Archives for posts with tag: robinson cano

We are still a little over ten games away from the Sparky Mark (40 games), but this year’s New York Yankees show no signs of slowing down or going away quietly – best exemplified by Sunday night’s 18 inning marathon victory over last year’s World Series champion Cubs. Even the most optimistic fan, which I am often accused of being, didn’t see foresee this squad playing .690 ball and making a legitimate claim at being the best team in baseball. This team is far from perfect and yet is finding ways to excel and make a case for World Series talk this year, not next.

Biggest Surprise: Aaron Judge/The Bench (tie) – Following a brief 2016 campaign that saw this Baby Bomber K in 42 of 84 at-bats, Aaron Judge is attempting to lay claim to both the A.L. Rookie of the Year and MVP – and he may just succeed in both. After a slow start, Judge has left little doubt as to who should be the Yankees starting RF for the near future with 13 HRs (tied for MLB league) and surprisingly good defense. I doubt he will keep this pace up with pitchers either making adjustments or dolling out free passes, but Aaron Judge has shown an early knack for overcoming 1-2 counts and deflecting any praise with Derek Jeter-like humility.

While Judge looks like he can carry the team, both figuratively and literally, he has plenty of help from surprising contributors. Injuries to Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, allowed both Ronald Torreyes and Austin Romine a chance to step up and produce. Torreyes has hit .311 with a once team-leading 13 RBIs and Romine has a .281 BA to go with stellar game calling to ease along a young staff highlighted by Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. And with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury needing the occasional spell in the field, Aaron Hicks has finally justified his #1 draft selection by the Minnesota Twins in 2012. Hicks is showing 5-tool ability with a slash-line of .338/.459/.662 to go with 5 SBs. No telling how long this Yankee 4th OF will need a chance to be a #1 somewhere else, for the right compensation.

Biggest Disappointment: Greg Bird – After a monster spring where he looked like the heir apparent to Mark Teixeira, Greg Bird is looking more like the next Nick Johnson. Hitting only .100 through 19 games, Bird is currently on the DL dealing with a bone bruise in his leg. Apparently the injury happened at the end of spring training and its severity is still unknown. What is known is the faith and commitment that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have in the young Yankee 1B. In the meantime, Chris Carter and Matt Holliday will split time in his absence.

No Surprise: The Bullpen – Sunday night’s 3-run hiccup aside, the Yankees lay claim to the best bullpen in the game, and the sky is still the limit. The new three-headed monster of Tyler Clippard/Dellin Betances/Aroldis Chapman is beastly to say the least. Throw in impressive early work from Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and the ever-reliable Adam Warren and the Yanks have little to worry about protecting a lead or giving their team a chance at a comeback as demonstrated in the 8-run rally against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28th.

Honorable Mention: Starlin Castro – In his 2nd year in pinstripes, the Yankees 2nd baseman is providing the type of offensive production that is making Yankee fans ponder, “Robinson who?” Surprisingly, Castro is flying under radar with his league leading .355 average along with 6 HRs and is 2nd to Judge in RBIs with 21. Despite a crowded field at 2nd with the aforementioned Cano, as well as Brian Dozier and Jose Altuve, Starlin Castro should garner serious All-Star consideration and I plan to do my part.

 

Depending on your point of view this year’s Yankees are either ahead of schedule or right on time. No longer being billed as a “re-building year” this team is ready to win now and is. Will they continue at this torrid pace? Most likely not. But they have shown they are adaptable to adversity and still have plenty of gems to deal in the farm system for any in-season adjustments (“Paging, Gerritt Cole”). In March, I had this team competing for a Wild Card slot but I see no reason they shouldn’t be jockeying for 1st in the AL East – especially once the Sawx inevitably get going.

Another great season of Yankee baseball lay ahead, along with the promise of a future filled with October baseball.

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The 2015 New York Yankees have started the 2nd half the same way the ended the 1st half: firing on all cylinders. Having won five of six since the All Star Break, the Yanks have opened up a 5 and ½ game lead in the AL East and look ready for October baseball. There is still plenty of season left but at this time the Yankees look like the safest bet to stay consistent and win out.

Starting pitching has stabilized in the past week, with Masahiro Tanaka returning to ace form and earning two wins. Ivan Nova is developing into midseason form and even C.C. Sabathia was able to match Seattle’s King Felix in a no-decision that turned into another Yankee win. The only potential concerns at this time would be Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. Pineda was victimized by a pair of two-run Robinson Cano HRs in his recent loss, though Pineda does have a 2.29 ERA in July. And Nathan Eovaldi continues to allow too many hits (his WHIP is 1.50) and not provide enough length. At some point, he needs to become a frequent guest of the 7th inning.

