Jobu reviews the second third of the 2012 season and the direction in which the Yankees are headed.
On Monday night, the Yankees played (and lost) in the 108th game of their season. This means that we are now officially 2/3 of the way through the season. When we reached a third of the season, I wrote this article reviewing it, so I figured we could do that again with the next 54 games. Does that sound like fun? I thought it might! Anywho, here’s how the second third went, how it compares to the first third, and maybe just a couple of predictions about the final third to come.
The Yankees were 30-24 after the first 54 games of the season. In the last 54 games, even with a stretch during which they lost 8 out of 10 just recently, they have gone 33-21. Back then, they were a half game down in the division to both the Orioles and the Rays. Through 108 games, they now lead those teams by 5.5 and 7 games respectively. For a team that was already in pretty good shape to begin with, they definitely got better. Things would look even rosier without that aforementioned ten game stretch of ineptitude (they were swept in Oakland in four games and lost two of three to both the Red Sox and Orioles at home), but what can you do?
Some of the names have changed since the first third of the season too. In a pretty shocking deal about a week before the trade deadline, the Yankees finally replaced Gardner by trading DJ Mitchell and Danny Farquhar to the Mariners for the great Ichiro Suzuki. While they certainly did not get the Ichiro who had over 200 hits in his first ten MLB seasons, they got a guy who can still get on base a bit and is still dangerous when he gets there. They also got Ibañez and Jones out of the outfield, which really can only help this team.
The other significant deal the Yankees made was with (once again) the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yankees addressed their third base platoon need by trading Chad Qualls (whom they were going to release anyway) for infielder Casey McGehee. Again, this isn’t a huge move or anything, but sometimes it’s the little pieces that end up netting a championship. Considering GM Brian Cashman didn’t have to part with any significant prospects in either deal, I liked them quite a bit.
Offense: Battered Batters and New Faces
The big problem with the first 54 games of the season was the Yankees’ unbelievably low RISP average. I don’t have statistics to necessarily back this next claim up, but I at least feel like there are a lot less of those frustrating RISP fail games that really disgusted me from time to time. Sure they still happen here and there, but big hits have become a lot more common of late for this team, and that’s a good thing.
The story of the second third offense has involved a lot of injuries. First of all, the Yankees never got Brett Gardner back, and they might not get him back until September. Gardner seemed to be on his way back twice, but both times suffered setbacks while playing his rehab games, and the Yankees put him under the knife. A few weeks ago, Alex Rodíguez had his hand broken by a Félix Hernández fastball in Seattle, and Nick Swisher (hip flexor) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) have also missed time with injuries.
The injuries have really thrown the lineup into a bit of disarray, because, until Ichiro’s arrival, Raúl Ibañez and Andruw Jones were still regularly manning a corner-outfield spot. Then, when A-Rod got hurt, it forced Eric Chavez into basically an every day role (there are far more righties than lefties in the MLB), and he was splitting time with Jayson Nix until the Yankees got McGehee at the deadline. The Yankees DH and bench players had become regulars before these two deals, which is never good, so I’m glad they were able to kind of get things back to normal.
Offensive Leaders Through 108 Games (First 54 Game Totals in Parentheses):
AVG: Canó – .315 (.290)
OBP: Canó – .373 (.349)
SLG: Canó – .564 (.505)
OPS: Canó – .937 (.854)
R: Granderson – 76 (39)
H: Jeter – 142 (75)
2B: Canó – 31(20)
3B: Granderson – 3 (1)
HR: Granderson – 29 (17)
RBI: Teixeira – 72 (32)
SB: Rodríguez – 11 (6)
BB: Granderson – 58 (30)
K: Granderson – 133 (62)
Other Notables: The Yankees lead the league in home runs with 168, which puts them on pace for 252 for the season. This would break the Yankees all-time record (244 in 2009), and would put them fifth all-time behind the 1997 Seattle Mariners (264), the 2005 Texas Rangers (260), the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays (257) and the 1996 Orioles (257). They also now have nine players with double-digit home runs, which is one behind their own league record of ten, which was set in 1998. As you know though, too many homers bring a team down… somehow.
