Monday, May 2, 2011

The Offense Wakes Up Just In Time

Well so much for consistency.  Whether it was Justin Verlander finding his stuff or the Yankee O losing their's, they went dormant again after putting 3 runs on the board in the first 1.2 innings.  That allowed the Tigers to creep back into the game over Bartolo Colon's strong 7 innings and deny him a win that should have been his.  But in the end, the offense woke up a bit in the 9th thanks to some wildness from Jose Valverde and secured the W.

And to Valverde, why aren't you dancing and gyrating around the mound now, you fat P.O.S.?  Save a game when it matters and then come back and talk to me.

Taking A Moment To Discuss The Story Of The Day

By now, everybody knows about the events that unfolded over this past weekend that culminated in the killing of public enemy # 1, Osama bin Laden, so I won't go into the details of that.  And I don't want to get political at all here because that's not who I am and that's not what this blog is about.  But as somebody with a family member who was a first responder and a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, I feel like I have to say something about this story.

Whether or not we all realize it, we live in a country that is still suffering the effects of the events that occurred on September 11, 2001.  One of the biggest effects was the uncertainty surrounding bin Laden's whereabouts over the last 10 years and the always lingering possibility of future attacks taking place.  While it certainly doesn't put a period on the war on terror or completely close the wounds that 9/11 left, the resolution of this one effect does help bring some closure to those of us who have a direct connection to that day.  Knowing that the man responsible for trying to and succeeding in killing our friends and family members has met the appropriate form of justice allows us to breathe a small sigh of relief.

But beyond that, the fact that we live in a country that has remained steadfast in its commitment to bringing this man to justice over the last 10 years, and succeeded in that commitment, is the real story.  Personally, I feel incredibly proud and honored to live in a country that not only allows me the freedom to write a blog like this where I constantly call into question the manhood and intelligence of other people while using the occasional F-word (something that would get me killed in other counties), but also has a large group of people who I will never meet and who don't know me yet commit themselves and their lives each and every day to protecting my freedom and my ability to write and express my feelings through this blog.  I know there are millions and possibly billions of people around the world who can't say that and don't have that same level of freedom and protection that I have, so I feel incredibly lucky to know that there are people out there who have my back every second of every day, offering me protection from other people in the world who hate me and hate the freedoms that I have by being a citizen of this country.

In the grand scheme of things in the world, this blog is as insignificant as a speck of dust, but it's important to me and it's something I love to do.  So to the people who were involved, directly or indirectly, in the events that took place over the weekend, and to all the men and women in our armed forces around the world who give me the opportunity to do what I do every day on this simple, little Yankee blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I only regret that I will never get the chance to thank you in person.

AB4AR's State Of The Yankees After The First Month

 (Swish is just as happy as I am about the first 25 game.  Courtesy of The AP)

It's only been 1 calendar month (plus a few days) and only 25 games for the Yankees this year.  And I'm smart enough to know that 1 month and 25 games is not a sound basis for evaluating the overall performance of players nor for predicting what the rest of the season will hold.  But it does offer enough of a sample size to make some broad statements about the positives and negatives of the team as a whole, and also provide some slight insights as to what the future may hold and what adjustments may need to be made moving forward.

Overall there is a lot to like about the first month of the Yankee season.  The offense is getting solid production from some of those expected to perform well (Cano, A-Rod) and some who have been pleasant surprises (Martin, Chavez).  Guys like Teix and C-Grand have bounced back early from subpar 2010 campaigns to help carry the torch and pick up the slack for what has been a rotation in flux and some slumping veterans.  That being said, the rotation really hasn't been as bad as expected, certainly not as bad as one might think it could have been with Phil Hughes' early struggles and trip to the DL.  CC is doing his job at the top as the ace and the rest are filling in behind him and offering solid contributions, especially A.J., whose pairing with Larry Rothschild seems to be working very well.  And despite some bumps in the road, the bullpen has been solid thanks to the core of Mo, Sour Puss, Joba, D-Rob, and Boone Logan.

Behind the basic numbers, though, there are some black marks on the offense.  The results have been 'feast or famine' in that the home run is accounting for over 57% of the team's runs early and there have been multiple instances of potential big innings being thwarted by failure to get hits with RISP or the always-dreaded GIDP.  And as great as the Cano-Horse-Teix-C-Grand-Martin quintet has been, the Jeter-Swish-Gardner-Posada foursome that makes up the rest of the lineup has been equally awful, balancing out to a .251/.335/.474 team tripleslash.  They are still 1st in baseball in OPS and 2nd with a .353 wOBA, but the offense has yet to put together a significant streak of games where everybody has been producing and doing the right things at the plate, and that has cost them a few close games early on.  It's scary/sad to think about what their numbers and their record could be if they were getting more consistent production from everybody.

The pitching, in my opinion, has exceeded expectations so far.  The starting rotation has combined for an 11-5 record in their 25 starts with a respectable 3.88 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, numbers inflated slightly by Phil Hughes' horrific results.  Eliminate him and the Yankees have 4 starters with ERAs below 3.93 (and 3 below 2.25), WHIPs below 1.28, and an average of 7.59 K/9.  And Ivan Nova has put together 2 consecutive solid starts to help ease the concern about his status moving forward.  The bullpen has been even better, especially when you factor out Nova and Freddy Garcia's bad 1.2 innings, all averaging out to a team ERA/FIP/xFIP tripleslash of 3.72/3.72/4.02, which isn't going to win any awards but has certainly been more than enough to win and better than I expected.

The biggest thing the Yankees have been lacking has been consistency, both at the plate and on the mound.  If they can establish that and get the offense and pitching on the same page, they can be very dangerous moving forward.  The biggest issue they need to address is the future of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.  Their early number suggest that their age has finally caught up with them, and Joe will need to make the call about whether or not Jeter should be moved down in the lineup and whether or not Jesus Montero should be called up to replace Posada in the lineup if the 2 elder statesmen's performance doesn't pick up.  It's not a situation that anybody is going to want to address, but if things continue down the path Jeter and Posada are already on, it's a decision that will have to be made.

A plan also needs to be put in place for solidifying the rotation if guys like Garcia and Colon either start to fade (possible) or get hurt (likely).  As good as they have been, their history suggests that these results won't hold for the rest of the year.  And with Hughes on the shelf indefinitely and Kevin Millwood opting out after his Triple-A bomb job last week (thank God), internal options are a little light so the kids in Triple-A or potential trade options should be explored now so that the team can be prepared to react and fill the gap if the time comes.

All in all, I would give the Yankees a B for the first month, close to a B+.  To lose Phil Hughes and not miss a beat in the rotation has been huge.  If they can get some consistency from the offense, better results from Soriano in the 8th, and stay healthy, the summer should be a fun time to be a Yankee fan.