As usual, the New York Yankees are trying to buy their way to another championship. Rumor has it that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner Jr. hates losing. This rumor is supported by the decision to fire manager Joe Girardi days after the Yankees lost game 7 to the eventual World Series Champs Houston Astros. Their biggest off-season move thus far was trading for NL MVP Gioncarlo Stanton. Could the Yankees become the best regular season team ever? Currently, the Seattle Mariners hold the record for best regular season with 116 wins (the 1906 Chicago Cubs also had 116 wins but they played 10 less games). Just for the sake of argument, let's compare the two lineups. Note: this analysis will not include players the Yankees have either traded away or lost to free agency or retirement. This analysis will be limited to players currently signed by the Yankees and will exclude free agents who have yet to sign a contract.
The Yankees starting catcher is power hitter Gary Sanchez. Last season, Sanchez smacked 33 HR, drove in 90 runs and had an OB% of .345. Defensively, the rookie catcher struggled. He allowed 53 WP and a league-leading 16 PB and committed an AL-worst for a catcher 13 errors. Hopefully with time he can learn to tighten things up defensively. Sanchez was a bit better at throwing out runners (38% vs. 23% of runners caught stealing for Wilson). So many factors determine whether a runner is thrown out from pitch selection to how good a jump the runner gets that it's tough to put a lot of weight into this stat. If he doesn't, the Yankees may look to replace him as a starter.
Seattle had veteran catcher Dan Wilson behind the plate. While he didn't have the offensive numbers in 2001 that Sanchez had last season, he was more reliable behind the plate, allowing just 3 passed balls and 23 wild pitches. One major advantage Wilson had over Sanchez was 2001 marked Wilson's 7th season with the Mariners whereas Sanchez was in his rookie season.
I'm going to give the advantage to Dan Wilson because he was more reliable defensively and I'm not sure how big an improvement we'll see from Gary Sanchez next year. While it is great to have an offensive catcher, to me it is more important for a catcher to minimize the errors and WP/PB as these can lead to extra runs for the opponent.
Assuming the Yankees don't sign another free agent, it is likely the Yankees will start the 2018 season with Greg Bird as the starting 1st baseman. In 40 starts at 1st base in 2017, he was perfect defensively. Offensively, he struggled hitting .190 with 9HR and 28RBI. It is difficult to really gauge him as an everyday player because the bulk of his playing time occurred in late August/early September as a call-up from AAA.
The Mariners had ex-Blue Jay John Olerud at 1st base. Olerud brought with him the experience of 2 WS with the Blue Jays. He had a solid season overall in 2001 hitting .301 with 21 HR and 95RBI. Defensively, he had a solid .993 fielding% (5th best in the AL) and committed just 9 errors.
The experience factor tips the scales here. It is likely that the Yankees will pursue a more veteran option to play first base either through free agency or a trade. At the moment, first base is a potential question mark for the Yankees in 2018.
In 2017, the Yankees had Starlin Castro at second base. He's since been traded to the Miami Marlins in the aforementioned Stanton trade. Again, assuming the Yankees don't sign another player or make another trade, one of Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade will start at second base. Torreyes is the more veteran option and he had a solid year at the plate in 2017 batting .292 with with 92 hits and 36 RBI's. Wade had limited action appearing in 30 games as a call-up.
Seattle had Bret Boone playing 2B in 2001. Boone had the best season of his career in 2001 and was a major reason why the Mariners won 116 games. He batted .331, hit 37 HR and drove in an AL-best 141 runs. In the field, Boone had a near perfect .986 fielding% and committed just 10 errors all season.
Seattle had the big advantage at this position. I suspect NY will look to add depth at this position as well. On a side Note, Bret Boone was one of my favorite non-Jay players.
Here, the Yankees have a rising star in Didi Gregorius. Heading into his 6th full season in the majors, Gregorius had a solid 2017 campaign. At the plate, he hit .287 with 25 HR and 87 RBI. In the field, Gregorius was equally as solid with a .982 fielding% and just 9 errors. Look for him to play a prominent role for the Yankees in 2018.
