Karpin: Yanks’ Road to Series Begins On the Road

The Yankees’ road to the World Series begins on the road, and I’m not talking about opening the season in Toronto.

You can look at WAR, OPS+, or even the good ol’ RBI stat, but the number that matters most to a major league ballclub is the Won-Lost record. That’s the determining factor, the “bottom line” if you will, to measuring what is and what isn’t a successful season.

Breaking down last season’s (91-71) W-L record, you look at what the numbers were at home and even more important, what the numbers were on the road. Last season, the Yankees were 51-30 at home and 40-41 on the road. On the surface, not a bad record away from Yankee Stadium, but, like any statistic, the numbers can be misleading.

Last season, the Yankees scored 44 less runs on the road than they did at home. Across the board, their team numbers on the road were less than at Yankee Stadium. In seven road games during the post season, the Yankees scored 16 runs. In the ALCS games in Houston, the Yankees scored all of three runs in the four losses.

The Yankees finished two games behind the Red Sox last season and probably lost the division on the road. In their divisional road games, the Yankees (who played two more divisional games at home than on the road) were 17-20. They were under .500 on the road against Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Toronto and were 5-4 at Fenway.

Last June, the Yankees dropped six of seven on a western swing that included a crushing four-game sweep in Oakland against an A’s team that was 12 games under .500 at the end of the season.

The Yankees want to win the division and avoid the Wild Card game for a third time. They’re capable of being a 50+ win team at home again but they’ll need to be more consistent on the road, especially against AL East opponents.

Jose Reyes could prove to be more than just valuable depth on the Mets’ roster. Oh, I’m not saying someone in the infield will get hurt and Reyes will return to the form that made him an All-Star and a batting champ. Reyes’ status in the clubhouse will be an underlying factor that could determine the Mets’ success in 2018.

Newcomer Todd Frazier will add leadership but Reyes, who has a history with the Mets, has evolved into a respected voice in the clubhouse, particularly among the Latin players. Reyes is serving as a mentor for young shortstop Amed Rosario and is someone who may be able to get Yoenis Cespedes to accept his “off the field” responsibilities and limit the distractions that could arise from such instances. Cespedes has been ducking the media during spring camp. It’s not something that I would recommend once the season starts.

Kevin Plawecki is on course to be the starting catcher and I think he’ll surprise some people behind the plate. In nine spring games, Plawecki, who is hitting .333 with a .611 slugging percentage, seems to be a more consistent hitter than Travis d’Arnaud and could supply as much or not more power than his counterpart.

Interesting development in the Rays camp. 22-year old Christian Arroyo, who was acquired from San Francisco in the trade for Evan Longoria, was brought in as a third baseman. Matt Duffy, who missed all of last season due to injury, has returned and is being penciled in as the starting third-baseman so Tampa Bay has begun using Arroyo at shortstop. Adeiny Hechavarria is the incumbent but maybe the Rays are thinking of Arroyo as a versatile player who can man third, short or second.

Arroyo has been a solid hitter throughout his minor league career. The knock on him is that he doesn’t walk a whole lot but he doesn’t strike out either. In five minor league seasons, he averaged less than 50 strikeouts/season. Arroyo is a better hitter than his .192 average during a short stint with the Giants would indicate and I feel he will develop some power.

Now that Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez have signed one year deals to return to the Royals and Rockies respectively, who’s next to come off the free agent market.

Would Jake Arrieta accept a one year deal to return to the Cubs, Alex Cobb back to the Rays maybe? The most likely return would be Lance Lynn going back to the Cardinals. Eventually, these players will be signed.

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