New York Yankees: July in Review

IMGP3471This team might be weirder than last years when the left side of the infield was a rotating door of players.

With 4/5 of the opening day starting rotation down and out, and ll the money spent on bats this off-season (Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, re-signing Gardner), you’d think the offense would be carrying the pitching.  Nope.  Both facets of the team are in the middle of the pack across the league, but the Yankees lose a lot of low scoring games, and failure with RISP, along with poor defense, have hurt the pitching staff.

Mark Teixeira continues to come up small injuries that keep him out of the lineup, Carlos Beltran is just now starting to heat up, and Brian McCann still hasn’t.  The inconsistency is keeping this team around the .500 mark, but they remain in the hunt for October because of parody in the American League East.  The top of the order has been solid of late, with the hot month courtesy of Gardner, and a good month by All-Star Derek Jeter.  Jeter made his presence felt in the MLB All-Star game, an American League win, when he scored the 1st run of the game.  Jeter also moved into sole possession of 7th on the All-Time Hits list, and he’s just single digits from 6th, where he will most likely finish his career.

MLB TRADE DEADLINE MOVES

  • SS/2B Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson

It took nearly 40 years, but the Red Sox and Yankees finally made a trade.  Sure it was the equivalent of trading two 5-dollar bills for a 10… but progress is progress. Kelly Johnson wasn’t the guy the bombers thought they were getting, a good defensive utility player with pop.  Instead they got a bad defensive player with very little pop.  Stephen Drew could have been a Yankee in the off-season, instead he brings his even worse batting average, yet better glove to help sure up the infield defense in the deadline trade.

  • Martin Prado for Prospect Pete O’Brien from Arizona

Prado bring versatility with the ability to play the infield and the corner outfield positions, a solid bat and a healthier veteran option who is in, not past, his prime.  He’s signed for two more years after this.

  • Brian Roberts & Alfonso Soriano Designated For Assignment

Roberts stayed healthy, something he’s been known not to do, but didn’t produce, something new for the veteran 2nd baseman.  And to make matters worse for Roberts, the Yankees held him out a couple games, keeping him from hitting the 350 plate-appearance mark, which would’ve bumped up his salary.  The DFA came to make room on the 25-man roster for Prado.  Soriano was let go earlier after a 2&1/2 month slump to start the season.  He was hot in the 2nd half of last season after being acquired from the Cubs, but his age caught up with him at the plate and in the field.

  • Esmil Rogers Claimed Off Waivers from Toronto

The back end of the Yankees bullpen has been a strength, and in an 11th hour move, Brian Cashman finished off his moves adding another arm to the over-worked pen.  Rogers hasn’t been good this season for the Blue Jays, but maybe the change will do some good.

  • Chris Capuano , Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy (prior to the July 31st deadline):

Two veteran starters and a sure-handed 3rd baseman started off the month of moves for the Yankees.  All three have contributed in their short time, McCarthy is undefeated, Capuano had a very good first outing (a no decision) and Headley had a walk-off single in his first game.

The best part of the moves GM Brian Cashman made?  Not giving up big prospects or adding too much money to the payroll.  The only significant loss was Yangervius Solarte in the Headly trade.

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Best Starter(s): David Phelps &  Brandon McCarthy – or two guys not in the opening day rotation.  Phelps went 2-1 with a sub 3 ERA in July, proving my point about the lack of run support.  He quickly shot up to the team’s number 2 behind Kuroda after all the injuries to the staff, and Phelps has not disappointed.  And talk about needing a change of scenery! Brandon McCarthy had a near 5 ERA in the National League before being traded for by the Yankees.  He’s 3-0 (could be 4-0), has given length and brought stability to the rotation.  I’m not totally surprised despite a couple poor seasons, because he’d had a number of very good years in Oakland before moving to the NL.

Best Hitter: Brett Gardner – the guy is HOT! 7 homers in the month (a shortened month thanks to the All-Star break), which is one short of his previous career high for a season, which he set last year!  A team high 16 RBIs to go along with the 7 bombs in July have him just 5 short of tying his career high in that category as well, also set last season.  He’s doing everything you’d want fro ma lead off hitter, and with his recent power surge, the stolen bases are down, while strikeouts are up.  But in a consistently inconsistent offense, Gardenr has been a true bright spot.

