Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yankees redirect attention to wild card berth

The American League East title might finally be out of reach for the New York Yankees after losing two of three games to the Toronto Blue Jays. This is not to say the Yanks should give up on their quest for the division title, but they might begin to gear up for a winner-take-all play-in game Oct. 6.

The Yankees must still play to win the AL East title, on the slim chance that the Blue Jays continue to play .500 ball the rest of the way (Toronto is 5-5 in their last 10 games). It would take an impressive 9-2 run by the Yankees over their final 11 games, but it is certainly not impossible. The effort to win each game should remain, if only to be playing top-notch baseball when the wild card game arrives.

Line up Tanaka

The Yankees will likely place Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation with the vision of having him ready for the wild card game. He’s their best pitcher right now, and one who would match up best against what would be the best pitcher from their competition. If went into detail on this subject over at SNY on Tuesday.

Take a break

I know I said the Yankees have to win a bulk of their games going forward, which would require them to play their best players. Well, some of their regulars are in deep funks and could use a break.

Brett Gardner is in the throes of a 4-for-39 slump, and Chase Headley has three hits in his last 34 at-bats.

Gardner will surely get a day off against one of the three left-handers they’ll face beginning Thursday when the Chicago White Sox come to town. The day of could come as quickly as today with Chris Sale on the mound for the ChiSox. Chris Young would garner the start for the Yankees, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Young started two of the games against Chicago.

Headley could be spelled by Stephen Drew or Brendan Ryan, neither of whom provides much more offense, but will be solid enough for one day in the field. It’s a good guess that a day off is what Headley needs; he’s played in every game since July 11, starting all but three of those games, his last day beginning on the bench being Sept. 8. Surely a day off cannot hurt at this point.

On a lesser scale, Alex Rodriguez is falling once again (2-for-17 slide), so expect him to get a day, most likely in the middle of the 11 games against a right-hander.

Where’s the middle relief?

We can suggest that Yankees manager Joe Girardi has pulled his starters too early (he has at times) and that he’s relied too heavily on Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller (he has at times), but the actual issue is that there is virtually NO ONE picking up the slack in middle relief right now.

Over the last 30 days, Yankees middle relievers have been pitiful. Below is the performance of the middle relief crew during the time span.

Reliever   IP  ERA
Chasen Shreve   8.0  6.75
Branden Pinder   7.1  3.68
Adam Warren   6.2  5.40
Chris Capuano   6.2 14.85
Nick Rumbelow   6.0  6.00
Andrew Bailey   6.0  7.50
Bryan Mitchell   5.1 13.50
Caleb Cotham   4.2  1.93
James Pazos   4.0   0.00
Nick Goody   2.1  0.00

It’s no wonder Girardi is begging for more than three outs apiece from Wilson, Betances and Miller. Something has to change here. Someone needs to step up and take control of the middle innings going forward in an effort to minimize the strain being placed on the backend of the bullpen.

The Yankees have three series left to ready themselves for a potential postseason run. These are the areas that seem to need the most attention at the moment. Is there enough time to remedy them?

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for 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.