After an e-mazing weekend, taking two of three games from their cross-town rivals (thanks Luis Castillo for Friday night’s victory), the New York Yankees are still searching for answers to why their pitchers cannot consistently throw strikes.
The Yankee arms have yet to show any consistency on the mound this season, as they currently rank second in the American League and fifth in the majors with 246 walks issued. Falling behind in the count has allowed batters to wait for their pitch, and the Yankee pitchers have been paying for it all season. They have allowed 85 home runs, tying them with the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles for the most homers allowed in the majors.
Manager Joe Girardi has played musical chairs with everyone’s role on the staff at some point this season. Let’s take a look at Chien-Ming Wang’s season thus far. He began the season in the starting rotation, then became a disabled list casualty, and now is fighting for his pitching life this week. In between, Wang has been a long-man out of the bullpen in order to build up his confidence and arm strength for an anticipated return to the starting rotation.
Girardi made the mistake of starting him against the Boston Red Sox. Wang’s return to the rotation was set up for disaster, as he went against a lineup that extends at-bats by being patient at the plate. His prior starts hadn’t been sharp, as Wang had been hit hard several times in the early portion of the season. And to the delight of the Fenway faithful, he struggled to throw strikes all evening, and lasted only into the third inning.
Girardi insists his next start, against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night, will be Wang’s final chance to stick in the Yankees’ rotation. Phil Hughes is waiting in the bullpen to reclaim a spot in the rotation if Wang continues to struggle.
Some suggest that the Yankee pitchers have been trying to avoid contact all season with the fear that any deep fly ball could leave Yankee Stadium. And you cannot blame them, as they have seen at least one ball leaving the yard in all 31 home games this season.
The name of the game is getting ahead in the count on hitters and throwing strikes, and the Yankee pitching staff will need to trust their stuff more in order to be more successful. Besides C.C. Sabathia, everyone on the staff should observe their closer while he pitches. Mariano Rivera has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball, 10/1 this season. He throws strikes and the batter returns quickly to the dugout.
If Girardi doesn’t have confidence in anyone on the staff, then general manager Brian Cashman will immediately have to acquire replacements. Remember, Yankee seasons aren’t about making the playoffs; they are about contending for a World Series title.