re: 2012 GIANTS...TROUT >
Soriano was rather lights out, save for a few blown saves (no pun intended). He had 42 saves, 2.26 ERA... Not that I think "saves" are the be all and end all of baseball, anyway, but I don't think the Yankees gain too much from Rivera returning, even if it's to classic Rivera form. Perhaps something of an intangible psychological advantage.
The most critical matters for the Yankees, it seems to me, are, fielding a more dynamic lineup from top to bottom this year, for key guys like Gardner and Sabathia (and Jeter and A-Rod while we're at it) to stay healthy and, realistically, to keep Kuroda (and keep him out of the Dodgers' fiendish grasp). The lineup issue could be a change in the way guys like Granderson and Cano are instructed to hit, or it could be more youth and energy, but something definitely needs to be done. Kevin Long has done a lot of great things for a bunch of guys who have come and gone for them, but almost ardent insistance--particularly when dealing with LHBs--to make them pull-happy robots has possibly helped to poison certain guys' productivity even in the face of lots of home runs as one of the chief positive outcomes, especially when they aren't getting the pitch for which they are primarily looking. Granderson in particular, far more than Cano, seem so to be suffering from this situation. His K rate has gone through the roof. In 2011, when he was an AL MVP candidate, it was at least acceptable as the production was evident, but while his dinger total a couple homers higher, many of the key numbers were down, OBP., SLG., OPS, OPS+.
The team is just so old in general. Some of these guys are going to lose multiple steps over the course of the next couple of seasons. Some will persist in being highly productive players. And probably one or two will fall off cliffs (perhaps A-Rod already did).
It's weird, but it seems like the offense is their biggest problem. Oakland and New York ended up being peculiarly similar in their offensive attacks, fundamentally overreliant on the home run. I say "overreliant" not because hitting tons of home runs is bad, it obviously isn't. But in each case it was imbalanced line of attack and it caught up with each team when, interestingly enough, they both had to face the Detroit Tigers and their superlative starting pitching. Yankees more so than the A's, but anyway.