Sunday, April 29, 2012

Discussion: April 2012

Michael: The Yankees are typically slow starters, and this season has been no different, illustrated by their mediocre 11-9 record.

Let's start with the rotation, which has not exactly lived up to expectations. After Pettitte makes a few more starts in the minors, he'll join Sabathia, Nova, and Kuroda in the rotation, while the fifth rotation spot is still up in the air. While Hughes is in the rotation for now, the Yankees aren't going to keep going with Garcia. Instead, they are dipping into the pen and giving Phelps a few starts.

Alex: Well the first thing to remember is how hard the Yankees schedule has been to this point. Less than a months in and they've already played a series against each of the other pre-season consensus five best teams in the American League (Angels, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers). With four of their next five series against the Orioles, Royals, and Mariners, there's a pretty strong chance that the Yanks' record will be better on May 15 than it is today.
That said, the pitching is a problem. Sabathia hasn't been as good as he needs to be, while Nova and Kuroda have been inconsistent. Yes, Hughes is a disaster, but he has to keep going out there for lack of better options. Garcia, of course, was terrible, and the rotation won't miss him. A 12.51 ERA, 2.20 WHIP and an average of fewer than four innings per start is not acceptable. Phelps will get his next start or two, probably auditioning for Hughes's spot in the rotation, assuming that Pettitte comes back and takes over what was Garcia's spot in the rotation.

Do you think they made the right call replacing Garcia with Phelps, and what would you do when Pettitte returns?

Michael: You put it perfectly. Hughes is the lesser of the two evils, so the Yanks have no choice but to keep letting him toe the rubber. Garcia has been completely ineffective and has not been economical either, so he is now being delegated to a mop-up role. He hasn't shown me anything - control-wise or stuff-wise - that proves that he can turn it around. Give Phelps a start, and maybe he steals the fifth rotation spot from Hughes. Hughes has been great in the bullpen before, so I don't think that a middle relief role would be a total lost cause.

The Yankees offense and bullpen have had to dig the Yankees out of some deep holes. The game that first comes to mind is the one in Boston on April 21. Garcia got shelled in 1.2 innings, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits. As the rest of the bullpen held the Sox to four additional runs in 7.1 innings, the Bombers had back-to-back seven-run innings in the seventh and eighth en route to a 15-9 victory.

The offense surely hasn't been the problem. They are top-three in the AL in Runs, HR, AVG, OBP, and SLG, among other notable statistics. The team leader in OPS+ is currently 37-year-old Derek Jeter (172 OPS+). While Swisher and Granderson are also putting up numbers, the rest of the lineup has been sub-par.

Alex: Over the course of the season guys are going to get hot and cold. Jeter has cooled down a little bit after boasting a batting average over .400 as recently as April 27. Meanwhile, A-Rod and Granderson have started to heat up. We haven't seen anything resembling a hot streak from Cano yet, but you can bet that's coming soon. There's no question this line-up will hit. It's the pitching we have to worry about. And by that I mean the starting pitching, because the bullpen has been fantastic.

Michael: I couldn't ask for anything more from this 'pen. After the blown save on Opening Day (the one that I jinxed), Rivera has bounced back to his usual greatness. Wade and Logan have done very nicely so far. Along with Robertson, they all have K/9 rates over 10 in April. Robertson has repeatedly pulled his Houdini act; he has yet to give up a run. Soriano has a concerning BB/9 rate, but he's been very effective as well. Phelps has been able to stop the bleeding for many struggling Yankee starters.

Boy, am I glad that Cashman resigned Pettitte. I hope he comes back and pitches like the Pettitte of old. In addition to the struggles of the healthy starters, Pineda tore his labrum, so he's out for the remainder of the season.

Alex: Dare I say we're getting to the point where it might be nice to have A.J. Burnett around? When they signed Pettitte I wondered (on this blog in fact) how they were going to manage the apparent excess of starters. Now they don't have enough quality arms to fill the rotation.

A lot of pressure on Pettitte to come in strong and hold down a rotation spot. Everyone assumes he'll be alright, but the minor league results, while not terrible, aren't mind-blowing either.

Michael: Now it's apparent that the adage, "You can never have enough pitching", is absolutely true.

Maybe Pettitte is just bored in the minors. For a pitcher that's been a staple in the majors since 1995 (discounting last year), he's probably hungry to get to the majors.

Alex: Let's hope so. In the meantime let's talk a little bit more about Phelps. Expectations weren't particularly high for him entering spring training, but he pitched his way onto the roster, performed well in a long-relief role and will now get an opportunity to start games. He doesn't have terrific stuff, and he got knocked around a bit in Texas, but the guy knows how to get hitters out and seems to feel like he belongs. We're probably not looking at an future star, but he looks like a potential quality big league starter, don't you think?

Michael: Sure, I'd say he has a future as a #4 or #5 starter with the Yankees. I'm always impressed with pitchers, not throwers, at 25 years old. He doesn't get by with great stuff, rather, he's smart enough to get out batters. That's why I like seeing him in a starting role.

I'm looking at the May schedule and thinking that the Yankees have a great chance to pick up a lot of wins next month. The only very good teams on the schedule are Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. They also get a West Coast trip out of way at the end of the month.

Alex: Indeed. The league is so tough this year that the schedule can never get too easy. Going into the season a lot of people were looking at these teams on paper and predicting 95 wins for four or five AL team. Nobody seemed to remember that all these great teams have to play each other fairly frequently. The entire AL East is at or above .500, and two days from now the Yankees could find themselves in first place, last place, or anywhere in between. It's shaping up to be a crazy season.

Michael: Well, it should be entertaining to say the least. Whenever we learn the date, all Yankees fans should circle the day of Pettitte's return on their calendars, as that's certainly a game to watch. Even after a shaky April, I'm still confident in the pieces that the Yankees have. It should be another hot summer in the Bronx.

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