The New York Yankees have completely turned their offense around during the month of August behind Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
The Yankees are third in the AL in homers in August (29), fifth in wOBA (.330) and sixth in OPS (.751) The Yankees have averaged nearly 4.5 runs per game in Soriano’s 30 games as a Yankees and he trails only Miguel Cabrera in home runs after the all-star break.
Rodriguez (.284/.369/.473/.842 with a 133 wRC+) and Granderson (.291/.412/.456/.868 with a 140 wRC+) have both been terrific since they returned from the DL. Assuming that this continues, the Yankees should have plenty of offense for them to make a run at the second wild car in September. The question will be whether the starting pitching can be good enough.
There have been some good signs and some bad signs out of the starting pitchers lately. Andy Pettitte turning it around and Ivan Nova maintaining his performance have been good ones.
Over his last three starts, Pettitte has allowed just two runs on 15 hits over 19.2 innings. The first of those three starts was the biggest, as Pettitte delivered a huge performance in the opening game of the series in Boston. He allowed three unearned runs over 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five. He was given a huge first inning lead to work with, but big leads can evaporate quickly at Fenway Park.
Pettitte’s last two outing came against the Blue Jays and he allowed only one run over 13 innings. Toronto is not a great team but the starts were still very encouraging. When the stakes get raised Pettitte raises his game, which is why I have a lot of confidence in him pitching big games down the stretch in September. You know he is going to battle and not be afraid of any moment. Pettitte’s ERA is now down to a respectable 4.05 for the season.
Nova has not been as dominant in his last three starts, but he has still battled and managed to have good results. That is big for a pitcher who has had the physical tools, but lacked knowledge in just how to pitch. Nova has allowed 27 hits to only 11 strikeouts over those last three starts, but the most amount of runs that he allowed was four over 6.1 innings on August 20th against Toronto. In his previous start, he allowed three runs over 7.1 innings against the Angels and came up with a big performance in a game the Yankees had to have Sunday in Tampa.
The problems in the Yankees rotation are CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Hiroki Kuroda has struggled as well over his last two outings, but I will chalk that up to just a blip on the radar for him.
Sabathia has shown signs of improvement but has still been unable to put it all back together. His fastball velocity has improved lately, as he has averaged 93.24 MPH on his fastball in August, including averaging 93.88 MPH and 94.07 MPH over his last two starts. However, as Sabathia has added velocity his control has vanished. He has allowed an abysmal 4.70 walks per nine innings in August.
Sabathia has thrown quality starts in three out of his last four outings, but he still has not been the dominant Sabathia we have come to know over the last few years. He had an egregious performance in the rubber match of the Boston series but got bailed out by his offense.
Then, on Saturday, Sabathia blew a 2-0 lead when he imploded in the sixth inning. He was absolutely dominant over the first five innings with his fastball humming at over 94 MPH and his slider breaking as sharply as it had all season. It all fell apart when Sam Fuld hit a bloop single to lead off the sixth inning and Sabathia could not find the plate out of the stretch. That game is the type of game that the Yankees will need Sabathia to finish down the stretch of the season if they want to make the playoffs.
There seems to be little hope for Hughes to be an effective pitcher at all this season. Hughes has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season with an ERA of 4.91, which ranks 80th out of 85 qualified starting pitchers.
With only 30 games remaining in the season the Yankees cannot afford to give any games away, which is essentially what they have been doing by running Hughes out there every five days.
Unfortunately, the options that the Yankees have to replace Hughes are not very appealing. David Huff and Adam Warren are the only in-house options with David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all injured.
Huff has thrown 8.1 innings of shutout baseball over his last two relief appearances against Toronto and has only allowed one hit. However, Huff’s 5.25 ERA and 4.74 FIP in almost 300 career innings inspires little confidence. Warren has been o.k. this season, but I still do not believe that he has the stuff to be a good MLB starting pitcher. At the very least the Yankees need to skip Hughes’ start this weekend in Baltimore.
The Yankees are currently five games behind Oakland in the chase for the second wild card. They will have to play close to flawless baseball in September to catch them and they cannot do it without great starting pitching. They have not gotten that consistently since the beginning of the season and it needs to reappear right now for the Yankees to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
We will find out a lot about the Yankees very quickly as they begin the second half of the season tonight in Boston.
They currently sit six games back of Boston in the AL East and three back in the AL wild card race. The first 10 games for the Yankees after the All-Star break have the potential to be a disaster. They play three at the first place Red Sox, four in Arlington against a very talented Texas team and three at home against red hot Tampa Bay.
If I were Brian Cashman I would have desperately been working the phones trying to get an impact bat over the All-Star break because if he waits until after this 10 game stretch it might be too late.
Here are five things to watch over the Yankees second half of the season:
1. What happens at the trade deadline?
The Yankees have recently been linked to Chase Headley and Asrdubal Cabrera and both would be huge gets for the Yankees. Unfortunately, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that Padres have little interest in dealing Headley despite his down year.
Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be continued to be shopped by the Yankees, and it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I do believe that Hughes will be moved because the starting pitching market is very thin, and the Yankees can sell teams on his home/road splits this year. Although, Joel Sherman of the New York Post, wrote that the Yankees would be o.k. with keeping Hughes and offering him a qualifying offer this winter.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the time for Cashman to try to strike is right now with this brutal 10 game stretch upcoming. I would be looking for players who are under team control for a few years. I would not be giving up big prospects for rentals this year, since I believe that the Yankees are more than one bat away from being championship contenders this season.
2. Will Ivan Nova’s progression continue?
Nova’s development will probably be the number one thing I will be watching for over the second half. He has looked terrific over his last two starts, as he has 17 strikeouts to only three walks. Nova has always had the talent and if he can finally put it together it will be huge for the future for the Yankees, who have had a tough time developing their own starting pitchers.
