OMW: Yankees Beat, August 2011


OMW: Yankees Beat, August 2011

M.D. Wright

8.4.2011

 

So we’re back where we started in late March, tied with Boston and a pivotal series to decide who begins next week in first place in the American League’s (Marv Albert Voice) “EASTON” (Eastern) Division. The New York Yankees are coming off a nice seven-game stretch where they’ve scored 8 runs per game and a 3.51 ERA while winning all seven games (featuring 17, 18 and 20 run outbursts). The Boston Red Sox have been consistent since mid-May, and with an unheard-of easy slate in July, were staked to a lead in the division before the Yanks went on an 11-3 run in their last 14 games.

 

A few things to consider…

 

— Boston’s starting pitching, already a full half-run ERA higher than the Yankees’, is smarting. SP Clay Buchholz is out with a back. Not sure if it’s broken. Not sure if it’s “spinal”, but they made a few desperation moves by acquiring Erik Bedard from Seattle (after their attempts to get Dick Harden from Oakland fell through). Their bullpen is not a strong point outside of Dan Bard.

 

— The Yanks have the best bullpen in the AL, anchored by holds king Dave Robertson and the best closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.

 

— Probable Cy Young winner CC Sabathia guarantees the Yankees 8 innings of sub-2.00 ERA baseball since May, and only gets better this time of year.

 

— The Yankees have a bit of a good quandry with their starting rotation. Outside of the team’s ace, Sabathia, Bart Colón and Freddy García have been weaving gems regularly, and young Ivan Nova has been filthy since June 1, winning his last 6 decisions, 10-4 overall with a sub-4 ERA following August 4th’s 10 K/0 BB gem. Phil Hughes has had a 2.35 ERA since returning from Scranton-Wilkes Barre in July.

 

— AJ Burnett has been putrid since the All-Star Break, unable to even go the requisite 5 innings for a decision, after being staked to a 13-1 lead in August 3rd’s game. He can either weave gems come crunch time/playoffs, or be the team albatross by giving up 10 earned runs to light hitting teams. Bears watching. The six-man rotation cannot work, because Sabathia’s rhythm cannot be toyed with and Hughes and Nova both get antsy to prove their worth for the back end slots in the rotation each time out. The Yankees believe the extra rest will help García and Colón, but Burnett is still the wild card.

 

— John Lackey just doesn’t have it this year, although Red Sox fans nervously swear by him in the upcoming weekend series with the Yanks. His ERA  is higher than student loan interest rates.

———————-

 

The Red Sox, by a very slim margin, have scored more runs than the Yankees, but pitching becomes a premium down the stretch, and the Red Sox, aside from a couple of blips on the radar last decade, have historically folded late in seasons when they had a division lead entering August. They are relying upon semi-ace Josh Beckett, who has a lot of AJ Burnett tendencies, to anchor them down the stretch.

 

Their best pitcher may be Jon Lester, however.

 

BY POSITION

First Base

Mark Teixeira.

Tex has been on a roll during the recent winning streak, smashing home runs on a nearly nightly basis and pickin’ it — as always — at 1st. Hopefully, he can knock the batting average up around .265 by the end of the season, while getting close to 50 HR and knocking in about 135-140 runs.

 

Second Base

Robinson Canó.

Canó makes the game look easy, sort of like Ben Gordon did in his final year with the UConn basketball programme. His swing is effortless, while crushing the ball every time he makes contact, and he turns double plays quicker than anyone this side of Bill Mazeroski. Despite a “down” year average-wise (right at .300; Canó is capable of hitting .330 every year), he’s on pace to hit 25-30 HR and knocking in a cool 110 runs, while scoring about that many.

 

Shortstop

Derek Jeter

Jeter has (Marv Albert Voice) “…. come onnnnn” of late. A couple of 5-hit games in the past month, bringing his average close to .280 — after hovering in the .250s most of the season. He doesn’t have the range he once had, yes… but he is sure handed as they come on the chances that he actually gets his hands on.

