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Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay have gotten the most credit and attention for the Yankees’ 28-18 start and rightfully so. The Yankees would be in serious trouble without those bargain basement pickups. However, the Yankees’ bullpen has been the biggest strength of the team and is probably the biggest reason the Yankees find themselves on top of the AL East. This seems like an every year of occurrence, but Joe Girardi has done an outstanding job of managing the bullpen and he has found some more unexpected contributors.
It was Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada and David Phelps last year and this year it has been Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren. Those four relievers have combined for a 2.68 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. Those numbers could be even better if not for Kelley’s early season struggles. Combine those guys with what may be the best bullpen duo in MLB, in David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, and you have an outstanding bullpen. It will be interesting to see what happens when Joba Chamberlain returns because he was pitching very well before he got hurt, but if he falters the Yankees have solid options in Claiborne and Kelley.
Claiborne allowed his first run of the season last night when he allowed a three-run home run to Matt Weiters, but he has still been outstanding so far, as he has a .82 ERA and a .818 WHIP in 11 innings. Claiborne has done a great job of going after hitters with his fastball that has averaged 93.3 MPH. Throwing strikes and attacking with your fastball is a great quality for a reliever to have. The next step in his development is to better develop his slider and changeup.
Kelley has put his early season struggles behind him and has been absolutely dominant of late. He has only allowed one home run since April 19th and just one walk since April 24th. His 42.9% K rate leads all MLB relievers and he has struck out an incredible 15.91 batters per nine innings. Kelley is not an incredibly hard thrower (91.7 MPH average fastball), but he locates it very well has and has a 30.30% called strike rate with his fastball. His swing and miss pitch is his slider, as Kelley has a 20.38% whiff rate with it this season.
Warren has bounced back after his disastrous Yankees debut last season. It will be interesting to see if he may be more suited to be a reliever than a starter with the success he has had. Warren has taken over Phelps’ role in the bullpen with Phelps in the rotation for Ivan Nova. He has a 1.14 ERA and a 2.91 FIP in 23.3 innings this season. Warren has been very flexible, as he had success in short appearances and multiple innings appearances. He still only has 6.46 K/9 and a .275 BABIP, so there has probably been some of his success has been due to luck. However, he has done a great job of keeping the ball on the ground (57.1 GB%) and has used all four of his pitches well to keep hitters off balance.
The Yankees have been outstanding at protecting leads this year, and with their limitations on offense that has been very important. They are 21-0 when leading after six innings and 24-0 when leading after seven. Also, they are 17-7 in games decided by one or two runs. Obviously, Rivera being perfect in his save opportunities helps, but these middle relievers have been a huge part of the team as well. These guys can also help the Yankees in their quest to keep their payroll under $189 million because none of them make much money. Rivera and his $10 million will be off the books and they can let Chamberlain and Boone Logan walk, which would allow them to save $5 million.
In the meantime, the Yankees have an incredible deep bullpen that has and will continue to be the backbone of their success.
The Yankees had another successful week going 5-3 against Kansas City, Cleveland, Seattle and Toronto. The week started out on the road as the Yankees completed a sweep against Kansas City on Sunday behind home runs from Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells and a solid outing from Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees went on to split a doubleheader in Clevealnd after getting shutout but turned the table in the second game by shutting out Cleveand in Vidal Nuno’s first MLB start. On Tuesday, the Yankees had a huge come from behind win after training Seattle 3-0. In the seventh inning, Cano hit an RBI double that tied the game at and the Yankees went ahead on Lyle Overbay’s sac fly. However, the Yankees lost the next two against Seattle, including an embarrassing 12-2 loss on Wedesday, in which Phil Hughes allowed seven runs and did not make it out of the first inning. Fortunately, the Yankees got to beat up on Toronto two more times this year. Kuroda pitched a gem on Friday when he went eight inning without allowing a run in a 5-0 win. Yesterday, Cano pounded Brandon Morrow with two home runs in a 7-2 rout. This week’s nominees for Yankees Player of the Week are Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Vernon Wells.
Robinson Cano- Cano hit .250 for the week with 3 HR’s and 10 RBI. His game tying RBI double in the seventh inning on Wednesday was one of the biggest hits for the Yankees this season. Also, Cano’s two home runs yesterday were obviously huge in the Yankees winning that game as well.
Hiroki Kuroda- Kuroda was absolutely fantastic in his two starts this week. On Sunday, he pitched 7.2 innings, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out one in Kansas City. He was even better yesterday, as he pitched eight shutout innings and allowed only two hits. Kuroda lowered his ERA to 1.99 for the season.
Vernon Wells- Wells hit .308 on the week with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI. His best game was on Sunday in Kansas City when he had three hits, including a two-run home run.
With his two outstanding starts Hiroki Kuroda is your Week 7 Yankees Player of the Week. With today’s rain out, discuss the solid week that the Yankees had in the comments. It was a fun week because we got to see a lot of new young players come up and perform as well as the regulars.
Yesterday was basically the whole season for the New York Yankees in a nutshell. They finally got Curtis Granderson back from the disabled list, but lost Travis Hafner due to a sore shoulder. So, they did not gain a whole lot there. Then, they were down 3-0 to King Felix and the Mariners, before clutch hits by Robinsonn Cano and Travsi Hafner got them a 4-3 lead that Mariano Rivera saved in the ninth inning. This formula has gotten them the most wins (25) in MLB and the best overall record (25-14) in the AL. They have never gotten healthy this year, but their pitching has been outstanding, and they have managed to hit just enough.
There was great anticipation yesterday as to where Granderson would bat in the lineup and who among Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells would sit. With Hafner hurt that got delayed a few days, but it is still definitely worth pondering.
It seems pretty obvious that with Granderson returning Suzuki’s playing time should be cut dramatically. Wells has earned the right to play every day and Gardner’s defense is very valuable in centerfield, although I am still not a big fan of his at the plate. Suzuki has been terrible at the plate this year, as he has hit .246/.289/.341/.630 (63 wRC+) in 137 at bats. For comparisons sake, Chris Stewart had a 65 wRC+ last season, so Suzuki is hitting at a backup catcher’s level in right field this season.
This is not terribly surprising, as Suzuki has been in a steep decline for many years now. Even in his prime Suzuki never took walks for hit for power, so if he is not hitting at least .280 he provides little offensive value. The Yankee’s upper hierarchy signed him to a two-year contract most likely because they wanted the added revenue if Suzuki reached 3,000 hits in a Yankees uniform. Hopefully, nonsense like that, and Suzuki’s stature as a Hall of Fame player, does not stop Joe Girardi from putting him in his rightful place on the bench and as the team’s fourth outfielder.
