Weather permitting, the Yankees will finish the first half of the 2015 season with Saturday's home game against Tampa Bay. Right now there are 83 games remaining on the season and the Yankees are in the thick of the AL East fight. As we approach the second half of the season, the burning question is what will it take for the Yankees to make the playoffs?
There are a lot of moving parts.
The Yankees will play only one series west of the Mississippi, at Texas. In fact only ten games remain outside the eastern time zone, all ten in the central. Forty four of the final 83 games are within the division, a total of twenty six with Boston and Toronto alone. The good news is the Yankees will play forty six games at home to 37 on the road.
There are three parts to this equation that could be in play. First, the Yanks expect center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and closer Andrew Miller to return soon from the disabled list, both huge additions. Secondly and less certain are the potential second half call-ups from the minors. Top prospects Aaron Judge and Luis Severino are both at AAA, and there is growing speculation about either or both making a debut later in the season. Also, do they finally give second baseman Rob Refsnyder a chance? Third, the Yankees might make a splash at the trade deadline, July 31. Speculation has centered on acquiring a starting pitcher but that may only happen if an injury occurs. An added arm for the bullpen is possible, but players like Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist or Brandon Phillips could become available at the one position where the Yankees could seriously upgrade, second base, assuming they deem Refsnyder not ready. If there's a trade, don't expect the Yankees to surrender any more than mid level prospects, which could limit their options.
Can the Yankees keep the guys at the middle of the order healthy down the stretch and can they all maintain their performances? Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann have all done well following a 2014 season in which each had significant issues of injury, poor performance and that suspension thing. This is the heart of the order that I cited as one of two keys to the Yankees success in 2015. They all have met or exceeded expectations.
I identified the other key to 2015 season as the top of the rotation. I'm not sure exactly to whom that refers at this point, so here's a look at the rotation as it stands right now. It is a bit of a mixed bag so far, but this may well be the deciding factor for the season.
Michael Pineda: Terribly inconsistent in June, but with a solid start in his last outing at Houston to his credit.
Mashiro Tanaka: His last two starts have done nothing to silence those who believe Tommy John surgery is just around the corner. Then there are those critics popping up wondering if the Yankees simply overspent for an overrated pitcher. See, what two straight bad outings will do?
Ivan Nova: Nobody is ready to anoint Nova as the staff savior, but it has been an encouraging first two starts back from the disabled list.
Nathan Eovaldi: When he is on, Eovaldi has been very good, but then there are those other times. Evoldi seems to be trending in the right direction.
CC Sabathia: Last pitched on Monday at Anaheim and allowed 4 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, and that was among his better performances of the year. Apparently the Yankees are expecting better things than a 3-8 record and 5.59 ERA in the second half. They just might rue the day they sent Adam Warren and not Sabathia to the pen. Here's hoping Yankee brain trust knows something the rest of us do not.
Playoff chances may well depend on Girardi and company making the right choices regarding the rotation. Eighty three games from now we'll know for sure.