Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yankees' Sabathia Answers Questions In CG Loss To Tigers

It was the Yankees' best loss of the young season.

Those of you who didn't watch last night's game would think this a peculiar statement. But it's true. The Yankees faced the Detroit Tigers, arguably the best-hitting team in the American League, with CC Sabathia as their main weapon. Going into the game there was little hope that Sabathia--whose struggles over the past two years have been well documented--would even make it through Detroit's lineup one time.

He made it through multiple times and even faced the minimum through the first six innings. When all was said and done, CC Sabathia had pitched an eight inning complete game, throwing 98 pitches (62 for strikes).  Though it cost him the game, he gave up only two runs against that potent Tigers offense, with a little help from Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, who made spectacular catches in the outfield.

All-in-all it was more than encouraging. There were tons of questions surrounding Sabathia going into the season, and last night he answered a lot of them. Put that together with the questions that Masahiro Tanaka answered last Saturday, and you cannot help but feel hopeful for this Yankee rotation and the team in general. Congrats, Big Fella.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yankees Sweep Past Rays, Shift Focus To Dominant Tigers

It says quite a bit about how they started the season if it took the New York Yankees a three game sweep to get back to .500 and out of the basement of the A.L. East. It’s still early, but it was great to see the Yankees--especially the offense--show some consistency in sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.

To be fair, the Rays are the one team in the division that has largely been counted out of playoff contention, so these are the types of games you would expect any team with playoff hopes to win. Nonetheless it was a good sign for the Yankees to put up at least 5 runs in each game, while showing decent power (4 HRs) and receiving contributions from bench players like Chris Young--who has been fantastic in limited ABs--and Garrett Jones--who went 3 for 4 on Sunday afternoon with a triple Jones tied Brian McCann (Yes, Brian McCann) for the team lead at one triple apiece.

It also helped that the Yankees threw Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda (their top two pitchers), in the series. Tanaka was much closer to his pre-injury 2014 performances, going 7.0 scoreless, while Pineda was effective but inefficient, falling short of a quality start for his second straight start. Adam Warren pitched just well enough to win as long as the offense did its part and that’s what you need out of a fifth starter.

All of that is the good news, and there’s usually always plenty of it in a sweep. The bad news, however, is--potentially--on the horizon. Next up for the Yankees are the Detroit Tigers, the first team in the majors to 10 wins this season, against only 2 losses. The Tigers are a team that is clicking on all cylinders, between their offense (American League leading .486 SLG percentage) and their pitching (2.61 ERA and 1.00 WHIP). That kind of early dominance can set them apart in a competitive A.L. Central and it’s a fair bet that Miguel Cabrera, David Price and the rest of the Tigers are not going to step aside and let the Yankees put a stop to it.

With the inconsistent CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi leading the way this series, things could go south quickly. The Tigers are a buzzsaw waiting to run through the Yankees' recent progress, sending them right back to a hand wringing state. It’s up to the Yankees to stop them and, for as good as the offense was during the sweep, the bulk of that responsibility will lie with the pitching. You’re up CC. Don’t stop the good vibes big guy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The 2015 Yankees: To Panic Or Not To Panic?

So is it time to panic? We are nine games into the season and the results are not good.. If this keeps up for the rest of the year the Yankees will finish at 54-108. If that happens be sure to check into the list of top prospects for the 2016 draft. Yes, it is frustrating to be a Yankee fan these days. We fans have come to expect the Yankees to contend every year. We're told by the Yankees management that a playoff team, one that is capable of winning the World Series is the yearly goal and that there is no such thing as rebuilding in the Bronx.

Once upon a time I got most of my information concerning the Yankees from sources like The Sporting News and radio, and my Sunday paper would publish batting and pitching stats for each league. Today there are newspapers online, plus blogs and plenty of opinions on the various social media platforms. That is how I found Lady at the Bat in the first place. I am interested in the opinions of other fans and they seem to run from "it's April, too early to panic" to the other extreme, "this team needs an immediate fix"

I don't know where to stand on this issue. I tend to agree that it's too early to panic and this needs to play out for a few more weeks at least before making a judgment concerning the 2015 Yankees. On the other hand there are some early signs that there are some serious flaws in the Yankees current makeup. While I share the frustration of all fans in social media I have to take exception to some of the comments and suggestions that have been made:

1. "It's over. Back up the truck and give the kids a chance."
Some of my fellow fans think that  the problems would be solved by trading players with bad contracts (like Sabathia, Teixeira, Beltran and McCann) and calling up players who have never played a day any higher than double A (Bird, Judge and Severino) It's highly unlikely any of the long term contract players could be dealt because many have no trade clauses and/or are un-tradeable anyway. I don't think there is a real market for any of them and if you think another Red Sox-Dodgers type trade is on the horizon, you're probably dreaming. We are pretty much stuck with the current lineup, with the  possible lone exception being second base. Stephen Drew is on a one year contract and could be easily be relegated to a bench role or DFA-land. His likely replacement, Rob Refsnyder is at triple A, but through eight games is hitting .222 with four errors at second base. Seems obvious Refsnyder needs more time in AAA ball to work on his defense. It's just too early to dump or demote Drew and Refsnyder simply is not ready. Jose Pirela may also be an option, but he seems to be more of a utility player, and lost about half of spring training and will need to catch up. No quick fix here.

