With only two Yankees, Derek Jeter and Dellin Betances, heading to the actual All-Star game in Minnesota, the rest of the team can use the four days of no baseball for both a physical and mental break and focus on coming back strong to make a playoff push. With that in mind, here are the five key areas for the Yankees coming out of the ASB:
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- Offense: The Yankees spent almost $290MM in the offseason on free agent position players designed to shore up the anemic, injured and aging offense from 2013. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts were brought in with high expectations of returning the Bronx Bombers to their powerful ways. So far this season, with the exception of Ellsbury who has been solid but inconsistent, that quintet has failed to produce. McCann has been the biggest culprit batting just .238 going into Sunday’s game with an OBP of .293. Beltran is right behind him, missing considerable time with injuries and batting only .216 in the 61 games he played. For the Yankees to have any chance of succeeding, these two need to step up. McCann has already started as he batted .350 in his past 10 games leading into Sunday. He’ll need to continue to find ways to beat the shift and find his power stroke in Yankee Stadium. As for Beltran, he is currently on the 7-day disabled list although the hope is that he can return right after the All-Star break. His postseason offensive resume is great but he needs to stay healthy enough to help the Yankees get there before he can enhance it.
- Pitching, Pitching, Pitching: The Yankees have lost 4 out of the 5 starters they left Spring Training with including the irreplaceable Masahiro Tanaka, who is out for at least six weeks, and Michael Pineda who was pitching great before his unfortunate suspension and subsequent injury. Even with such turmoil, the Yankees team ERA is 8th best in the American League and, with some contribution from the offense, the team would have a much better record. The Yankees bullpen has held most leads they have been given this season and, in the process, they have racked up the 7th most innings in the American League. All-Star Dellin Betances is less than an inning off from the league lead in innings pitched and Adam Warren is tied for 5th. Reinforcements are, hopefully, on their way in the form of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and possibly CC Sabathia. More than anything, this pitching staff needs some rest and a continued combination of luck and skill from rotation fill ins like David Phelps and Shane Greene until help arrives.
- Home Field Advantage: Of their remaining 68 games, the Yankees have 40 left in Yankee Stadium. That’s the most remaining home games in the majors. Unfortunately the Yankees have played to a record of 18-23 at home. For a lineup that is built to take advantage of that short porch in right field, the Yankees have yet to do so. With so many games left at home, it’s time for the team to turn that record around and make opponents uneasy about playing games in Yankee Stadium again.
- Division Race: The Yankees are 5.0 games out in the A.L. East heading into the All Star break and 3.5 out for the second Wild Card spot. Still relatively close in both but the difference is the Yankees have 38 games left against their division rivals and none against the non-division teams they are trailing for the Wild Card. Given how strong the A.L. West has been this year, the Yankees best chance for a playoff berth is via the division title. The Yankees control their destiny in the A.L. East and they need to place added emphasis on improving their 18-20 record against teams in their division especially as they end the season with 20 straight against them.
- Front Office: GM Brian Cashman and his team of assistants, scouts and advisors are likely doing the best they can in trying to fortify a starting rotation that has been decimated with injuries but Brandon McCarthy and Jeff Francis aren’t going to cut it. If starting pitchers were that easy to find, there’s no doubt they would already be suiting up for the Yankees but the front office somehow needs to find a stopgap. That’s not to say they should trade the jewels of the farm system for a second tier pitcher but a trade deadline pickup to let the players, and the fans, know that the front office believes in this team just as much as they do would be a great sign. They'll be watching the team closely in the 13 games remaining before the trade deadline.