We start a three game series with the Yankees in New York tonight
The Yankees are 21-22, sitting in 3rd in the AL East, a half game in front of our Blue Jays. They are on a 5 game win streak (I wonder what that is like?).
The Yankees are 4th from the bottom in the AL in runs scored per game at 3.91, one spot up on the Jays (4.04). On the defensive side, they are 5th from the bottom in runs allowed per game at 4.35. We are 5th from the top at 4.00.
I sent some questions to Neil Keefe, of Keefe to the City, where he blogs about sports in New York.
The Yankees are playing better ball than when the Jays saw them in April, they have a 5 game win streak going, what's caused the improvement?
The Yankees started the season 9-17 and have been trying to get back to .500 over the last 17 games, going 12-5 in that time. If a 9-17 slide happens in the middle of the season, it still sucks, but it's chalked up as a bad stretch or the dog days. When it happens at the beginning of the season it has a chance to ruin the entire season and it nearly did for the Yankees.
Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, Starlin Castro and Andrew Miller (Dellin Betances would have made the list if not for the two home runs at Fenway), the rest of the team started the season in a slump. When 22 players on the 25-man roster aren't doing their job, it's hard to win, and it's why the Yankees were losing seemingly every day.
Starting with the 7-2 loss to your Blue Jays on April 13, the Yankees scored three runs or less in seven of their next eight games and went 1-7 over that stretch, winning the only game when they scored more than three and they only scored four. But after a 7-3 homestand and 5-2 road trip that has them on a five-game winning streak, they have been able to get to within one game of .500.
I don't necessarily think there has been one thing that has been the reason for their turnaround. Both the offense and pitching still aren't consistent and the back end of the bullpen was strong even before Aroldis Chapman was reinstated. It's really just that the near full-roster slump ended at the same time.
Alex Rodriguez is due to come off the DL, but better he went on the DL he wasn't hitting at all. Does he go right back to DHing? Who loses at bats with him back?
As I write this, it looks like A-Rod is going to Double-A Trenton for a rehab assignment, so it looks like he won't be playing against the Blue Jays this series.
A-Rod is hitting .194/.275/.444, which obviously isn't good, but in the six games before he went on the DL, he hit .368/.400/1.000 with three doubles, three home runs and 7 RBIs in 19 at-bats. He was started to break out and go on one of his patented A-Rod hot streaks and then he ends up on the DL with a hamstring injury.
When A-Rod comes back, I expected him to be re-inserted into the DH role full time and hit in the middle of the order. That means Carlos Beltran goes back to playing right field, which he is no longer good at, even though he has hit .346/.357/.808 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 52 at-bats as the DH. As the right fielder, he has hit .245/.278.392 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 102 at-bats. The Yankees have two DHs on their team in A-Rod and Beltran, but they have made it clear A-Rod will never play third again even though that would solve the problem of putting Chase Headley on the bench, so Beltran goes back to playing a bad right field and not being at full strength as a hitter.
Now that Aroldis Chapman's suspension is over, how is the three headed bullpen doing? How are the roles divided out?
The Big Three is the best bullpen in the history of baseball. For as good as Aroldis Chapman has been in his career and this season, he might be the third best of the three and he's the closer. He's actually bringing down their combined K/9 since he only has nine in seven innings, while Betances has 40 in 20 1/3 innings and Andrew Miller has 33 in 18 2/3 innings.
I wish there weren't set innings and bullpen roles because there are time when the game needs to be saved in the sixth inning and not the ninth inning, but Joe Girardi is very set on defined roles for his relievers. Betances gets the seventh inning, Miller gets the eighth and Chapman gets the ninth. Girardi said he would try not to use all three in the same game because he has this rule where he won't use a reliever three days in a row, which could set them all up to be unavailable. However, due to the need for wins after their bad starts, he has been using all three when the Yankees have a lead, and so far they are undefeated when the Big Three is used.
Mark Teixeira is hitting just .193 with 3 home runs, in the final year of his contract. What do you think happens to him after this season? Retirement? Who plays first for the Yankees next year?
I have been counting down the games until Mark Teixeira is no longer a Yankee for years now. (We're at 119 games to go if you're wondering.) Between his many ridiculous injuries and times on the DL over the years to his complete lack of production in the postseason, the Mark Teixeira era has been a disaster. Luckily for him, the Yankees won the World Series in his first year as a Yankee in 2009 thanks to A-Rod, otherwise Teixeira's time in New York and the perception of him in New York would be much different.
Not only is he hitting .193/.295/.283, but his last home run came on April 13 in Toronto in the seventh game of the season. His RBI on Sunday was his first since May 1 (yes, he has two RBIs in May) and he has one multi-hit game since April 22.
Greg Bird is the Yankees' first baseman of the future and we caught a glimpse of the future when his power carried the Yankees down the stretch last season after Teixeira broke his leg. Bird is out for this entire season because of shoulder surgery, but even if he were healthy, Brian Cashman made it clear he would have been in Triple-A this season. Ah, good old Cashman.
Teixeira caught a break with Bird's injury because he would likely be on the bench or close to it right now with the way he has played. All I'm hoping is that the Yankees don't think they need to re-sign Teixeira on a one- or two-year deal to bridge the gap to Bird coming off a missed season. The Mark Teixeira era needs to end.
Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to see this series?
The Blue Jays will see Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia, which should have the Blue Jays and their fans excited about this series.
The Yankees could have the best rotation in the AL East if the starters could live up to their potential, but we haven't seen that yet on a consistent basis.
Eovaldi has been better of late and Nova has filled in nicely for the injured Luis Severino, but I still don't trust either of them. Sabathia has one his last two starts sandwiched around a DL trip and if he has finally learned how to actually pitch rather than try to blow a fastball that no longer exists by hitter then he might end up being the Yankees' second-best starter behind Masahiro Tanaka.
It's hard to feel confident about these three even with the Yankees' recent run. The offense better show up.
Chase Headley is hitting around the Mendoza Line too. How long does he keep his job if his bat doesn't come around? Do the Yankees have any replacements waiting in the wings?
Chase Headley should have already been benched. He never should have been signed to a four-year, $52 million before last season, but there's nothing that can be done about that now.
He has been the worst everyday player in the league (though Teixeira is now making a run at that title). His defense has been better after last year's debacle, but he simply can't hit and a couple good games a couple weeks ago doesn't change that. Give any Major League player as many at-bats as Headley and they will run into a couple home runs too.
The Yankees went through last season with an automatic out in the lineup at second base and now they are doing the same this season at third base. This team is starved for offense and even if Rob Refsnyder isn't a good third baseman defensively, they need his bat offensively because he can hit and he's a right-handed hitter.
Unfortunately, money dictates the Yankees' decision making and Headley will continue to play this season ... and next season ... and the season after that.
Who is your favourite Yankee to watch?
A-Rod and Betances.
A-Rod because he is the last link to my childhood as a Yankees fan and baseball fan and I love his redemption story after he became the posterboy for PEDs, while seemingly everyone else in the league that has been suspended for PEDs has been forgotten about.
Betances because outside of some crappy middle relievers, he is one of three homegrown Yankees along with Brett Gardner and Luis Severino, and only is he homegrown, but he was born in Manhttan and went to high school in the Bronx. It has been fun to watch his career go from nearly over as a failed starter to arguably the best reliever in all of baseball. Outside of watching Mariano Rivera for so many years, Betances has been the next best Yankee to watch pitch.
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