What is fascinating about Nova is how he has completely transformed himself as a pitcher from his solid rookie season in which he went 16-4. He only averaged 92.6 MPH and he only was not a strikeout pitcher (5.33 K/9) in that rookie season. He had success because he was able to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker (52.7 GB%), but most thought that he would not have long term success unless he was able to get more strikeouts.
Nova added a slider to his repertoire in 2012 to try to remedy this issue. He threw it 14% of the time and he raised his K/9 to 8.08, but he also allowed a lot of hard contact (16.6% HR/FB%) because he missed location to often with his fastball and that new slider. Also, Nova’s GB% went down to 45.2%.
This year, Nova has mostly scrapped the slider, as he has only thrown it 3.4% of the time compared to 33.5% for his curve ball. Over his last two starts, Nova has thrown 66 curves, 43 of them have been for strikes and 17 of them have induced whiffs. When you combine that dominant curve with a fastball that has been in the 94-97 MPH range, you have a pitcher that has the potential for greatness. His GB% is back up to 51.4% this year, so hitters are really having a hard time getting good contact on his hard sinker.
3. How much will Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez contribute?
The first question with them is how much will they play? Rodriguez hit a home run for Triple-A Scranton last night and appears set to rejoin the Yankees in Texas on Monday. We should find out more about Jeter’s status today. If Jeter and Rodriguez can stay on the field it will be pretty much impossible for them to not be upgrades, as Yankee shortstops have a slash line of .214/.271/.268/.539 with a 46 wRC+ and Yankee third basemen have a slash line of .218/.281/.293/.574 with a 57 wRC+. They should also add some much needed excitement and buzz to the team as well.
4. What is the plan for Michael Pineda?
At Triple-A Scranton last night, Pineda threw 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight. He was dominant in the first three innings before throwing a lot of pitches over the fourth and fifth innings. Right now, with Nova pitching well and Hughes still in New York, the Yankees do not have room for Pineda in their rotation. If there is an injury, or Hughes is traded, than Pineda can slide right in. The Yankees should try to get Pineda to New York as quickly as possible to get more information on what they can expect out of him next year.
If the Yankees continue with their $189 million plan they will need cheap starting pitchers, and Pineda can be one of them. It would be good for him to get as much experience as he can this year and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like if he does come up to the big league club.
5. Can CC Sabathia turn it around?
Sabathia had an uncharacteristically average first half, as he was only 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. His average fastball velocity has only been 90.6 MPH, although it has been better later in the season. Sabathia has not fully adjusted to pitching with his loss of velocity yet and when he has missed location with his fastball he has gotten hit hard. Sabathia has also had a bit of hard luck this season, as his 3.53 xFIP is very solid. His slider and changeup are still great pitches, and Sabathia has still been an innings eating machine, which is still an under appreciated aspect of his game. I still believe that he is capable of pitching like the Sabathia of old and hopefully we see that in the second half of the season.
First, there was 20-year old Phil Hughes, a hard throwing right-hander who drew comparisons to Roger Clemens as he advanced through the farm system. Drafted 23rd overall in the 2004 amateur draft, the Yankees had high hopes that finally, after a dry spell of All-Star caliber players emerging from the minors, that Hughes would become their ace for the next decade. Due to injuries to the pitching staff, he came up and made his debut on April 26th, 2007, finishing the year with 72.2 innings under his belt and a respectable 4.46 ERA for such a young starting pitcher in such a ferocious AL East division.
Then there was Joba Chamberlain, who was drafted 41st overall in 2006. Not even a full calendar year after signing his first contract, the then 21-year old Joba burst upon the scene when he pumped 100 mph fastballs past a dazed Blue Jays team in Toronto on August 7th. His pure dominance of each batter he faced allowed Joe Torre to entrust him with the eighth inning job, setting up Mariano Rivera. Like Mo had done years prior, it was the hope of the organization that Joba would start out as the bridge to a dominant closer, and then become one. Allowing one earned run in 24 innings surely reassured any of the doubters.
Since such promising starts to their careers in ’07, both Hughes and Chamberlain have endured injuries, moves into and out of the bullpen, and flat out inconsistent performances. There have certainly been bright spots along the way for both hurlers, however.
Hughes pitched to a 3.03 ERA in 2009, starting out as a starter and then filling the role of set-up man admirably. And after permanently being put back into the rotation in 2010, he won 18 games. Also, Joba was putting together a terrific 2011 season [2.83 ERA in 28.2 innings pitched] before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Yet, to claim their Yankee careers to date have been successful ones would probably be a misguided belief. They are now in what are considered their “prime” years, and yet 2013 has been one of the ugliest for Joba and Phil. Of course, with the offense the pitching staff has to deal with or lack thereof, both are certainly under a lot of stress and any small mistakes they make are magnified like never before. But, there is no escaping the fact that both of them have underperformed, no matter the circumstances.
Yes, Hughes has had his share of good starts this season, but they are normally sandwiched in-between horrible outings. It is still fresh in this fan’s mind that he allowed 7 runs in the first inning to the Mariners, who in all respect have a better offense than last season, but certainly not good enough to put up rallies like that against even an average starter. But as I said, then he goes out the other night in Seattle against the very same team and throws seven shutout innings. It’s frustrating, bizarre, and as much potential as he has to be great every night, the times that he isn’t have really cost the Yankees so far this year.
At this point it really doesn’t matter what Joba Chamberlain does, because he is in the doghouse for eternity with Yankee fans. No matter how he “shushed” Mariano Rivera, all I care about is what happens on the field, and even still Joba has been disappointing. Granted, he did miss practically the whole month of May with a strained right oblique, but collectively in 2013 he has given up three more hits than innings pitched, a red flag right off the bat. Even when he has an “effective” outing, he still often gets into trouble by nibbling at the corners and forgetting that he boasts a 95 mph fastball that still has some bite left in it. He too has been such a streaky pitcher, and ultimately you’d have to hope it wouldn’t last long in New York. Right?
