By The Big Ragu
NFL PRO ZACH Staff Writer
Back on July 29th the Yankees sat atop the American League East with an 8 1/2 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles and it looked as if they were going to coast to another division title. Well this morning they started the day off with only a 3 game lead over those same Orioles and a 4 1/2 game lead over the Tampa Rays. Right now as I sit here with the Yankees game on in the background they are winning 2-0 over the O's on a homerun by Chris Dickerson who was recently called up along with some others when Major League teams expand their rosters on September 1st.
The recent call ups have me reflecting back on a season full of injuries and how the Yankees substitutes have filled in during the year keeping the team in first place.
On July 29th when Alex Rodriquez went on the DL with a fractured left hand most Yankees fans were shouting " go out and get a third baseman." But I guess GM Brian Cashman had other plans. Instead of going out and spending more money the team decided to stick with veteran third baseman Eric Chavez and utility man Jayson Nix. Chavez now 34 is no longer the player he once was with Oakland due to injuries the past few seasons. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has given Chavez playing time and has mixed in sufficient rest in order to keep him healthy as well as productive. For the season Chavez has played 91 games and is hitting .292 with13 homeruns, 10 doubles and 32 RBIs. In 233 at-bats he has an OBP of .349, a .502 SLG, and an OPS of .851. Defensively he has been solid. He has played 46 games at third base and 6 at first base and has committed only 6 errors giving him a fielding percentage of .961. Not a bad substitute for the price of $ 900k.
When a lefty has been on the mound against the Yankees Girardi gives Chavez time off and has gone with Jayson Nix. The 30 year old utility man has bounced around with the Rockies, White Sox, Indians, and Blue Jays. This season with the Yankees he has played third base to give Chavez a rest but has also played shortstop, second base and even the outfield to give other players a rest as well. He has played 61 games and is hitting .254 with 4 homeruns and 16 RBIs. He has an OBP of .312, .408 SLG, and a .720 OPS. Decent offensive numbers but like most utility men their known for their glove. He has made only 5 errors. Two at third and one each at second, short and the outfield.
When starting pitchers Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia suffered an injury and were placed on the DL the Yankees turned to a couple of players to step up and fill the void until they got back. Back in 1999 with the Seattle Mariners Freddy Garcia was known as a hard throwing right hander but since has had to reinvent himself as a crafty pitcher who uses his brains as well as his off speed stuff to keep hitters off balance. This year Garcia is 7-5 with an ERA of 4.90. He has appeared in 25 games starting 15 of them. In 93.2 innings he has struck out 78 batters, walked 28 and given up 13 homeruns. He has a WHIP of 1.367 with a SO/9 of 7.5 and a BB/9 2.79.
I would like to highlight a player this season that has given the Yankees organization as well as fans something to look forward to in the future. That player is pitcher David Phelps. The 6' 2" 200 lb right hander from St Louis Missouri began the season in the bullpen but when CC Sabathia went down Phelps was asked to move into the starting rotation for about two weeks until CC got back. But as soon as Sabathia returned pitcher Ivan Nova went down with soreness in his right shoulder so Phelps has stayed in the rotation for the time being. The 25 year old Phelps is 3-4 with an ERA of 3.13. In 74.2 innings he has struck out 76 while walking 27. He has a WHIP of 1.179. His ratio's per 9 innings are H/9 7.4, HR/9 1.3, SO/9 9.2, BB/9 3.3. As a reliever he made 19 appearances going 2-2 with an ERA of 2.54. In 39.0 innings he struck out 40 while walking 12. He started 7 games going 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA. In 35.2 innings he struck out 36 and walked 15. His overall numbers might not overwhelm you but the kid knows how to pitch. In the games I watched him pitch he pitched without fear. He went right at hitters. Which is what I like to see.
David Phelps was a computer applications and a political science major at the University of Notre Dame. In 2008 as a junior he went 5-5 with an ERA of 4.65 and led the team in games started with 14, innings pitched 93.0 and strikeouts with 75.
He was named to the pre-season First Team All-Big East honors in 2007 and 2008 and was also named to the 2008 Preseason Watch List for the " Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year " award. He became the second pitcher in Notre Dame history to strike out at least 100 batters (102) and record an ERA under 2.00 (1.88) in the same season (2007) the other was Aaron Heilman.
At Hazelwood West High School in Missouri he went 14-4 with an ERA of 2.96 striking out 172 hitters in 109.2 innings. In 2005 he was named Top Prospect in Missouri among prep seniors by Baseball America after he set a school record pitching 30.0 scoreless innings.
Last season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Gulf Coast League Yankees Phelps went 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA in 20 starts. With Scranton he was 6-6 with a 3.19 ERA in 18 starts. In 10 of those 18 starts he allowed 1 earned run or less. He led all Yankees minor league pitchers in ERA. He was added to the Yankees 40-man roster on 11/18/11.
In my opinion he's pitched well and is a bright spot in the Yankees organization. There were a couple of games where he got into some jams where I felt manager Joe Girardi was a little quick to give him the hook and pulled him out of the game but had the Yankees had a bigger lead in the division maybe Girardi would have left him in to see what he can do. Now that Sabathia is back in the rotation, Andy Pettitte throwing in the bullpen before games and Nova soon to return Phelps's role might be back in the pen but I say give this kid a chance. I would put him on the post season roster ( if the Yankees make it ) as a long man out of the pen and I say give him a legitimate shot next spring to be the number 5 starter.
RAGU RANT!: The Yankees need to get young arms into the mix !! They need to get younger period !! All these other teams just seem younger and hungry. Where's our Bryce Harper or Mike Trout ? Heck the Rangers today just had a 19 year old rookie phenom Jurickson Profar hit a homerun in his first major league AB !! I'll continue this get younger rant during this off season.
Even though the subs did an adequate job holding down the fort the Yankees played okay as a team. No matter how well substitutes may play your likely to lose ground over a long period of time without your starters. That's why their called " subs. " They can't sustain playing well everyday or long enough to maintain a lead. It's not that the Yankees played poorly it's just that the Oriole's and the Rays played very good baseball the past month.
Well Yankees fans get ready for a dog fight down the stretch. The Yankees just lost to the Oriole's 8-3 and the Rays beat the Blue Jays 9-4 so now the Yankees lead is down to 2 over the O's and 3 1/2 over Tampa who the Yankees take on next in a three game series down in Tampa.
Mark Teixera ( straied left calf ) is due back in the lineup in a couple days along with Curtis Granderson ( tight right hamstring ) and Alex Rodriquez is expected be in the lineup Monday. With Andy Pettitte throwing and Ivan Nova resting it looks like the team will be back at full strength very soon. Every September it seems like it's not always the best team who wins in October but the hottest team. Let's hope the team can hang on to the lead until then so the everyday players can get their timing down allowing them to catch fire the last two weeks and roll into the playoffs red hot !!
Let's Go Yankees !!!!!