Last night, Girardi chose to leave Cano 2nd and bat Granderson 4th. It is unconventional to hit your best player second, but lone behold Cano was up with the game on the line in the seventh inning. Now, that you could obviously write that off as just a coincidence, but getting Cano the most plate appearances possible is not the worst thing in the world. Ideally I would like Granderson 2nd and Cano 3rd because Granderson is a great fastball hitter and he would see tons of them hitting in front of Cano. However, the problem with that is with Gardner leading off you have three lefties in a row at the top of the lineup, so you can see why this is a very tough lineup to juggle.
With David Adams potentially coming up today you have three guys for two spots in Adams, Chris Nelson and Jayson Nix if Ben Francisco gets cut rather than Nelson. With the way Adams is hitting at Triple A (.316/.407/.490/.897) he deserves a chance to start at third base everyday, which leaves Nelson and Nix to battle it out at shortstop. There really is not big difference between the two. but I think Nelson brings a little more to the table than Nix. Nelson is hitting .296 over his last seven games for the Yankees and adds a lot more speed than Nix. Nix has struck out way to many times for a non-power hitter and only has .626 OPS this season. I am not saying Nelson is a whole lot better, but I would rather see him play
So, here are what my lineups would be, assuming Hafner is healthy.
1. Gardner CF
2. Granderson RF
3. Cano 2B
4. Wells LF
5. Hafner DH
6. Adams 3B
7. Overbay 1B
8. Nelson SS
9. Stewart C
1. Gardner CF
2. Wells DH
3. Granderson RF
4. Cano 2B
5. Adams 3B
6. Suzuki LF
7. Nelson SS
8. Overbay 1B
9. Stewart C
I put Ichiro in against lefties because his platoon splits are actually a lot better vs. lefties this season and more because the Yankees really don’t have anybody else. Getting Youkilis back against lefties would be a big helps. What would your Yankees lineup be? Discuss it in the comments.
It had seemed that the old lefty had left the game for good following the 2010 season, as absolutely no murmurs of a potential comeback were spread during 2011. Andy was enjoying life at home in Texas, being there for his family like he hadn’t been for almost his entire adult life.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were doing just fine without him. Piecing together a starting rotation featuring Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the team won 97 games and the A.L. East. Andy even threw out the first pitch to Jorge Posada prior to Game 2 of the ALDS, making a brief re-appearance in New York. It was a great, yet unfortunate moment, as fans knew he went out on the top of his game, and probably could have helped the Yanks that October.
The season ended and soon after it was reported Andy Pettitte would be back with the Yankees – as a spring instructor, that is. Any remaining fans holding out for a return of #46 probably finally gave up when the team bolstered its pitching staff by acquiring Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. If there wasn’t even a rotation spot open, how could anyone expect him to put the pinstripes back on, or longer than the two weeks Andy was scheduled to be down in Tampa that is.
Spring training beckoned and indeed Pettitte was back in uniform. Throwing BP, helping out minor leaguers, and getting his chops busted by his former teammates, Andy was reportedly in incredible shape. Of course, a beer belly wouldn’t form over one year, but still it looked as if he was keeping his body in baseball shape.
And that’s when our sneeky general manager Brian Cashman got to work. Andy had indeed been working out, and wanted to pitch again. It was a shocking development that was kept under wraps for a few weeks, as the then 39-year old threw a few bullpen sessions testing how it felt to be back on a mound after so long.
The Yankees must have been pleased with what they saw, for on March 16th, 2012 it was announcedby YES Network’s Jack Curry that they had signed back their homegrown ace to a minor league contract worth up to $2.5 million in incentives. To the public, it seemed completely out of the blue and many fans were shocked but elated to have Pettitte back.
Still, there was no guaruntee of him even getting back to the major leagues. He had to mak e a number of starts at various levels in the Yankees’ farm system while the regular season was underway, to make sure that his “stuff” could still get out professional baseball players.
When the Yanks finally purchased his contract and called him up to officially return to Major League Baseball, it just so happened to be Mother’s Day. Facing the Mariners, Pettitte quickly settled down and before you knew it he was pitching like he never left. Four earned runs in 6.1 innings was a start typical to Andy’s career, but his performance following that was exceptional.
He would pitch to a 2.87 ERA in an injury-shortened season, posting an 8.2 K/9 ratio while striking out batters at an astronimcal rate. In the postseason he was dandy as he’s always been, allowing just 5 runs total in two starts. He didn’t add to his record 19 postseason wins, but he certainly deserved to.
And so here we are today. Andy Pettitte is back for 2013 as well and is pitching [aside from two subpar outings] as well if not better than many of the top flight starters in MLB. Each night he takes the mound it really is a treat to watch, because a little over a year ago we were certain to have seen the last of old #46. He’s gotten a new appreciation and love for the game thanks to his year off, and hopefully the rest he got then can keep him healthy and productive for the Yanks throughout this season. As in each of his past 17 seasons, we’ll need him.
With the lack of big moves in the off-season and the mountain of injured players the Yankees have endured, not many expected them to get off to a good start. Well not only has it been a good start, the Yanks are now in 1st Place in the AL East with a 20-13 record, just a half-game behind Texas for best record in the American League. Every year there is a surprise team that defies the numbers and conventional wisdom by winning games. Last year it was the Baltimore Orioles who won 93 games and a Wild Card spot in the playoffs despite a bunch of peripheral statistics that said they should have been about a .500 team. So far in the early going there are a lot of parallels to the 2012 Os and the 2013 Yanks.
Baltimore only had a 712-705 run differential which according to the respected Pythagorean W-L stat developed by Bill James should have equaled a 82-80 record. But the O’s were able to defy the odds thanks to an incredible 29-9 record in 1-run games and an unheard of 16-2 mark in extra inning games. While there was a tremendous amount of luck involved in the Orioles success last year, they also have to be commended for finding ways to win all of those close games. Baltimore was middle of the pack in most categories but the one area that excelled for them was their bullpen. Their pen led the AL with 55 saves and was 3rd with a 3.00 ERA.
This year’s Yankees have a 139-128 Run differential which would equal a 18-15 Pythagorean W-L record so their 20-13 record is not such an anomaly. But, the manner in which they have been winning is what is similar to Buck’s 2012 team. The Yanks are a MLB-best 6-1 in 1-run games and 12-4 in games decided by 2 runs or less. None of their team stats jump out as a possible reason why they have been able to win so many close games. Their bullpen ERA is 10th in the AL at 3.82 but the back-end of their pen, namely David Robertson and the great Mariano Rivera have been superb. Robertson has done his job in 13 of 14 appearances while Mo is a perfect 13 of 13 in Save opportunities and the team is 15-0 when the Sandman makes an appearance.
