Despite all of this, the Yankees haven’t merely stayed afloat through the All-Star break, they’ve thrived. After falling into last place after one of their most embarrassing defeats in recent memory, the Yankees have gone on an absolute tear. Buoyed by a dominant performance in interleague play, the Yankees have roared out to first place in the American League East, and enter play today as the owner’s of the best record in baseball. They have a seven game lead over second place Baltimore, and are eight and ten games ahead of the Rays and Red Sox, respectively, in the loss column. That, frankly, is nothing short of amazing, especially when you consider that, in addition to those injuries, players like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira haven’t exactly lived up to their billing as middle of the order bats, and that the starting rotation was a huge question mark earlier in the season, even before the injuries to C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
The fact of the matter is that the Yankees are already in a highly advantageous position right now thanks to that big league in the division. While it wouldn’t have to be on the level of what we saw last year, it would probably require something of a collapse by the Bombers for them to not win the division this year unless someone else gets really hot in the second half. Still, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and it’s not beyond question that the worm could turn on the team again, especially if Robinson Cano begins to cool off and the mid-rotation starters begin to struggle again. With that in mind, here are some things that went wrong, or at least not so right, in the first half that the Yankees would really like to see turn around:
Tex has rebounded from his dreadful start to the season, which was marred by his breathing problem, but his overall numbers still aren’t befitting a middle of the order first baseman, especially his power numbers. With just 15 home runs and a .223 ISO Tex is on pace for his worst power numbers since his rookie season. That puts a big strain on the middle of the lineup, considering that Alex Rodriguez has also seen his power decline as he enters his late 30’s, a fact that’s been somewhat masked by Cano’s insane level of production lately. Going forward, however, it would really help if Tex could at least get back to his numbers from last season.
It would be a stretch to say that the big man has underperformed so far this season, but he hasn’t really pitched like we’ve come to expect him to over the past three seasons. On the whole, Sabathia has turned in a pretty typical season for himself : a 3.21 FIP and 3.25 xFIP in 107 innings over 15 starts prior to going on the disabled list with a groin strain, but his 3.45 ERA and the fact that we haven’t seen him in undisputed “beast mode” yet have created the impression of an underwhelming campaign thus far. He’s scheduled to make his return Tuesday night after missing two starts, and though he doesn’t need to do it, it would definitely be nice to see him put together one of those stretches of dominating starts sometime this summer.
This one is pretty self explanatory, assuming you read the first couple of paragraphs of this post. The Yankees have already had to overcome an inordinate amount of injuries to some key players, a trend that they have to hope is over for now. In addition, they could really stand to get both Gardner and Chamberlain back without further setbacks to help fortify the lineup and the bullpen without needing to make any kind of trade in the next month.
Best foot forward:
Other than the above, the Yankees really just need everyone to perform to their capabilities without anyone falling off a cliff. That means that Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes need to continue their solid pitching in the middle of the rotatioN. Robertson needs to work out whatever issues have been nagging him since he came off of the disabled list, and guys like Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, and Eric Chavez need to continue being useful role players. Really, given their big lead in the division, as long as everyone stays healthy and performs reasonable close to what we expect from them, the Yankees should waltz through the second half and on to another division title.