How About What Has Gone Right!?

It seems that the Yankees struggles with Runners In Scoring Position is going to be a season long topic. Despite this problem, the team has still managed to climb to the top of the AL East.

Along with only winning one game this season when the team doesn’t hit a home run, it seems that the naysayers are bent on riding these things to the Yankees eventual doom. We spend a lot of time talking about all of the things that the Yankees can improve on. And it seems that we have lost sight of some of the exceptional things they are doing in 2012. As summer begins, and a child’s fancy turns to long sunny days and baseball, I thought that we should take a look at ten things the Yankees are doing right.

1) The Yankees have continued their dominance of Interleague play and are now 10-0 vs. the NL East (Including sweeps of both Division leading Washington and the Crosstown rival Mets).

2) The Yankees 14-2 record in the month of June is the best in Baseball.

3) A season long ten game winning streak (first since 2005) in which every team the Yankees have faced has had a record above .500. It is the first time in franchise history that the Yankees have had a run such as this. It’s an impressive feat for any team. It’s even more impressive for this team, considering it’s rich history.

4) The Yankees starters have gone at least six innings in the last eighteen games. The longest streak of any Yankee team since 1981. Remember when the rotation was a concern?

5) The Yankees sit atop the AL East (Arguably the toughest division in baseball) and are a season high fifteen games over .500.

6) For an “Old” team, they have the highest fielding percentage in the Majors. Not only are they making the plays they are supposed to, they are flashing some leather as well.

7) Their bullpen has survived Mariano Rivera’s season ending injury, and really has excelled. It has even survived injuries to Robertson and Chamberlain.

8) The Yankees lead the Majors with 101 home runs. Don’t let the pundits get you down about this. How do you think they got the nickname “Bronx Bombers”? The Yankees have always hit a lot of home runs. They have also always won a lot of games. I don’t see either changing soon.

9) For all the talk about their failures with Runners In Scoring Position, this Yankees team continues to find a way to win. No matter how far they are behind in a game.

10) They lead the Majors with twenty one road victories. As anyone can tell you, playing well on the road is a necessity for a Championship team.

So, there you have it. Do the Yankees have issues? Yes, they do. But in a league where it seems every team has holes, the Yankees are doing just fine. So sit back, relax, enjoy this run that they are on. After all, it’s summertime and this is baseball. It’s supposed to be fun!

Blaming CC For The Loss?

It’s not normal for the pitcher to be made the scapegoat when he is opposing the other team’s ace and his team continues to find itself unable to muster much of an offense. But CC Sabathia isn’t just any pitcher. He is the ace of the starting rotation for the New York Yankees. And, through six innings of yesterday’s Interleague contest With the Reds, he was every bit of that Ace, matching Johnny Cueto zero for zero. So when the Yankees confoundedly frail offense broke through for a 2-0 lead on a Raul Ibanez home run, it seemed ok for Yankee fans to exhale. But the wheels fell off in the top of the Seventh. One bad inning, that is all. But it’s the kind of inning the Ace of the staff can’t afford.

Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around. The Yankees left 7 men on base and were 1 for 4 with runners in scoring position. But against a pitcher like Cueto, one would have to expect that. You could blame the wind, which apparently knocked down Alex Rodriguez’s would be go ahead two rune home run enough that it became a deep fly ball out. And lastly, you can blame the bullpen for letting the game get away late.

Yes, you can make as many excuses as you like. After all, CC pitched good enough to win. Except he didn’t. These other reasons would be enough to take any other starting pitcher off the hook, save maybe Andy Pettitte, because you expect any other pitcher to have a bad inning. But again, Sabathia is the Ace. So when the Yankees managed to get two runs on the board, it was his job to make them stand up. Even if he had to get all 27 outs. Nine out of ten times that the Yankees hand CC a two run lead in the seventh inning, he wins the game. Yesterday just happened to be that one time he lost.

Wells’ Gem Just Another Nugget In A Golden Era

Championship seasons are fleeting and very difficult to attain. That is why organizations forever honor those years and teams which have achieved their sport’s ultimate goal. And it is why fans reminisce about those times as if it were the greatest moments of their lives. But there are generations of Yankees fans who have spent their lives living beyond these sporting parameters. Instead of one championship season, the Yankees honor decades of dominance. Dynasties that have marked the decades of the Twentieth Century. From Ruth to DiMaggio, to Mantle and on through to Derek Jeter, the Yankees seem to have always had, more times than not, a dynasty just waiting to be born. But the game has changed. It is now more difficult than ever to maintain that level of excellence.

Enter the latest Yankees Dynasty. An era that spanned six years and showcased some of the games most amazing feats as well as a historic tragedy in which the team helped a city, as well as a nation, heal. Each of the Yankees dynasties had their crowing in season moments. 60 home runs, a 56 game hitting streak, and the chase of Babe Ruth’s single season home run mark by the M & M boys to name a few. But none of those eras seem to have the multitude of accomplishments as the Bombers last dynastic installment.

