Every year in April after the first few games of the season Yankee fans as well as fans of every other team react to quickly when the season begins. If the Yankees start the season 8-2 fans have thoughts of another World Series Championship. If they begin 2-8 panic sets in and you can hear the cries of "oh no what are we gonna do" ? Relax, stop the parade float or come down from the ledge and do what I always do. I always wait until about 50 games are played to gauge what type of team the Yankees are going to be for the season and also to see what changes are needed. Well for the first time in a long time this 2012 Yankees team is a tough one to figure out. If they hit they don't pitch well. If they pitch well they don't hit. It seems like they're not firing on all cyclinders yet. After 50 games the Yankees have a record of 28-22. They began the season with a record of 13-9 at the end of April and in May they went 15-13. Currently they are in third place in the American League East. They trail first place Tampa by a game and a half and are a half game behind second place Baltimore. They're holding their heads above water and no other team is running away with the division. This should make for an exciting summer of baseball.
In 2008 when Joe Giradi first became the manager, let's just say I wasn't a big fan of the move and leave it at that. Since then I adjusted to his going by the stats, lefty vs lefty righty vs righty match up type of managing. I would have expected more of a go with your gut instead of a by the book style of managing from a former Major League catcher. But for the most part the team is always prepared to play and they play hard every game so that's all I can ask for.
So far it's been a season plagued with injuries and slow starts by key players. The injury bug has bit players like Nick Swisher, David Robertson, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. Since then Swisher has come back, Robertson and Gardner are expected to return while Chamberlain is progressing but no time table has been set for his return. The absence of Gardner is being felt more than anyone expected. His energy excitement and gritty style of play is truly being missed. This team definitely needs his spark back in the lineup. Gardner has begun to hit off a tee and could return in a week to ten days. Two pitchers who will not be returning this season are Micheal Pineda and Mariano Rivera. The loss of Rivera is huge. It makes the Yankees bullpen just the same as every other team in league. There's no " Mo " in the ninth. Even with all the injuries their right in the thick of things in the division. I guess their payroll allows them to have depth and get through injuries better than some other teams. Hey ! You will never hear me complain about the Yankees payroll !
Slow starts by Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeria have Yankee fans on the ledge of buildings ready to jump. I'm not concerned about Cano. He's to good of a hitter to worry about even after finishing the month of April hitting .267 with just 1 homerun and only 4 RBIs. During May his average has been on a steady upward climb. At the end of May he's now hitting .291 with 8 homeruns and 23 RBIs. As for A-Rod. He's hitting .283 with 7 homeruns and 19 RBIs. He's 36 years old and he's not driving baseball like he use to. He's never going to be the hitter he once was. The seasons of 50 homeruns and 130 plus RBIs are a thing of the past. After battling injuries the past few seasons the key for him is to stay healthy and hope for 25 homeruns and 100 RBIs. He's still a threat in the middle of the lineup. I don't know where to begin with Teixeria. Over the course of his career he's always been a slow starter. At the end of April he was hitting .244 with 3 homeruns and 12 RBIs. Through the first 28 games in May his power numbers were almost identical as April (3 HR/11RBI) with his average dipping to .216. He did battle a severe chest cold the first 3 weeks of May. Maybe that's the reason why he struggled. As of late he's starting to put up better numbers finishing May hitting .257 with 9 homeruns and 30 RBIs. I would like to see him use the whole field when he hits from the left side of the plate. He uses the whole field hitting from the right side but not the left. If he did his average would go back up. His homeruns might drop just a few but nothing to drastic. At times this whole team could use just a single instead of relying on homeruns to win a game.
With such a slow start in the middle of this lineup and getting no power production I was thinking that Joe Garidi should put Curtis Granderson in a power spot to drive in some runs. During April and early May "The Grandyman" was hitting homeruns but unfortunately he didn't have a lot of RBIs because nobody was on base. Granderson is off to a good start. At the end of May he's hitting .259 with 16 homeruns and 29 RBIs. Another player off to a good start is Derek Jeter. The 37 year old captain was hitting over .400 during most of April finishing the month with a batting average of .389 with 4 homeruns and 13 RBIs. At the end of May Jeter is hitting .336. On May 26th in Oakland Jeter tied George Brett on the all time hit list with 3,154 hits.
