Time to Edit This Sucker! Lets see...hmmmm
First, the Cold, Hard Facts: The biggest challenge for the Yankees in 2014 is pitching, not hitting. The staff began the season with a grade of a D, but thanks to some solid front line performances, is now performing at about a C- Clip. I'm not sure this will get the job done over the course of a long season. Other teams donít have a hard time hitting Yankee pitchers not named Pineda or Tanaka. Thatís really the bottom line. Strike Outs per. Innings Pitched across the league has increased dramatically in the past few years. The Yankee staff is doing great in this area as they average a little above a strikeout per inning. Combine this with Yankee pitchingís pin point control (they really donít give up many walks compared to other teams) and one would think they finally have that power pitching team George always wanted. The problem has been they not only give up a ton of hits and extra base hits, they give up way too many home runs, many with men on base. The bottom line is that NY has a below averagel team ERA and its hard to have to count on a C offense that lacks power to win games. Do Yankees need to part ways with their pitching coach, Larry Rothschild mid season, reminiscent of George changing out a manager when he felt the need to spark the team? Do the Yankees really need to continue to re-structure the staff in coming years to build a championship caliber team? I think they need to do both. There is no suitable explanation for teams like the Aís, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays (stop me any time) to have more effective pitching staffs.
Pineda, Tanaka and Kuroda have been the real bright spots so far in the rotation. Warren and Betances are the bright spots in the pen. For this year, the Yankees do have some arms in the minors that they can bring up to help and they will need to push the right buttons soon in order to fix things up a little bit. Certainly a trade or the right signing would help in the short term.
The bottom performers on the staff are really hurting the team overall. Between the innings that Sabathia and Nova have eaten up and the woeful contributions that Nuno has made, the Yankee stats are sand bagged. This would suggest that things aren't as bad as they appear to be. However, unless Sabathia and Nova start stepping up a little, this performance gap will hurt the Yankees playoff chances in the long term. Will these two (Sabathia & Nova) get it together or will they continue to hurt the team? Can Phelps step in and start for Nova if he either gets injured or continues with the inconsistency? We shall see. Girardi can also demote Nuno as he clearly isn't focused. However, he's a lefty capable of spot starting so he may get a little longer to show he belongs. But thus far he's been awful in limited innings pitched.
The Yankee position players have earned a collective grade of a C. Thus far, the team is unfortunately not setting MLB on fire. While the team is 4th all of MLB in Batting Average and 7th in On Base Percentage, they are an anemic 23rd in Runs Batted in. The season is just getting started and history shows us that with proven veteran players, they eventually get on track. Letís hope this is the case for some of the Yankees. Breaking down the position players, the opportunities are fairly obvious. Surprisingly, the infield is actually doing fine, other than Second Base, which could easily be fixed. How long will it take the Yankees to make the tough decisions that, if made early enough in the season, could turn NY from an overpaid bunch of under-achievers to a playoff team?
Yankee Catching has been a D, while strong defensively and very much liked by the staff, McCann has shown an inability to beat the shift and teams will increasingly deploy this strategy to stifle one of the Yankees key middle of the order hitters. Couple this with Girardi batting him too high in the order and some of the other problems and it is obvious to see why NY can't drive in runs. Cervelli has made almost no impact thus far and now he's injured. Couldn't we just see that coming? Now we're right back to where we were last year with Romine as the back up--not good.
At this point McCann is the mannn! NY needs to be patient here but dropping him to the 6 hole in the line-up would be a big help. Guys in the meat of the order need to drive in runs, not get exploited by the shift. By dropping him down a little and letting the law of averages work its magic, NY makes out ok. McCann is no Yadier Molina, Buster Posey or Salvador Perez, but he does a nice job with the staff and will eventually be a C type catcher, I would like to think. Unfortunately, heís over-paid, hoever-- given the lack of other talent on the market and the obvious weakness of Romine, Sanchez and Cervelli being ready to be every day catchers, I think Cashman did a nice job signing him and his pay is what it is. Is it coming out of our wallets? Kind of if we attend games, but not really.