Well, that is why I strongly consider that the Yankees trade not just one of them, but both Joba and Phil. Like I started the article saying, these two guys have been here for a long time, and it certainly would be odd not seeing them in the dugout or on the mound every other day. But it’s been shown that when they are “on”, Chamberlain and Hughes can be two of the most dominating pitchers in the American League, and that potential alone attracts pitching-deprived teams.
With the way the Yankees lineup has fallen into its worst slump since likely before I was born, I am shocked there aren’t many rumors going around about the team trading some of its pitchers. The pitching has been tremendous, Hughes and Joba aside, so what is holding back Cashman from dumping them off for a bat? I’m not talking players. A literal bat.
Maybe I’m being too harsh, but the fact remains that the Yankees are not a better team with Joba and Hughes on the roster than they are with them off it. Now I have no specific players I would target, which may be where my argument falls a bit flat, but there has to be a match somewhere. There always is, if the Yankees want one. It would be bittersweet to trade Joba, and especially Hughes, but giving up on these guys in a trade would be a signal to me that the Yanks are not by any means ready to surrender their AL East crown, which is still very much in reach with the right reinforcements.
Get to work Cash. You too Joba and Phil.
Michael Pineda finally pitched in his first official game for the Yankees at Single-A Tampa on Saturday.
Pineda was very impressive, as he pitched 4 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. He only allowed two hits: a bunt and a bloop to right. Also, his fastball touched 95 MPH, he struck out four batters and only walked one.
“His fastball had life,” a scout told Anthony Rieber of Newsday. “His fastball had good life to it. Looks like the guy I saw in Tacoma a couple of years ago. . .Unfortunately for us.”
“I expected to see some red flags,” said the rival scout. “None that I saw. The arm action looked good. All the check marks you want to cross off for a guy’s first outing in a long time, the checkmarks were all there. He threw strikes, competed, held his velocity. Looked good. Looked good.”
This is great news for the Yankees, as they may finally see a return in their investment of Pineda when they traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for him and Jose Campos on January 13th, 2012. After Pineda went down with a torn labrum in his right shoulder last season the Yankees were getting killed for the trade. However, Montero has been terrible for the Mariners (.208/.264/.327/.590 this season) and was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on May 23rd. The Yankees still have a solid chance of winning the trade.
The Yankees were hoping that they acquired a top of the rotation starter in Pineda, and he still has the talent to be that guy. In 2011 in Seattle, Pineda was 9-10, with a 3.74 ERA, a 3.42 FIP and 9.11 K/9. Pineda wowed people with his blazing fastball (94.7 average MPH) and a devastating slider (19.27 Whiff %). The key in Pineda’s development was developing his changeup to keep hitters off balance.
Pineda was dominant in the first half of the 2011 season, as he was was 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA and made the AL All-Star team. However, he struggled in the second half going 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA. What those numbers don’t tell you is that Pineda was more unlucky in the second half than he was poor.
Opponents only hit .236/.298/.391/.688 against Pineda in the second half of the season and he struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings. His BABIP went from .247 in the first half to .286 in the second half. Also, his second half FIP was still a solid 3.78, so Pineda did not pitch as badly in the second half as his standard numbers would indicate.
Anything the Yankees get out of Pineda this year would have been considered a bonus at the beginning of the year, but they have to be pleased with his progress so far. Considering how much they gave up for Pineda, the Yankees are very likely to insert him into the rotation once he is ready to come up to the Bronx. Assuming there are no injuries- which is never a safe assumption with the Yankees- it will be very interesting to see who is the odd man out in the rotation. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are all safe, which leaves Phil Hughes and David Phelps.
Phelps has continued to prove me wrong this season and has done a great job since he has been inserted into the rotation. Phelps’ ERA as a starter this season is 3.38 and his overall FIP this season is 3.37. The most surprising thing about him is that he has averaged 9.10 K/9 this season without what you would call great stuff. His poise and confidence on the mound are also big for him.
While Phelps has gotten the most out of his talents this season, the opposite can be said for Hughes. Hughes has a 4.80 ERA this season and has been very inconsistent again. It has usually been either a very good game or a brutal game with no in between. Home runs have once again been an issue, as Hughes has allowed 12 long balls already this season. His fly ball percentage is 50.5%, which is a career high even for Hughes.
The Yankees should try and trade Hughes if Pineda comes back healthy, although he probably would not fetch much with him pitching poorly and being a free agent this upcoming winter. Hughes and Phelps both have bullpen experience so they can make the transition easily.
With Jayson Nix, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart as regulars in the Yankees lineup they need all the pitching help they can get. The Yankees already have one of the best starting pitching staffs in all of baseball, but a healthy Pineda would only make it better if he can perform like he did in Seattle.
The Yankees need to find out what they have for Pineda not only for this season, but for down the road since Sabathia is the only top of the line starting pitcher under contract for next season. With everybody talking about the offensive reinforcements Pineda has kind of been the forgotten man, but he can have a big impact and give the Yankees a great boost for the stretch run.
When the baseball season starts, fans usually go to the ball park in order to take in nine innings of glorious baseball. As much as I enjoy going to the ball park to hear the crack of the bat, the fans cheering loudly and the food, I usually love going to the ball park in order to listen to the walk-up music of the Yankees. Music is one of my biggest passions, and to me the Yankees have done more than play great baseball over the years; they’ve also introduced me to new music and have filled up my iTunes with songs that I listen to on a consistent basis. Since Opening Day for the Yankees is tomorrow, I went on the Yankees website, found the list to some of the Yankees walk-up songs and took a listen to them, introducing myself to the different types of music that our players listen to.