While Mariano is a huge part of the close wins, it is truly a team effort. The team offense has been mediocre, averaging just 4.2 runs per game (10th in AL) but they have been scratching out runs when they need them in a variety of ways. This is a huge difference from previous seasons when the Yanks have perennially been in the top 1 or 2 teams in scoring. With all of the injuries and the anemic lineup vs LHP (.217/.287/.340/.627), the team has relied on strong pitching (5th in AL 3.68 ERA) and some timely runs. They haven’t exactly come through a lot with runners in scoring position or anything but they have done the little things well to get just what they need to win….moving runners, stealing bases, capitalizing on their opponent’s errors, beating out an infield single to score a winning run, etc.
One thing the Yankees have done incredibly well this year is winning games when they have the lead. Once they get ahead, they stay ahead. They have lost only one game all year that they have led in. They are 11-0 when leading after the 3rd inning and 15-0 when leading after the 6th. That is a testament to their excellent pitching, especially the back-end of the pen. While the perfect record isn’t sustainable, having a strong back-end of the pen is so the Yankees will continue to win when they are ahead as long as DRob and Mo remain healthy. Joba and Logan and most recently Preston Claiborne have all pitched well out of the pen.
But can the Yankees remain in 1st Place without starting to score more runs? It’s doubtful. While Baltimore showed a team can win 93 games and make the playoffs without scoring much more than your opponent, it certainly isn’t likely to repeat itself. The Yankees need to find ways to score more to continue winning. Some help is on the way with the soon return of Eduardo Nunez and Curtis Granderson but the rest of the injured starters are a long ways off. The Yanks will need to try to improve their offense against LHP either through minor-lg callups (David Adams, Ronnier Mustelier) or via trades. I don’t think any trades are likely at this point unless they get some bad news on the injury rehab front. Youkilis, Teixeira, Jeter, ARod and even Cervelli are all strong RH bats who have clobbered LHP in recent yrs so getting any or all of those players back from injury will be better than any trade they can make.
The starting pitching has been good and right now all of the starters are pitching well with the exception of Andy Pettitte who has had back to back poor starts. I expect Andy to get it together and the rotation to continue to give this team opportunities to win. While the offense is clearly not as good as in past years, there is a certain level of satisfaction to see the team winning these types of games. They just took 2 of 3 in Colorado despite scoring just 6 runs in the entire series and their last 7 games have all been decided by 2 runs or less. Getting Grandy and Nunez back and calling up one or both of Adams & Musty would infuse some much-needed offense into the team. Getting Hafner’s bat back into the lineup with the DH is also a big plus. I see no reason to believe the Yankees can’t remain in striking distance of 1st place until the All-Star Break when they should begin to get most of their bats back.
Can the Yanks keep winning all of these 1 and 2-run games or is it a fluke? Do they need to make a trade to improve the offense or can they hold out until injuries heal? Give your opinion in the comments.
Nothing much has been normal for the Yankees this year and yesterday in Colorado epitomized their whole season to date. It was so crazy that Joe Girardi batting David Phelps eighth was not the strangest thing that happened. After Chris Nelson got pinched hit for in the top of the ninth, Girardi had nobody else to turn to play third base other than Vernon Wells. It was the first time in his 15 major league seasons that he had played even an inning at third base.
“I got hit in the mouth at second base when I was 12 and immediately moved to the outfield,” Wells told Wally Matthews. “So you can imagine how it felt when, in the ninth inning, Wells looked at the Yankees’ dugout and saw infield coach Mick Kelleher waving him closer to the hitter. “I was like, ‘What? I’ve got to play in? I’m [playing in] already!”‘ he said. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, that’s for sure.”
Wells was a huge part of the reason that the Yankees were even in the game to begin with. He already had three hits, including a two-run home run that had accounted for their only runs through eight innings and an infield single that started the Yankees’ rally in the ninth. However, Wells’ fun had only just started. The Yankees took the lead in the ninth inning with one of the softest rallies you will ever see.
Wells opened the inning with an infield single and stole second in front of Lyle Overbay walking. Ichiro Suzuki bunted the runners over and Jayson Nix was intentionally walked after a 3-0 count to load the bases. This is when things got interesting. With no backup infielders available, Girardi pinch hit Travis Hafner for Chris Nelson because the Yankees needed to take the lead right there. Hafner struck out, but Brennan Boesch got the run home on an infield single to give the Yankees a 3-2 when Nolan Arenado’s throw after a great diving effort was just a little late.
However, the Yankees still had three outs to get, and Wells had to go out to third base to replace Nelson. You knew that the baseball Gods were not going to let Wells off the hook without having to field a ball. Carlos Gonzalez hit a one-hopper that Wells had to take two steps to his left to get to. He fielded it and fired a perfect strike to Overbay at first. Wells looked like a natural on that play and you would have never realized that he had never played an inning of third base in his life.
The trade to acquire Wells was ridiculed and laughed at by just about everybody. However, Wells has been a consummate team player for the Yankees and one of the most productive players in the lineup. Even though Wells has struggled so far in May, (.240/.240/.360/.600) he proved yesterday that he does not plan on returning to playing like he did in Los Angeles any time soon.
That game last night epitomized what the 2013 Yankees have been. You really have no idea how they do it, yet they just keep on winning. With a lineup filled of mostly formerly washed up players and “AAAA” players, the Yankees find themselves at 19-13 and only one game behind the Orioles and Red Sox for first place in the AL East. It has been done with mostly guts and guile, things you do not normally associate with a team with about a $230 million payroll. With Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis possible coming back next week, things can start to get even more fun soon.
Phil Hughes takes a lot of grief from Yankees fans for not living up to the ace that he was hyped up to be. Most of this grief has been unearned because just because Hughes is not Matt Harvey or Stephen Strasburg does not mean he is not a solid pitcher. The calls for him to be taken out of the rotation whenever he struggles are mind boggling. Right now, only Hiroki Kuroda is pitching better than him on the Yankees, and Hughes has demonstrated the best stuff on the team.
In his past four starts, Hughes has pitched 28 innings, allowed six earned runs for a 1.93 ERA, 23 hits, five walks and 30 strikeouts. This has lowered his ERA for the season from 4.67 to 3.60.
