Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Yankees [Print without images]

Monday, February 25, 2013
'13 Yanks could use Matt Nokes

By Andrew Marchand

The 1991 Yankees finished 71-91, mostly because of terrible pitching. Scott Sanderson was the team's ace with 16 wins, but after that there was Jeff Johnson, Tim Leary and Pascual Perez.

They were a fifth-place team because of the mound as much as anything else. But their offense was not great, which is why Dan Szymborski's numbers about how this year's Opening Day lineup may be the worst the Yankees have had since that 1991 incarnation are alarming.

Nokes
Catcher Matt Nokes hit a team-high 24 homers in 1991.
The '91 offense featured a regressing Don Mattingly (.288, nine homers, 64 RBIs in 152 games). Matt Nokes led the team in homers with 24, while Steve Sax was the only .300 hitter. In those days, no one talked about OPS, but Nokes' .778 could help this year's crew because Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli will be lucky to crack .700 and might not even go much beyond .600.

Even with their inferior offense, the '13 Yankees are unlikely to tank to 90-plus losses. There is a much better chance they will post 90-plus wins.

Still, they have created little margin for error because the usual depth is not there. Last year, Brett Gardner missed basically the entire season, but the Yankees had Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones as replacements.

To begin this season, whomever is in left -- Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera or a player to be traded for -- is not as good as Ibanez and Jones. In fact, by losing Curtis Granderson, the one area the Yankees figured to be better in -- outfield defense with Gardner in center -- may be more similar to last year with Diaz or Rivera in left.

Besides left, the Yankees, compared to last year, are likely going to be worse at the other two outfield positions, catcher, third base and maybe short.

Granderson is a better player -- not a better defender -- than Gardner. In right, Nick Swisher is a more productive regular-season outfielder than a nearly 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki.

At third, Kevin Youkilis is not as good as Alex Rodriguez, who had the third best OPS among AL third baseman in '12. The soon-to-be 39-year-old Derek Jeter -- for all his greatness -- is a better bet to take a step back than one forward, coming back from a broken ankle.

The '91 Yankees earned indifference from fans. They only drew 1.9 million to the Stadium, the third fewest in the American League that season. This year's club has not excited the fan base either.

It may not be '91 all over again, but this '13 team is not the powerhouse its fans are accustomed to watching. And they seem to sense it already.