1. Brennan Boesch: Brennan Boesch didn’t waste any time in choosing his songs for the 2013 season as he went and chose two songs for his walk-up music. The first song was “Sail” by Awolnation. When I first took a listen to the song, I found it intimidating in a good way. It’s not as intimidating as Evan Longoria‘s walk-up song (which is arguably one of the best walk-up songs in the Major Leagues), but it makes you think that something big is coming. The second song that Boesch chose was “We’ll Be Fine” by Drake. This is one of those songs that has you nodding your head while Boesch comes to the plate. Boesch hasn’t played a real game for the Yankees yet, but if I must applaud him on one thing, it’s his good taste in music.
2. Brett Gardner: I have to admit that before I started watching Gardner play baseball, I did not listen to country music; at all. But in 2011, Gardner had “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean as one of his walk-up songs and ever since then, half my iTunes is consumed with country music. This year, Gardner went with “Hell On Wheels” by Brantely Gilbert which is another great country song. Now, let’s hope that Gardner’s 2013 season is as dynamite as his walk-up song choice.
3. Chris Stewart: Chris Stewart is close to having one of the best walk-up songs on the Yankees if he only played the first twenty seconds of the song over the P.A. Stewart’s song choice is “Forsaken” by Skillet and if there’s one thing I must say, is that the guitar riffs were amazing. I wouldn’t normally listen to music like this, but after today now I would. Now, all he has to do is play on a consistent basis so I could heart this song over and over at the ball park. I wouldn’t mind paying money for that.
4. Curtis Granderson: We all remember the famous video where Curtis Granderson was picking his at-bat music and then almost cried when he chose “Friday.” Well, maybe all those hours of going through his laptop did the Grandy Man some good. His walk-up song (when he comes back) is none other than “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See (Instrumental)” by Busta Rhymes. Not too fond of the lyrics, but I do love the beat, so a smart move by Granderson in just using the instrumental.
5. David Robertson: We all know that David Robertson is an Alabama boy. He was born in Tuscaloosa and he is constantly helping his hometown with High Socks For Hope. So it doesn’t surprise me that his walk-up song is the awesome “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s actually a good thing I know about this now because I made a deadly mistake in asking my Twitter followers last season what D-Rob’s walk-up song was. Let’s just say they weren’t too happy with me during the game when they found out I seriously didn’t know. Well, I know now and it’s an awesome song. I’m looking forward to the 8th inning where I could sit back and listen to the tune that introduces us to the Yankees favorite set-up man.
6. Derek Jeter: The Captain won’t be there on Opening Day for us to hear his walk-up music but he made sure that he chose a song. I’m not too fond of rap music but, “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kanye West was a decent choice by Jeter. It would be nice to hear it at Yankee Stadium when The Captain returns, but in the meantime I guess the closest we can hear this song is on Youtube (and on iTunes if you have it already).
7. Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda has some great taste in music! Kuroda’s walk-up music is “The Whip” by Locksley and when I heard it for the first time, I heard some influence of ‘The Beatles’ in the chorus of the song. It’s nice that Kuroda was able to take us back to the good music–without actually taking us all the way back to the 1960’s.
8. Ivan Nova: Ah, is there nothing better than listening to some awesome Spanish music at Yankee Stadium? That’s what Ivan Nova introduced to the fans when he made his walk-up choice “Marta La Reina” by Antony Santos. This is one of those songs where you can’t help but get up from your seat and start dancing. According to the Yankees website, I don’t think it’s available for purchase but they have the song on Youtube where you can hear it over and over and over. It’s actually a great song to hear on a Sunday morning (with your headphones on).
9. Mariano Rivera: Mariano Rivera’s song choice is as fitting as his role on the Yankees. When the Yankees have a lead and they go to the 9th inning, Mariano Rivera comes in the game and puts it to bed, dubbing him “The Sandman.” Rivera’s song choice is the best song choice by far on the Yankees with “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The guitar riffs in the song are simply amazing and when Yankees fans hear it, they can’t help but get excited, knowing that the greatest closer of all time is coming in to make the opposing team’s offense go to sleep. Yankees fans better soak in all of “Enter Sandman” that they can this season, since Rivera plans on retiring at the end of the season. I know I’ll soak up every moment.
10. Mark Teixeira: If there’s anyone that we can count on to take us back to when rap music was at it’s best, it’s Mark Teixeira. His song choice “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C is a great way to pay a homage to rap at it’s finest. Of course, we expect nothing less of Teixeira since he has been famously known of using classics from the Twisted Sisters in the past. But Teixeira didn’t stop there. His second song choice was “This Town” by O.A.R. which is one of my favorite songs. Teixeira hit a home run with his song choices and I can’t wait until he gets back on the field so we can hear it blaring from the P.A speakers.
11. Phil Hughes: Phil Hughes’s walk-up song is pretty vague. There’s no artist next to his song choice “Tomorrowland” so I did a search on Youtube and it sounds more like Hughes is ready for summer in a club than ready to play baseball. If this is his song, I’m not too fond of the techno-beat, but I can see it getting fans excited.
12. Robinson Cano: Robinson Cano simply outdid everyone when it came to choosing songs. He didn’t choose two songs, he went the extra mile and chose three! His first song was “El Que No Aguante La Presion” by Secreto El Biberon which is a great song choice. It reminds me of summer like Hughes’s song choice, but Cano’s song reminds me more of running through fire hydrants that have water coming out of them than the club. Cano’s second song choice was “Me Kitee” by Black Point. Again, it reminded me of summer. Cano’s last song was “Te Prendo” by Chimbala. As far as Spanish songs go, all three of Cano’s song choices hit it out of the ball park. Simply great. If his goal was to get Yankees fans on their feet while he comes to bat, he succeeded.
