This weekend the Yankees will be hosting the Rockies, as interleague play continues to dazzle and amaze us all. As we go into this weekend, here are a few thoughts and observations on the Yankees as they stand right now.
The Offense - There have been some big contributors this year with Granderson stepping up in a major way, and Teixeira not succumbing to his usual first half slump, but that being said the Yankees do not have a single .300 hitter in their lineup. Cano and A-Rod have been hitting well of late, and right on the cusp, but if you're wondering why we've been so terrible with runners in scoring position its because we haven't been hitting period. That being said, our homerun numbers are off the charts, but we need more consistancy at the plate if we expect to beat the better teams out there.
The Bullpen - Remember when Cashman was all about peicing together a bullpen out of hungry minor league prospects? I'll refresh your memory. It was 2009, we won the world series, and we did it with Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre logging the most innings that season. It was a mix of prospects and low risk, low salary minor league singings that kept us winning games that season. At the trade deadline, we acquired a lefty named Damaso Marte who did terrible during the regular season but stepped up big for the world series. We signed Marte that off season to what would later be seen as too big a contract (the free agent market that year did not do well), and in hindsight a terrible deal anyway since he's been injured pretty much the entire time.
In 2010, despite the Marte signing, we again peiced together a bullpen of prospects and low risk low salary signings. Remember Chan Ho Park? And again at the trade deadline we acquired a solid releiver in Kerry Wood, who helped get us the rest of the way. We made it to the ALCS this season, and lost to the Texas Rangers.
Now its 2011, and despite having very succesful bullpens pieced together with low-risk signings, high-talent prospects, and smart trades, we decide to turn to the free agent market to build our bullpen. We acquire Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano, the former has been injured all season, and the latter is currently on the DL after what has been an extremely lackluster New York career. And the Yankees sunk a lot of money in Soriano. Now that this approach has failed as it did with Marte, (not to mention Farnsworth before him), will the Yankees front office wisen up? I know the allure of a solid 8th inning setup guy is tempting, but it hasn't worked out, and even when it does (Kerry Wood) its not going to be worth the price (10's of millions for a guy to pitch 60 innings a year?). And the last thing to consider is that Soriano had a history of injury, and Feliciano was at a very high risk of injury given the amount of innings he logged with the Mets, did the Yankees not consider that before shelling out millions?
The point? Give these prospects a chance, and get the big time releiver when you need them. The fact of the matter is, teams out of contention are ALWAYS looking to shed their high-priced closers and releivers by mid-season. Quality relievers are only valuable for teams who can carry a lead out of the 6th inning.
The Rotation - The rotation has been a huge surprise this year, with AJ Burnett really improving from last year, and Nova showing his maturity and growth. Colon and Garcia have been amazing too. That being said, I'm concerned at how they've performed against good hitting teams. Colon has done really well this season, but he struggled against Toronto, Texas and Boston. Burnett got roughed up badly by Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Boston. Nova, had one really good outing against Texas in between two bad starts against that team. Being young we can expect some inconsistancy with him but its still a variable. And of course Freddy Garcia, despite his magic touch, has struggled terribly with Boston this year, (in two starts he's pitched a total of 7 innings with 8 earned runs). Which leaves us with our ace, CC Sabathia who despite some solid outings, ended up getting roughed up badly (in his last two starts against Boston he went 6.2 innings allowing 6 runs both times.) Not to mention 3 less than dominating starts against Texas. The reason I bring this up, is that the good hitting teams are the ones we're going to be competing against in the playoffs. Do you feel confidant about sending any one of our starters up against the Red Sox? Burnett, Colon and Garcia really need to step up here. Nova is still learning, and he's not an overpowering guy. Neither is Garcia, but he has the Mike Mussina factor. I still remember Mussina striking out guys with an 85mph fastball back in 2008. The veterans have to step up here.
So there you have it, the state of the Yankees, RJG style. Here's hoping for some more interleague domination this weekend.