Hughes was the reason the Yankees didn’t get swept this weekend, as he turned in a masterful eight innings against Oakland and allowed only one run. The Yankees needed all eight innings out of Hughes as well because the bullpen would have likely blown the lead without Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. His fastball was absolutely dominant, as he seemingly got ahead 0-1 to every Oakland hitter. Out of Hughes’ 118 pitches, 79 of them were fastballs, 60 of them were thrown for strikes and he got 12 swings and misses out of his fastball. Also, his fastball had the velocity on it that we had not seen from Hughes for awhile now, as he topped out at 95 MPH without losing control. With Hughes’ short arm delivery, his fastball gets on hitters very quickly, so it appears even faster than that.
Hughes’ two main problems over his career have been his inability to put batters away and allowing too many home runs. His HR/FB rate is 9.6% this season compared to 12.4% last season, so he has improved there. For the season, Hughes’ foul ball rate on his fastball is still 26.17%, which is still too high. However, with 18 strikeouts over his last two outings, he is starting to show improvement there as well.
Part of the reason for the added strikeouts has been the development of Hughes’ slider. He implemented it around the middle of last season when he started to have success and it has really taken off this season. Hughes has thrown his slider 20.7& of the time this season compared to just 4.2% last season. His slider has a whiff percentage of 14.75% this season. It has replaced his curveball as his number one off speed pitch, which is good because Hughes’ curveball just was not effective enough to be an out pitch, but it is much better served to be his third pitch. Also, he has completely scrapped his cutter, which was an awful pitch for him, as it had a higher line drive percentage (6.67%) than whiff percentage (5%) last season. He has four solid pitches to get people out and he can control of all of them, as his outstanding 8.74 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 this season.
Hughes is in a contract season and if he keeps this up he will be in line for a very big deal. He should get around the five-year deal worth $77.5 million that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers. Hughes would be even more valuable to a team with a big ballpark, as more of his fly balls would not turn into home runs. It has been assumed that Hughes will be out of the Yankees’ price range due to the $189 million budget. However, with CC Sabathia being the only pitcher you can count on being under contract next season, the Yankees will have a big hole in the rotation. With talk of the Yankees maybe going away from that budget, perhaps there is more of a chance Hughes returns. If Hughes does leave as a free agent, fans will miss him more than they think, and maybe they will finally appreciate him.
A lot of movement this week between the big club and the affiliates… we saw both Austin Romine and my personal favorite Vidal Nuno get the call to the BX, Corban Joseph get the yo-yo treatment coming up and then getting sent back down without a single AB, and then just recently Preston Claiborne get the nod out of the pen to replace the Joba monster. Many were pining for the debut of one Mark Montgomery, but Claiborne has been pretty solid himself, and has a bit more experience at the upper levels. As much as I’m looking forward to getting Monty up, I can’t say I’m too broken up about the choice. It gives Monty a bit more seasoning time and could keep him from reaching super two status. Not that the salary of a reliever should be that much concern, but until we see Hal loosen the purse strings on the future it’s not a bad idea. On with the show…
SWB RailRiders 5-0 on the week
Scranton finished off the week perfect going 5-0, led by Ziolo Almonte who went 9-23 with a pair of doubles, a HR and 5 RBI’s. He cut his K’s to 5 these last few games but didn’t manage any walks. Fellow free swinger Melky Mesa chipped in six hits of his own in 18 AB’s, including a double and a homer. He drove in two but struck out six times with zero free passes. The Yanks continue their search for a right-handed bat, indicating the OF’ers give them little reprieve with their hacktastic ways. Speaking of which, Ronnier Mustelier completed his rehab stint and made his first appearance for the Railriders. He went 0-3 but managed a walk and then came around to score. Austin Romine got in all of one AB before getting pulled in response to Cervelli getting hit with a pitch and joining half the team on the DL. With Cerv looking reborn it’s a shame to lose him, but it gives Romine a chance at some time with the big boys. David Adams went 4-15 this week, clubbing a HR and driving in a pair.
As mentioned earlier Nuno got the call and didn’t log any innings in PA this week. Good news on the reclamation front though, as Chien-Ming Wang continues to put up solid innings. He went 7 innings, giving up a run on 6 hits, walking one and striking out a pair. On the down side, for those of you awaiting the return of the Wanger you’ll have to wait. News from the FO is that they want to see him working more on his secondary stuff, as his sinker isn’t what it used to be. They feel for him to be successful he’ll have to sharpen up his off speed stuff and learn to work with reduced velocity. Torn capsules are a death sentence, so the fact that he’s doing what he has is pretty remarkable. Dellin Betances threw a ton of pitches to get just 3.1 innings deep, giving up a pair of runs in the process. He walked three and struck out six. I’m still in the Dellin-to-the-pen camp, but the upside to him starting is that he’ll log more time on the hill. Brett Marshall has picked things up though, tossing 12.1 innings of 9 hit, 1 run ball. He’s still struggling with control a bit as he walked 8 and registered 9 K’s. Mark Montgomery threw two innings in relief, giving up a run and a walk while striking out just one. Preston Claiborne chipped in 2.2 innings of his own, giving up two runs on four hits before getting the nod to the BX. He might not be able to step into Joba’s shoes right away, but anything that keeps shawn Kelley off the mound right? Read the rest of this entry
Going into the season, the goal for the Yankees in April was to just tread water and not fall completely out of the race with all the injuries they had. The Yankees not only survived April, but they thrived in April. After yesterdays 7-4 win over Houston, the Yankees ended April at 16-10 and only two games behind Boston in the AL East. That 16-10 record incredibly puts the Yankees on a pace to win over 100 games this season. The Yankees had many unexpected players step up for them in the month.
The Yankees are tied for first in the AL with 36 home runs on the season, when nobody expected them to hit as many home runs as they did last year. However, the Yankees are not only scoring most of their runs off of home runs this year like they did last year. The Yankees have a more diverse offense so far this season and have made many comebacks that they did not seem to make last season. In seven of their last 10 wins the Yankees had been trailing at some point in the game. All four of their wins in a four game sweep of Toronto were come from behind wins. Also, they had an exciting comeback against David Price and Fernando Rodney in Tampa and in their two wins over Arizona.
Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and the pitching staff have helped carry the Yankees to this 16-10 record. Cano was going to have to be one of the players to carry the Yankees and he has performed at an MVP level. Without much protection in the lineup, Cano has hit .327, with 7 HR’s, 17 RBI and a .977 OPS. Also, he has .413 w/OBA and a 161 wRC+ that would both be career highs for him. Hafner has been incredible and seems to get a big hit whenever he has a chance too. Especially lately, he had three hits and three RBI in yesterdays win and on Saturday Hafner hit a huge game tying home run. For the season, Hafner is hitting .318 with 6 HR’s, 17 RBI, a 1.104 OPS, a .460 wOBA and a 192 wRC+. Wells has been on of the few consistent Yankees right handed hitters, and who knows where they would be without him either. His approach at the plate has been excellent, as he has been using the opposite field more and taking a lot of walks.
The big three of the Yankees rotation has been about what you would expect it to be and winning when Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte were pitching was essential in April. Kuroda has been the best of the three, as he is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Opposing hitters are only hitting .206 off of him and Kuroda’s 52.4% GB percentage has been the key to his success. He is one of Brian Cashman’s best free agent signings ever. All the talk about Sabathia has been how his fastball is only averaging 89.8 MPH, but you can hardly tell that by looking at his results. He is 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA and he has been giving the Yankees great length no matter what his stuff is. His changeup (21.90% whiff %) and slider (14.20% whiff %) have been outstanding. Pettitte’s numbers are skewed by his disastrous start on Monday, but he has thrown quality starts in four of his five outings and has been just as good as he was last year for the Yankees.
Incredibly, the Yankees did not get any healthier in April and in fact they had to endure even more injuries. Youkilis had to leave the game on April 20th at Toronto with a back injury and has only played one game since and is now on the DL. Francisco Cervelli broke his hand after filling in so well for Russell Martin and is expected to miss six weeks. So, without those two players, the lineup is even shorter these days. Jayson Nix, who is awful, had to bat sixth yesterday. The Yankees will have to survive about two more weeks before Youkilis and Curtis Granderson may return. The teams coming up on the schedule over the next two weeks are Oakland, Colorado, Kansas City, Cleveland Seattle, and Toronto, which is certainly not a murders row of teams. The Yankees made it through April and now they have to make it just a few more weeks before the reinforcements should be ready.
SWB RailRiders 4-3 on the week
Corban Joseph kicks it off for Scranton this week, as he went 9-26 with four doubles and a pair of home runs driving in three. He did get away from his usual patient approach as he struck out eight times while only walking three. For some that might be a good K/BB but for Joseph it’s a little off pace. 3B David Adams continued to put the ball in play collecting 5 hits in 17 AB’s. He hit a double, struck out five times and walked twice. With Mustelier still making his way back to SWB, Adams is the odds on fan favorite for a callup in the hopes that Francisco gets his walking papers. Catcher Austin romine fell off pace a bit this past week, chipping in only four hits in his 17 AB’s, but he did take one out of the park for his first of the year. Zoilo Almonte had a rough go of it, going 3-22. He did however manage to hit a pair of doubles and drive in three, as well as work four walks against six strikeouts.
On the pitching side, Vidal Nuno keeps on rolling. He threw another 5.2 innings of one run ball on three hits. He issued just one free pass while striking out six. Like Adams, he’s my pick for first guy called up here. This isn’t anything new for Nuno, and even the doubters are starting to come around on the soft tossing lefty. Chien-Ming Wang made his debut this past week throwing 12 solid innings. He gave up just one run and scattered ten hits, walking a pair and striking out five. On the downside he was sitting in the mid to high 80′s, so he may have some building up of his arm strength to do yet. Dellin Betances turned in his first dominant outing of the year, tossing seven innings of one run ball on three hits. He walked a pair and struck out seven. As much as we can hope that this is him turning a corner, he’s teased us like this before so i’ll be waiting with baited breath. On the down side of the starting pitching, Brett Marshall got tuned up again, allowing four earned on eight hits over 5 innings. He walked only one and struck out five but wow…. he’s looked dreadful since his promotion to Scranton. Lefty Juan Cedeno threw 3.1 innings in relief, allowing an unearned run on two hits. He walked three and struck out one. Mark Montgomery kept up his excellent work this week; he threw three no hit innings, walking four and striking out four. He can’t be far away from a major league assignment at this point.
Trenton Thunder 3-3 on the week
After JR Murphy’s 3 HR game last week he’s taken a bit of a dive the last few games. He went 1-14 with a double and no RBI’s. Slade Heathcott is still stuck in a rut since coming to AA. He went 2-15 with a lone RBI. On the bright side he walked as many times as he struck out (four) which was an issue out of the gate. Ramon Flores has been a bright spot in the Thunder lineup all along. He chipped in seven hits in his last twenty-six AB’s, including a triple and four RBI’s. He struck out three times while drawing four walks. Tyler Austin has broken out of his early slump, going 6-18 this past week, knocking in a pair of doubles and RBI’s while working a season high seven walks while only striking out five times. He noted in an interview that he was a bit too excited and needed to just relax and let it happen.
Zach Nuding led the Trenton pitchers, tossing six innings of one run ball on six hits. He walked just one and struck out four. Nik Turley seems to be getting his adjustments made, after struggling early he managed 5.2 innings of one run ball on four hits. He walked a pair and struck out five. Matt Tracy went down in flames in his only outing; he gave up five earned on ten hits while both walking and striking out a pair. Kelvin Perez came out of the bullpen to throw 1.2 innings of one run ball on two hits, and Tommy Kahnle continued his outstanding work this year tossing a one hit inning in which he struck out the side. Jose Ramirez has been getting his throwing in and i would expect to see him soon. After his spring training performance many of us are looking forward to seeing him prove himself at the AA level, which would go a long way to projecting him as a major league contributor.
Tampa Yankees 5-2 on the week
Kicking off the lineup in Tampa this week is Gary Sanchez. He went deep for his fourth time this year, putting him ahead of his pace last year where he led the organization for HR’s from a catcher. He did fall off a bit in the average department, going 3-19 but is still north of .300 on the season. He drew a pair of walks and struck out five times. Since Robert Refsnyder’s promotion he hasn’t missed a beat. He went 9-23 this week with a pair of doubles and driving in seven. He worked five walks against just two strikeouts. He was expected to move quickly, coming from a major college program so he’s right on pace. At this point a move to Ben Gamel chipped in four hits of his own over 15 AB’s, hitting a double, driving in four runs and both walking and striking out five times each. Mason Williams also had four hits this week including a double, driving in one, walking four times and striking out on three occasions. Up and coming 2B Angelo Gumbs remains on the DL with a wrist injury.
