The Yankees have been hammering home runs all year long to back a solid pitching rotation, which has the benefit of a lock-down bullpen (even without Mariano Rivera). But is it enough to win the World Series?
Because when it comes right down to it, a season's success is determined on whether or not the team makes it to the World Series.
Once again the Bombers find themselves in first place, and with the best record in the American League as the calender flips to August, which got off to a great start with a 12-3 rout of the Orioles yesterday. The team has been in firm control of first in the AL East for quite some time now, leading by 6.5 games heading into this weekend.
Overall, the Yankees have had great success in 2012 despite having suffered through significant injury troubles. Mariano Rivera and Brett Gardner are lost for the year, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez are lost until September at the earliest, while CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher have dealt with nagging injuries of their own. Not to mention losing starter Michael Pineda for the year in spring training.
They did pick up some reinforcements at the trade deadline, acquiring corner infielder Casey McGehee to help fill in at third base for A-Rod and at first base for Mark Teixeira, who has had some inflammation in his wrist recently. Plus the return of Joba Chamberlain should give manager Joe Girardi a solid option for the seventh inning behind closer Rafael Soriano and setup man David Robertson.
But the big name acquisition came a week-and-a-half ago, when general manager Brian Cashman finally relented and found a suitable replacement for Brett Gardner after hearing he is likely lost for the year.
By trading for Ichiro Suzuki, who Cashman practically stole form the Mariners for two marginal pitching prospects, the Yankees have a strong fielding left fielder with speed, range and above-average arm strength.
Even at age 38, Ichiro is a marked improvement over the platoon of 40-year-old Raul Ibanez and the significantly diminished Andruw Jones. Plus, Ichiro is another professional hitter in the lineup, who could easily see some improved power numbers with the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
But is it all enough to get the Yankees back to the World Series and a chance to claim their 28th title?
The answer won't be determined for over two months from now, but as they sit right now, the 2012 Yankees don't seem to have enough.
The lineup hides the holes in the pitching by hanging crooked numbers via home runs almost every game, but that won't be the case in October, especially with the four aces in the Angels rotation now and the strong arms the A's have in their young rotation.
The Bronx Bombers will have to improve their numbers with runners on base, which hasn't been as bad as it was earlier this year, but they still leave far too many runners on base.
The Yankees rotation has been solid overall, but like I said before, it has flaws. While the top four starters all have at least 10 wins, they are slowed by inconsistent results.
CC Sabathia is the ace and will be ready to go come October, but the other veteran starter Hiroki Kuroda still doesn't seem to be quite comfortable in pinstripes. Every time he gets on a roll he seems to throw a clunker and takes a nose dive, but his 3.28 ERA is tops in the rotation and he does have postseason experience, so I think he should be fine as well.
The real concern is with the other two primary starters, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.
All you hear about Nova is how impressive his composure is on the mound and how he keeps his cool when runners are on base, but the results have been very inconsistent. Staked to an early five-run lead in his most recent start against the Orioles, he promptly surrendered seven runs and the Yanks never really snapped out of that shock the rest of the game. Other starts he has been very sharp and others have been a struggle.
I know I'm no pitching guru, but through the eyes of an avid fan, it appears to me that Nova is relying too heavily on his curveball, particularly when he gets in a jam. It seems like if he located his fastball better he would have much more success. Whatever the problem is, he needs to work it out.
On the other hand, we have the curious case of Phil Hughes, who is still just 26 years old (seems like he's been around forever) and is still basically a two-pitch pitcher. He has a decent fastball and can reach the mid-90s on the radar gun when he needs to and on a good night he can throw a sharp 12-to-6 curveball. However, he has abandoned his cutter and still hasn't fully mastered the changeup.
End result is that he can't fool a good lineup for too long and surrenders too many home runs. Throwing two pitches makes it much easier for opposing batters to sit on one pitch, they have a 50-50 shot of being right.
Thus making it imperative that Andy Pettitte returns and is just as good as he was through nine starts before injuring his ankle on a line-drive back to the mound. It's hard to rely on a 40-year-old starter, but that is what the Yankees will be forced to do in the postseason for their third starter unless Hughes or Nova start getting more positive results.
Fortunately, you could not choose a better 40-year-old starter for the postseason than Andy Pettitte, who has more wins (19) and innings pitched (263) than any other pitcher in postseason history.
September should provide a boost, which is when Pettitte and A-Rod are slated to return, just in time for the postseason.
For now, the 2012 New York Yankees just don't look like a team that has the goods to get it done when it counts in October. Time is on their side, however, as it is only the beginning of August, leaving two months for them to improve upon their hitting with runners in scoring position and for Hughes and Nova to steady their shaky seasons.
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