New York Yankees: Cold Starts to the Season That Will Continue
After an embarrassingly cold opening series against the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees have started to heat up playing the AL Central's Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians. However, some of their players' cold starts have continued throughout their recent offensive outburst, which includes three straight victories of five or more runs.
Without one third of their projected lineup in the offseason (they are still missing Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson), the offensive load has fallen on the likes of players such as Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner, and their starting pitching has had to account for their offensive deficiencies. Where some players have stepped up their game, others have failed.
Here is a list of four Yankees who will have a low chance of turning around their cold starts to the 2013 season.
Once upon a time, Ivan Nova was a promising rookie that Brian Cashman refused to include in a trade for Cliff Lee. Fast forward another full season and Nova seems to be on a sharp decline, failing to retire hitters in a manner that remotely resembles the form of his 16-4 rookie season.
ESPN's hot zones interactive tool shows us that in 2012, hitters crushed Nova's fastball, which he tended to leave over the middle of the plate and failed to locate on the corners. Nova has great stuff, but location is the most important part to getting major league hitters out.
It seems through his first game that this problem has continued, as he allowed five hits, four earned runs and two walks through 4.2 innings. His career WHIP of 1.41 won't be good enough to consistently keep runs off the board, and it would not be a surprise to see him fail to hold onto his spot in the rotation with David Phelps lurking in the bullpen waiting for an opportunity.
Chris Stewart is not an everyday starting catcher. I repeat, Chris Stewart is NOT an everyday starting catcher. Despite a hot start, neither is Francisco Cervelli. This is why many fans find it so puzzling that they were the only two options to replace Russell Martin behind the dish this season.
Stewart has never been a good offensive catcher despite being a valuable backup with a great glove. He can help pitchers keep runs off the board, but won't put runs on.
It still looks as though (barring a true, long-term breakout from Cervelli) Stewart will continue to see semi-regular duty. His cold start will continue merely because his career numbers (a career .216 hitter) don't indicate that he will improve.
What ever happened to the Joba Chamberlain who struck fear in opposing hitters and allowed only one earned run in his first 24 innings? He is long gone and today's Joba is a shell of his former self.
According to Fangraphs, his average fastball velocity is down three full miles per hour since 2008, now sitting at 93.2 MPH. His slider velocity has declined as well. The most troubling change, however, is his lack of command. Joba has walked as many batters in 2.2 innings this season as he did in 20.2 innings last season.
Without his overpowering velocity or anything resembling good control, Chamberlain could cost the Yankees games in the late innings and may be jobless sooner rather than later.
Jayson Nix has some pretty big shoes to fill. To be specific, 3,000 hits, team captain, five-time World Series champion-sized shoes. However, Nix has never really been more than a utility infielder in his five year career.
Nix is a career .214 hitter and there is no evidence to suggest that regular duty will help him find a rhythm. In his most regular playing time in 2010 (331 at-bats), he hit .224. In his 13 at-bats this season, he has not drawn a walk.
The Yankees are deeply missing Derek Jeter's bat at the front of their lineup, and it doesn't look like Nix will be able to provide the spark and leadership that Jeter provides with his patience and inside-out swing.