The sight of Jacoby Ellsbury in the Yankee lineup has been a welcome one, with the Yankees winning 9 of 12 since his return. Yesterday’s 3-4, 4 RBI performance is only a sign of things to come. Ellsbury and Gardner at the top of the lineup give the Yankees the perfect catalyst to start any game. Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and A-Roid continue to do the heavy lifting and long ball hitting. And Chase Headley is proving plenty of lower lineup support with a .340 July. Despite his early season defensive woes, Headley may soon prove to be the best off season decision.

In the end, it’s all about the bullpen. Sometimes overused, occasionally overmatched, but lights out when truly needed, the Yankee pen is 6th in the AL and the best reason to bet on the Bronx Bombers come October. Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren are perfectly suited to retire hitters from both sides of the plate for multiple innings if need be. Andrew Miller is showing no hints of regression since returning from the DL. But it is Dellin Betances who is the ultimate trump card that Joe Girardi can wield at any time. There’s been plenty of talk about Mark Teixeira in the MVP race but the true MVP of the 2015 Yankees is Dellin Betances with 83 Ks in 51.1 innings and a WHIP of 0.83. And at 6’8”, Betances looks like a Hulk Buster version of Yankee great Mariano Rivera. #BetancesforMVP

The Yankees have a bit of a test ahead with a ten game road trip against the Twins, Rangers, and White Sox. But there is no time for let up and the Yankees need to keep the foot on the gas, especially against teams they should be beating. These are exciting times in the Bronx and the Yankees are giving the fans what they want: a winning team.

With just a week to go before the All-Star break the New York Yankees continue to defy expectations as they find themselves atop the highly contested AL East. After going 3-4 on a road trip to Houston and Anaheim, the Yankees returned home to take two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays along with the Blue Jays and Orioles keep jockeying for position but the Yankees keep finding a way to stay one step ahead.

The Yankee pitching staff continues to be a work in progress. Michael Pineda and Mashahiro Tanaka alternate brilliant starts with pedestrian ones. Nathan Eovaldi is iffy at best and has been the beneficiary of the buoyant Yankee offense which explains his 8-2 record with a 4.52 ERA. Ivan Nova has shown some progress in his TJ return and may be the key to the rotation succeeding. And C.C. Sabathia continues to falter. He would be best suited for long work out of the bullpen but is not a possibility because of his $24 million salary.

The Yankee offense is currently tied for 2nd best in all of baseball along with the Houston Astros. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and A-Roid have been the main cogs and show no signs of slowing down. Brett Gardner is playing All-Star quality baseball and is on pace to be the first Yankee to score 100 runs since Robinson Cano in 2011. Carlos Beltran is back on the DL and may not be a reliable RF option for the long haul. And the sooner the Stephen Drew experiment ends, the better. Not sure if Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is the answer at 2B but either can do better than Drew’s .178 batting average.

The bullpen is still the most reliable weapon in the Yankee arsenal, and the options will just get better with the imminent return of Andrew Miller. Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve have improved as the season has gone on and Bryan Mitchell is developing into a depending long relief arm. And despite a recent blown save against the Rays, Dellin Betances flourishes in both the set-up and closer roles.

But the key to an AL East title is the return of a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury. Brett Gardner and Chase Headley have been able to tread water for now but the combination of Ellsbury and Gardner at the top of the Yankee lineup is formidable and necessary for October baseball in the Bronx.

The only other suggestion I would make to the organization is take notice of Chris Young’s success in Houston and trade him to the Astros. Houston needs a bat for their playoff run and the Yankees could use either Collin McHugh or Lance McCullers in the starting rotation. It would be a win-win.

The Yankees finish the first half with a pair of last-place opponents: three at home against the Oakland A’s and three in Boston against the Sawx. At some point this Yankees squad needs to open a lead in the division and there’s no time like the present, especially against these two disappointing teams.

I cannot decide if the Yankees being 47-47 at the All-Star break is impressive considering the never-ending string of injuries or just a huge disappointment following the patented off-season shopping spree. Either way, the Yankees still have time to heal up and play catch-up. I just hope that last night’s rain-shortened loss to the Orioles is not an omen of a second half that may see the Yankees run out of time to make such a run.

The Achilles heel, aside from the injury pandemic, is the complete lack of a potent or consistent offense. The Yankees had no choice but to ignore Robinson Cano’s request for ransom last November, and they miss the 57 RBIs that he has provided for a Seattle team currently in the hunt in the AL West. Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury, and Ichiro have done their part in getting on base but Beltran, McCann and the recently released Soriano have been unable to take advantage, or in Beltran’s case, stay healthy. Mark Teixeira leads the team in both HRs and RBIs but he has not been a consistent presence nor the MVP caliber player that led the team in 2009. And the youth movement led by Yangervis Solarte and Zealous Wheeler have only been good for small stretches, as have the veteran signings of Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.

