What should the Yankees do with Tanaka?

As long as he is healthy, I vote start Tanaka over the weekend. Having him start on Saturday or Sunday will give him a chance to test his leg, but also give Yankees flexibility needed if they want to hold him off for the end of the season – if New York has managed to climb its back to the top spot in the AL East – or save him for the Wild Card Game. Continue reading What should the Yankees do with Tanaka?

Series preview: Four-game set with the Indians starts tonight

[caption id="attachment_77821" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Yanks vs CLE Here’s hoping this series goes better than the last. Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

The Yankees current winning ways started in Cleveland last week. New York has won six of its last seven, and hope to keep adding numbers to that ‘W’ column when the Indians start a four-game series at Yankee Stadium today.

Here’s a glance at each game in the series:

Thursday, August 20: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

Nova has shown signs of improvement recently, having one real tough outing in his last five. For many of the Indians batters, this is their first look at Nova. The only Cleveland player with any amount of significant at-bats against him is Mike Aviles, and he has only had eight appearances against Nova.

Tomlin is making just his second start of the season. He’s gone through a series of injuries and rehab assignments in the last couple of years.

Matchup to watch:
Ryan Raburn vs. Nova: 3-for-5, 1.200 OPS.
Mark Teixeira (if he can play) vs. Tomlin: 4-for-13 with two home runs.

Friday, August 21: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco

Tanaka’s arm did not fall off this season despite what the doctors at the local papers were telling you. In fact, Tanaka is having a fine season and is coming off his best performance of the year having thrown a complete game and striking out eight against the Blue Jays on August 15.

Carrasco has pitched very well as of late. He has a 1.36 ERA in his last four games with 29 strikeouts in 33 innings. Continue reading Series preview: Four-game set with the Indians starts tonight

Mark Teixeira is the bat the Yankees have needed

[caption id="attachment_77065" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Getty Images / Jim McIsaac Getty Images / Jim McIsaac[/caption]

I used to be down on Mark Teixeira. I felt bad for him because of the injuries, but at the same time, the injuries drove me crazy.

The Yankees paid a lot of money for him and he couldn’t stay healthy over the last several years. I wondered if Teixeira would actually be good again – or come close to what he did in New York in 2009. That year, he was great: 122 RBI, 39 HR, .292 BA, .948 OPS, and finished second in the MVP voting.

This year, my feelings for Teixeira have been different. I love all the extra base hits, but it actually looks like Teixeira is having fun. I see a lot of smiles out there and he genuinely looks like he is enjoying baseball. This hasn’t been the case for the last couple of years.

But even greater than my feelings – because, really, it doesn’t matter what I feel about him – is that New York needs this. Teixeira needs to be a powerful bat in the middle of that order and the Yankees have needed him to be a threat rather than a pop-up machine.

Batting average isn’t everything, but from 2010 to Wednesday, his BA was .244 with an OBP of .341. From 2003-08, his average was .290 with an OBP of .378. When he comes in batting close to .300 – and .308 in 2008, there is a certain expectation. After the 2010, he didn’t live up to them.

It’s great to see Teixeira having a healthy season. Even though his batting average is not great, Teixeira is making the most of his at-bats. The 2015 All-Star has 24 home runs with 65 RBI, and more than half of his hits been of the extra-base variety.

These are legitimately Teixeira’s best numbers in about four years. A good Teixeira, plus a good ARod and great bullpen has the Yankees sitting in first place in the AL East. Continue reading Mark Teixeira is the bat the Yankees have needed

This could be an interesting week for the Yankees

I feel like we have been here before. The last couple of the seasons the Yankees had a solid start with different players coming through in the clutch.

And, then, things fell apart – or more that it just stays even.

New York has lost 7 of its last 8, and won just two games on its recent nine-game road trip. These two days off this week may very well be needed as it starts a six-game home stand followed by a seven-game West Coast road trip tomorrow. Their next day off is not until June 4.

This coming week could be an important one in the Yankees season. Two months in, and things start to potentially show how the Yankees are going to play for the rest of the season.

In 2013, the Yankees were 30-18 on May 31. Starting on June 1, they finished the season 54-53, a mediocre team.

Last season, New York was just average the entire time with a few moments where it looked better than just OK. But they still finished 84-78, and played to a 55-52 record starting on June 1.

This seems to be the juncture – based on the last two seasons – where the Yankees will either be a mediocre team or a playoff contender.