 

Third Base

Alex Rodríguez

Alex’s average has been down since he was busted for HGH usage, as were his home runs, but he had been clutch most of the season and was on a 135-RBI pace before injuring his knee in June, requiring surgery in July. He will DH most of the rest of the regular season, while Eric Chavez plays 3B in a platoon with hitting savant Eduardo Nuñez. Nunez is an error machine in the field, especially at SS, but Chavez can still “pick it” at 3rd.

 

Catcher

Russell Martin

Martin throws guys out at a rate that is three times that of Jorge Posada’s last five years’ average. Russ has been on a tear of late, after having woeful Junes and Julys. He began the season hotly and is getting hot again, at crucial moments. He hit an absolute rocket to put the finishing touches on a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox on August 4th. Francisco Cervelli gives him days off behind the plate, usually catching CC Sabathia.

 

Left Field

Brett Gardner

Gardner leads sabermetric statistics in overall outfield play (chances, putouts, runs saved, etc.) and he has been almost automatic, given his speed and ability to get to balls pause that most guys cannot get to. A natural centerfielder, Gardner has made the shift to LF, while all-world fielder Curtis Granderson mans CF, as the outfield captain that he has always been. Gardner was putrid to begin the season at the plate, but he has come on the past two months as well, maintaining the same average as Jeter since mid-June. He has been stealing bases and helping the team “manufacture” runs; something that was lost on last decade’s Yanks.

 

Center Field

Curtis Granderson

The Grandy Man can.

 

Hit 40 HR, knock in 130 runs, score 145 (currently at 98 — far and away leading the majors) and making Willie Mays Lite plays in CF (although occasionally botching plays where sun and facility lights are involved — in which nightmares can happen). He’s an MVP candidate, but he won’t win it. Yanks fans all love “CJ” and he pays dividends. As clutch as anyone on the team not named Canó.

 

Right Field

Nick Swisher

Swisher, like most of the team, began slowly, but he has been hitting the cover off the ball of late, and he’s always steady, if not unspectacular, in right. When healthy, he can be relied upon in the field and at the plate (although not in the playoffs the two previous years he’s been here. Bears watching down the stretch).

 

Utility Men

Andruw Jones

Started slowly, still has the arm to play LF or RF, and can hit the ball a mile — which he has done most of the second half of the season. He gives Swisher and Gardner rests periodically. We will need him at times in September and in the playoff in given pitching scenarios.

 

Jorge Posada

In what will be Posada’s last season as a Yankee, he has hit lighter than ever, although he’s been extremely clutch at times. Given that he has been willing to play 1B at times this year, he has earned a few extra at-bats, given that he doesn’t hit nor run well/consistently enough to play DH every day. His output and production will be pivotal.

 

PITCHING

Starting Pitchers

CC Sabathia

The team’s ace, Cy Sabathia is on pace for 24 or 25 wins and an ERA that will probably end up around 2.15 at the end of the season, with 250 K’s and the same number of innings pitched. Barring injury, we have zero worries when he toes the slab every 5th day. He weaves gems 9 out of 10 starts, and still pitches well enough to win with or without run support on the days when his “stuff” isn’t electric. His slider is on par with Randy Johnson’s back when Unit was in his prime.

 

Bartolo Colón

Bart has exceeded expectations. He has an edge against many left handed batters. Being a righty, the odds are in the batter’s favor, but he has a frisbee-like backdoor slider and fastball that catch the inside portion of the plate against lefties — who normally give up on the pitch, thinking it is a ball. When Colón has that pitch working, it is a joy to watch.

 

A not-so-shocking age-related hamstring injury in June slowed him for a couple of weeks, but he has weaved in all but one start since the All-Star Break, and 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA. WE WILL GLADLY TAKE THAT.

 

Freddy García

García has revived his career. He appeared done in 2009. He still throws over 90 at times, but he is much more pinpoint than ever, and keeps the ball down. He was like “Andy” at the end of Pettitte’s career. 3.22 ERA with 10 wins. WE WILL GLADLY TAKE THAT ALSO.