13. Vernon Wells: I’m not a fan of rap music, but if you choose a song with Dr. Dre and Eminem, then you are in my good graces for the entire season. And that’s exactly what Vernon Wells did by choosing “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre & Eminem. The beat is fantastic and this was when rap was still at it is greatest. It’s great that someone chose a throwback song, and now I will await his arrival to the plate just to hear this awesome song.
The Yankees choosing their own walk-up music is a way for them to connect to their fans. It shows fans what kind of music their idols like and in their own way, they introduce you to music you may have never heard of before. The Yankees are always winners in the fans eyes, but they’ve become more than. They’re role models with impeccable taste in music. So the next time you go to the ball park, open your ears when your favorite Yankee goes to the plate. You just might have a new favorite song that you’ll want as soon as you get home.
In a little less than three weeks, the Yankees will begin their home-opener against the Boston Red Sox with CC Sabathia on the mound. However, this year’s Opening Day lineup might be a little different than what we’re used to due to all of the injuries the Yankees were plagued with during the 2013 season. The Yankees are missing Curtis Granderson (broken forearm), Mark Teixeira (strained forearm) and Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) in their offense which is sure to look like the ‘Robinson Cano Show’ for the first month and a half. But with still some time to go, just how are the Yankees shaping up as they prepare for the season?
The Yankees lineup has many question marks after losing so many players to free agency and injuries. The bats of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez will be with different ball clubs, while we will most likely have to wait for Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to return to their post in early to mid-May. However, the lineup hasn’t looked as puzzling as it did when Spring Training started. The Yankees proved that they can manufacture runs by using a key element that they possess: speed. Players like Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez are capable of getting on base, going station to station on their own before a key teammate has to drive them in with an RBI. Speed will play an important part this season since the Yankees have lost over 100 home runs than in season’s past. But just because the Yankees are relying on speed, it doesn’t mean we should start calling them the ‘Bronx Bunters’. They will still find a way to hit home runs with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira making their way back into the starting lineup.
Throughout the course of Spring Training, the starting pitching has been one early glimpse of how our starters will perform during the 2013 season. It looks as if they left off from last season. Hiroki Kuroda looks to be in mid-season form, David Phelps has a 0.63 ERA 14 Spring appearances Ivan Nova has an ERA of 1. Andy Pettitte has still proven that his pitches are effective although he’s the oldest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. And as expected, there is no concern over CC Sabathia, whatsoever. The starting pitching looks to be one of the Yankees strong points like it was in season’s past. Let’s hope that the pitching can carry the Yanks this season.
The Yankees bullpen was another one of their key pieces that helped define the Yankees last season. With pitchers such as David Robertson, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Joba Chamberlain, it seemed like an easy task to get the ball to the 9th inning before handing it off to the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Last season’s bullpen dynamic was different since there was no Mariano in the bullpen due to an ACL injury, giving the Yankees a glimpse of what it would look like if Mariano Rivera wasn’t there. With Rafael Soriano, the Yankees were able to still close games with a dominant force but this year there is no Rafael Soriano. Mariano Rivera plans to retire after the 2013 season, which gives Yankees fans one last look of the greatest closer before he hangs up his cleats and says goodbye to the game. The bullpen is expected to be a strong part of the Yankees once again, and from Spring observations, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shawn Kelley and David Phelps get spots in the bullpen. With both of their arms this spring, the Yankees bullpen could become an iron gate to prevent runs from scoring.
There’s only 17 days until Opening Day so from now until Spring Training is over, it would be a good time to start watching the games to see who has a legitimate shot of making the team. And from what I’ve seen all Spring so far, there are quite a few who have a chance to go north.
There are a lot of notes from a lot of players today, so let’s skip the chit-chat for today and review everything that went on in Yankee camp.
— Phil Hughes has been shut down by the Yankees for a few days after experiencing soreness in his upper back. However, according to Girardi, we shouldn’t worry too much about Hughes’s injury since its in the upper part of his back.
“It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time which helps. You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like, a Yogi-ism.”
— After experiencing discomfort in his back, Mark Montgomery played catch today. Montgomery was also throwing to hitters earlier in Spring Training, and the Yankees should expect to get the young pitcher back soon.
— Ichiro Suzuki is known for his behind his back catches when he’s shagging fly balls in the outfield, and Brett Gardner wanted to see it for himself. After the media spotted Ichiro making a catch from behind his back, they went to Gardner who was in the outfield with him during outfield drills, and Gardner admitted that he was the one who told Ichiro to do it, with a smile on his face.
“It’s my fault.” Gardner laughed. “I told him to do it.”
Gardner is already one-up on Joe Girardi, since Girardi has heard of the catches but never had seen one in person. I guess all he has to do to see one is ask Ichiro. Honestly, Ichiro sounds like a lot of fun to be around.
— Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano are preparing for the World Baseball Classic, meaning that they both would leave camp earlier this year. Robinson Cano is leaving camp March 2nd while Mark Teixeira is leaving camp March 3rd. That gives both players to get in some Yankees games before heading out and representing their country. Don’t worry Yankees fans. Robinson Cano will be back on March 6th when Team Dominican Republic plays the Yankees at GMS Field. Should be a lot of fun.
