Brett Gardner was sorely missed in 2012.
The Bronx Bombers. A name that has always been appropriate when talking about the New York Yankees and their propensity for hitting the long ball. However, 2013 might be more Bronx Bunters than Bronx Bombers.
Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch, but do not expect this team to resemble teams of years past. The Yankees have finished 1st in home runs three of the last four seasons and have finished out of the top 5 in total home runs only once in the last eleven seasons (they finished 11th in 2008).
So, why expect less long balls this season compared to others? Well, Russell Martin and Nick Swisher are gone, which eliminates quite a few home runs. Martin (21 home runs in 2012) and Swisher (24 home runs in 2012) are being replaced by the likes of Francisco Cervelli (5 career homeruns) and/or Chris Stewart (4 career home runs) at catcher and Ichiro (who has hit 10+ home runs in a season only three times in his career) in right field combined with Brett Gardner (15 career home runs) in left, who missed most of the 2012 season. That is a lot of home run production gone.
Ichiro will play his first full season for the Yankees in 2013.
Granderson and Teixeira are still on the roster. So is newly acquired Travis Hafner. All of whom will surely be swinging for the fences and hit their share of homers, but, on the whole, this roster has fewer power hitters, which is not a bad thing.
Last season, the Yankees were in the middle of the pack when hitting with runners in scoring position. They batted .256 with RISP, which ranked 17th in baseball, leaving plenty of room for improvement. They also relied too heavily on the long ball, leading all of baseball in percentage of runs via the home run (48.38%), and often played base-to-base, a byproduct of hitting a lot of home runs. They ranked 22nd in stolen bases (93) and 27th in Sacrifice Hits (31). Hopefully, those numbers improve this season.
A remedy to combat their reliance on home runs is the speed they will have in 2013. The Yankees will have a full season of Ichiro and Gardner (And Eduardo Nunez, who swiped 11 bags in only 38 games in 2012, should see decent playing time in 2013 as well). This speed adds a dimension to the Yankees offense that they did not have in 2012. Ichiro stole 14 bases in only 67 games last season for the Yankees and Gardner stole 47 bases in 2010 and 49 in 2011. That can be some big-time speed on the bases for the Yankees in 2013, speed that can be utilized to spark a different kind of Yankees offense. A kind of offense that does not rely as much on home runs, instead favoring for the manufacturing of runs, which was something that was clearly missing for the Yankees in the 2012 postseason. That offense sputtered greatly, due in large part because of the amount of home runs they hit in the regular season and the lack of home runs they hit in the postseason.
In recent years, the attempt to manufacture runs instead of hitting a plethora of home runs has not been the Yankee way, but having an offense that is less predicated on the long-ball could have a better chance of cracking the tough pitching seen in October. At the very least, the speed of Gardner and Ichiro could be utilized to create a more consistent offense in 2013.