Countdown: 7 days to spring training

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
7:00
AM ET
It was a lot easier compiling the list of things the Yankees fan should be worrying about heading into spring training.

Here's a brief overview:

The captain
How much will Derek Jeter be slowed down both by his ankle and the aging process?

As long as Jeter can still slap line drives to right field with reasonable regularity, his offensive numbers should be decent.

But among the stats to watch:

Will his power numbers be closer to last season, when about one of every 7.5 fly balls was a home run, or 2011, when one of every 16 flies left the ballpark?

Can he get anything close to the 30 infield hits he had last season?

How much will his defense suffer? Jeter’s D was valued at -18 Runs Saved last season and his Revised Zone Rating (a measure of how often he turns batted balls that shorstops usually turn into outs, into outs) of .747 was the lowest in the 10 seasons for which data is available.

The ace
From 2009 to 2011, CC Sabathia threw more than 4,000 pitches that were clocked at 94 miles-per-hour or faster. Last season, he threw only 250.

Sabathia turns 33 in July. And given the wear and tear on his arm, and the jump in his home-run rate, it’s fair to question whether he can be the top-five AL pitcher that the Yankees have come to count on.

The hope that he’ll find a way comes from that five-start stretch just prior to the ALCS-knockout start against the Tigers in which he went 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA.

The hot corner
When you combine the stats of Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez and others who manned third base for the Yankees last season, you get a pretty good player -- one who had an .817 OPS and 26 home runs, both third-best in the AL behind the Tigers and Rangers.

Forgotten in all the PED talk about Rodriguez is how good Chavez was at third base last season -- a .913 OPS and 11 home runs in 170 at-bats. That may be harder to replace than A-Rod.

Look at it this way: Those who played third were probably worth about four Wins Above Replacement to the Yankees last season.

They’ll be challenged to get this from an aging Kevin Youkilis (1.3 WAR in 2012), and Eduardo Nunez, whose defensive shortcomings are likely to negate a good chunk of his offensive value.

The aging starters
The Yankees are going to try to squeeze everything they can out of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, but both should come with warning labels attached—“Will likely not be as effective as last season.”

Kuroda was amazing for much of the season, finishing with a 3.32 ERA. But his peripherals (strikeouts, walks, homers allowed) were more suggestive of a pitcher with an ERA in the high 3s. Pettitte pitched to a 2.87 ERA, but the peripherals tagged him as being closer to a 3.50.

The Yankees are likely hoping that the two average 180 innings. That’s asking a lot. Only six pitchers 38 or older have reached the 180-inning mark in the past five seasons -- an average of just over one per year.

Only two (Bartolo Colon and Derek Lowe) even pitched more innings than Pettitte’s 75 1/3 last season. The trend these days is for pitching to get younger. The Yankees are trying to buck that.

The willingness to spend
In both actions and words, the Yankees have taken the approach that they’re going to get their 2013 payroll in line with getting their luxury tax penalties reset for the following year.

For the first time in a long time, the Yankees didn’t ostensibly do anything to leave them better off than they were a year ago.

They’re stubbornly sticking with a veteran core while the other AL East teams play catch-up.

There may be some short-term consequences for this, but management seems content to live with it and plan for the long term. That’s not something Yankees fans are used to hearing.

What are you most worried about heading into spring training? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.291 8 46 47
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 58
OPSJ. Ellsbury .777
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135