First Base was trending at a shocking B, but has cooled to a C recently thanks to Kelly Johnson. Mark Texiera has been a total bust thus far his injury routine and lack of ability to hit should signal Girardi to place him on the extended DL so he doesnít hurt the team when he comes back not ready to contribute. At this point, the hard call is to keep Kelly Johnson right at first, heís doing far better than Tex would be doing. The time has come to call Tex a chump and dump him onto the extended DL. Perhaps, when he comes back truly healthy, he could contribute but really, don't hold your breath with this guy. Its really too bad, if he could approach what he's done in the past, it would be an amazing boost to the team. NY desperately needs his power and his long lost ability to drive in runs.
Second Base, no surprise, has been an F due to Brian Roberts terrible start. He has flashed some leather in the field and experience tells us he will hit above .250 eventually. Meanwhile, Dean Anna sits on the bench and Sizemore sizzles away in the minor leagues. NY needs to dump Roberts now, bring up Sizemore and give him the job and use Anna as much as possible both at second and at short to spell Jeter. There is no need to keep Roberts on the team at this point, his contributions arenít worth it. Now that this has happened, I credit Girardi for the move and thus preventing NY from losing Sizemore for nothing in return due to him being able to opt out of his contract if he wasn't called up soon. Sizemore can bring some glove, some versatility and some offense if he can stay healthy and his presence negates the need for Roberts.
Short Stop has been a remarkable B thanks to Derek Jeterís superb play, however his health and age will need to be expertly managed by Girardi, and thus far they have been. I donít know how heís doing it after sitting out an entire year, but he is actually hitting ok and fielding well enough to get the job done. Along with Anna backing him up, the Yankees are all set here for the season. NY is very lucky to have Jeter for one last season.
Third base (canít believe Iím writing this) has been an AÖ(gulp) thanks to Solarte and his hot start. Though heís coming down to earth in recent days, his ability to consistently make contact and play really strong defense has been a miracle. NY needs to keep this guy right where he is. Period. Kudos to Joe Girardi for having the vision to see his potential and the guts to put him right where he belongs--Starting at third base! Now if Girardi would just move him up in the order and drop McCann.
Left Field started off as a C with Brett Gardner providing above average defense and average offense, now he's looking like he might be a B Left Fielder. NY should have probably traded him, but it's too late now and without Cano in the 3 spot in the order, the Yankees are using the best leadoff hitter in baseball there instead, making use of Gardner at the top of the order. The good news is Gardy's OBP is hovering around .345 so as long as he gets on base, he can provide value as a leadoff guy. That said, Ellsbury really needs to lead off for this teamóbut not as the team is currently constructed. In the off season, NY should look to sign a 3 or 4 hitter with a track record of being able to drive in runs in droves, this would go a long way toward building this team into a real championship caliber team.
Center Field has been an A all the way. Ellsbury is at the peak of his career and to me, he is arguably the best center fielder in baseballóno offense to Carlos Gomez who is the man behind the Brewers red hot start. Ellsbury batting third makes sense so far, given what Girardi has to work with. Kudos to Cashman for signing Ellsbury, without him in center, the Yankees would be ho-hum in the outfield. With him, the defense is super and the offense is electrified.
Right Field started slow at a C with Beltran but now he's rocked up to an A and along with Suzuki, who is super fun to watch these days, the two are getting the job done with outstanding offense and even better defense. Beltran flat out needs to stay the clean up hitter/three hitter for the year, protected by Soriano (not McCann). Beltran currently is a top 5 or 6 Right Fielder in the game and he has power second only to man child Giancarlo Stanton. He has thus far proven to be an awesome signing. Would we rather have Nick Swisher running around out there during the post season? No WAY! Go BELTRAN!
DH has barely been a C so far with Soriano heating up and the platoon use of resting various players.