Spring Training is only a little bit over two weeks away and that usually brings about optimism for every baseball fan. There has not been a lot of reason for optimism for Yankees fans this winter. Ownership has not allowed Brian Cashman to spend freely, due to the mandate of getting the payroll under $189 million by 2014. This has led to very little activity from the Yankees this offseason. They have seen other teams in the American League get better like the Angels and Blue Jays. While the pessimism is certainly justified, it is not all doom and gloom for the Yankees. While the Angels and Tigers are a step above them right now, the Yankees should still have a solid team. Toronto is the favorite in the AL East right now, but it certainly is not impossible for the Yankees to win the division. Here are the five most important players for the Yankees to have a successful year this season:
1. Mark Teixeira– While Mark Teixeira has performed like a very good player over the last three years with the Yankees, he has not been the superstar that they were hoping for and that he was in 2009. The Yankees will be counting on Teixeira to bat cleanup and provide protection for Robinson Cano. That means an .OPS in the low .800’s and a batting average around .250 isn’t going to cut it. The Yankees need his OPS back around .900 and his average around .270 or .280. Teixeira is the Yankees’ only power threat from the right side and they need him to produce. Power won’t be the issue as Teixeira has hit close to 40 home runs even in his down seasons. If the Yankees can get anything close to the 2009 version of Teixiera him and Cano would be one of the best 3-4 duo’s in MLB.
2. Curtis Granderson– Curtis Granderson is in a similar situation as Teixeira. While he hasn’t had the career success that Teixeira has had, Granderson needs to get back to his 2011 season like Teixeira needs to get back to his 2009 form. There is a ton of pressure on Granderson this season because the Yankees did not go and add another bat for the 5th spot in the lineup. Justin Upton or Michael Morse would have been perfect, but obviously the Yankees did not acquire either of them. So, the Yankees will be counting on Granderson to return to his 2011 form. Granderson hit 43 home runs last season, but his line of .232/.319/.492/.811 was simply not good enough. Worst of all, he had an egregious 28.5 K% and looked completely lost at the end of the year. Kevin Long will need to work his magic on Granderson again for the 2013 season.
3. Mariano Rivera– The biggest strength the Yankees have right now is their bullpen. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlian, David Aardsma, Boone Logan and Clay Rapada make up a very solid middle relief core. There is one question about the bullpen Can Mariano Rivera be the Mariano Rivera that we know him to be at age 43 coming off a torn ACL and meniscus? Even for the immortal Rivera it is a legitimate question. If Rivera is injured or ineffective, the Yankees would still have a good bullpen, but probably not an elite one like they do if Rivera is his dominant self. However, I will never bet against Rivera, so I expect him to be just fine.
4. Brett Gardner– The Yankees sorely missed Brett Gardner last season, as a wrist injury in April caused him to miss most of the 2012 season. Gardner, the only Yankees regular starter under 30, will be a key piece for the Yankees this season. Last season, New York’s left fielders hit .253/.315/.444/.759. They largely depended on the power of Raul Ibanez. While Gardner won’t provide that, he will provide many other good qualities. Gardner will provide great patience at the plate, as his career walk percentage (11.0%) and pitches per plate appearance (4.29) are extremely good. Gardner will be huge on the base paths, as he has stolen 47 and 49 bases in his last two healthy seasons. His defense in left field is probably the best in MLB. While we know his defense and base running will be great, his hitting is still a question mark. His career line of .266/.355/.368/.723 is only OK for a non power hitter. Also, he has been poor against lefties for his career (.256/.362/.355/.731). For the Yankees to be an elite offense, they will need Gardner to have a close to .290 average at least. He has never done that in his career, but at age 29 Gardner should be peaking.
5. Phil Hughes– Like the bullpen, the rotation is a strength of the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda form a very solid top of the rotation and Phil Hughes is a little bit of a wild card. Hughes overcame a rough April to have a solid season. He improved on his slider and changeup to help put more hitters away. This helped him to strikeout 7.8 per nine innings and only walk 2.2 per nine innings. Hughes is in a contract year, so he should be motivated to have a great season, as he can cash in big at the end of the year. From June through August, Hughes had a 3.19 ERA. If he can pitch even close to that for the whole 2013 season the Yankees will have a dominant rotation.
The Signing of Dan Johnson
The Yankees are still being quiet in the Major League department, but the Yankees have another player that they signed for a minor league job. The Yankees signed 1B/3B/DH Dan Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Now, those of you may know Johnson as the player who hit the game tying HR for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 162 in 2011 against the Yankees (which allowed Tampa to make it to the playoffs and the Red Sox to go home). He played for the Chicago White Sox Triple-A affiliate last season batting .267 with 28 HR’s and 85 RBI’s. He also got a spot in the Triple-A All Star Game and placed second in the Home Run Derby.
Now, I know that Dan Johnson could be a good signing for the minor leagues, but the Yankees main focus should be the Major Leagues. They are basically without a catcher and they don’t have depth on their bench. Spring Training is in less than three weeks and this is the team that the Steinbrenner’s and Cashman want to put on the field?
Johnson has a slight chance to make the 25-man roster as the Yankees DH if he does well in Spring Training, but he could start the season in Triple-A which will once again, leave the Yankees with a thin roster.
Only One Left in Arbitration
I know I didn’t update about this since I was on vacation, but now I can officially report that almost all of the Yankees that were arbitration eligible have signed through the 2013 season–except for one. While Brett Gardner, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan don pinstripes for the season, David Robertson will go to an arbitrator with the Yankees if they don’t reach a deal before then. Robertson is the lone Yankee in arbitration and it’s puzzling why the Yankees haven’t worked out a deal with him as of yet. Just give Robertson what he’s asking for since he actually deserves it.
Yankees announce Game Times for 2013 season
MLB announced today the times for the upcoming season for the Yankees. Now, while the Yankees calendar hasn’t been fully updated, here are some dates and times that have been updated.
