Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Discussion: May 2012

Michael: The Yankees have finished another mediocre month. With a 13-13 record in May (26-22 overall), the Yanks sit in third place in the American League East. We've reached the Memorial Day benchmark and we can officially kvetch about the team with two months of sample size to back it up.

Let's begin with the pitching. There was some good, and there was some bad. First, we'll focus on the good. Of course, the headline for the month was Pettitte's return in pinstripes after coming out of retirement. So far, he's been the best Yankee starter.

Well, first of all, thank God for the Oakland Athletics, because that easy three-game sweep sure makes the month look better. You're certainly right about the inconsistent starting pitching though. Kuroda, Nova, and Hughes are all total wild cards when they go out there. All three guys had outings in May when they allowed two or fewer runs over seven or more innings and outings in May when they allowed four or more runs less than six innings. That kind of undependable performance creates uncertainty and can result in losing streaks if bad outings are strung together, more so when even Sabathia is merely good, not great, as he has been through two months. Pettitte has been impressive two starts in a row, but we might need a bigger sample size before we crown him savior.

I think the Yankees' bigger problem throughout May was their offense and lack thereof. The bats have woken up recently, but for a long stretch in the middle of the month, the Bombers could buy a base-hit, especially with runners in scoring position.

Michael: The pitching has given up 60 homers, third in the AL. They've managed to deal with that problem better, but it's still there.

Even when they score runs, they've been depending on the long ball. They lead the AL in AB/HR (22.2). However, they are second-to-last in the league in scoring runners from scoring position with less than two outs (42%). They are also third-to-last when it comes to scoring baserunners overall (13%). That's a problem.

Alex: You wonder how much of the RISP problems are a fluke and how much of them are an intrinsic problem. Did the struggles get into the players' heads? I assume the RISP stats will regress positively back toward the mean, but the Yankees can't afford such extended streaks with lack of scoring in general. In seven games from May 15 to May 21 (of which the Yankees lost six), this supposedly fierce line-up scored only 15 runs.

Teixeira has finally started to hit after eight awful weeks, while A-Rod's power has been absent, Granderson has been good but not 2011 good, Swisher has slumped, Jeter has come back to Earth, and Martin has been horrible. Only Cano had a consistent and productive May. But seasons ebb and flow, guys slump and thrive, and those struggling now will be excelling two months from now.

With the team 2.5 games out of first and in the second wild card spot if the season ended today, I don't think Yankee fans have too much to be concerned about.

Michael: Girardi was talking a few days ago, and he commented on the slumping lineup. He said something along the lines of, They have been great hitters for a long time. They didn't just learn how to hit overnight. I know, Joe is supposed to say that, but he does bring up a good point. These hitters are too good to struggle for an entire season collectively.

The Yankee bullpen has had two gigantic injuries to cope with, but they've managed to ramble on without the absence of their two best relievers hindering them. Of course, Rivera went down early in the month with a torn ACL. Robertson's injury isn't as serious (strained oblique), but he has been shelved for a while now. Soriano isn't as dominant as Mo (he has a 1.500 WHIP this season), but he gets the job done most of the time. Wade has been solid again this season. I'm very happy with the job that they've done.

Alex: With the Yankees playing from behind so much the bullpen hasn't had too many chances to screw up, but Soriano, Wade, and Logan would be a pretty satisfying top three relievers for most teams and are getting the job done for the Yanks. Robertson's eventual return will only strengthen what I already consider somewhat of a strength.

If we had had this chat a week ago I might have been freaking out and pronouncing this season a lost cause, but instead I'm fairly optimistic and confident with the team's odds going forward. Third place doesn't sound good, but I'm not expecting the Orioles to stick around the top of the division, and the second wild card makes everything a bit less stressful.

Michael: It's all about timing. I could have been right there with you, screaming irrationally about every facet of this Yankee team. The Orioles don't strike me as a legitimate threat; their pitching seemingly cannot hold up for four more months. We will see.

I'm looking at next month's schedule at the moment. It doesn't look as challenging as April once did, but there are some tough teams on here. I'd argue that this could be the toughest month yet. All of the teams on the June schedule have played good baseball in the first two months, even the Mets and White Sox.

Alex: Well hopefully the White Sox and Mets' regression begins against the Yanks. It's difficult to look at the schedule and know what's coming. Going into this season a month that includes series against the Nationals, Mets, Indians, and White Sox wouldn't have looked too daunting. Now, it does to some degree. And who knows about the Braves, who have struggled of late. The Bombers just need to play how we know they can. There won't be many days in June when they're not expected to win.

Michael: This is a swing month. If they can play .700 baseball, they'll be in very good shape going into July. Another mediocre month and they'll have some catching-up to do in all likelihood.

Hopefully, Gardner and Robertson will come back next month to help the team. I'm not really sure when Aardsma is supposed to return, but I've heard that he can return before the All-Star break. I expect these Yankees to heat up with the temperature and putting themselves in a good position for a pennant run.

Alex: It's certainly not easy to play .700 ball for an entire month, but I agree that the Yankees are well-positioned moving forward. Some guys will come back, others will go down. Some teams ahead of them in the standings will fall off while others might come on. As always, we'll have to wait and see, but the panic of a week ago has subsided, and all again appears well enough in Yankeeland.

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