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2010 New York Yankees More Balanced

Bronx Baseball DailySenior Analyst IApril 19, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 18: Pitcher Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by teammate Jorge Posada following their victory against the Texas Rangers on April 18, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.The Yankees defeated the Rangers 5-2.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

It’s good to be a Yankee fan right now.  The Yankees have won all four series they’ve played, coming off a convincing sweep of a talented young Rangers team.  Their other series wins were against arguably the two other best teams in baseball in the Red Sox and Rays, and against a perennial contender in the Angels.

The question now is: How long can they keep this up?  Clearly, there will be low points in the year and the road trip they are about to embark on will provide some possible pitfalls right away.

Could this team be better than the 2009 team that won 103 games and the World Series?  Maybe.  If nothing else, I think it is certainly a more balanced team and probably the most versatile team the Yankees have had since the 90s.

Sure, the Yankees can hit.  They hit for average.  They hit for power.  They get on-base.  They see a TON of pitches.  Poor Scott Feldman on Saturday didn’t even pitch too poorly, yet he had to be removed in the fourth inning.  The Yankee offense just wears you down.

But the Yankees have always had offense, even if maybe they didn’t always quite take pitches the way the current team does.

The Yankees have pitching depth.  So much so that Yankee fans are booing a guy who was a Cy Young contender last year simply because he pitched into the sixth inning and gave up four runs.  Oh, and he’s the Yankee’s fourth starter.  The Yankees also have a guy pitching in the eighth inning who almost every other team in baseball would be running out there as a starter.  The Yankees still have Mariano Rivera.

This Yankees team can play alright defense too.  The outfield defense is now a plus and the infield defense is at least average.  Jorge Posada is clearly not an elite defender, but defense is no longer a big problem in the Bronx.

Oh, and the Yankees can run too.  They brought in Curtis Granderson, and yet he’s not even their fastest player thanks to Brett Gardner.

So there are a lot of ways the Yankees can beat you.  They can shut you out with tremendous pitching and decent defense.  They can make things happen on the basepaths.  And, oh yeah, they score runs better than any team in baseball.  And if you’re starter isn’t dominating, you better be prepared to go to your bullpen before the fifth inning.

It’s a long season though, so much like last year’s slow start wasn’t that big of a deal, this year’s solid start doesn’t mean it will be like this all season.  But it’s hard not to be pretty optimistic about this group.

Other thoughts:

-Phil Hughes looked very strong in his first start.  The biggest difference seemed to be the way he attacked hitters.  I know he had his share of walks, but some of that was the result of a shrinking strike zone.  For the most part, it didn’t seem like Hughes was nibbling.  I wonder how much being in the bullpen helped him last year.  I also hope Joba Chamberlain can learn a similar lesson while he relieves this year and use that to his advantage when he returns to starting.

-Speaking of the strike zone, you can see Hughes getting squeezed here (thanks to RAB) .  Look at how readily available that data is.  How can a change in umpiring NOT be on the horizon?  I know baseball is slow to change, but once this flaw in the game becomes more and more obvious, something will need to be done.  And yes, I might be talking about robot umpires.

-So maybe the whole “Tex slumped early last year until he had A-Rod protecting him” theory can be thrown out.  Tex just can’t seem to hit in April.  Even that home-run didn’t quite look right.

-So this post wouldn’t be complete without a Nick Johnson mention.  He's definitely struggling a little bit.  He’s hitting .158 with 14 strikeouts.  But he also has a league-leading 14 walks and an OBP of .407.  And he’s struggling.  Guys like Johnson are just slump-proof.  I still love seeing him come up with the bases loaded, because you know he’s going to put pressure on the pitcher to throw a strike.  He has two RBIs on walks already.  Now, I don’t much like the RBI stat, but that’s pretty crazy.

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