New York Yankees Flaws Already Being Exposed
With injuries to key players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson before Opening Day, many had written off the first two months for the club.
Prognosticators looked at this as an end to the latest Yankees "era."
Yet today, Bronx Bombers fans woke up to the team sitting third in the division with an 11-8 record, just one and a half games behind the front-running Boston Red Sox and a full four games ahead of the preseason darling Toronto Blue Jays.
As the Yankees continue to prove their detractors wrong, there are still some issues the club will need to address if they want to play in October.
In 2012, the New York Yankees bullpen was seventh in Major League Baseball in keeping a lead. They recorded 87 holds and a 3.43 ERA.
This season, the team ranks 28th in ERA (4.98) and 29th in holds (three).
What has happened?
Among the biggest disappointments in the early going has been Boone Logan. In spite of the fact that manager Joe Girardi has used him the most out of the pen (he has called on Logan in eight of the team's 19 games), Logan has allowed a .571 batting average (13.50 ERA) when pitching with runners in scoring position.
Logan's 3.38 ERA is deceiving in that he has performed best with no one on base (0.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in that situation). Unfortunately, relievers are often brought in to put an end to their opponent's rally, and that has not been Logan's forte to this point in the season.
The other "poster child" for the Yankees' disappointing bullpen is David Phelps. Coming into 2013, he was being considered for a starting spot in the rotation. When he didn't make it the thought was that in him the team would have a dependable long-reliever and spot-starter.
Three weeks into the season, Phelps has a 6.23 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. Hitters are batting .288 against him, including a .412 average with the bases empty and .667 with runners at the corners. He holds a 9.00 ERA with RISP.
While Logan and Phelps aren't the only underperformers out of the bullpen (only David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and Adam Warren hold ERAs under 3.00), they represent a distinct drop-off for a Yankees pitching staff that was supposed to be one of the team's strengths.
Unless this crew can turn things around, it will be a long disappointing season for the team in the Bronx.
As noted earlier in this article, the Yankees were already without their starting shortstop, first baseman, and center fielder before the season could get off the ground.
GM Brian Cashman had done what he could by bringing in players like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay to hold down the fort until the return of the injured starters. The problem is that as the year progresses injuries ultimately pop-up, and the Yankees rash of fallen players wasn't restricted to spring training.
Eduardo Nunez, the fill-in at shortstop until Derek Jeter can reclaim his spot, has twice been hit by pitches that resulted in missed games.
Starting third baseman Kevin Youkilis has missed multiple games with a strained back, and the pitching staff has already experienced injuries to Hiroki Kuroda (bruised finger) and Andy Pettitte (back spasms).
A team can only have so much depth and it appears the Yankees have used theirs up. It all came to a head in a game against the Baltimore Orioles when Girardi had to use star second baseman Robinson Cano at shortstop and catcher Francisco Cervelli at second base.
Until the team begins to get some of the injured players back, imaginative lineups and creative uses of position players will continue to be utilized by the Yankees manager as he tries to weather the storm.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In 2012 the Yankees ranked 17th in Major League Baseball in hitting with runners in scoring position. They batted .256 with 205 Walks and 290 Strikeouts in that situation last year.
For Yankees fans it was a problem they hoped to resolve in 2013.
Unfortunately that hasn't happened.
The team ranks 22nd in MLB with RISP and is hitting just .222. Their BB/SO ratio has actually gotten worse and they have walked just 19 times while striking out 37 times with RISP.
Key men in the lineup who have not delivered with runners in scoring position include Vernon Wells (.211), Travis Hafner (.222) and Lyle Overbay (.188).
It seems the struggles at the plate from last season have not disappeared with the dawning of the new campaign. The team can only hope that as players return, the clubs ability to get runners across the plate will improve.