Grantland came out with a piece today about the Yankees' injury problems, saying that they might be in for their first losing season in 20 years. The piece goes through the likely Yankees lineup for this year, but let's go through it a little bit here for some context.
In terms of sure-fire, stud, solid hitters with no injury question marks (yet), you have Robinson Cano and...yup, Robinson Cano. That's it. Cano is no doubt an All-Star, Silver Slugger, MVP candidate, but that's one guy.
They have a few other guys who could have good years, but have giant question marks. Jeter and Gardner are coming back from pretty devastating injuries, Granderson is going to miss the first month, and Teixeira just tweaked his wrist and is getting worse every year. Ichiro is 39, Travis Hafner is their real DH, and their third basemen are A-Rod and Youkilis. A-Rod is missing half the year, and both men only played 122 games last year. They don't have a Major League catcher. Their replacements for Granderson and Teixeira are Juan Rivera and Dan Johnson. Yeesh. Their lineup looks...well, maybe below average. It's an average-to-below-average lineup, all things considered.
Their pitching staff is a bit more promising, but also has gaping holes and gigantic question marks. Sabathia, like Cano, is their one saving grace, the guy with no question marks who's an elite starter. Hiroki Kuroda, albeit a very good pitcher who was great last year, is 38. The rest of their pitching staff is Pettitte, Hughes, Nova. A lot of good things need to happen for those guys to be effective starters. This is, in my estimation, an average rotation. Their ace is better than most other teams' aces, but I would say their 3rd-5th starters are average at best for what they are. Oh, and Dinosaur Rivera is coming back from breaking.
The Yankees might actually be below .500 this year. They're in a division that will promise to have 4 other competitive teams. The 4 other teams in this division could be .500 and above. There's no team that's a pushover. No Astros or Twins or Marlins to help pad the division record. This is going to be a tough year for everyone in the division, and all of a sudden the Yankees have extremely little margin for error.
Now, let me qualify this and say that the Yankees are absolutely not a shoo-in for worst team in this division. Far from it. Other teams, the Red Sox included, could be worse. But it's absolutely reasonable to say that the Yankees might finish with the worst record of any team in this division. My money's not necessarily on them for that, but it's reasonable. They're going to need great years out of guys whom you wouldn't really expect to have great years, like an Ichiro or a Teixeira, and they're going to need to avoid injuries on this exceedingly old team. This isn't a recipe for success.
The Yankees have been a "win now" team for two decades. Now they're finally going to be a "win yesterday" team, and it's fantastic. Here's to the 2013 season!