Opening Day is finally here for the New York Yankees. The 2012 season promises to be an exciting one, though I will doubt anything can match the excitement from the way the season ended last year. Anyway, without further adieu, here are my ten bold predictions for the New York Yankees 2012 season:
1. Phil Hughes will win at least 16 games and post a sub-4.00 ERA. I have always been a fan of Phil Hughes and I believe last season was an anomaly. He threw the ball well in Spring Training, routinely keeping his fastball in the 91-94 MPH range which is where he sat before last season. He is in great shape and more importantly, his curveball is showing that late, 12-6 break again. He will turn 26 in June so he will start to enter his prime. As long as his health holds up, always a major area of concern with Hughes (and just about every pitcher for that matter), Hughes will show the Yankees the pitcher he was in 2010.
2. Curtis Granderson will not hit 40+ homers again this year. Will 39 be ok? I think the improvement Granderson showed last season was real and he will continue to improve, overall, as a hitter. He will hit .280 this season, bash 39 homers, and drive in 114 runs and steal 28 bases.
3. Robinson Cano will eclipse the 30 homer mark for the first time in his career, belting 32 home runs. Oh, and he will win the batting title this year by hitting .332 and finally win an MVP.
4. Derek Jeter will continue to deny Father Time by hitting .304 with 9 home runs. He works as hard as anyone at maintaining his fitness level and will show he can still handle the shortstop position. Jeter will get back to running on the base paths as well, eclipsing 20 steals for the first time since 2009.
5. Andy Pettitte will win 10 games. However, he will spend a short stint on the DL because of leg issues. When Pettitte does return he will solidify a rotation and help lead the Yankees into the playoffs. HE can’t be expected to be the same pitcher he was two or three years ago but there is no reason to believe he can’t be effective. 10 wins and a 4.35 ERA shouldn’t be out of the question.
6. Brett Gardner will steal 60 bases and hit .290 at the bottom of the lineup. Gardner has always had the legs and last season his bat seemed to fade in spurts as he took too many pitches. He will be a tad more aggressive this season, helped out by the resurgent Derek Jeter who will be hitting behind him. He will also hit 9 home runs, a new career high.
7. Nick Swisher will top 30 home runs for the second time in his career and the first time since 2006. Last season Swisher found himself in a two-month slump to start the season. That won’t happen this time. He will also take over pie duties from the departed A.J. Burnett.
8. Clay Rapada will outpitch Boone Logan against lefty hitters. Rapada has held lefties to a .104/.170/.167 split for his career. He is straight hell on lefty batters. Logan, on the other hand, has allowed lefties to hit .251/.323/.380 against him. However, Logan can get righties out as well while Rapada can’t. Rapada will also strike out Prince Fielder in a key at bat during the ALCS.
9. Mark Teixeira will finally get his average back above .260. He will hit .272 this season while crushing 42 home runs and driving in 112 runs. Tex has been working with Kevin Long as he tries to defeat the shift played against him when he bats left-handed. After driving the ball the other way a few times early in the year he will see less of a shift and see more base hits.
10. Alex Rodriguez will stay healthy for a majority of the season. A-Rod will look a little like his old self this season and hit 30 homers and drive in 101 runs while hitting .292. With Eduardo Nunez able to give A-Rod some days off at third so he can DH he will stay fresher.
Bonus: The New York Yankees will win the World Series. Hey, Kentucky won the NCAA Championship in basketball and the last 6 times they won the Yankees have won the World Series. Might as well keep that streak going and make it 7 for 7.