Of course the lack offense has only been so glaring because of the sinking ship that is the starting pitching rotation. Only Hiroki Kuroda has survived from opening day and he is most likely not enough to lead this staff of young arms. Kuroda has been solid but lacks run support like fellow starter David Phelps. The latest bright spot has been recent call-up Shane Greene who has been a revelation with a 1.32 ERA over two victorious starts. Brandon McCarthy and recent acquisition Jeff Francis will be needed to continue the patch-up job that is the Yankees starting staff.

Thankfully, the starting pitching does have the re-born bullpen to rely on. Dellin Betances has been Rivera-esque in his role as “super reliever” and Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Matt Thornton have done a workman-like job of getting the ball to David Robertson. D-Rob has made few missteps in his first year as full-time closer, so far only being upstaged by Betances. The only question is how much will Joe Girardi have to use and possibly overuse this vital asset.

As for The Captain himself, he is having a fine if underwhelming year. He has provided plenty of hits, if the not traditional timely ones that we have been used to. But he has handled his farewell tour with plenty of grace and humility. He has also proven to be the best option that the Yankees have at SS. The only thing missing is a winning squad and playoff run for him to lead. The second half is full of possibilities and potential. And we have 68 games left as fans to see what Derek Jeter and the 2014 Yankees have left in the tank.

The 2014 New Yankees have reached the 40 game mark, which Sparky Anderson once remarked was the best time to evaluate a team. As for the Yankees, they are 21-19, in the hunt for the AL East title, and still full of plenty of question marks and DL stints. At this point as much has gone wrong as it has gone right but thankfully every team in the AL East seems stuck in the pack. So, what have we seen:

Surprises:

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have stayed healthy and have combined for 20 stolen bases. Throw in their solid hitting and stellar defense and Yankee fans are getting a preview of what the upcoming seasons have in store.

Yangervis Solarte is providing surprising power and offense as well as defensive flexibility. He is also causing people from around the league to have to learn how to spell his name because it may be written in on a number of All-Star ballots.

Mark Teixeria’s health is no longer in question as he leads the team in home runs for the first time since 2009.

Masahiro Tanaka has been worth every penny as he gains Rookie of the Year votes along with Cy Young votes.

The bullpen of Dellin Betances, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, and Matt Thornton has gotten the ball to David Robertson as needed, though overuse may come into play soon.

The Disappointments:

Brian McCann has shown some power as promised but continues to lack any hitting consistency. The same could be said for Carlos Beltran. On the bright side, McCann is anchoring the pitching staff and has thrown out 38% of base runners for 2nd in the AL.

The injury bug continues to infect the team with current victims being C.C. Sabathia, Shawn Kelley, Michael Pineda, Carlos Beltran, and Francisco Cervelli.

The Captain has yet to remind anyone of his former glory here in his final season. He is hovering around .250 batting average-wise and has lost a few more steps in the field. It is too soon to give up on him, if at all, but just hoping for one more playoff led by the great Derek Jeter.

David Phelps and Vidal Nuno are not making the most of the opportunity to start. If either wishes to be a part of the 2015 Yankee rotation, now is the time to step it up.

Par for the Course:

Despite concerns about David Robertson taking over the closer role for Mo, he has done his job. Despite an early DL stint, Robertson is 7 for 7 in save opportunities along with 12 Ks in 10 and 1/3 innings. He is the closer, just needs a cool nickname and signature entrance song.

Brian Roberts isn’t replacing Robinson Cano in any capacity but has looked solid and is starting to hit as of late. He is looking like a very good one year pickup.

Joe Girardi continues to grow in his job as Yankee skipper and has shown deftness in juggling his lineup to make sure his cast of 30-somethings get their needed rest.

All in all, hard to believe this team is behind last year’s squad, which was playing .600 ball in June. Plenty of season left and hoping more goes right, and very soon.

Coming into this season one of my biggest concerns was the new look Yankee bullpen. My concern wasn’t so much about David Robertson being able to transition from premiere set-up man to closer but about the pitchers tasked to get the ball to him in the 9th. The last two games against the Angels have hopefully been a preview of what we as Yankee fans can expect this season, especially when the game is on the line.

Back to back 1-run victories were highlighted by a stellar bullpen willing and able to pick up the slack left by a struggling Vidal Nuno and a dominating but spent Masahiro Tanaka. Saturday saw the scoreless combination of Dellin Betances, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton get the ball to Robertson in the 9th and last night saw Adam Warren pitch and 1 and 1/3 of relief so that Robertson could earn back-to-back saves. Not saying we are seeing the re-birth of the most dominant bullpen from the late 90’s but the 2014 New York Yankees are showing just one component of their full potential.