Bryan Mitchell starts off the review for Tampa pitchers this wee. He went five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He was a bit wild though, allowing four free passes while striking out seven. Shane Greene also turned in a one run performance, this one over six innings. He allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out seven batters of his own. Corey Black got tuned up this past week; allowing seven runs (four earned) on eleven hits, walking none and striking out three. Manny Barreda pitched a pair of innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits. He gave up zero walks and struck out one. Sean Black pitched a pair of innings in relief as well, allowing just a single hit while giving up a walk and striking out none.
Charleston RiverDogs 2-4 on the week
It was an ugly week for the Dogs, as many of the bats are struggling right now. Cito Culver, who had himself a nice little run of XBH’s, went 6-22 with an RBI, 5 BB’s and 8 K’s. Dante Bichette Jr. had one less hit in as many AB’s including a double and a pair of RBI’s. Not what we were hoping for with their new mechanics that seemingly would allow them to get things going at the plate. Greg Bird has been in a rut since his hot start, going 4-12 this week, although he did drive in four, work four walks and strike out seven times. Jake Cave made his return to the field after missing last year with a knee injury. He opened with four hits in twelve AB’s, including two doubles. He both walked and struck out twice.
On the pitching side Rafael DePaula had himself a nice outing, pitching five innings of no hit baseball. He walked three but struck out ten. Gabe Encinas also turned in another solid outing of his own, tossing six innings of two run ball on four hits, He walked just one and struck out five. Jose Campos made another limited appearance, going three innings (he did pitch to a few in the fourth but failed to record an out) and allowing three runs on four hits. Let’s hope he kicks the rust off soon. Daniel Camarena had a Jeckyl and Hyde week, throwing a pair of five inning games. He allowed just two runs in the first, but five in the second. Taylor Garrison came in from the pen to pitch 3.1 innings of shutout ball on just one hit. He struck out four and gave up just one free pass.
Despite their anemic offensive output against left handed pitching this season, the New York Yankees are 4-3 against left handed starters this season. A lot like last night, the Yankees have been able to scratch and claw their way to victories against lefties when it looked like they were completely out of the game.
The Yankees did the little things to score enough runs to win last night against Tampa’s lefty ace David Price. Combine that with Phil Hughes’ strong performance, and that is how the Yankees will have to beat lefties until the reinforcements come. Eduardo Nunez went first to third that lead to a run in the fourth inning. Then,in the eighth inning, Ichiro went first to third on a hit-and-run single by Jayson Nix, which led to the Yankees tying the score at two. The Yankees had a similar win against tough Arizona lefty Wade Miley when Brett Gardner got a clutch two out hit to tie the game at three in the seventh inning. Manufacturing runs like that is how the Yankees are going to have to score against lefties.
The Yankees’ slash line against lefties this year is a paltry .190/.262/.299/.561 and against righties it is .301/.368/.533/.901. They have performed by far the best against righties in MLB and about the worst against lefties. This is a stark difference from Yankees teams of the past, as the Yankees have always had a balanced lineup that could hit lefties and righties equally. The Yankees always had a few switch hitters in their lineup and they have not had an at bat from a switch hitter all season. The last two days the lineup has looked exceptionally brutal with the likes of Ben Francisco batting second and fifth and fifth Francico Cervelli batting fifth on Monday. Obviously the loss of Kevin Youkilis the last few days has hurt, even though he has not hit lefties this year. There is really not much Joe Girardi can do, as he has a very sorry hand to deal with against lefties.
The Yankees probably will not continue to perform this bad against lefties the whole season because it would be historic if they did, but this will be a problem the whole season that needs to be addressed. Vernon Wells (.333/.375/.600.975) and Brett Gardner (.250/.306/.438/.743) and 7 RBI have been the only players performing against lefties this season. Mark Teixeira has performed very well against lefties the last few years, so he will provide a boost when he comes back. However, he will not be able to turn this around by himself.
Youkilis and Robinson Cano need to perform much better against lefties then they have been. Youkilis has been abysmal against them this year, as he has 1 hit in 19 Abs against them this year with a .142 wOBA. That is a very small sample size, and Youkilis does have a great .918 career OPS against lefties, so he should be able to turn it around. Cano had issues against lefties last season and they have carried over into this season. He did hit a home run against Matt Moore on Monday, so maybe that is a positive sign, but the Yankees really need him to get back being to the balanced hitter that he used to be.
This is an issue that could have been seen a mile away this offseason. It started when the Yankees signed Ichiro to create and all lefty starting outfield of Ichiro, Granderson and Gardner. Ichiro was abysmal against lefties in 2012, Gardner has never hit them consistently in his career and Granderson also struggled mightily against them in 2012. I believe that the Ichiro signing was an ownership move and not a Brian Cashman move, but either way it was a terrible one. What Cashman could have done is find a much better utility option than Jayson Nix and a much better righty DH than Ben Francisco. Obviously, Cashman did not expect to be without Derek Jeter for so long, but still Nix should have been upgraded on. Francisco provides no value at all and they should really cut bait with him now.
Right now there is really nobody Cashman can get outside of the organization, as nobody is willing to give away pieces yet, although he will have to by the trade deadline. Zolio Almonte (.263/.411/.404/.814) and David Adams (.317/.417/.463/.880) are both off to very good starts at Triple A and should be brought up to replace Nix and Francisco. Ronnier Mustelier is another option, but he has not played yet this year due to injury. Adams could play third and Almonte can DH or play the outfield. Nix has struck out an incredible 16 out of 43 at bats already, which is just dreadful for a non power hitter and obviously Francisco has done nothing.
It is a miracle that the Yankees have a 4-3 record this year against lefties with the lineup they are throwing out there, which is a testament to the grit and toughness they have shown this year. However, it will be hard to keep up that pace with the current hitters they have in the lineup, so either they will need to improve, which is doubtful, or go in a different direction and call up some reinforcements.
The Yankees had their second consecutive week of very solid baseball. They went 5-1 against Baltimore, Arizona and at Toronto. Hiroki Kuroda was dominant to begin the week, pitching a complete game shutout Sunday against Baltimore. He was spectacular again yesterday, pitching shutout into the 8th inning until David Robertson came in and blew his 3-0 lead. However, the Yankees did win 5-3 in 11 innings, so his effort was not totally wasted. The Yankees won two tightly contested contests with Arizona with clutch home runs from Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner. On Tuesday, Cano’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish. On Wednesday, Hafner’s pinch hit home run in the eighth inning gave the a 4-3 win. Francisco Cervelli hit a game tying home run in the ninth inning in the series finale, but the Diamondbacks won in extra innings 6-2. The nominees for Week 3 Yankees Player of the Week are Travis Hafner, Hiroki Kuroda, Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells.
