that included the likes of Eduardo Nunez and Melky Mesa.
As a very rough estimate, take the average stolen bases for the players on this team over the last three years and add them together: Melky Mesa stole an average of 24 bases in the minor leagues, Nunez 12, Gardner averaged 32, even after missing most of last year, Ichiro has the highest average with 37, Granderson can still steal around 15, Jeter 14, but I imagine they'll hold him up for the first month or so until everyone is sure that his foot won't fall off. Unfortunately the team won't be able to count on the 13 stolen bases from Alex Rodriguez because they're not going to let him run after he gets back midway through the season.
Add all those averages up and you get 134 stolen bases, but that's not happening. Mesa won't be seeing regular playing time and might not see any, Nunez won't be a regular, and Jeter will have to sit tight for a few months, so that's even fewer. Consider that the Yankees only had 93 stolen bases in 2012 (Gardner was hurt) and that made them one of the worst teams at stealing bases. But stolen bases don't make a good offense. The Yankees had a league-leading accumulative 113 wRC+ while ranking 22nd in the league in stolen bases. The Diamondbacks were tied with them, but still only managed a 95 wRC+. The Tigers, Rangers and Cardinals were all behind the Yankees in stolen bases and were still over the 100 wRC+ mark. On the other side of the line only four teams were above the 100 mark and had more stolen bases than the Yankees. What this means is that more stolen bases doesn't necessarily give you a better offense (the Padres, Marlins and Twins were 2, 3 and 4 on the list).
The real thing to worry about is the severe loss of power. The Yankees lost 112 home runs out of their 245 from last season and that's a lot. First of all, lets get this out of the way, the Yankees are only losing 94, because that 112 number includes A-Rod's 18 last year and even though he'll miss half the year he's still going to contribute some. Other than that, taking that '112' away from 245 gives the 2012 Yankees 151 home runs, which puts them in 19th place between the Phillies and the Braves, both of which had below average numbers. Thankfully, the Yankees have added people: Kevin Youkilis, who averaged 18 home runs over the last three seasons, and Travis Hafner, who averaged around 12. That's around 181 home runs. Juan Rivera hit an average of 11, so that's around 192 which would put them at #8 in 2012, right between the Nationals and the Angels. That's much better and that doesn't even include A-Rod's contribution later in the season and whoever they might have as the right handed hitter on the bench. There are still concerns though because Hafner could very well get hurt, Youkilis might not be very good, and Juan Rivera might not even make the team. If that is the case the Yankee offense is going to be in a lot more trouble.
It's obvious that home runs have a higher correlation to strong offenses than stolen bases do. Of the top ten home run hitting teams in 2012, only four of them were just below the 100 wRC+ mark, the others ranked among the top offenses in baseball. The Yankees still have a lot of home run power and they are still an offensive threat, but a lot rests on who can stay healthy and who can put up bigger numbers than expected. Joe Girardi's offense might be a fun idea, but it's not as cut and dry as he might think. The Yanks are still going to need plenty of home runs and they're still going to get them. The New York Yankees might not have the best offense in the league for the 2013 season, but they can still compete. Will 2013 be a complete disaster? No. Are they going to need Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson to carry the team? Unfortunately, yes.