Starting with Gooden’s no-hitter in 1996, the Yankees embarked on an era that saw so many special moments. Enough to fill another team’s history books. And in the middle of this era. In the midst of a record setting season, there was David Wells. The Yankee fan from San Diego. Who went to the same high school as Don Larsen (He of World Series Perfect Game fame). Pitching for his beloved Bombers on Beanie Baby Day. Wells, never the traditional athlete, spoke about being nervous during the game. He even joked (he was serious) about being out late the night before. But there he was being lifted upon his teammates shoulders in a moment of immortality.

It was a memorable moment in an era that was filled with memorable moments. Wells’ gem was followed by Cone’s Perfect Game just one year later, when the stars seemed to align for Yogi Berra’s return to the Stadium. Other moments came as well, none more painful than the aftermath of 9/11.

So today, remember where you were when Wells was mowing down the Twins. But also remember what you saw in the years leading up to and after this historic day. Because these moments are fleeting. Even for Yankee Fans.

Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty?

Here are the New York Yankees. Two-thirds of the way through the first real gauntlet of the 2012 season. Things haven’t exactly gone according to the blue print. But, depending on how you choose to look at it, the Yankees are in ok shape. Or they are headed for disaster.

First, the positives. They marched into Boston this weekend, weathered the hype of fabled Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, and did what the have done to the Red Sox for seemingly the past 100 years, beat them. And beat them in dramatic fashion.

Next up was a trip to Texas, where the American League’s hottest team was waiting for what appeared to be a suddenly weary pitching staff. But a rainout in Boston on Sunday Night allowed the Yankees to push Sabathia’s start back. And when he took the mound on Monday, he looked like he was finally rounding into the pitcher the Yankees know him to be.

Despite the loss in an anticipated matchup with fellow countryman Yu Darvish, Hiroki Kuroda was solid against a powerful Texas lineup. Unfortunately, the trip ended on a sour note as Phil Hughes couldn’t seem to find his command and gain the poise that showed so much promise in the spring.

Couple that with the news of Michael Pineda’s impending surgery and the Yankees appear to be a team searching for answers. But maybe the situation isn’t as dire as it seems. After all, it’s all about perspective.

The Pineda issue is no doubt a setback. But The trade really must be viewed as an acquisition for the future. So, while it hurts the current rotation, it shouldn’t affect their season plans. It wasn’t that long ago that Girardi was saying, despite the hype, that Pineda wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the rotation anyway. The real issue is Hughes and Garcia. Pettitte’s return will alleviate one of these issues. But the other will remain, unless there is a trade or free agent signing. Hughes’ issue now seems to be his command. The Yankees believe he can still right the ship. His ineffectiveness is a conundrum. The question is how long do the Yankees stick with him. Freddy Garcia may just be running out of the magic that made him look so well in 2011.

The offense, no surprise, has been a boon for the Yankees. Led by the resurgence of their captain, they have no trouble scoring runs. Aside from the annual slow start by Mark Teixeira, things seem to be status quo as far as the bats go. Sure, there may be some concern for Cano’s slow start. And there is the fish bowl that Alex Rodriguez’s stats live in. But as one Yankee pundit always likes to say “Look at the back of the baseball card.”

The bullpen has also been a huge benefit to the Yankees. And a big reason why they are 10-8 heading into the weekend. The bullpen has erased numerous bad outings by the rotation.

So now it is on to the last leg of this gauntlet. Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers are headed to the Bronx for a weekend showdown with the Yankees. If I told you that the Yankees would be 3-2 versus Boston and Texas as they entered this series, with Kuroda looking like the pitcher they thought they were getting, I’m sure you would have taken it. And that’s exactly what has happened. They’ve dismantled their hated rivals and put up a respectable showing in Texas.

Sure, the Yankees have their issues, but what team doesn’t. But the question posed to you heading forward is this. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty?

Yankees Rotation One of the Best in Baseball in 2012

With it being Opening Day, let’s break down the Yankees starting rotation:

1. LHP CC Sabathia

2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

3. RHP Ivan Nova

4. RHP Freddy Garcia

5. RHP Phil Hughes

Sabathia and Kuroda provide a veteran presence ahead of the three youngsters until the eventual arrival of unretired LHP Andy Pettitte.

Hughes was the best of the bunch this spring, flashing the stuff that made him an 18-game winner and All-Star in 2010 and seemingly putting his dreadful 2011 season in the rearview mirror.

RHP Michael Pineda’s shoulder injury during his final spring start sent him to the DL, opening the door for Garcia to claim the fifth spot.

Hughes and Nova will have to prove themselves in April before Pettitte is ready, as someone will be demoted to make room for the lefty.

Pineda’s final spring outing

Today, Michael Pineda will take the mound for the final time this spring. Up to this point, the young righty has started in 5 games, pitched 16.1 innings, allowed 17 hits, 6 earned runs, 1 homerun, 7 walks, and punched out 16 hitters. Although these are not the greatest of stats, Pineda is only 23 years old. Only 3 years older than me. We could have been attending high school at the same time. He could have bullied me.

