A month through the MLB regular season, how are you feeling about the Yankees?
Before the season started, we both had high hopes for the team, each predicting them to win the AL East. After five weeks, that prediction seems even more plausible. As of the morning of May 11, New York is 19-16, 1.5 games out of first place.
However, things have not been going well recently. The Yankees have the worst run differential in the division at -10. CC Sabathia looks not only washed up, but also rinsed, dried and canned for shipment. Combined with losing Ivan Nova for the season to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda being currently sidelined, the Yankees’ starting pitching strength has fizzled away.
Then there’s the issue of Derek Jeter. El Capitan is batting .252 right now with a .641 OPS. His slugging percentage (.310) is so bad, it stands below Dean Anna’s. With just eight runs scored and five extra-base hits the entire season, Jeter is not currently worthy of playing everyday. To make matters worse, Joe Girardi refuses to bat him anywhere other than second in the lineup which, according to metrics, is the spot in the order where a team should put its very best hitter, a la Los Angeles and Mike Trout. Jeter should be batting eighth on this team.
Things aren’t all bad of course. It just seems a bit grim compared to late April when the team was riding high behind perhaps the best rotation in baseball. What are your thoughts as we approach Memorial Day weekend later this month?
The New York Yankees are lucky to be 2nd in the AL East, only a game and a half out of first place, considering their pitching ranks 22nd in ERA and 23rd in quality starts. Combine that with meager ranks of 13th in runs scored and 12th in on-base percentage from the offense, and I’d say the season is going very, very well. The Yankees are winning in spite of themselves and their overall performance. The reason being is two fold and leaves me giddy for what’s to come in 2014.
The main reason I’m super excited for this Yankees’ season is that numbers are overrated. Simply looking at the numbers tells you that the Yankees are overachieving, that they are a below average team and that Derek Jeter should be on the bench. Thankfully reality is a happier place where the opposite is true. I’ve watched a lot of the Yankees this season, including seeing them in person versus the Angels in Anaheim. They are a very good team that is underachieving. And Jeter is right on track to have another great season.
I’ll start with Derek. He is swinging the bat extremely well and has not lost an inkling of his clutch abilities. Sure, his range at short stop has diminished, but he is nowhere near a liability in the field. Jeter is the heart and soul of this Yankees team. Batting him second might be a risk, but I’m here to tell you that no matter how Jeter performs this season, every one of his at bats is a pressure situation for the opposing pitcher. Care to guess what happened every time Derek Jeter came to bat last Tuesday night in Anaheim? The entire stadium stood up and cheered. For every single one of his at bats, regardless of the situation. For the entire at bat, every time. This is a huge asset to have in the second spot of the batting order. It begs the pitcher to make a mistake and Jeter got a hit and a walk that night in Anaheim.
The other reason I’m psyched for the season is because this team is playing as a team. The Yankees have a strong pitching staff, even with Sabathia and Pineda and Nova hitting the DL. The poor ERA and lack of quality starts is an aberration, brought on partly from the injuries to those three men. Nova looked awful and required season ending surgery. In steps Nuno who is poised to shine. Sabathia looked old, but he too is now injured. Once back from his recovery its easy to assume he’ll be much, much better. Injury does that to pitchers, makes them look terrible. And Pineda shined up until his final game, where he was suspended followed by his injury. He is going to continue his dominating season once back.
Those are just the upsides to the team’s low points. Tanaka has been incredible. So has Solarte. The team’s ranking of 5th in batting average and 7th in slugging percentage is no fluke. They represent the real New York Yankees. This team has veered from the traditional home run hitting machines of the past and shows a lot of speed to balance out the few old, slow guys on the roster. As long as the starters keep minimizing the bullpen’s innings, this team will make our predictions come true and win the AL East.
Now I know my optimism must be tempered by your uncanny realism. Let it rip.