Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Musings After A Week Off

(Originally posted at IIATMS/TYA)

I got to watch the Germany-Brazil World Cup semifinal match on Tuesday in Germany at an outdoor hotel bar surrounded by German people.  Say what you want about the sport itself, but soccer fans are easily the most passionate, energetic sports fans in the world.  The amount of celebrating that was going on in the streets of Hannover after the game was similar to what we see in the US when major colleges win their football or basketball national championships.  And this game wasn't even for a championship.  Soccer people just LOVE them some soccer.  I can't think of a time in the last 5 years when a Yankee Stadium environment was even close to half as crazy as that scene.

Not that the Yankees have given the fans much reason to cheer this season.  Or last.  They've been just as bad and almost as boring as last year's team, and they figure to get more boring in the second half now that Masahiro Tanaka is on the DL.  I love blogging about the Yankees and getting a chance to write something outside of the normal business tone, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't glad to have a week off from this last week.  This whole organization has stagnated to such a degree that it's hard to muster up the energy to get mad when they lose or get too happy when they win anymore.

Now that I've had a chance to get back home, recharge, and catch up on everything I've missed, here are some hot takes on the Yanks and their position in the AL as they stumble into the All-Star break.

- First, the Tanaka injury.  It sucks.  It really sucks and there's no way to try to undersell the value of how much it sucks.  He's been the MVP of this team, the most exciting player to watch, and somehow had managed to exceed even the highest expectations that people had for him when the team signed him.  Without Tanaka, I dread to think about where the Yankees would be right now.  He was the last thing breathing life into this ballclub and now he's out until August.  Absolute gut punch and in all likelihood the final blow to the Yankees' playoff hopes.

- As for the injury itself, it is what it is.  I know a lot of people have brought up the previous innings count and adjusting to the new workload schedule, but the truth is that Tanaka passed all the physicals, they gave no indication that there was anything wrong with his elbow, and the Yankees did everything they could to give him extra time to ease the adjustment.  These types of injuries are becoming a common part of the game now and he was probably just as likely to suffer it than anybody else regardless of how many innings he'd pitched previously.

- While I don't disagree with anything the team did prior to the injury, I'm not at all on board with the rest and rehab plan as the optimal solution.  The track record of that approach is not a long or successful one, and the most recent example of it failing in Matt Harvey makes me very pessimistic about the potential results for Tanaka.  I'd rather he just have the surgery now, start resting and rehabbing, and be ready to come back at the end of next year to dust off the cobwebs.  If this 6-week plan doesn't work, he's basically out for all of 2015 too.

- Moving on to other injured guys, holy balls is Carlos Beltran having a tough year.  Falling over fences, stirring up old elbow spurs, getting clocked in the grillmix by a ricocheted ball in BP.  He may not have been 100% physically to start this season and he surely won't be close to that by the end.  The fact that he's hit so poorly (78 wRC+ in 255 PA) and made such weak contact (career low 15.5% LD) makes me really nervous about how much these bumps, bruises, and injuries are going to carry over into the next 2 seasons.  He really looks like a guy who's turning into a pumpkin this year.

- Nice little debut week for Shane Greene, huh?  I wrote more about it yesterday afternoon, but I could see him sticking around in the rotation longer than guys like Whitley and Nuno did because he's actually got some legit stuff.  His sinker was borderline unhittable on Saturday and his velocity on it is better than average.  He's got good natural stuff and he's getting by on it right now.  True test will come in a month or so when hitters start figuring him out and he has to make adjustments.  If he can, he might secure a spot for himself in next year's rotation.

- Is there anybody left out there who's not convinced that D-Rob can handle closing?  He's been fantastic this season, absolutely fantastic.  He's top 5-10 in MLB among relievers in every statistical category that matters, he's top 3 in the AL in saves, and somehow he's not on the All-Star roster.  What's that about?

- What's up with the Yankees making Rob Refsnyder play right field?  He needs work at second base, not the outfield.  His bat is far more valuable at second if he proves he can hit at a high level in the Majors, and the reports on him are that he's getting better there.  Don't sell his ceiling short and turn him into a utility guy just because your Major League bench sucks.  That makes no sense.  If the Yanks want more outfield production, call up Zoilo or Pirela or Adonis Garcia.  No need to change Refsnyder's development plan when he's having this kind of success.

- If I would have told you before the start of the regular season that Hiroki Kuroda would be the only starter from the Opening Day rotation still standing and not on the DL, would you have believed me?

- How great has Brett Gardner been this year?  For all the Yankees aren't getting out of their monster deal to Jacoby Ellsbury, they're certainly getting it from the deal with Gardner.  He's been the most flexible member of the lineup this season, giving the team depth from the bottom of the batting order when everybody was healthy, speed and on-base skills from the leadoff spot when guys were hurt, and lately more power at the top just because nobody else was providing much.  He really looks like he's put it all together after 5+ years in the show and he's become one of the most important pieces of the team.  When they have another crappy stretch in the second half and you start to get down, think about Brett Gardner and his career arc in pinstripes.  That should help make you feel better.

- Dellin Betances' workload has been a talking point for weeks now, and if I wanted to really rile you guys up I'd bring up the possibility of the team resurrecting some form of the Joba Rules to cut back on the workload in the second half.  But I don't want to get people upset this morning, so I won't do that.

- Does Ichiro hit a home run at any point this season?  Smart betting money would be on no.  The ball doesn't even sound good coming off his bat anymore.  Like he's hitting with a broom handle.  That said, why didn't he get invited to participate in the Home Run Derby tonight?  The story has always been that he can put on HR displays with the best of them in batting practice.  That would have been fun to see in what could be his final year.

- As for the Derby, here are my official predictions: Cespedes and Bautista out of the AL bracket, Bautista to the finals.  Stanton and Frazier out of the NL, Stanton to the finals.  Stanton over Bautista.  And if you aren't tuning in tonight to watch Giancarlo Stanton hit, you are outside of your mind.  He's worth the price of admission.

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