General Yankees

All is So-So

The Red Sox have been getting a lot of attention at this site for good reason. Their 2-9 start is among the many just plain odd developments of the early season. In addition to the Sox's woes, the first couple of weeks of baseball has featured sub .200 batting average lines from Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford. At the other end, the Cleveland Indians are a juggernaut, the Baltimore Orioles might be better than we thought and Chipper Jones is healthy.

Whether these things will remain this way is anyone's guess (hint: they won't, so says Math), but it isn't irrational or silly to react with emotion to them. If I were a Sox fan right now, I would be anxious. Strike that, I'd be posting mid-game comments cursing the heavens. I would also chafe at people telling me to act all zen about the math at the core of baseball. This start has undeniably hurt the Sox's chances to make the postseason. At the very least, it has changed their pre-season projections from a sure-fire postseason entrant to a not-so-sure thing.*

*By the way, I know the Angels had a WTF offseason, but has anyone else noticed their rotation? Weaver, Haren and Santana are about as good as any top three in the league. I wonder if it could carry them past the Rangers. I also now wonder if the wildcard comes from that division. My point is I wouldn't be so cavalier as to say that the Sox, even if their projected now to win something in the low 90's, are still a solid bet for the wildcard. Digression #1 finished.

If I were an Orioles or Indians fan, I'd be excited. Yeah, I know it might be temporary, but even so, there is something about being the talk of baseball for a few weeks. It feels good, and who knows? Maybe our young players have arrived a year or three earlier than expected.

But I'm somewhere in between angst and happiness. All is so-so. The Yanks have given me reason to be excited and reason to be "Oh shit! We're doomed!"

First, there are the very good signs. The most encouraging part of the team has been the offense. That's been its strength forever. What's noteworthy, however, is that there are signs of bounce-back years from veterans who seemed to decline last season. I'll throw out the stats for right now just to point out that Alex Rodriguez is looking quicker and more locked in than he did at any point last season. I'm not alone in this observation as Yankee fan blogs, announcers, cliche-producers, everyone you know, is saying this. A-Rod looks poised for a big season. The early results show that.

Then there is Mark Teixeira. He's gotten a hit in April. Basically, that means his numbers will be better than last season's.  Teixeira has been text messaging (does Sterling still say crap like this? One of the good thing about moving from the States has been not been hearing the man) the rightfield bleacher creatures with hard hit baseballs (he's been hitting homers, to explain the mixed metaphor). And the rest of the offense, with the exception of a few vets and a second-year starter, seems strong.

That includes the bench, which probably is the best since the late 90's years.The early returns suggest that. Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are no longer great, but that doesn't mean they can't be great bench players.

The pitching is not such a happy thing. But let's get the Mariano and CC part out the way first. Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera. I can think of no greater compliment than that. And he remains so. How can you be Mariano Rivera for so long? It doesn't seem possible. CC is maybe not the best ace in the league, but he's pretty high on the list. He's always a good bet to have the Yanks in a position to win. This year's start is his best with the Bombers since he arrived. 

I don't trust AJ. That's not very fair because he's been decent, but let's not kid ourselves. Am I encouraged by the performance? No. It's more a wait-and-see thing. Speaking of which, anyone else get a weird feeling about Rafael Soriano? I don't care for the contract. I know this because I'm rooting for the opt out. That's not a good sign. But getting past that and the onfield performance, already with that poop-the-bed against Minnesota game, Soriano isn't exactly inspiring me with the body language and faces. I know this is anathema to a site like this, a site that is more about stats and getting away from the grizzled beat reporter making snap judgments about player's characters based on a hunch. But I'm doing it because I'm a fan mostly and these are impressions and rooting is rooted in emotion sometimes. I'm not getting a good feeling about this Soriano guy. He looks despondent that he's setting up. He looks less than excited that he's pitching the 8th inning. Doesn't he know what the 8th inning means to people here?! Joba, the Once-Brilliant, he once pitched the 8th! So did Phil Hughes!

Ugh, Phil Hughes. I had to bring him up some time. So does everyone agree? Toast? He's going the route of Ian Snell, Scott Kazmir and Sam Militello. TINSTAPP. Young pitchers always break your heart. Yeah, me too. It's a freaking nightmare. So that means we have Freddie Sanchez and Bartolo Colon to pick up his ruinous innings. Yay! Maybe Ivan Nova can make it to the 5th inning once!

The pitching is an issue. You have Sabathia pitching into the 7th and then the rest of the squad is unable to qualify for wins. I'm going to assume a trade happens sometime this season. Or maybe Carlos Silva can come to rescue.*

*Carlos Silva was cut by the Cubs. That's a glowing endorsement right there.

And now I need to bring up the emotional thing issue that is the decline and fall of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Honestly, Jorge's decline is not so emotional for me. Posada has been unwatchable for the last couple of years behind the plate, so much so that Russell Martin has me giddy. Martin's been kicking ass with the bat, but what's most exciting to me is that he can catch a major league pitch. With his glove. That's it. He can do that and he can hit a little. That's a revelation. So Posada has annoyed me for a couple of years. I love him for everything he's done, but I'm not especially thrilled that he's the designated hitter and the Yanks are fortunate that this is a period when most teams don't seem to care too much who is hitting out of that spot. But even with that said, it will be interesting to see what the team does if his bat is as slow as it seems. Again, this is just based on observation, but Posada's hitting looks like it could be in serious decline at this moment. Obviously, let's wait and see. No reason to sound the alarm just yet! Get yourself together, but what if he's batting .225 with a dismal OBP and no slugging and it's late May? Jesus?

