Playing Pepper 2021: New York Yankees (Partial Simulcast from Cards Conclave)
Our friends at Cards Conclave posted their pre-season Yankees predications post highlighted with perspectives from our very own Ed Botti.
The following are excerpts from the post. The entire article can be found here: Playing Pepper 2021: New York Yankees.
Playing Pepper 2021: New York Yankees
by CARDINAL70 on MARCH 22, 2021
C70: Baseball in 2020 was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. What are your thoughts on that season? Did you like the rule changes? How was following baseball the same or different during the pandemic?
Ed Botti: Baseball 2020. Where do I begin? 2020 MLB kicked off on July 23, and 5 short days later 17 Miami Marlins players and coaching staff personnel came down with Covid. The very next day your Cardinals were faced with a similar situation. The commissioner threatened to shut it down, players countered that by stating that MLB was not being strict enough about rules and protocol, and consequently putting their health at risk. Somehow, they did have a 60 game season. Overall, I think the season provided what it was designed to do, and that is give the country back its national pastime at a time when it was badly needed. For that I was grateful.
Rule change wise, I liked that they finally eliminated the expanded 40 man roster on September 1st. A welcome and smart revision to a very bad policy. I did not like the 3 batter rule for pitchers. I feel it takes away an important late inning strategy. I do not like 7 inning double headers. Baseball is 9 innings. I am not a fan of the Universal Designated Hitter. I Like the DH, but also enjoy the National League style of play. The Wet Rag rule seemed to make a lot of sense. I like the new suspended game rule as well. The unsportsmanlike conduct rule was not enforced. Position players pitching rule was irrelevant. And probably the worst of all was putting a runner on second base to start an extra inning. That isn’t even fine for little league baseball!
Following the game during the pandemic was not much different than other seasons, with one major exception; we couldn’t go to games. The fans were missed. I missed going to the Stadium. The excitement level was down, and I found it a little weird to watch the players and coaches on the field with masks on. Media coverage was a little peculiar as well. TV and Radio broadcast booths were in many cases empty on road games. I definitely picked up on late or incorrect play by play calls due to broadcasters being home or in a studio watching video feed, and not at the stadium watching it live. I’d mention cardboard cutout fans, but they were not allowed at Yankee Stadium!
I thought we had a great and exciting post season. Who can forget Randy Arozarena’s game ending slide at the plate! Although neither the Cardinals nor the Yankees ended up on top of the mountain, the post season was exciting. But, by far the worst thing from 2020 MLB was the fact that the Astros did not have to face the wrath of millions of fans across the country for their cheating, lying, and slap on the wrists from the commissioner. I was looking forward to that!
C70: What do you expect out of Corey Kluber this season?
Ed: You can also include Jameson Taillon into that question as well. Kluber is coming off of not just one, but two serious injuries. Although he was able to avoid surgery for his torn muscle in his pitching shoulder, at 34 years old it is asking a lot for him to be a solid number 2 or even 3 in a rotation on a team looking to win a World Series. He essentially has not pitched in 2 seasons, and prior to 2019 he was trending downward, losing 3 – 4 MPH on his fastball since 2015. A sub 4.00 ERA with 10 or so wins and 130 strikeouts would be more than I expect. He is a big risk, with a high reward type of player. The Yankees have not had a lot of success over the years with these types of reclamation projects. Sorry to say, but I do not see him as being an exception. I hope I am wrong. I will say this, there are few pitchers in the league as driven as he is, so if anyone can come back to be anything close to what they were pre injury, he is one of them.
C70: What is your expectation for this team this coming season?
Ed: This coming Yankee season will be underscored by a lot of uncertainty. I project them as a 92-94 win team. I have seen projections as high as 97, which to me means everything falls perfectly into place, and everyone stays healthy. That doesn’t happen too often. Unless Kluber, Taillon and Luis Severino collectively recapture their pre injury abilities and durability (a long shot) my expectations are that they will have problems with the starting rotation. They lost starters J.A. Haap, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton in the off season. All veteran starters that know how to pitch. I am not as sold on Deivi Garcia as others seem to be. Jordon Montgomery will be a fine back of the rotation starter and may even be more than that when this season unfolds. Domingo German (18 game winner in 2019) may not even be on the team due to off field issues, although he is putting up solid spring training numbers, so that may change.
Just like every other team, health will be a key contributor to any success they have in 2021. They have to find a way to keep Stanton and Judge on the field. It will be interesting to see how Clint Frazier does, now that he has been awarded an everyday job in left field for the first time in his young career. Luke Voit now has put together 2 solid seasons (he led the AL in home runs in 2020). As a team, they will hit a ton of home runs, give up a ton of home runs, score more than 800 runs, and strike out a lot. The Bullpen, a strength in the past, will take a step back as they have lost Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino, and replaced them with Darren O’Day and a to be determined pitcher on the current roster.
Every year it seems an unknown emerges, this spring so far that has been left Lucas Luetge. Also on my radar this year in Nick Nelson. Right hander Jonathan Loáisiga seems poised to take the next step in 2021. He has electric stuff, and is healthy. He just may be the missing piece in the bull pen.
Tampa Bay may have taken a step backwards while Toronto has taken a step forward so the division has become more balanced. 92 -93 wins should win the division or at the very least win a wild card. I expect that from the Yankees. Unfortunately, unless they upgrade the rotation and make adjustments in the lineup, October will be a very difficult month for them.
YOU CAN READ MORE HERE: Playing Pepper 2021: New York Yankees.