Pitching: Still Not Enough
In our first half review, I wrote about the Yankees lack of pitching, and how incredible it was that, after all those extra arms they seemed to have in Spring Training, they still needed more. Unfortunately, that still stands true after game 108, and that was the one thing they really didn’t address at the deadline.
While the Yankees pitching staff has held up as a whole, there are some serious concerns heading into the playoff push. For one, more injuries really hindered the Yankees in the second third of the season. On June 27, they lost two of their starting pitchers to the disabled list. The first, CC Sabathia, only missed a couple of starts and has been back for almost a month now, but they weren’t so lucky with number two. Andy Pettitte took a ground ball off the ankle that game, and he hasn’t pitched since. The grounder fractured his left ankle and Andy has been working his way back ever since.
While the Yankees hope to get him back fresh for September and the playoffs, there certainly isn’t any guarantee that he’ll be able to help in 2012. To be fair, Freddy Garcia has pitched pretty well since his return to the rotation. Sweaty Freddy has made seven starts and pitched to a 3.95 ERA in that time, which is pretty much all you can expect from your emergency fill-in fifth starter, right? It’s more than they’ve been getting from Iván Nova, who, when you exclude July, has been pretty brutal this year. The righty has been allowing extra base hits like they’re going out of style (leads the league with 71) and his ERA is now approaching 5.00. I’m not sure how long they can afford to keep throwing him out there, frankly. Maybe It’s time to give Adam Warren or David Phelps another shot at the rotation.
Speaking of Phelps, he has really been the find of the season. He’s been used as a spot starter, a long reliever and a one inning lockdown bullpen guy, and he has pretty much been awesome wherever they’ve put him, especially of late. Overall, the kid has pitched to a 2.45 ERA in 51.1 Ip with the second lowest qualifying WHIP on the team (1.130) and 56 Ks. Because of his effectiveness and his flexibility, he has become a very powerful weapon for Joe Girardi in that bullpen. He’s been great out of the bullpen, but maybe it’s time to push him to the rotation, especially if Nova keeps putting up stinkers. Maybe both pitchers would benefit from such a move.
Pitching Leaders Through 108 Games (First 54 Game Totals in Parentheses):
W: Sabathia, Hughes – 11 (7 and 5 respectively)
L: Hughes and Kuroda – 8 (5 and 6 respectively)
Ip: Kuroda – 143.2 (68.1)
K: Sabathia – 133 (74)
BB: Nova – 43 (20)
Starter ERA: Kuroda – 3.19 (3.82)
Reliever ERA: Soriano – 1.88 (1.89)
WHIP: Andy Pettitte – 1.091 (1.009)
S: Soriano – 26 (7)
What to Look For In the Final 54
It’s hard to find holes in a team that is sitting pretty at the top of the toughest division in baseball, but no team is without it’s flaws. The injuries to A-Rod and Pettitte haven’t really been properly addressed. I’m not sure that there is a way to address the A-Rod situation now, short of having traded for a Chase Headley type of player before the deadline, but I think they will be ok with the Chavez/McGehee/Nix combination until A-Rod is able to come back. However, it will be interesting to see if he can come back at full strength, or at least at the strength he had before the injury.
Pettitte on the other hand, hasn’t really ever been replaced, and that’s because they need him more than ever with the way Nova has been throwing. The Yankees need another arm, and I would have been happier if they had landed another pitcher at the deadline. There’s still some names out there that can be had this month after clearing trade waivers, so I’ll be interested to see what the Yankees decide to do. Whether it’s from the farm, or from another team’s roster, the Yankees need help. There’s no doubt about that.
One interesting point of possible controversy will be what they decide to do if and when Brett Gardner comes back to the team? If Ichiro is performing well, will Gardner be eased in as the backup? Will they shift Ichiro to the bench and let Gardner take back left field right away? Will Gardner’s arm fall off after two games again?
There’s no doubt in my mind that, if and when all of their injured players get healthy, the Yankees will be a forced to be reckoned with come October. We just have to hope they right the ship and tread some water in the next 54 games. They currently hold a 4.5 (they lost game 109) game lead over the Orioles. While it’s certainly not insurmountable, it’s a great head start. I just hope it’s enough.
Featured image courtesy of: SEATTLE TIMES/DEAN RUTZ
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