2.  "If only George was still around."
 How soon people forget the 80's. The implication is that George would fire the coaches, the manager and general managers, make big trades if the team struggled, and somehow that would be a good thing. Make no mistake, George wanted to win and the Yankees had success during his tenure, but not so much during the 80's when he called most of the shots. Think of it this way: Sixteen games into the 2015 season George fires the manager and hires Joe Girardi (whom he fired a year or two ago). An absurd example, except that is exactly what happened thirty years ago when he fired Yogi Berra and replaced him with Billy Martin (for something like the third time).

3. "Dump Alex, collect the insurance and be done with him."
Except that Alex has three more years on his contract and the Yankees had no choice but to see if he could still play So far he can. I agree that all the things that Alex has done are awful and if the Yankees could easily cut ties with him they would. It is as if the fans are saying "Alex, you bum--oh look, a home run!" I've decided I hope Alex does well. So far he has to the tune of a decent batting average, on base percentage and some power (small sample, I know). If you are still among the fans that wish only bad for Alex consider that there is little excitement about his upcoming milestones. I wonder if the Yankees are hoping that he does it all on the road so that it becomes Oakland's or Seattle's problem, or somebody else's. And has anybody noticed how close Alex is to 3000 hits? It's going to happen this year if he stays healthy. He has 53 hits to go, and when it was Derek Jeter at that point, everyone was in on the countdown. So call it Karma, call it whatever you want, Alex Rodriguez will never have his number retired, no monument park honor, or A-Rod day at the park. There will be no farewell tour around baseball and no gifts like there was for Jeter and Rivera. Cooperstown isn't likely to call either. So let him play and hopefully he does well, because when it's over it will be "don't let the door hit you on the way out"  In that respect, you will have some vindication. In the meantime, his right handed bat is needed, Let's just see what he has left.

So panic if you must. I'm still hoping for a turnaround. I'm not sure it is going to happen to our satisfaction (a spot in the playoffs), but it is truly a small sample. And those of you who believe it's bust all the way, you might be right. There will be no quick fix. But they will be back in due time. After all, this is the New York Yankees of which we speak.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Open Letter To Didi Gregorius

Dear Didi (or, Sir Didi if you prefer):

Let’s be clear. Nobody is putting all the blame on you for the Yankees 3-5 record, or for their place at the bottom of the A.L. East. That wouldn’t be fair. Between Masahiro Tanaka’s subpar starts, CC Sabathia’s poor starts (although last nights 7 IP and 4 ER was an improvement) and poor situational hitting with RISP, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

But it’s apparent that you’re not exactly helping the team right now, either. Not with your offense (.130 BA, .192 OBP and 4 strike outs vs. 3 hits through eight games) but, most frustratingly, not with your defense. Yes, officially, your error in last nights 4-3 loss to the Orioles was your first of the season. But your defense has been undeniably shaky. And it’s unexplainable. Unexplainable because you are better than that. So much better.

All through Spring Training, you seemed so calm, so loose, so mature.  So ready. You flew under the radar while saying all the right things and letting your stellar defense do the talking. Your charisma, your glove and yes, even your smile, were all increasingly reassuring. You made it clear that you knew there was no replacing Derek Jeter which was fine with the fans. We know how lucky we were to have Jeter as the Yankees captain for so long, and we knew the odds of him being reincarnated in you were virtually nil.

Which is fine. We know it and you said you knew it. You were going to be Didi Gregorius and, in Spring Training, that seemed like it would be more than enough. Your defense plus a .250 BA would be more than acceptable. A fair return for a trade of Shane Greene, a serviceable major league starter, even on a team with questions all over its rotation.

You left Spring Training in relatively good health and headed home to the Bronx with a minor stopover in Washington D.C. Everything seemed fine but, somewhere along the way, you seemed to have lost your glove and, maybe, your confidence.

You have been over aggressive on the base paths, getting thrown out at 3B for the third out and picked off 1B, uncertain in the field, laying back on balls you should have charged and double clutching easy grounders. You have been swinging out of your shoes in big moments and giving away at bats, such as in that marathon game vs. the Red Sox.

Add it all together and it has been a rough first week for you in pinstripes. So take some advice from a fan who, like the vast majority of fans, wants nothing more than for you to succeed so that the team can succeed.

Relax, Sir Didi. Just relax. Go back to being that guy in your Twitter avatar who is staring out of a plane window, hundreds of thousands of feet in the air and still training your eyes upward. Show us all that potential that Yankees fans are dying to see. Just take a deep breath, wipe this week off the slate and start over. We’re behind you, I promise.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stephen Drew Silences His Critics (For A While, At Least)

Through the first five games of this young season, Stephen Drew was on pace to have a third-straight subpar year.  Though he still might have such a year, he has proven, in the last two games at least, that he is capable of much better.   After his surprising solo home run against the Red Sox on Sunday night, he hit an even more surprising home run--a  grand slam--against the Orioles last night.

Drew's performance in these last two games will go a long way in silencing his critics for a while, critics who want him released to make room for highly-touted prospect Rob Refsnyder.  They are ignoring the fact that, while Refsnyder is ready offensively, he is far from ready defensively. In five games with triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Refsnyder has already made three errors. These same critics will be the first ones calling for his demotion when (not if) he makes the same errors with the Yankees.

If it hadn't been for his concussion, Jose Pirela would be on the critics' radar as well.  If and when he fully recovers, he will be an option for the Yankees.  However, once he runs into an out or strikes out a few times, they'll be calling for his demotion as well.

Being demoted, being designated for assignment and being called up are all things that can happen to players to improve the team. However, give Drew the rest of the month to prove himself. Give Pirela more time to get healthy. Give Refsnyder the rest of the season to learn how to play defense. 

We're seven games into the season, people. Let's not jump the gun.