And as good as the last two wins were, they still do not erase the horrendous sight of Friday night’s series opening 13-1 demolition. Four Angel home runs, including one by All-Star form-returning Albert Pujols, seemed like a sign of things to come over the weekend. And Hiroki Kuroda’s first bad outing of the season caused flashbacks to his subpar 2013 second half. Thankfully, the Yankee bullpen stepped up when it mattered as they were key in shutting down the very potent Angel offense in the last two games.

Additionally, the Yankees saw a glimpse into the future with J.R. Murphy’s three RBI performance on Saturday, capped by his go-ahead solo home run that became the game winner. He will not be replacing Brian McCann anytime soon, but it is always heartening to see such talent available c/o the farm system.

Next up is a series with the visiting Seattle Mariners. Robinson Cano returns and let the boo birds rejoice. Cano claims he was direspected by the Yankees $175 million offer last off-season. Now he gets to be top dog on a Mariner squad that is only avoiding last place because they share a division with the Houston Astros. Be careful what you wish for. Of course, Cano can cry himself to sleep on gold-infused bedding and never have to worry about choking in the playoffs again.

With the the holidays upon us and an off-season of moves already made, now is as good a time as any to proclaim what I am hoping for most in the coming months and for the 2014 New York Yankees:

1. A healthy Derek Jeter – I know I might as well be wishing for world peace, sunshine, and actual news on FoxNews, but I will ask anyway. The 2013 season was a disappointing season on many fronts but none more disappointing than watching Derek Jeter battle injury and struggle to play only 17 games. The great Yankee shortstop is aging before our eyes and my only hope is that if this is his last season he can go out with a modicum of dignity and a solid year, not unlike his fellow Core Fourers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. In the very least, I would love to see Derek Jeter get another 104 hits to lock up 6th place on the all-time hits list.

2. Faith in the young arms – While it has been nice to see the Yankees pick up coveted free agent bats like Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, the only starting pitcher signed was Hiroki Kuroda. With C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova as the only other definite slots in the rotation filled, the big question is who will be signed or step up? The thought of signing Masahiro Tanaka brings reservations in my mind, as well as the top three arms represented by Erwin Santana, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez. I actual think the Yankees already have what they need in David Phelps and Vidal Nuno. Just let them pitch. They both showed signs of being able to pitch in the big leagues last year in brief stints limited by injury. Give them their shot…..but it would be nice to have a veteran 6th slot filled by either Bruce Chen or Chris Capuano.

3. Stick to the plan – I know Yankee fans are not happy with the proposed Yankee plan which I dubbed “Romneyball” aka doing everything in your power to avoid paying taxes, but the time is at hand to stay on the path. The bloated carcass of A-Roid’s ten year deal continues to reak in the Bronx and it is time to learn what other teams are learning. Big money long term contracts are too risky and modern teams like the Red Sox are finding success with short term low risk veteran contracts. What is a rival for if you can’t learn from them?

4. No more A-Roid – The once promising dream of seeing A-Roid banished along with the remaining money from his super deal is gradually stalling. If the slowly leaked details of MLB’s case against the once future Hall of Famer are to be believed then their case to suspend A-Roid is about as flimsy as the science in “Gravity.” No matter the outcome, A-Roid will rant and rail and not go quietly into that good night. But regardless, this Yankee fan along with most of his Yankee teammates are sick of the circus and it needs to leave town.

5. Meaningful September baseball – I am a die-hard Yankee fan, but I am also a realitic one. The team being put together this off-season is more promising than last year’s squad, but still not close to competing for the AL East, or a wild card play-in game. And yet, last year’s team surprised all of us by making it to the last week of the season before being officially eliminated. I know I have been blessed in my Yankee fandom to have had 7 World Series titles won on my watch. I only ask that this year’s team offer some hope and 19 in-season battles with the Sawx that matter.

6. Just be better than the Mariners – Something tells me I may not have to wish too hard for this one, not unless the Mariners plan on a Dr. Evil-esque scheme to buy the rest of best available free agents. Robinson Cano got his big money deal and it is hard to begrudge him that. He also got the opportunity to be a drain on his team’s resources and deter any other legitimate free agent talent from signing with the M’s. Let’s see how long Mr. Cano can handle being the best player on a sub .500 non-contender. How long before he pulls an A-Roid and begs for a trade? The difference is, unlike 2004, they will be no suitors, unless Seattle foots the Jay-Z inflated bill.

And lastly, I hope to continue to live in a forgiving and gracious baseball world where fans from all around can continue to have meaningful discourse about the game and it’s players. Yeah, maybe I should stick with world peace…… Merry Christmas!