Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yankees: A-Rod’s “four facets” talk rings true

The New York Yankees are 3-6, and have lost their first three series to teams in the American League East. They have a day off Thursday and face the final team in their division in a three-game set in Tampa beginning Friday.

Alex Rodriguez put the Yankees' predicament perfectly after Thursday night’s 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

“We’re going to be seeing these guys (the entire AL East) all year for a long time,” Rodriguez said per Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog. “We know the score. It’s important to play well. More than who we’re playing against, it’s more important to control what we can do. The four facets is what we have to go back to, focus on the fundamentals and let the big things happen when they happen.”

Say what you will about A-Rod, but he has always been a student of the game. He has been known to love chatting about baseball and is considered by many to be incredibly astute concerning the ins and outs of the game.

Rodriguez’s notion of baseball's four facets are offense, defense, pitching and base running. The Yankees have failed to provide any consistency in these areas and have yet to put together a single game in which they excelled in all four.

Rectifying the easier aspects of the four would in turn aid the success of the others.

Base running seems to be the one facet that player’s have the most control over, or at least requires the least bit of tweaking and does not relate to muscle memory as much as the other areas. It’s about knowing the situation and being wise on how to handle your role in the circumstances.

Players need to know when they can steal third base, when should they be ready to tag up on fly ball, when to try to stretch a single into a double, how big of a lead can they take without getting picked off, etc. Baseball is a mental game; in fact the mind also plays a part in the other fundamental areas of the game.

Besides, mental preparedness, the other three areas Rodriguez mentioned are much more in tune with the physical elements of the game. For example, without completely refined mechanics a pitcher will be way off the mark with his pitch location, a hitter might take too big of a stride throwing his swing off balance or a fielder could be hurrying the process of catching and throwing leading to errors. Those are just a few of many different issues that could arise which begin with a mental process, but require a physical movement (or many) to complete the play.

Because of the variety of variables that can pop up and disrupt any facet of the game for one or several players, it is nearly impossible for all four of the aspects to be completely in sync at the same time.

Teams that are successful are able to meld as many of the four facets together with the highest number of players possible for extended periods of time. Teams which display inconsistencies in two or more of the areas of the game at the same time, and worse with multitudes of players, will surely not win many games. Right now, the Yankees are mired in the latter.

The Yankees have experienced very little in terms of luck thus far, which ultimately makes poor fundamentals stand out even more. Every piece of the Yankees game is lacking something – starters are allowing big innings and not providing length in their outings, some relievers are turning in uneven appearances (mostly referring to the major meltdown Wednesday night), the offense has been completely hit or miss (pun intended), the defense as a whole has been terrible and the base running has been incredibly poor.

So, Rodriguez is right. The Yankees have to figure out a way to slow things down and get through the basics first. That’s not making bone-headed base running errors which keeps the offense at the plate providing more reps, aids in reinforcing timing and generates more scoring opportunities. It's also receiving cleaner play from the defense which aids the pitching staff by not forcing them to throw more pitches to erase the errors.

The Yankees hope the synergy begins Friday night in Tampa. It has to or else they’ll be climbing up a hill all season long.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is 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, the FanSided network, Sportsideo 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.