This winter Pineda’s main focus was on his command and developing his change-up. That may have caused his velocity to drop a significant amount. Michael’s command has shown. This spring Pineda has thrown 128 pitches and 97 have been strikes. Adding even more command to his arsenal makes him a dangerous pitcher. Assuming his velocity will pick back up, which I believe will happen.

Velocity this, velocity that, velocity, velocity, and more velocity. That is all that seems to buzz around Pineda this spring. A scout also said that in Pineda’s previous start, the young righty had a hard time reaching the mid 90s compared to last year when he effortlessly threw well into the high 90s. This does seem to scare me a bit. His velocity just disappeared and he did have that shoulder injury. But what needs to be taken into consideration is his age (I sound like a broken record), that he reported to spring fatter, and his maturity. The weight can easily be fixed, the age takes time but not many young guns can display impressive maturity at such a young age.

March 20th versus the Pirates, Pineda started off rocky allowing McCutchen to hit a 2-run home run over the left field wall. After that inning, Rothschild let him know that he was opening up. Pineda went on to have a 5 strikeout 2nd and 3rd innings. “You don’t see that a lot from young pitchers,” said Girardi. “Sometimes they struggle to make an adjustment, but he made it pretty quick. I think he’s got a pretty good sense of what he needs to do and the adjustments he needs to make.” Pineda’s adjustment allowed him to continue pitching in the game and hold the Pirates to those 2 runs. After a bad first inning you would expect a young pitcher to be a bit shook and have trouble the following innings. Pineda did the opposite and displayed great maturity.

“Nobody throws hard in spring training, because it’s spring training,” Pineda said this in response to a question about his velocity. His change-up and slider may have been overlooked this game, his change was a go-to pitch that he can throw for strikes now. Pineda’s slider has been a diabolical pitch since he came to the majors. Girardi said this on his slider, “It’s a little surprising that he does have an idea what he wants to do, he can make his slider bigger when he wants to and he can make it different for right-handers and left-handers if he wants to. It is surprising for a kid his age”. In exchange for a velocity loss, which will come back, Pineda has really grasped the concept of pitching. The young righty understands

what he needs to do to get hitters out and stay away from what he wants to do, which in his case would probably want to strikeout everyone, even the fans.

Michael, at the age of 23, has shown extreme maturity. And I strongly believe that he has the power to go to the high 90s whenever he needs to. It’s just a gut feeling I have. Pineda will go into his start tonight with a lot to prove. Starting the season in the minors has also been a topic of conversation but I strongly disagree with that, which is a topic for another day. Pineda will be fine this year. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly eat my crow at the end of the season.

The Yankees take on the Phillies tonight at 7:05 pm at George M. Steinbrenner Field. All eyes will be on the radar gun.

Ibanez Homers, Garcia Pitches Well as Yanks Beat Tigers 4-2

Raul Ibanez hit his first home run with the Yankees, Freddy Garcia pitched into the fifth inning and New York beat the Tigers 4-2 in 10 innings Saturday.

Ibanez had two hits to raise his average to .075. He hit a two-run shot off Tigers starter Max Scherzer in the seventh inning.

Garcia, vying for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation, was making his first since bruising his hand 10 days ago. He went 4 1-3 innings and allowed one hit and two walks. He struck out four.

D.J. Mitchell got the win but allowed two runs in the ninth, one on a homer by Audy Ciriaco.

Dewayne Wise hit a two-run double in the 10th.

Scherzer went seven innings and allowed three hits and two runs for the Tigers, striking out eight.

Hughes Solid in Start for Yankees

Phil Hughes isn’t feeling any extra pressure because of Andy Pettitte’s return to the Yankees.

Focusing on his changeup, Hughes allowed three hits in five innings Wednesday as the New York Yankees beat the Rays 5-2.

With CC Sabathia and Hideki Kuroda assured rotation spots, Hughes began spring training competing with Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Freddy Garcia for the final three slots. Pettitte’s decision to end his retirement after one year adds another arm to the mix.

“There’s always a need for good pitching, and as long as I go out and pitch well and am one of those guys, there’s going to be a spot,” Hughes said. “I’m making strides every day. Up to this point, I’m happy where I’m at.”

He walked Carlos Pena leading off the second, and Matt Joyce connected on a first-pitch cutter for a two-run homer, his third home run of spring training.

“You could look over your shoulder every day in this business. That’s the bottom line,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to learn to look forward, and if you take care of your business and do what you’re supposed to do, chances are you don’t have to worry about looking over your shoulder.”

Pettitte, a 39-year-old left-hander, is a five-time World Series champion. He is not expected to be ready for the start of the season.

Hughes, coming off an injury filled season and a 5-5 record, struck out three and walked one in his fourth outing and threw 50 of 73 pitches for strikes. Hughes said he threw about 15 changeups and got a few of his strikeouts with the pitch, which he said he didn’t have a great feel for in the past.

“It was very good,” Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. “He wasn’t as consistent early on with it, but as the game went along he kept getting better and better I think he’s gaining confidence the more he throws it.”