Biggest Surprise: Francisco Cervelli – he sure has put injuries and suspensions behind him.  He’s hitting nearly .300, and has handled the makeshift pitching staff well.

Record vs AL East: 2-6

Overall Record: 55-52 (3rd in the AL East)

 

 

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New York Yankees: May in Review

IMGP3381What is this 2013?

It feels like another Yankee is placed on the disabled list every day. New additions this month included Shawn Kelley, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia. These are names this team can go very long without.  Kelley hit the shelf with a strained lumbar spine (back tightness).  Just when he was looking ready to come back, the tightness resurfaced to make it more than a 15-day loss.  Sabathia hasn’t looked good all year, and has been diagnosed with degenerative knees. He’ll be out until at least July because of it.  Beltran was given 2 weeks to work out discomfort from a bone spur on his elbow.  At the end of those 2 weeks, season ending surgery could be necessary.

After the injuries to key players, there is real concern with the lack of power in this offense.  Tex, Beltran and Alfonso Soriano are the only real power threats, but Soriano has been in a season long slump and of course Tex and Beltran have missed significant time.  And without the power, you need guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to get on base and make things happen. When they get on, they usually steal.  But after the final week of the month, Ellsbury’s hot April had turned into a big time slump.  A nice surprise has been the hitting of Yangervis Solarte, but even he has hit a skid, something we all saw coming for the 26-year-old rookie.  Brian McCann needs to start hitting for this team.  His adjustment time is over.  Two months are enough for the all-star catcher.  Interestingly enough, Ichiro Suzuki is hitting at the clip of how his career has gone, over .300.  This is a guy that was supposed to be a 4th outfielder, pinch runner.  But injuries have created situations for the sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and he’s doing his best to help in the field, at the plate and on the base paths.

It was a very up-and-down month for the bombers.  They showed something winning 2-0f-3 on the road against the great pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals.  But they were also held to less than 2 runs 8 times (1 win).  To be fair, they only lost 2 of the 9 series (3 splits).

Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – He takes the award again, and not by default.  The MLB rookie continues to dominate.  He dropped his first game (and it wasn’t a horrible start) and bounced back with two huge performances to move his record to a stellar 8-1 before June.  His ability to go deep on top of his great pitching has helped stopped long losing streaks, and solidified a less than perfect rotation.

Best Reliever: Dellin BetancesSo this guy has found it big time.  All he does is come in and shut people down for 1-2 innings a la Mariano Rivera in 1996.  He’s struck out a ridiculous 56 batters to just 9 walks in nearly 33 innings of work.  And he’s also electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd much like Joba Chamberlain did when he first made it with the big club.  If the 26-year-old is on the mound, you’re not leaving your seat.

Best Hitter: Mark Teixeira – Early in the month we were all thinking that the wrist was healed and Tex was primed.   The power was back.  He was playing basically everyday. But unfortunately as the month ran down, the wrist became an issue.  Inflammation meant missing a few games at the end of the month, and a trip to the surgeon.  He was told it was okay, and returned after missing 3 straight games.  But in the 6th inning of the game, Teixeira left and is now back to “square one” with the injury. (UPDATE: Teix did make his return on June 3rd against the Athletics.  He drove in 2 runs, including a go-ahead solo homer batting right-handed.  The issue has been when batting left-handed.)

Biggest Surprise: Chase Whitley.  Who? The rookie is a huge reason why the Yankees are still hanging around the top of the American League Division.  The 25-year-old righty doesn’t have a win in 4 starts, but he should.  His last two performances were worthy of the W, but the pen and offense didn’t help him, leaving him with an 0-0 record and a 2.37 ERA. (Honorable Mention: John Ryan Murphy – the young backstop made us all expand on the J.R. and he started hitting.  He doesn’t play often backing up the All-Star McCann, but when he does, boy oh boy is he hitting!  In limited action, Murphy is hitting a scorching .348.)

Record vs AL East: 11-9

Overall Record: 29-26 (2nd in the East)

It took a big month from the Toronto Blue Jays and Edwin Encarnacion (16 homers last month), and .500 record to bump the Yankees from 1st to 2nd after May, but considering all the injuries and inconsistency, you’ve gotta be happy to be over .500 for the season.

 

New York Yankees: April in Review

IMGP3377 Jacoby Ellsbury can hit, Carlos Beltran can play everywhere and the injury bug didn’t stay in 2013.