Travis Hafner: Hafner hit .500 on the week with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI. Hafner only started two of the six games this week due to the Yankees facing many lefties, but he still had a huge impact. His pinch hit home run on Wednesday won the game and he also had a home run on Friday in Toronto that gave the Yankees an early lead.
Robinson Cano: Cano was blistering hot for a second consecutive week, as he hit .294 with 2 HR’s and 5 RBI. He still showed weaknesses against lefties this week, but was still solid overall. His three-run home run in Tuesday was huge and he had three hits on Friday in Toronto.
Hiroki Kuroda: Kuroda was dominant in two starts. On Sunday, he pitched a complete game shutout agaisnt the Orioles and allowed only five hits. An incredible 21 of his 27 outs were recorded on the ground. Yesterday. Kuroda pitched 7.1 innings, allowed only one run on three hits and struck out seven.
Vernon Wells: Wells hit .280 on the week with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI. He burned his old team Toronto in the first two games, as he had five hits in 10 AB’s and two home runs. This is the third consecutive week Wells has been nominated.
This was the most competitive week yet, as you can make strong case for all four guys. I will give it to Kuroda, since he was dominant twice, but it should be a very close vote.
On a night where his idol Jackie Robinson was honored Robinson Cano proved yet again why players will eventually be looking up to him. Cano hit a three- run home run in the fourth inning off Brandon McCarthy that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
That at-bat proved that not only does Cano have all the physical tools in the world, but he has it mentally as well. With Cano on-deck, McCarthy struck out Brett Gardner on a 3-2 changeup and the same situation arose with Cano. He was looking changeup, McCarthy threw a terrible one that got the middle of the plate, and Cano hit an absolute rocket deep into the right-center bleachers. The 3-2 changeup that Cano hit out was the fourth consecutive changeup of the at-bat and he knew from Gardner’s at-bat to look for it again on 3-2.
With the injuries to Mark Texeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, Cano was going to have to lead the Yankees through April and so far he has. Obviously, he has had help in the lineup from Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner among others, but the Yankees did not start winning until Cano got going. Youkilis, Wells and Hafner hit well when the Yankees were losing, but they are not capable of carrying a team like Cano is.
“When Robbie got going, we got it going as a team, manager Joe Girardi told George A. King III. “When he got hot our offense took off.”
Cano is now hitting .327 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and a 1.042 OPS. His wOBA (.438) and his wRC+ (181) are also outstanding. The Yankees are 6-1 since Cano turned his season around in April and it is no coincidence. He has overcome his struggles from last postseason and early in the season to become the player we know him to be.
Why was he struggling? Well, ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote about how teams were pitching him. It was written back on April 5th, but it is still relevant today. At that point in the season Cano was 2-for-15, and teams were having success pitching him away. Of the 59 pitches he had seen to that point, 43 of them were either on the outer-third of the plate or off the plate away. That is a total of 73 percen,t and in the playoffs last season, Cano saw those pitches 66 percent of the time. Cano was 3-for-40 in the playoffs and 28 of those outs came off of pitches to that area.
Cano was getting to anxious trying to pull these outside pitches. The Red Sox even shifted him like they would for Mark Teixeira during the opening series off the season, which we had never seen before with Cano. He turned it around on April 8th in Cleveland, as he hit an opposite field homer and double and he has not looked back ever since. I cannot upload it here, but his heat map on ESPN shows that he is now handling the outside pitch better. Also, Cano’s spray chart for this season clearly shows that he has hit the ball to all fields and he is going the other way at least just as much as he is pulling the ball.
The double edged sword of all of this is of course Cano is an impending free agent and the more he continues to hit like this the more his cost goes up. Hopefully with Cano leaving Scott Boras for Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports the Yankees can work out an extension before the year is over. With Mariano Rivera retiring and Derek Jeter’s time dwindling down the Yankees will need a new face of the franchise and it appears Cano will be headed that way if he stays.
The Yankees had a very nice bounce back week, as they went 4-1 with two rain outs. It all started on Sunday, as Jayson Nix’ huge home run off of Justin Verlander put the Yankees up 2-0 and it really got them going. Sabathia turned in a huge performance against Verlander and the Yankees went on to win 7-0, which really seemed to give them a lot of confidence. The Yankees went on to absolutely pound Cleveland, scoring 11 and 14 runs in the first two games, before having the next two rained out. Robinson Cano hit two home runs in the first game and Travis Hafner burned his old team with a three-run home run to put the Yankee out ahead 3-0. In the second game, the Yankees hit an incredible five home runs and 18 hits. After the rain outs, the Yankees came back to the Bronx and got a 5-2 win over the Orioles thanks to a dropped fly ball by Adam Jones that gave the Yankees three runs and broke a 2-2 tie. Yesterday, Phil Hughes was terrible and allowed three home runs in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore. The Week 2 Yankees Player of the Week Nominees are CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells.
CC Sabathia: Sabathia had two brilliant outings after his normal opening day disaster. On Sunday, he pitched seven shut out innings at Detroit without his best stuff. The Yankees needed that game desperately and came through like an ace should against perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. On Friday against Baltimore Sabathia was absolutely dominant. He pitched eight innings, allowed one earned run on eight hits and struck out nine. On a night when Buck Showalter said Miguel Gonzalez could not throw his breaking ball because of the frigid conditions, Sabathia dominated the Orioles with his slider and changeup. Sabathia’s fastball still sat in the low 90s this week, but if he locates with his off speed pitches like he did this week it will not matter. I’m sure once the weather heats up the velocity will as well.
Robinson Cano: Cano was an absolute beast this week. He hit .500, with 3 HR’s, 8 RBI and a 1.021 OPS. Cano hit two home runs in Cleveland on Monday to finally get his season rolling. He followed that up the next day with four hits, a home run and 5 RBI. Also, Cano has multi-hit games in each of the two games against Baltimore.
Kevin Youkilis- Youkilis is a nominee for a second week in a row, as he hit .350 on the week with 1 HR, 5 RBI and a 1.073 OPS. Youkilis had a hit in every game this week until yesterday’s 0-5 effort. He had 2 RBI in Sunday’s win at Detroit and had one of the five home runs in Tuesday’s win at Cleveland.
Vernon Wells- Wells is also a nominee for the second week in a row and he hit .368, with 1 home run, 1 RBI and a 1.118 OPS. Wells is still hitting the ball with great authority, as even his outs were loud. He went o-4 on Friday against Baltimore, but 3 of the outs were rockets and one of them was a rocket that Jones dropped. Wells had two hits yesterday, including a homer, and three hits on Monday in Cleveland.