Derek Jeter.

Feck that. Derek Jeter is just doing this for dramatic purposes. There is no chance he is done. None.

Oh, I'm not too thrilled by Brett Gardner right now. But he's proven me wrong in the past. I still can't believe he's able to get on base with so little power. He is an impressive player.

We're only fewer than 10 games in, so a few of these impressions could be wrong, I guess. But this is what I'm thinking. Things are good. Things are not so good. So so-so in the end.

7 replies on “All is So-So”

i’d love to add something, or disagree with something, but alas, i can’t…think you hit the nail on the head…i’ll add that i don’t think there’s been as much focus on the yankees negatives, slow starts, black holes, whatever, because they are over .500, only a game out of first, and nobody believes buck’s orioles will stay there long…but the #1 reason the yanks aren’t getting much negative attention is because all eyes are on the red sox right now…it’s a more compelling story because the expectations were so high…

What kills me is the Yankees could have easily had Haren or Oswalt last year. Awful planning and depending on Lee. Worse, Hughes should be in the pen or minors and Joba should be in the rotation. He’s always been the better starter with the better stuff.

The football analogy doesn’t work because in baseball you can lose a division title or playoff spot by one game, or the football equivalent of less than half of a quarter.
Also, there’s an extra wildcard in football. A much more forgiving regular season atmosphere. And don’t even get me started on basketball. Half the teams make the playoffs? Who seriously gives a crap about the regular season? I can’t even imagine being a devoted basketball fan. The games seriously don’t matter until the postseason.

First, thanks to you Nick for opening this thread up. I could have and should have but frankly feel like I’m barely managing every other aspect of my life right now. But it’s great to have a Yankee-dedicated conversation. So, on to it – while I agree with your overall so-so feeling and with much of the specifics you cite, I differ on:
1. Hughes. Yes I’m a bit freaked. But I don’t think that at age 24 he suddenly lost 4-5 mph off his fastball forever. I don’t know why he is having such a slow start and I know that if he continues to pitch like this he will continue to get utterly shelled, but I don’t see any reason to believe that he will continute like this for much longer. If it’s true that he is not injured, how can you explain that big a drop at that young an age? They did not suddenly burden him with huge innings-load-jumps. I don’t know. Like you I am clearly not happy but I am at least 3 more horrid starts in a row from wanting to see him sent down or otherwise considered a serious problem.
2. Teix had me feeling pretty good. Until he went 0-12 at Fenway. Pathetic. I still love the guy and I am not down on him in any metaphysical unalterable way. Just pissed until he can wipe that series away with a strong showing in upcoming games.
3. One thing the Sox bad start hopefully buys the Yanks is the time to do as well as this rotation can be expected to do (which is not very) until we reach salary-dump time for other teams. If Boston’s and NY’s positions were flipped right now I’d seriously doubt the capacity of the Yanks to hang close or close the gap because of the starting rotation, which I believe is still worse than Boston’s (I don’t expect any of the 4 disappointments in Boston’s rotation other than Dice-K to be as bad as they’ve been so far).
4. Nova. He went 6.0 and then 4.1 (the latter against Boston) and didn’t throw more than 85 pitches in either case. I actually like what I’ve seen form him. Yes he’s gotten hit a bit and gave up 3 and 4 runs respectively, but he hasn’t been nibbling, walking a ton, seeming overmatched, reaching 100 pitches in 4 inninges, etc. He has looked like a kid with fairly good stuff who hasn’t learned (in his fewer than 15 games in the bigs) how to get through the third time in a line-up. Now looking at his splits from this years to see how batters do in successive plate appearaances it’s a bit worse than that (1st PA: .133/.278/.133; 2nd PA: .353/.389/..588; 3rd PA: .455/.500/.636); but I’ve seen him on multiple occassions bear down with lots of pressure to get a key strikeout or groundball, and I’ve been, on the whole, pleased. If all he needs to be is a #5, I’m happy to have him. But yeah, if he only goes 4.1 in upcoming games I will get concerned. Our bullpen will not last long if we have to carry 3 and maybe 4 starters who can’t eat innings.
Again: Thanks Nick-good to remember the second half of this site’s focus!

Oh my goodness, Debbie Downer…Listen, the same issues that we had in January we pretty much have now: Missing a front line starter and at certain positions age could prove to be a factor. Neither has changed, neither will change in the immediate future. All in all though this team gives you a ton to cheer about! The bench is as good as it has been in a long time, the minors are packed with players ready to make the jump if the old guys falter or get injured. Who cares about Silva, he’s playing for free basically. If he’s good he will play if he’s bad, well we already knew that! I was very judgmental here re: the 2011 pitching staff and really none of that has changed. Hughes has been bad, Nova has been OK and Burnett has been serviceable to good. Other than Hughes losing velo and pitching to the leagues 2nd highest ERA amongst two start pitchers, what is a surprise? I think So-So is a little harsh. They won 2 of the first 3 series and next up is Baltimore. Lots to be happy and optimistic about in Yankeeland if you ask me. But if you’d rather think about how great Joba would be as a starter or how great Hughes is in the pen (with a 89 MPH fastball) go right ahead. Our team is in the thick of it, they aren’t 2-9 and they are set up very well for years to come. No doom, no gloom, no So-So for me.

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