Jobu Reviews the first third of the Yankees season and muses about where this team might end up in October.
The Yankees beat the Rays on Tuesday night in their 54th game of the year. This not only means we have been playing baseball for a long time this season, it also marks the one-third mark of the season. So how have the Yankees faired so far, and how do things look for the other two-thirds still left to play?
First of all, lets take a look at the Yankees record. They currently sit at 30-24. While six games over .500 might not seem like much, it still translates to a 90 win season if you do the Math (don’t worry, I did it for you). If things continue at this pace, the Yankees, who are currently just a half game behind the Rays and Orioles for first place in the AL East, will finish at 90-72. Normally in the AL East, that would land you well behind the first place team, battling for one of those coveted wild card spots. This season, while everyone in the division is over .500, no one is running away with anything. The Yankees have been playing much better of late, winning seven of their last ten games, so maybe that’s a sign of things to come for this team.
Not Enough Pitching
Really? The Yankees don’t have enough pitching? Remember when they had seven starters for five slots in Spring Training, and then they signed Andy Pettitte? Now, all of a sudden, they needed Pettitte to come back just to give them a full five man rotation. Michael Pineda, whom the Yankees traded for in January, tore something or other in his shoulder and is out for the year (hopefully just the year). Freddy García needed just a hand full of starts to pitch his way out of the rotation and Phil Hughes was probably one start away from doing the same thing before he got his crap together last month. As drunken (or senile) John Sterling would say, “That’s baseball, Suzyn.” (I’m pretty sure he’ll still be saying this when he goes to live in that retirement home the Yankees plug so much during their radio broadcasts… only he’ll be talking to one of those tall, decorative ferns).
The Yankees resorted to using rookie David Phelps for a couple of starts, and have leaned heavily on Pettitte since his return too. Everyone seems to have struggled at one point or another. Kuroda is still trying to iron out the kinks after a very inconsistent first couple of months. Iván Nova is giving out home runs like Snickers on Halloween (not one per kid, either. like those people who leave the basket out and think kids will just take one). Hughes was putrid in his first five starts or so, but has really turned it around of late (except for one terrible start in Anaheim). Even the great CC Sabathia has had his struggles. He’s an ace, so he usually pitches well enough to win, but he hasn’t been as sharp as we have seen him in years past.
One thing the Yankees can boast is an amazing bullpen. In the early going of the year, guys like Logan, Phelps, Wade, Rapada and Soriano logged so many innings that I thought for sure one of them would get hurt. They really helped pick the pitching staff up while the starters were having a “who can suck the most” contest (figuratively speaking, of course). The Yankees bullpen really carried this team in April and has continued to do so now that the starters are giving them days off every once in a while. The bullpen has even survived Mariano Rivera’s injury. It’s not every day a team can lose the best closer in the history of baseball for the whole year, then his replacement for almost a month (Robertson is currently rehabbing an oblique injury) and still have a former AL Saves leader to give the ball to in the ninth inning. There’s help on the horizon too, as guys like Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma are trying to get back to help out late in the season.
Pitching Leaders (Through Tuesday)
Wins: Sabathia (7)
Losses: Kuroda (6)
Innings: Sabathia (78.1)
Strikeouts: Sabathia: 74
Starter ERA: Pettitte (2.78)
Reliever ERA: Soriano (1.89)
WHIP: Wade (0.851)
Saves: Soriano (7)
I wish I could take everything I said about the Yankees pitching and apply it to their hitting. Things have not been nearly as easy, as the Yankees have struggled mightily with the bats. They’re hitting in the .220s with RISP, and have only managed three hits the entire season with the bases loaded. This has led to many frustrating moments and a lot of “on not, they loaded the bases… inning’s over” jokes between me, my father and my brother. I don’t know what the problem is, but the Yankees seem to tighten up when it’s time for clutch hits. Everyone in the entire lineup is guilty of this too, so you can’t just single out A-Rod or Teixeira. It’s an epidemic that has latched onto this team faster than the zombie disease in The Walking Dead (I hope it’s not airborne).
There have been a few shining stars, don’t get me wrong. Derek Jeter has hit .xxx so far, proving to everyone that 2010 and the first half of 2011 were not signs that he was on his way out, but rather just blips on the radar of an incredible hall of fame career. Curtis Granderson has mashed 17 home runs so far, proving that his 41 home run outburst from a year ago is a trend, rather than a Brady Anderson fluke (yep, I took it to Brady Anderson times).
Unfortunately, everyone else has had extensive periods of crappy play this season. Tex struggled with some kind of respiratory black plague for the first couple of months of the season, which magnified his traditional early season struggles ten-fold. He still goes into coughing fits from time to time, but he seems to be on his way back to relevance too. Nick Swisher led the league in RBI in April, but hurt his ankle and then went 17 games without a home run. He too has picked it up of late, notching 11 RBI since his return from injury. A-Rod has been a bit of an enigma because he’s been hitting for very good average, but the power numbers simply haven’t materialized yet. He has hit a few in the last couple of weeks to bring his total up to nine, but he would probably have fourteen or fifteen by now in his pirme, and his 22 RBI leave a lot to be desired.
Russell Martin just had a three-hit game that brought his average up over .200 for the first time this year, so hopefully he’s on his way back to the type of season he put up last year. Canó has had periods where he’s looked unbeatable at the plate, but has followed each one with an equally long period of ineptitude. The theme that I am trying to get across is that it’s been an inconsistent years for the Yankees at the plate, and they really need everyone to get going if they’re going to continue their success this season. They also need to find a way to get over their fear of hitting with runners in scoring position. I’m getting tired of playing “How Will They Blow This?”
Hitting Leaders (Through Tuesday)
Average: Jeter (.329)
OBP: Jeter (.377)
SLG: Granderson (.542)
OPS: Granderson (.896)
Runs: Granderson (39)
Hits: Jeter (75)
Doubles: Canó (20)
Triples: Canó, Ibañez, Swisher, Núñez
Home Runs: Granderson (17)
RBI: Swisher (34)
Stolen Bases: Rodríguez, Núñez (6)
Walks: Granderson (30)
Strikeouts: Granderson (62)
It’s pretty remarkable that, as bad as the pitching was early on, and as bad as the hitting has been when it’s mattered most, the Yankees are still just half a game out of first place, and only X games away from the Texas Rangers for the best record in baseball. I don’t think the Orioles will continue their dominance, and I think the Rays don’t have enough team to truly contend for the division crown. If the Yankees can somehow get everyone going on all cylinders, they could run away with this division. Sadly, I don’t think they will be able to do this. I think they’ll end up on top, but it’s going to get pretty hairy come the last week of September. Here’s hoping for a good summer and a deep fall. Let’s hope the last two-thirds of the season give us more happy memories than sad.
Featured image courtesy of: (Rick Osentoski/US PRESSWIRE)
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