Monday, June 29, 2009

Yanks Back On Track With Sweep Of Mets

I must say that the Yankees are playing some decent baseball right now. They've won 5 straight and the sweep of the Mets gave them a respectable 9-6 record against their National League opponents. Going 6-3 on the recent road trip is nothing to scoff at either. The team heads in to the off day finding themselves 3 games behind the Red Sox and 2 games up on the Rays for the wild card. All in all, not a bad place to be.

Before getting in to last night's game, I again wanted to congratulate Mariano Rivera on picking up career save #500. It's quite the accomplishment. Mo is such a classy guy. How can you not respect him? He goes about his business in such a professional manner. There's no dancing. There's no fist-pumping. There's no pointing to God. He gets the last out and shakes his teammates hands. He is, without question, the greatest closer of all-time.

Chien-Ming Wang picked up his 1st win of 2009 yesterday. It's been such a brutal season for the Wanger. Picking up the W should provide a boost of confidence to him. I don't think he pitched a bad game. It was much better than he's been but still far from a vintage Wang performance. The only thing I saw yesterday that I didn't like was the lack of control. We walked three and only threw 57.6% of his pitches for strikes. Typically, I like to see at least a 60% of the pitches go for strikes. But he got the W and that's something to build on. He dropped the ERA to 10.06. He should be able to get that into single digits after his next start. Knock on wood. He's still a long ways from respectability. By my tally, he needs to throw 46 straight scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 4.50. I don't see him getting there. I'd be happy if he can finish the year with an ERA in the fives. It can be done.

Big up to the bullpen for shutting down the Mets and preserving Wang's 1st win. The bullpen has actually been pretty decent lately. It wasn't long ago that the Yankees' bullpen had the worst ERA in all of baseball. It now sits at 4.27, which ranks 21st in all of MLB. For those wondering, the AL average is 4.14 and the major league average is 4.11. They're still below average, but if they keep pitching like they have been, they'll be below 4.00 before we know it. Over the last 6 games, the pen has collectively thrown 18.2 innings to a tune of an ERA of 1.48. They allowed only 9 hits and 6 walks in that timespan. The pen's biggest issue this year has been giving up extra-base hits. Opponents are hitting .232 against the Yanks pen, which is the 4th lowest in all of baseball. The Yanks OBP against is the 3rd best in the league at .312. Slugging percentage (.430) however is almost near the bottom (25th). They've given up the 11th fewest hits but the 7th most total bases. The pen has given up 43 HRs, most in all of baseball. The 2nd closest team is Cleveland, and they've only given up 35. I'm sure some of that has to do with pitching in the homer haven that is the new Yankee Stadium. As a comparison, Yankee SPs have allowed 52 HRs, but in about 194 more innings of work. The pen needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. A much better job.

I have mixed feelings about the offense. They're scoring runs but they're not being overly efficient. Case in point was last night's game. The Yankees walked 11 times but managed only 4 hits, and 4 runs. They went 1-8 with RISP. Over the 5 game winning streak, they hit .242 (6-for-30 against NYM, 8-for-28 in 2 wins against Braves). They're very streaky when it comes to hitting w/RISP. They need more consistency. They are hitting the ball alright. Over the last 5, they're hitting .283 (52-for-184). Could be better, would be worse. They won all 5 and that's all that matters.

The next 13 games could prove to be a tough stretch for the Bombers. They have 3 at home with the Mariners (39-36), followed by 4 at home with the Blue Jays (41-36). They then head to Minnesota (39-38) for 3 and they close out the first half of the season with 3 games in Anaheim (41-32). 12 games against 4 tough opponents. The one plus is that they have a nice little break after playing out west. The Red Sox have a much easier stretch. 3 games in Baltimore (34-41), followed by 10 games at home. 3 with Seattle (39-36), 3 with Oakland (31-43) and 4 with the Royals (32-42). The schedule at this point definitely favors the Sox. Good thing it'll balance out in the 2nd half.

I'll be happy if the Yanks are within 5 games at the ASB.

Peace, love and Pinstripes,