Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Yankees At The Break: Part I

The 5 Biggest Stories From The First Half

1) Andy Pettitte's Resurgence- Seriously, who the hell saw this coming?  I know he was good last year, but with the additions of Hughes and Vazquez to the rotation, it certainly wasn't outside the realm of possibilities to consider Pettitte being the "real" 5th starter on the team.  Instead he has gone out and been the Yankees' best and most consistent pitcher from Opening Night to the All-Star break.  11 wins (good for 3rd in the AL), a 2.70 ERA (good for 4th), a 1.15 WHIP (good for 10th), and a .234 BAA.  Sure, if you dig deeper into the sabermetrics as some blogs have done, they will show that some luck has been involved in Pettitte's big start, but overall it has been his combination of still dangerous stuff and veteran savvy that has made him one of the best pitchers in the AL at age 38. 

2) Phil Hughes' Emergence- I think we all had high hopes for Phil after he won the 5th spot in the rotation, but I don't think anybody expected this kind of performance.  Hughes hit the ground running in April and May, going 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA.  And despite some rough outings in June and recently in July, his overall numbers are still solid across the board (everything comparable to Pettitte's except ERA).  His ability to work with his best pitches and manage a game have been the most surprising signs, especially after he worked almost exclusively with 2 last year out of the 'pen.  Hughes still needs to master his changeup and incorporate it into his arsenal, but for what has amounted to his first "real" season as a full-time starter, you can't be anything but happy with what you've seen from him.

P.S.- He's still just 24. 

3) Robbie Cano's Ascension Into Stardom- After Matsui and Damon left for greener pastures, the pressure was put directly on Cano's shoulders to pick up the slack as the new number 5 hitter.  And he hasn't disappointed.  Robbie was hands down the best player in baseball through April and May, putting up scary good, Triple Crown-caliber numbers.  He cooled down a bit in June and so far even more in July, but is still sitting at .336/.389/.556 with 16 HRs, 58 RBIs, 61 Runs scored, 115 hits, and 23 2Bs.  Throw in the Gold Glove-caliber defense and newfound maturity and consistency to his game and you are talking about the new best second baseman in baseball. 

4) The Bullpen Being A Revolving Door Of Ineffectiveness- Between the strong finishes from guys last year (Aceves, Robertson, Marte), the addition of Chan Ho Park, and the 8th-9th inning combo of Joba and Mo, the bullpen was supposed to be a strength for the Yankees for the first time in years.  Well things haven't exactly worked out that way, have they?  Ace and Sergio Mitre have been hurt, D-Rob and Joba have been shaky at best, and CHoP has been so fucking bad that it's inconceivable that he's still on the 25-man roster.  Mo has been Mo, but he is showing some wear and tear so there will be extra pressure on the rest of these clowns to perform.  It's only a matter of time before we start seeing some new faces coming out of those outfield doors in the later innings, because the fantastic starting pitching can't continue to be wasted by the horseshit bullpen. 

5) Offensive Woes- Cano has done his job to pick up the slack left by Matsui and Damon's departure, but if you look around the Yankee lineup he really hasn't had much help.  Free agent signees Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson have combined to do next to nothing in pinstripes, and Johnson is not surprisingly out for the year.  But more important than that has been the down years across the board to date for Jeter, A-Rod, and Teix.  You can attribute it to age and being banged up for Jeet and The Horse, but Teix has no excuse.  He has been MIA all season up until about 2-3 weeks ago.  Pleasant surprises from Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner have helped ease the sting of these others' underperformance so far.  But it does make you think how many more games the Yanks could have won with the offense firing on all cylinders. 

**Coming Up Tomorrow- The 5 Biggest Potential Stories For The Second Half**

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