Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thoughts as Yankees pass season's one-fifth mark

The New York Yankees have played just over 20 percent of their games this season and find themselves in first place in the American League East with a somewhat comfortable four-game lead. It is early, but the Yankees have shown to be quite competitive despite preseason speculation that they might finish in last place.

The club cannot sit back. While the entire AL East is made of flawed teams, each will find a footing at some point and make their own runs, similar to the one the Yanks are on right now. The Bombers – yes they can be called the Bombers again – have won 18 of their last 24 games after a shaky 3-6 start.

The Yankees have done it with plenty of offense, an improving defense, good starting pitching and a stout bullpen buoyed by a fantastic eighth/ninth inning duo.

The club is second in baseball in runs scored (160), third in home runs (43), sixth in OBP (.326), fifth in SLG (.432) and sixth in team OPS (.759).

On the mound the overall team ERA (3.29) is fifth in MLB and first in the American League. They lead the majors in strikeouts with 294.

Individually, there are some players off to great starts. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are leading the way at the top of the order; getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs in bunches. Alex Rodriguez has eight home runs, 20 RBI and a .908 OPS. Mark Teixeira leads the club with 11 homers, 27 RBI and a .968 OPS (among qualified players). Chris Young has been great as a role player (.303/.369/.632, 6 HR and 12 RBI in just 83 plate appearances).

Some others on offense are beginning to find their footing this past week. Carlos Beltran is 6-for-14 in his last four games with two homers and six RBI. He’s even drawn two walks in that time span, something he’s had a hard time doing this season. Brian McCann also has two homers and is 4-for-12 in his last four games.

The team is still waiting for consistent contributions with the bat from Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew. Gregorius and Drew have played solidly in the field, while Headley has begun to show his better side with the glove after a rough start at the hot corner.

On the mound Michael Pineda has been superb. He just won AL Player of the Week honors after going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 22 strikeouts in two starts, including a 16-strikeout performance Sunday. Overall, Pineda is 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA. He’s struck out a AL-high 54 batters while walking just three. The Yankees are clearly winning the trade that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Pineda.

The remaining starters have had bits of success, and bouts with a consistency, but as a whole have kept the team in games. With the offense clicking on most days, the rotation has been good enough to maintain leads and get the game to the bullpen which has been a highlight thus far.

While the middle relievers and setup men have done a respectable job, the dynamic duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller has completely dominated. Betances is 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. Miller has 13 saves in 13 chances, a 0.00 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.

The Yankees have used Betances and Miller for more than three outs on occasion; shortening games even more than usual for the rest of the hurlers. Both men seem to be completely at ease in their roles, which they know can change depending on the scenario with batters. Neither reliever seems the least bit concerned with when they are used during a game.

Earlier in the season Rodriguez discussed the Yankees being consistent at the four facets of the game. He stressed if the Yanks could do that the wins would come. They have tightened up each aspect since their 3-6 start and have sailed into first place.

The Yankees will have to keep the pedal to the metal for the remainder of this road trip with three more games in Tampa, three at AL Central division leader, and defending AL Champion Kansas City and a quick two-game stop in Washington.

Maintaining the cushion they have built, or better, extending it, will make it easier when the club suffers an inevitable slide. Even then, the Yankees have shown recently that they can bounce back from losses and have the tools necessary to prevent extending losing streaks. If health remains on their side, the Yankees could continue to surprise over the remainder of the season.

What are your thoughts? Are the Yankees playing above their heads or can they get even better? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for SNY.tv. He is also a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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