Seattle also possessed a shortstop comparable in age (Gregorius is 2 years older than Guillen was in 2001 and Gregorius has 5 years as an everyday player whereas Guillen was in his second year as a starting shortstop). The Mariners shortstop chipped in with a .253 average and 53RBI.
The Yankees have the edge here given that Gregorius has more upside than Guillen did. Both players contributed to their teams in their own way.
Last season, veteran Chase Headley manned the hot corner for the Yankees. He was traded to the San Diego Padres mid-December. If things stay the way they are and the Yankees don't add anymore players, it is likely rookie Miguel Andujar could be the starting 3rd baseman. In very limited action in 2017, Andujar showed a lot of promise. He went 4-7, including 2 doubles (1 of those doubles occurred on the final day of the regular season vs the Blue jays. Andujar split time between AA and AAA. At the AAA level, he hit .317 and drove in 30 runs. It is entirely possible the Yankees will add a 3rd baseman before spring training in a month.
Seattle had veteran David Bell playing 3rd base in 2001. Bell, like Andujar, was not a big power hitter. In 2001, David Bell batted .260 while driving in 64 runs. In the field, Bell boasted a .960 fielding% and committed 14 errors.
I have to give the Mariners the edge again given the lack of experience the Yankees presently have. I suspect things will change in that respect because it's pretty risky to have a rookie who has just a handful of games experience at the major league level starting at such a key position as 3rd base.
10-year veteran Brett Gardner trolls left field for the New York Yankees. Last season, Gardner hit . 264 with 21 HR, 63 RBI and 4 triples. Gardner also brings an element of speed. In 2017, he stole 23 bases and was caught just five times. Defensively, Brett Gardner is as solid as you can get. In 2017 , he had a perfect fielding percentage and committed no errors. The downside is Gardner is get on in years and his numbers are likely to decline in couple seasons, much like what happened to Jose Bautista in Toronto.
The Mariners deployed 10 year veteran Al Martin. in 2001, Martin hit .240 with 7 HR and 42 RBI. Al Martin also had a high strikeout rate (he struck out 155 times in 2001 which was 4th worst in the AL. Martin wasn't as effective in the field as Gardner is for the Yankees. In 2001, Martin committed 4 errors.
The advantage goes to the Yankees. As a whole, Gardner has had a much more consistent career than Martin did. he has proven to be very reliable and a solid leader in the locker room.Center Fielder
Arguably, center field is one of the most important positions on the baseball diamond. The player who plays this position ideally has a lot of speed as they have a lot of ground to cover. Last season, Jacoby Ellsbury was in center field for the Yankees. Recent reports suggest that Ellsbury Maybe with another team picture in the near future. If Ellsbury is still a Yankee the season, they will have a player who batted .264 in 2017 with 7 HR and 39 RBI. He also stole 22 bases last season and was caught stealing 3 times. Ellsbury proved to be a difficult batter to get out as he struck out 63 times in 2017. Ellsbury had a .985 fielding percentage and committed just a single error all season . If Ellsbury does move on, it is likely the Yankees will go with Aaron Hicks as their 2018 starting center fielder. Hicks batted .267 last season with 15 HR and 59 RBI. He stole 10 bases 5 times. in his 50 games as a center fielder last season, Hicks had a solid .991 Fielding percentage going to bed and committed 1 error.
In 2001, winners had key veteran Mike Cameron. Cammy was instrumental in helping the Mariners to the record 116 in 2001. Cameron batted .267 with AHRN 110 RBI like Brett Gardner, he stole 34 bases and was called just five times . to Mike Cameron is that he struck out a lot in 2001 (155 times, which was 4th worst in the AL). Mike Cameron was recipient of a gold glove in 2001, thanks to an impressive .986 fielding percentage, committing just six errors and helping turn two double plays.