Sunday, June 8, 2014

Playing in the Citi

            After a start to the season that showed promise, the Yankees have fallen into a pit about the size of CitiField and are as about as exciting to watch as the Mets.


            Like the Mets; the Yankees can pitch well and hold opponents down (for the most part), but they've been lucky if they could even scratch across two runs per game. Teixeira's surgically repaired wrist tendons are getting rusty really quick, someone speared Carlos Beltran's elbow with something from 10,000 BC, and the "game-changing" Jacoby Ellsbury from April has been abducted by aliens.

            Having Teixeira and Beltran out of the lineup for a couple of weeks forced Girardi to take Ellsbury out of the leadoff spot and bat him third; taking away the man who was getting singles, stealing, and scoring runs as a leadoff hitter in April. Admittedly, Ellsbury has taken the #3 role to heart and has been swinging (and missing) for the fences - hence the drop off in his production. Rest for Teixeira and a series of cortisone (narcotics) shots for Beltran have gotten them back into the lineup in recent days, but the time away has taken any momentum out of the Yankee offense and these two will have to deal with these nagging issues all season long. Players who needed to step up in their place, such as Kelly Johnson or Ichiro (as an everyday player) just haven't been producing enough. A "hot" Soriano has yet to show up this season and although McCann has finally bopped some homers, overall his batting average zone of .210-.220 gives chilly reminders of Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin.

            This has subsequently placed an enormous amount of pressure of the Yankee's pitching staff, which is asking alot with the absence of three-fifths of the starting rotation. Nova, of course, is done for the year with Tommy John surgery under his belt. Sabathia is only now beginning to walk on a treadmill to rehab his weak knee, but even GM Brian Cashman has no sure date of his return. Realistically August, at best. Even if he does come back, what kind of CC Sabathia are the Yankee getting? On the road to his recovery from a strained back muscle and pine tar poisoning, Michael Pineda suffered a set back with the same muscle area and had to be placed on the 60-Day DL. The likes of David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and feel-good story Chase Whitley has kept the rotation respectable, but all three aren't durable enough to go seven innings and throw a hundred-plus pitches every fifth day for the rest of the season. The trio of young arms from the system and the mega signing of Tanaka are the main reason the Yankees are .500 at 31-31 and not below that mark. Tanaka is certainly the Yankees' MVP at 9-1 with his only loss as a result of giving up 4 runs in a game (shame on you!). He certainly won't go 24-0 this season, but with the way he's pitching he looks like he can go 24-1 and he's definitely outshining Cashman's other winter free-agency acquisitions.

          The other bright spot during this disappointing period of the season for the Yankees has been their relatively young and untested bullpen. David Robertson has finally coughed up a few leads as the closer, but the collection of Adam Warren and Dellin Bentances continue to be one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball to get the ball to the 9th inning. With Shawn Kelley due back soon, Girardi can piece together the final 4 innings of most of these games (especially until Sabathia and Pineda can come back). With all that, the onus is on the offense to pick up the slack. Yankee pitching has to be allowed to give up 4-5 runs once in a while and not lose the game. It helps that Robinson Cano is stuck on two homeruns still for 2014, but this offense is looking as lame and putrid as 2013's version that didn't make the playoffs. Eventually, the lack of offense last season took its toll on Kuroda and the staff as a whole and by mid-September the entire team was shot. Ellsbury, Jeter, Beltran, Teixeira, McCann, and Soriano have to be better than this.

Position: 31-31 (3rd Place AL East - 6 games behind 1st Place Toronto Blue Jays)

- Tanaka continues to prove he's completely legitimate and can dominate in America (and Canada). 
- Dellin Bentances' brilliance in the 7th and 8th innings have drawn comparison to a 1996 Rivera.
- The Yankees might have a blue collar discovery in Chase Whitley; his three-year wait in AAA has paid off with a 1-0 record in five starts with an impressive 2.42 ERA. 
- Yangervis Solarte's average has dipped down to an earthly .299, but he's the team-leader in that category as well as RBIs with 28. 

- Mark Teixeira's wrist keep barking every couple of days and it will be necessary to give his bat and glove a rest more than the team would want. 
- If Beltran's cortisone shot doesn't prove to be the answer, then surgery to remove the bone spur from his elbow will have him out for 8 weeks, in definitely. 
- Huroki Kuroda has yet to get on a roll this season and perhaps Cashman rolled the dice with him one season too many. 
- Derek Jeter's legs have held up to play shortstop on a consistent basis, but his current .254 batting average isn't exactly ending his career with a bang.

- Kelly Johnson's play at first base and at the plate in Teixeira's time of absence has been doubly atrocious. As a result, Scott Sizemore was called up to take Johnson's time away at 3rd base. 
- Alfonso Soriano has shown no reminiscence of the Soriano of the second-half of 2013 when the Yankees traded for him. 
- Michael Pineda was finally making Cashman look like Einstein with the Montero trade, but the stupid choices concerning the placement of pine tar on his body with the world watching him and these lame back/shoulder muscle pulls have put Pineda back into the 'Carl Pavano' dunce corner. 

            For all the Yankees' issues, especially with scoring runs, they probably have the least amount of worries outside of the Toronto Blue Jays - who aren't going to keep up their current torrid pace. The usual suspects in Boston and Tampa have gone on uncharacteristically long losing streaks, upwards of ten games in a row for Beantown. Tampa has also suffered key injuries such as Scott Moore for the year and phenom Will Myers for a couple of months with a stress fracture. Being 6 games back in early June is no major concern, but the Yankees have to start hitting like a major league team......