April 5-7 (vs. Tigers): 1:05pm, 4:05pm, 1:05pm
April 8-11 (vs. Indians): 4:05pm, 7:05pm, 7:05pm, 7:05pm
May 10-12 (vs. Royals): 7:10pm, 6:10pm, 1:10pm
May 25 (vs. Rays): 4:10pm
June 16 (vs. Angels): 3:35pm
August 2-4 (vs. Padres): 7:10pm, 5:40pm, 1:10pm (All Eastern Time)
Final Series of Year (vs. Astros): 7:10pm, 6:10pm, 1:10pm
— Well, it took from October to January but Rafael Soriano finally has a new home and that is with the Washington Nationals. He signed a two year, $28 Million with an option for a third year. Soriano’s contract makes him the highest paid reliever in baseball but second all time to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. When Soriano didn’t take the option that the Yankees were offering him, it had fans wondering if he would ever find a job. Well, it took him a while since teams don’t really want to give up a draft pick just to sign a player.
The Yankees now have three draft picks in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft. They are #27 (which was their original draft pick), #31 (since Nick Swisher signed with the Cleveland Indians) and #32 (since Soriano signed with the Nationals). But if you’re sad that you won’t see Soriano as much and you’re a Yankee fan–don’t be. The Yankees and Nationals meet up on March 29, 2012 for an exhibition game. Although it’s the end of the ‘untuck’ era, I’m sure someone on the Yankees can one-up that this season.
— In our second major story of the day, four Yankees have decided to file for arbitration after not being able to agree on a contract offer. Those four Yankees are Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, David Robertson and Boone Logan. Now, the four players still have time to work this out, but the issue at hand could be that they all feel they are worth what they want. I’ve seen what Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are reportedly asking for and they should go to an arbitration hearing. They aren’t worth what they’re asking for, especially Hughes. Give Robertson and Logan what they want since they were more dominant but there has been some cries from Yankees fans that maybe it’s time for Boone Logan to go since he only has one year remaining.
Honestly guys, why couldn’t you have made it as easy as Brett Gardner did. The guy took what the Yankees gave him, no questions asked. Then again, he was injured for most of the year. It would be exciting to see how all of this plays out in the end.
In Other News:
— Before signing with the Yankees, Kevin Youkilis spoke to Johnny Damon about the transition from Boston to New York. Luckily for Youkilis, Damon gave the transition two thumbs up. Also dealing with Youkilis, he began working with Kevin Long to prepare for the upcoming season. Sounds like a good idea if you want to get off on the right foot with the Yankees organization.
It’s December 8th and the Yankees have done little to none since the season ended. The Yankees signed Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Hiroki Kuroda (all of which were expected from the get-go. What would have been shocking was Kuroda going to a different team). The Yankees have only just started taking care of their arbitration players and only have completed a contract with one player out of the six players that were on the list: Brett Gardner.
Gardner will get $2.85 Million for the 2013 season along with performance bonuses, $25,000 for each plate appearance milestone (375, 400, 425, 450, 475, 500). So in other words, if Gardner played all 162 games (or at least 150) games with that many plate appearances he could make up to $3 Million. Let’s see if the extra money can entice our lovely injury prone left fielder to try to not injure himself again. We need him.
The Yankees have four other players on the arbitration list after dealing a contract to Gardner and letting Casey McGehee walk. Here are the four players and their projections based off MLB Trade Rumors:
Phil Hughes: projected to make 5.7 Million in 2013
Boone Logan: projected to make $2.8 Million in 2013
David Robertson: projected to make $2.7 Million in 2013
Joba Chamberlain: projected to make $1.8 Million in 2013.
If I were to guess why Gardner’s contract was the only one that was able to get completed so quickly, it’s probably because Gardner can’t really argue that he should get more money since he only played 12 games in the 2012 season due to an elbow injury. Now if you were to ask me if these players deserve the money that they’re asking for, here’s what I think.
Phil Hughes: Hughes looked better in 2012 than in 2011 but I don’t know if I would give him almost $6 Million dollars. Maybe if he continued winning 16+ games but lowered how many games he actually lost then I would say why not.
Boone Logan: Heck, for the great job he did in 2012, let’s give him $3 Million. Logan did a great job when the Yankees needed him, so maybe a small raise wouldn’t hurt.
David Robertson: Give the man more than what he’s asking for. He’s simply amazing and really should consider changing his middle name to “Houdini”. I wouldn’t be surprised if this man was the future closer of the New York Yankees. Money wise for 2013, I’d say give him $3 Million.
Joba Chamberlain: Yep, $1.8 Million sounds about right, especially since he just came back from Tommy John Surgery (and an ankle injury but that’s another story). Chamberlain seemed to have gotten it together towards the end of the season so that’s a sign of hope that he’ll be effective come Spring Training.
So if you were the Yankees (or an arbiter), what would you do with Chamberlain, Robertson, Hughes and Logan? Would you give them less money or more money depending on what they’re asking?
In Other News:
— Eli Whiteside who was DFA’d by the Yankees has been picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays. No worries, the Blue Jays have to pay the contract that the Yankees signed Whiteside to prior to designating him for assignment.
— Alex Rodriguez had a charity event in Miami today and answered questions to the press about certain subjects.
On Kevin Youkilis: “Youk has always been a tough out. He’s a tough player…a winning player…I think that would be a good move for us.”
On why he didn’t disclose his injuries during the playoffs: “When I struggle,it’s on me. It’s a team sport. I have to do my part. There’s no excuses here”
— Also one more tidbit: If you’re following an account that says @realhankaaron on Twitter, you might want to unfollow it. Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) confirmed the account was a fake.
It’s that time again where not only the free agents prove valuable, but this is also the time to re-sign some players under arbitration. This year there are seven Yankees that could expect a raise, another contract or head to another team on a shifting payroll. MLB Trade Rumors placed the projected salaries of what they believe each player will get in 2013.