 

Phil Hughes

Phil had nightmares to begin the season, and spent two months rehabbing his arm, before warming up in Scranton-Wilkes Barre and coming back to the majors. After a 13+ ERA early, he has had a 2.35 since returning, with only one non-quality start. Hopefully the rest will help his location, velocity and the extra work (including a new pitch) will yield more “late life” on his pitches. His fastball was straighter than most hoodrats’ weaves late last year and early this year.

 

Iván Nova

I love this kid. I love his moxie. If not for the foolish banishment to Scranton (in favor of Hughes’ return in July), he’d be on line to win 17 or 18 games. He can still win 15 if he remains in the Bronx. He’s been lights out since June, with his stats in those starts listed above.

 

AJ Burnett

MERCY.

 

He allows everything to get to him mentally, and it affects his pitching. He has plus “stuff” and it is electric (especially his curveball), but he yields far too many homeruns and has far too many innings where he surrenders 4-6 (or more) earned runs. Unacceptable for someone with that kind of stuff and that contract. The Yankees cannot afford to sit him, but they will have to learn from last year and be willing to do so, if he pitches the way he did on August 3rd.

 

BULLPEN

Héctor Noesi

He eats up innings, doesn’t give up much. His stuff is like Nova’s (Nova has four “plus” pitches now that his slider is ridiculous). He is usually Burnett’s garbage man, allowing us to get back into games.

 

Cory Wade

Wade is a finesse pitcher, but always gets strikes, eats up innings and gets outs. Hasn’t had a bad outing all year.

 

Boone Logan

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH THIS GUY???

 

Luis Ayala

I like Ayala. He can do things when he has the chance, but with our starters mostly weaving of late, there hasn’t been much of a need for relievers to pitch outside of “getting work” after Robertson and Rivera.

 

Rafael Soriano

He has been a mess all season, but he appeared to regain his composure since he came off the DL with his injuries.

 

David Robertson

Dave is absolutely FILTHY. He gets into jams at times, but like Houdini in straight jackets, he always gets out of them. Leads the league in holds and his fastball-changeup-splitter/slider combo are nightmares for most batters. He has learned a lite version of Rivera’s legendary cut fastball and it has frisbee tendencies at times, making him virtually unhittable most nights. In actuality, his cutter is a lot like Andy’s, only as a righty, as Andy was legendary for using his cut fastball to saw off bats in his clutch playoff performances of yore. 

 

CLOSER

Mariano Rivera

Rivera has not lost much. He will be 42 just as the season ends. He still hits 95, 97 on some nights, but is usually in the 92-94 range with his fastball. He doesn’t toy around. He features his 2-seam frisbee cut fastball and his 4-seamer, the formerly tabbed “riding” fastball. Absolutely nasty at times (ask the Mets during the second Subway Series this year). Rivera, if given enough chances (not likely with the number of Yankee blowouts of late), can possibly surpass Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves number on the last week of the season. Bears watching.

 

MANAGER

Joe Girardi

Just don’t screw it up, Joe. Burn the notebook and keep Nova in the rotation. Your job is as simple as that. It’s a day at the beach when Sabathia pitches and you just have to give guys rest, as we have a ton of 30+ year old guys. That’s not hard to manage.

 

PITCHING COACH

Larry Rothschild

Rothschild, who had Sabathia before, has further refined CC’s stuff. He’s done wonders with Nova and Hughes and Dave Robertson is now the preeminent setup guy in baseball because of him.

 

HITTING COACH

Kevin Long

Easiest job in baseball, although he seemingly WASN’T doing it early on (Teixeira popping out at least once every game, if not GIDP or dead-pulling the ball with a ridiculous uppercut swing for such an accomplished all-around hitter). But he has made Granderson into a bona fide slugger, when that was previously  not his game, and he has helped mold Cano into a future perennial batting title contender.

 

Just don’t let the hitting go cold in the playoffs again, guys. We have the pitching.

 

LET ME HEAR WHAT YOU THINK… (Not just Yanks fans, tagging “SAWRX” fans as well as fellow New Yorkers — Met fans — those who are objective and not Yankee haters, but baseball lovers — as well).

 

 

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