Reasons to be optimistic
– Masahiro Tanaka is closer to coming back. While there still have been concerns about his pitching this year, if he comes back healthy from the DL, he can still be an effective pitcher.
– The Yankees bullpen has been solid, minus recent hiccups. Every team goes through a tough patch, and the bullpen should be able to rebound.
– The Yankees still have a positive run differential of +12

Reasons to worry
– Jacoby Ellsbury going on the DL is a major concern, especially depending on how long he is out.
– Starting pitching continues to be frustrating.
– Yankees have been one of the worst defensive teams this season with a team fielding percentage of .981, toward the bottom half of the league. Continue reading This could be an interesting week for the Yankees

Tanaka looks to rebound against the Red Sox

[caption id="attachment_73655" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Tanaka vs TOR 2015 Courtesy of the AP[/caption]

This early in the season, you want to find positives about the Yankees.

Yet this team has made it difficult with its blunders on defense, mistakes on the base paths and the poor hitting thus far. However, even after all that, one of the biggest topics that New York is going to face this year is the effectiveness of Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees signed Tanaka for $155 million for seven years. Last season, he suffered a partial tear of the UCL of his right elbow, and after his terrible first start of 2015 many have wondered why Tanaka didn’t just get Tommy John surgery since all the cool kids are doing it.

The Yankees have said that Tanaka is still working back and haven’t sounded the alarms just yet.

“This is not totally shocking,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told reporters. “I think he’s still in the process of building arm strength and everything. His arm strength is not far off. It’s just locating it. It’s some small things. We went slow with him in Spring Training.”

Even though Sunday’s start against the Boston Red Sox will be just his second of this season, it will be telling. Tanaka’s velocity is down from last season, but he and Yankees manager have downplayed that angle. Tanaka told reporters after his last start that he plans to throw more off-speed pitches, so the numbers are going to show that his velocity is off.

However, those comments led Tanaka and Girardi to have a conversation this past week at just what Tanaka has planned, though neither would go into depth about their chat.

One thing that was noted was that Tanaka said he studied game film from his fateful home opener where he gave up four runs in four innings, and analyzed his mechanics. Tanaka tweaked them a bit, which should result in a better outcome.

As good as Toronto’s hitters are, the Boston Red Sox have a formidable lineup from top to bottom. They have veteran sluggers who can take the ball deep and fresh faces who don’t seem to show much fear regardless of who is pitching. The Red Sox will expose any flaws in Tanaka’s pitching.

The reality is we are all going to be watching Tanaka’s pitching tonight, analyzing every pitch, its speed, checking his facial expressions, seeing if he is wiggling his arm for signs of injury, and waiting on Pedro Martinez’s assessment. It doesn’t help that the game will be on ESPN, getting national attention for all to see if the Japanese hurler is back or if the collective baseball community is ready to send him back to Dr. James Andrews. Continue reading Tanaka looks to rebound against the Red Sox

Let’s forget about a closer for a little while

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has yet to name a closer for this season.

Hopefully, it stays that way.

Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are the two big arms for the back end of the Yankees bullpen and Wednesday was a glimpse in how they should be used this season. Girardi brought in Betances, a righty, to face the Toronto Blue Jays’ big right-handed bats in the heart of their order in the eighth inning: Russell Martin, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Miller, a lefty, finished the ninth in order.

Betances didn’t pitch a clean inning, giving up two walks, but he was brought in when New York was down 2-1 in the eighth to keep the Yankees within striking distance. Even though an unearned was given up on Brian McCann’s throwing error, the Yankees still had life, and they took advantage of it the next inning by scoring three runs.

The key is that Betances and Miller knew their roles heading into the game based on the lineup. They were given the task of facing specific batters and not specific innings they were going to pitch.

Had Bautista and Encarnacion batted in the ninth, there is a good chance Betances would have thrown then instead.

“They want us to be flexible,” Miller told reporters after the game. “It’s my job to be flexible because they asked for that, and I think that makes perfect sense. I’m perfectly satisfied with the way that they’ve prepared us. It’s our job to get outs when called upon. That’s all we know.”

Miller earned just his second career save, but it would be nice see that stat abandoned for the Yankees this season. Rather, Girardi should continue to use his best pitchers in high-leverage situations late in games, holding leads or keeping a game close without concern for who should get a save.

It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of having a set closer. New York had been spoiled with one of the greatest ones for more than a decade. But with a new look to the bullpen, it’s time for a new way to use it efficiently. Continue reading Let’s forget about a closer for a little while