The Yankees had set out their stall for 2018 with a starting rotation of Luis Severino – Masahiro Tanaka – CC Sabathia – Sonny Gray – Jordan Montgomery. Now this looked a little weaker than a team who were hoping for a World Series booth might field but it became a more pronounced lack when Jordan Montgomery went onto the disabled list in May. Further problems lay ahead when it was announced that Montgomery would need season-ending Tommy John surgery. What would carry the Yankees forward? Fortunately, the bullpen had begun to meet, if not exceed, all expectations.
In July, the Yankees strengthened their bullpen by adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle although these moves meant they had to subtract Tyler Clippard. Then right on the deadline they strengthened their starting rotation with the addition of Sonny Gray from Oakland and Jaime Garcia from the Minnesota Twins.
Whilst it would be in August that we will see whether Gray and Garcia provide an upgrade, the arrival of Robertson and Kahnle was evidently a master-stroke especially since Clippard’s season was falling apart at the seams.
What: New York Yankees versus Tampa Bay Rays
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York, USA
When: September 4 to 6, 2015
New York City is one of my favourite places in the world. London, Whitby (UK not Canada), Stratford-upon-Avon and New York are the places I love and not necessarily in that order. Being back there is always a good thing.
They call it the City That Never Sleeps and you can see why. But I guess in a city that never sleeps then sometimes changes seem to happen at double the speed. Some of my favourite things about this city are gone forever.
There was Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on 59th Street and its mashed potatoes and chicken. It’s not there are any more. There was the food and idiosyncratic shopping at the South Street Seaport. It’s been demolished. Of course, there was the old Yankee Stadium which you will look for in vain. It’s a long time gone. It’s not only Joe DiMaggio who we must ask where he is gone, some other favourites are gone too.
I first caught the baseball bug in the mid 80s but it was the mid 90s before I journeyed to New York to sit in that old Stadium that Ruth built. Then there was a players’ strike but like them I was to be back the following year. 1995.
1995. The year that a still developing centre-fielder called Bernie Williams was joined in the majors by four more developing stars. Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Somebody told me a few days ago that the New York Yankees buy their success. That’s fine rhetoric and oft repeated but the evidence won’t bear it. The Yankees are at their strongest when their farm system is at its strongest – whether it be the “Core Four” of 1995 or the debuts of Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig or Munson. Growing internal greats has always worked out best.
The Yankees have got off to a surprisingly good start to the season with a 14-8 record in April. This becomes doubly surprising when we consider that they got off to a 3-6 run in their first nine games. Both the bullpen and large sections of the offensive line-up have done better than we had any reason to expect and whilst there are more than a few weak links, there is good reason to think they can at least stay with the pace of a division which doesn’t have a clearly outstanding team.
Let’s survey who is doing well and not so well…
Well, the Yankees game last night was rained out. As Boston lost, the Yankees were elevated to first place again – making today a good day to reflect on the pitching that got them there and that which didn’t live up to expectations…..
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – May
C.C. Sabathia. As CC Sabathia heads into today’s start against Tampa Bay, it is that .204 OBA that shows that it is not only his top-rank wages which makes him stand out amongst the other starters. Sabathia typically makes a slow start to the season and bearing this in mind it seems that he’s ahead of schedule for another examplary season.
Alfredo Aceves. When a Yankees starter goes down early in the game – and it does happen, Hughes and Wang take a bow, then Aceves is the guy that they can depend upon. He has given us two or three solid innings in every relief performance. This is a team that went without a long reliever on their opening day roster. This was obviously a major mistake and not having someone like Aceves to turn to in those early weeks lost us several games.
David Robertson. Robertson is another who didn’t make the opening day roster but who is making a sizeable difference now he is part of the bullpen. He still needs to gain a little in the consistency stakes but when he is good, he will do very nicely.
Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain still isn’t the complete package as a starter but he is ahead of where I expected him to be at this stage and the voices (including mine) asking for him to be returned to the bullpen are dying down. He is ahead of Pettitte and Wang in his recent starts and May was a good month for him.
Edwar Ramirez remains part of the 40-man roster so the Yankees aren’t finished with him but his form has been a big disappointment so far this year and he is learning to make his home at Scranton / Wilkes-Barre (AAA). During May, he averaged nearly a walk and a hit in every innings pitched and whilst the Yankees might have been a little premature in demoting him, it looked as though it was always heading that way.
Phil Hughes. The Yankees seem quite pleased with him and said he was unlucky to lose his starting job but the reality is that he is averaging less than five innings per start and that is ERA for the month was 6.59. We have to put this in context. This is one of the two guys who were going to be a mainstay of the rotation in 2008 and really messed up. Now Hughes is the best of the two (even when Kennedy is fit) but he looks like he will make-do as a number five starter. This is no longer a surprise to me but I’m not expecting a noticeable improvement and this isn’t good enough.
Jose Veras. Last year, Veras was a very important part of the bullpen. This year it is probably only his level of experience which is keeping him in New York. His ERA for May exceeded 8 and this is even considering that he occasionally does give us a good performance.
Jonathan Albaladejo. Another early-in-the-season reassignment. Last year, he started the season well and then got injured. This season he started well and then the hitters figured him out. Like Ramirez, I think he perhaps deserved another week at the top level to see if he could gather himself but really he can have no complaints.
Chien-Ming Wang. The guys on the team who still have to communicate through an interpreter are in a difficult place when their form falls apart. Given all the psychological pressure the fact that Wang has taken some major steps towards comeback at all is quite an achievement. He has some distance to go and I thought it was too early to restore him to the rotation but this is so far-so good.
Brett Tomko. I was not alone in shaking my head when I heard that Tomko had been promoted to the Bronx, I’m sure. Another journeyman pitcher, who is likeable but struggles to maintain a high enough level of performance in the top flight. So I’m not expecting this to last but he has put in some creditable innings so far and deserves a nod for that alone.
Phil Coke. Coke is the guy we must go to when we need a left-hander out of the bullpen but whilst his performances have been adequate, he has looked a shadow of the pitcher he was in his appearances at the end of last year. He is simply giving up too many runs – too often in tight situations that can cost us a game.
Mark Melancon started his major league assignment well but then he stopped throwing strikes. He was a surprising call-up who took advantage of his chance but ultimately couldn’t maintain it. His ERA at AAA is less than half of what he produced at the major level and he needs some months at that level under his belt before he is giving another chance in the Bronx.