Not much doubt this week as Robinson Cano takes home the honors as Yankees Player of the Week for week 2. On a nother week, Sabathia would have a great shot at winning but not with Cano this week. Discuss the week that was in the comments and vote for your player of the week in the poll.
You can’t predict baseball right? After a sluggish 1-4 start to the season wit little going right, the Yankee bats have caught fire to even their record at 4-4. It all started with a big unexpected home run by Jayson Nix off Justin Verlander, and now the Yankees have averaged 10.6 runs over their last three games. Brian Cashman has appeared to yet again catch lightning in a bottle with Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch off to really good starts. Combine them with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner getting hot, and the Yankees really have something going.
What has been so great about the last three games is the versatility the Yankees have shown with their bats. With the injures and free agency losses, it was thought that the Yankees would lack power, which has not been the case as they are second in the AL in home runs with 15. However, unlike last year, the Yankees are not scoring most of their runs just because of home runs. They are also second in the AL in team batting average at .281, and they have been going first to third on hits a lot more this year. The Yankees have also been getting the job done with RISP and with 2-out hits. They have scored 44.9% of their runs this season on hits with two outs and RISP, and they are hitting .361 as a team in those situations. The Yankees are hitting .319 as a team with RISP overall.
A strange lineup move has paid off for the Yankees thus far. With Cano struggling, Joe Girardi moved him from the third spot in the order to second between Gardner and Youkilis. The second place in the order is usually a high on-base percentage player, and Cano does not take a lot of walks. Also, obviously Cano is the best hitter on the Yankees, and the best hitter usually hits third or fourth. The idea behind this was for Gardner to get on base, have the hole open between first and second base for Cano, and he would see more fastballs since Gardner is a threat to run. As soon a Gardner got hot Cano did as well, although two of his three home runs were hit the other way. Pitchers started pitching him outside more last postseason and the beginning of this season, and it looks like he has finally adjusted. It will be interesting to see how long Cano stays in the two hole. I think it might be a good spot for Wells right now, as he has five walks this season and a .467 OBP.
Wells, Youkilis and Hafner have combined to hit .354 with six home runs in the first eight games. Who knows how long they can keep it up, but they are making Cashman look really smart right now. Wells’ bat speed looks vastly improved and he has used the whole field this year, as he had three hits to the opposite field on Monday, which is the same number of opposite field that he had all of last year. Youkilis has done a great job of using the whole field as well, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to produce very well. It looks very clear that injuries were the main reason for his struggles last season. Much like Raul Ibanez last spring, scouts were worried about Hafner, and they were saying that he could not get around on a fastball anymore. That appears to be false, as he has hit .333/.419/.556/.975 and two home runs this season.
All of this gives the Yankees hope that they can at least tread water in April until the reinforcements come. Also, it is fun to imagine the lineup with Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson back with Youkilis, Wells and Hafner all still hitting well. Teixeira will be welcomed back, as LyleOverbay is the one new player who has not been very impressive. He has hit very few balls with force and his defense has been awful.
Granderson coming back will be more interesting because it will create a log jam in the outfield. If Wells continues his pace and Ichiro continues to struggle than Wells may take Ichiro’s playing time. This is coming on the heels of Joel Sherman writing that “the top of the Yankee hierarchy” demanded that Ichiro be brought back after his solid end to last season. This is what I feared when it happened; the Yankees only brought him back because they have a chance to make marketing money if he gets to 3,000 hits. It appears that this might have been another Cashman vs. ownership battle. So, it will be very interesting to see if Girardi takes away Ichiro’s playing time, if that is necessary.
Obviously, the Yankees will not continue to score 10 runs a game, but it has certainly been fun to watch. How long can they keep this up? Time will tell.
The Yankees bullpen was supposed to be a strength this year, just like it has been throughout the Joe Girardi era. One of Girardi’s biggest strengths as a manager has been his bullpen management, as he usually never overworks anybody. Bad starting pitching has forced his hand this year, and other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the bullpen has been terrible.
The Yankees bullpen has allowed 21 runs and 52 base runners over 25.2 innings this season. Yesterday, they turned a painless game into an annoying one, as they made closing out a 11-3 game a lot harder than it should have been. Shawn Kelley was awful, as he allowed three runs, three hits and a walk, over 1.1 innings. Kelley was selected to be on the roster over David Aardsma for his ability to pitch multiple innings, but in the second inning of his last two appearances he has allowed two and three runs respectively. His career fly ball percentage of 51.3% may not play well in Yankee Stadium, and his fastball has been down two MPH this year (90.4).
Also, contributing to yesterdays and this season’s poor bullpen performance was Joba Chamberlain. He did not allow a run yesterday, but he did walk two batters in the ninth inning of a 11-6 game, which is brutal. Chamberlain was throwing full count sliders with that 11-6 lead, which just made no sense. This is when he gets into trouble. He over thinks things and does not attack hitters enough. He has great stuff, yet is still always nibbling at the corners, as he has six walks already this year in only 2.2 innings. The Yankees desperately need Chamberlain to get consistent and become a reliable pitcher in the seventh inning.
Boone Logan has not looked good for the Yankees either, which is a big problem since he is their only lefty. Clay Rapada got released because he was injured and the Yankees had a tight squeeze on the 40 man roster. Logan allowed a big three-run home run to Prince Fielder on Friday that blew the game open and could not retire him again on Saturday either, allowing a single. He threw 80 innings last year, which you might think could be the reason for his struggles now, but his velocity is essentially the same as last year, so it might just be a slow start. Logan was very good last year, as lefties only hit .231/.293/.372/.665 against him, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he continues to struggle the Yankees could call up Vidal Nuno, who lit it up spring training, but he is not on the 40 man roster.
Chamberlain and Logan are the two most important players that have to get going because they are the most proven and have the talent. The Yankees have often gotten in-season reinforcements in the bullpen that nobody saw coming, so that is always possible. David Phelps, who has also been bad, Adam Warren and Kelley all have minor league options available. The Yankees might want to consider sending Phelps or Warren down to be stretched out as a sixth starter if one of the starters gets injured.
Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size, so this is nothing to go crazy over yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on. On some level everybody team’s middle relief is bad, since they are always the worst pitchers on a baseball team. Also, the starting pitchers pitching at least six innings is a good way to improve your middle relief, which has not been happening for the Yankees. This is a much better problem to have than having late inning issues or starting rotation issues because it is less important. However, if Rivera or Robertson were ever to get hurt than it would become a huge problem. The bullpen was supposed the be the biggest strength on the team and it needs to get turned around.