Phil Hughes (SP)
2012 Salary: $3.2 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $5.7 Million
I have to admit that a $2 million raise is a bit significant for a pitcher that isn’t consistent but to be honest unless the Yankees pull off a blockbuster trade this off-season, Hughes will be in Yankees pinstriped in 2013.
Casey McGehee (INF)
2012 Salary: $2.5 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $2.9 Million
Casey McGehee might end up being non-tendered since the main reason the Yankees acquired him was due to Alex Rodriguez being on the disabled list. The Yankees don’t really need McGehee, but I’m pretty sure another team does.
Brett Gardner (OF)
2012 Salary: $2.8 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $2.8 Million
Even though Gardner not playing proved to the Yankees that he’s valuable, it looks as if Gardner’s not getting a raise. What did you expect? The guy injured his shoulder in April and didn’t swing a bat again until October. Well, at least it helps the Yankees payroll.
Boone Logan (LHP)
2012 Salary: $1.9 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $2.8 Million
Yes, let’s just give the Yankees #1 lefty in the bullpen a raise. He certainly deserved it after last season. Also if you’re one of members of the “Get Boone Logan out of NY” fan club–it’s not happening.
David Robertson (RHP)
2012 Salary: $1.6 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $2.7 Million
One of the best set-up men in baseball getting a raise? Sounds about right, but I would have given Robertson more money. After all, he’s one of the constants in the bullpen that all Yankees fans can count on.
Joba Chamberlain (RHP)
2012 Salary: $1.67 Million
Expected 2013 Salary: $1.8 Million
Chamberlain could get a small raise but he has been inconsistent since coming back from a freak ankle injury along with Tommy John Surgery. Maybe he has to work the kinks out this winter and we’ll see a consistent Chamberlain in 2013.
2012 Salary: Minimum
Expected 2013 Salary: $900,000
Give the kid the $900,000. Let him come back and be a reserve infielder. He did a great job in 2012 playing the field and even had some key hits in games that would end up determining the Yankees as AL East victors.
It had been a long, trying season for the Yankees where so much has happened. Yankees have lost Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, at a point lost Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, suffered through hitting slumps by Russell Martin, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson and a surprisingly good regular season by Nick Swisher. But the Yankees didn’t realize that the season doesn’t end after 162 games and fell flat against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and will now spend their offseason trying to piece it all together. The Yankees have to make decisions before the 2013 offseason, but if you were the GM of the Yankees who would you keep and who would you dump? Infield
The Yankees are ¼ of the way to another World Series Championship. After winning the AL East and outlasting the Orioles, the Yankees will have to take the hot hitting they have had at the end of the year and transfer it to the ALDS and for the rest of the play-offs should they advance. Here are some key tips that the Yankees might want to do in order to go all the way in the play-offs.
Pitch Effectively: The Yankees are going to start with CC Sabathia for the first game and with Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and (possibly) Phil Hughes taking a turn on the mound, the Yankees need to make sure that they pitch effectively and try to limit runs as much as they can. If they can do that then it could give the Yankees a chance to score some runs and win some games.
Hit with RISP: Speaking of scoring runs, the Yankees need to hit with runners in scoring position. That has been their Achilles heel throughout the regular season. The Yankees have gotten a bit better with RISP coming down the stretch when it came to clinching the AL East. Let’s see if that transfers into the play-offs.
Play ABC Baseball: I know this is not the Yankees style but this is one of the few effective ways to score runs without trying to swing for the fences. The Yankees have players with some serious speed now that Brett Gardner is healthy; Ichiro Suzuki is playing the outfield and Eduardo Nunez is available off the bench. With guys like that able to steal bases, it allows the Yankees to get base hits and score them. Remember, homers hurt but speed kills.
A-Rod, Teixeira, Swisher—Wake up: The Yankees need Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher to wake up from their postseason funks and hit the baseball with authority if they want to make it far. Swisher seemed to have been hitting towards the end of the season but Mark Teixeira since coming back from hurting his calf looks lost at the plate and A-Rod has looked lost at the plate all year. A-Rod and Teixeira are pretty lucky they can’t be traded—Swisher not so much so this would be a great time for Swisher to start hitting.
Robinson Cano, Don’t Ya Know: Robinson Cano has been hitting out of this world for the past week and Yankees fans are only hoping that Cano is able to transfer his hitting skills from the end of the season to the postseason. Cano has looked red hot and he could be the person that carries this team all the way to the World Series—kind of like A-Rod did in 2009.
Are there any other keys to the play-offs that you think the Yankees should follow for a successful postseason? Place your thoughts in the comments below.
Good evening everyone. There’s no baseball at all tonight so we’re going to post some tidbits and notes that have been stirring around from Yankee Land. Here are some evening notes.
— The Yankees have yet to make the postseason roster but there are 3 definite players aside from the other starters for the roster: David Phelps, Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner (Brian Cashman confirmed Gardner today).
— The Yankees might either face the Orioles or Rangers on Sunday so the question is–who would you rather face?
— Andruw Jones might get a roster spot for the postseason. I don’t think he should be on the roster considering he had a pretty bad 2012 regular season and there are hitters that could be of assistance on the bench. Players such as Chris Dickerson perhaps?
— A lot of writers believe that Andy Pettitte should start Game 2 of the play-offs instead of Hiroki Kuroda. Here I would have to agree. Kuroda has a better home record than an away record and since the Yankees are on the road to begin the play-offs, it would make the most sense to have CC Sabathia and Pettitte for Games 1 & 2 and Kuroda and Hughes for Game 3 & 4. Sabathia would pitch Game 5 if it came down to that.
— In other news that has nothing to do with the Yankees but the Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine after 1 year with the Red Sox. Honestly, the Red Sox never should have fired Terry Francona to bring in Bobby Valentine. Francona won 2 championships and had one bad year. Bobby Valentine came in and made everything worse.