A pleasant surprise has been the addition of outfielder Raul Ibanez. With the injury to Brett Gardner Ibanez has gotten a little more playing time than anticipated. Not only is he playing well. He's gotten big hit after big hit. During April and May he's the guy I wanted to see hitting in a big spot. At the end of May Ibanez is hitting .268 with 9 homeruns and 28 RBIs. Just as many homeruns and RBIs as Teixeria and A-Rod in a lot less of at bats. If it wasn't for he's clutch hitting this team might have dug themselves into a deeper hole in the division. He's just a good professional hitter.
The starting pitching has been okay. CC Sabathia is 6-2 with an ERA of .407. That might seem a little high mainly because he struggled a little in May going 3-2 after going 3-0 in April. He has struck out 69 while walking 21. Ivan Nova is 6-2 with an ERA of 5.10. He has struck out 58 and walked 20. Nova has a habit of pitching in and out of trouble quite a bit and has a tendency to give up the long ball giving up 13 homeruns. Remember this is only his second season in the bigs. Phil Hughes is 4-5 with an ERA of 5.64. He has struck out 49 and walked 13. Hughes has been throwing the ball with good velocity. He needs to be more economical and not throw so many pitches that way he can pitch deeper into the game. He must stay aggressive and go right after hitters. With the bullpen being short due to the injury to Rivera, Hughes might be more suitable in the bullpen especially if the Yankees make a trade for a starter later in the season. So far the return of Andy Pettitte has been better than I expected. Since he's come back he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.49. So far he seems to be strong. Next month he will turn 40. Let's hope he can stay strong through the rest of the season and into October. With injury to Mariano Rivera it looks like Rafeal Soriano will be called upon to save games. He did save 45 games in 2010 while with the Tampa Bay Rays. So far he hasn't really been tested but hopefully he can handle the pressure of October baseball in New York.
In some of my previous blogs I stated that I didn't like the signing of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda but I would to see how he pitches. I said in earlier blogs it didn't make sense to me to sign a 37 year old for ten million dollars. But let's leave the money out of it because money is never an issue for the Yankees. Lets look at the baseball side of it. After leaving Japan he joined the LA Dodgers in 2008. In 4 seasons with the Dodgers he was 41-46 with an ERA of 3.45 and averaged about 175 innings a year. Sure maybe his ERA and innings pitched are okay but that was in the National League West where the pitchers hit. This is the men's league ! This is the American League and let's not forget the Yankees are in the AL East !! The powerhouse division in all of baseball !! Kuroda is 4-6 with an ERA of 3.96. Look, he's thrown a couple good games and his ERA is respectable. He was good Opening day against the Angels where he gave up 5 hits not allowing an earned run over 8 innings. He had good games against the Orioles and Mariners pitching into the 7th inning both games. In his last start he went 8 innings against the A's not giving up a run. Those are his 4 wins. He did suffer a hard luck loss against Texas going 6.2 innings giving up 2 runs. Both the A's and Mariners aren't good hitting teams. He's just to inconsistent for me. In his starts he's either good, pitching into the 7th inning or he's bad where he can't make it through the 5th. I don't want to hear oh but " he eats innings." He's not the number 5 starter on some team out west ! He's the number 3 on The New York Yankees !! You have to win games too !! Just when I want to really throw him under the bus he throws a decent game even if it is against the A's. Stay tuned the bus might be coming around the corner. My theory for pitchers on this team has always been out of every 5 starts give me 3 good ones, one where you pitch okay but your offense scores you enough runs to get you a win. One where you just don't have it, you stink up the joint and don't get through the 5th inning. Over the course of a full season that's about 15-18 wins which is possible for any starter on this team with this offense. I hope Kuroda is just adjusting to the AL East and New York but my gut tells me he's going to have a tough time while in pinstripes.
One area that defiantly needs improvement not only during the season but more importantly in October is hitting with runners in scoring position. As a team the Yankees are hitting .226 with runners in scoring position, .210 with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .164 with the bases loaded. Yikes !! And that's against watered down regular season pitching. If they make it to October like we all expect them to they're going to see better pitching so they have to cash in runs when the get the opportunity.
Overall the pitching has been fairly consistent it's the offense that has struggled. It's not at the point where a trade has to be made to get a bat but guys have to start hitting. I anticipate hitters putting up the numbers that have been on the back of their baseball cards in previous years and the next 50 games being more like the Yankees we're use to seeing.
Coming soon a review of the Yankees 2012 MLB Draft picks and a look at which off season moves were good and which ones were a bust.
Looking forward to a fun filled summer of Yankee Baseball !!!! Go Yankees !!