Let’s start on the injury front shall we?  They sure popped up early and often in April.  Mark Teixiera went down first with a grade 1 hamstring pull, and closer David Robertson quickly followed him onto the 15-day DL with a groin strain.  Both came back after the two weeks were up, and have looked good in a small sample size.  Then, Derek Jeter missed he final two games of the Red Sox series.  And in that final game (a win) against Boston, Francisco Cerveilli ended up on the 60-Day DL with a grade 2 hamstring strain, Brian Roberts went down with a back injury, and not to mention a scare with April revelation Yangervis Solarte. But the biggest loss? It came after a blowout loss against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Starter Ivan Nova, who many thought would have a break out season after a strong finish to 2013, is heading for season-ending Tommy John surgery.  The young righty has a torn UCL injury, which already claimed all of 2014 for another one of New York’s up-and-coming stars, the Mets Matt Harvey.  The month ends with Brett Gardner nursing a sore foot, and Ellsbury has a day-to-day hand issue.

Considering they started the season with 13-straight games (their first two series were in domes), coupled with the injuries, the Bombers should be very happy with their record.  It’s only April, and they’ve already changed their fortunes in the AL East.  They only won 6 games against Boston last year, yet they’ve already taken down the defending World Champs 6 times in one month of baseball here in 2014!  They lead the division early, only lost 2 series the entire month, and are over .500 in the East. Sabathia continues to search for a way to be successful with his new stuff, but one thing about the big guy you can’t take for granted. He gives you length every start. They might not be the sharpest innings late, but he finds a way to not kill your bullpen.

IMGP3378

Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – That 24-0 last season in Japan does NOT look like a fluke. Sure it’s early, and the league needs time to catch up, but man does Tanaka look like the real deal.  Tanaka’s 3-0 to start his MLB career and has a ridiculous 46 strikeouts to just 6 walks in 35.2 innings. His first start got off to a shaky start, giving up a lead-off homer to Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, but he sure settled down.  3-runs in 7 innings.  Then he did it again, going a complete 8 in a shut-out win over the Orioles, striking out 10 along the way in his Yankee Stadium debut. And what about his dominance over 8.1 against the Sox in Fenway! He’s been nothing short of dominant. His one bug-a-boo?  The long ball.  He’s so in the zone, that balls tend to fly out easily.  The good thing is they’ve been solo shots for the most part.  (Honorable Mention: Michael Pineda – I could’ve easily made him the best with his 2-1 record, minuscule 1.00 ERA coming off two years of arm issues.  If Tanaka has been number 1, Pineda has been 1a for the Yankees pitching staff. Too bad this all came to a screaming halt with a 10-game suspension due to pine tar, followed by a lat strain that will sideline him for another 3-4 weeks.)

Best Reliever: Shawn Kelly – Outside a bad outing in a non-save situation, Kelly did a wonderful job sliding into the closer role while Robertson was on the disabled list.  Adam Warren has the other save recorded this season, and without the legendary Mariano Rivera closing games, and a big injury to D-Rob, who would’ve thought they’d make it through April without any blown saves? (Honorable Mention: Adam Warren – He’s adjusted to the short reliever role very well.)

Best Hitter: Jacoby Ellsbury – For any Yankees fans that thought liking his former enemy would be hard, you were very wrong. He’s come in and not only torn the ball off the cover, he’s run the bases better than anyone this team has seen since a young Alfonso Soriano was stealing 40 a year. And no, I’m not omitting Brett Gardner here, who has blinding speed, but doesn’t always take advantage of it on the base paths. (Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran – Power, power, power.  He leads the team in HRs, RBIs, OPS and Slugging %.  He’s been another great addition to the Yankees outfield and lineup.)

Biggest Surprise: Yangervis Solarte – He spent the first 7 years of his career in the minors. He wasn’t even supposed to make the team! Yet Solarte hit his way onto the team out of spring training, hitting Eduardo Nunez off the team completely.  He can and has played every position on the diamond and has done it well.  And talk about a doubles-machine!  He’s also tied with Beltran for the team lead in RBIs with 13.

Record vs AL East: 10-7

Overall Record: 15-11 (1st in the East)

So that was April.  Coming up in May, the Yankees are on the road a lot, including a 3-game series against the Leagues top team, the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Bombers also play their cross-town rivals, as well as the Nation League representatives in the World Series last year, the St. Louis Cardinals.