The Yankees went into the All-Star break on a positive note. Derek Jeter hit number 3,000 with typical Jeterian flair (a home run and a 5-for-5 day that included driving in the game-winning RBI) and staff ace CC Sabathia pitched a complete-game shutout on Sunday to win the series against the Rays. The All-Star festivities even began on a high note for the Yankees with a beaming Robinson Cano winning the marathon-length Home Run Derby (seriously, can we shorten this thing to just two rounds?)
With the first half of the season in the books, it’s a good time to take a look at what has gone right and what has gone wrong for the Yankees to date.
The starting pitching has over-performed beyond anyone’s wildest predictions. Everyone felt that CC would likely be the ace that he has always been. He hasn’t let anyone down on that front, going 13-4 with a 2.74 ERA, but beyond that, no one knew what to expect. There was nowhere to go but up (so Yankee fans hoped) for A.J. Burnett. He has been better with a competent first half, going 8-7 with a 4.15 ERA. If he stays in that general vicinity stat-wise for the rest of season it will indeed be an improvement.
No one could have predicted that retreads Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were going to perform so well and be so important in the race for number 28. Garcia won the final spot in the rotation out of spring training. While he doesn’t have a fastball that reaches 90 mph, he has managed to pitch to a 3.13 ERA and locks in with men on base. Colon came to the rescue when Phil Hughes went down with dead-arm early in the season. The 38-year-old righty is 6-4 with a 3.20. I don’t know what that doctor in the Dominican Republic did (Was it HGH? Was it stem cells?), but I’m sure he has quite the waiting list.
The big question for the second half will be whether or not Colon and Garcia can keep it up and whether or not Hughes can get back into form.
Another positive has been Curtis Granderson. His rebuilt swing has been talked about to death and with good reason. This season he has 25 home runs, 79 runs and seven triples, and most importantly, he’s crushing left-handed pitching, which had formerly been his Achilles heel. If he stays healthy and focused, Granderson could end the season with 40-plus home runs.
Injuries. Remember when the Yankee bullpen consisted of Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano and Joba Chamberlain? Yeah, me neither. So far, the patched-together bullpen has done well with David Robertson emerging as a solid setup man for Mariano Rivera, who has had mild injury concerns of his own. Hector Noesi and Cory Wade have been holding it together, but Boone Logan as a lefty specialist has been an adventure. This is one area that should be a prime focus for GM Brian Cashman as the July trade deadline approaches.
On the position player side, add to that disabled list Eric Chavez, who gets this year’s Nick Johnson award, and more recently Alex Rodriguez who just underwent knee surgery. Additionally, Nick Swisher is nursing a sore quadriceps. Hopefully the injuries to Swisher and especially Rivera will not be nagging problems throughout the season.
The question mark
Is Jeter in decline or was number 3,000 affecting his play? The usually tight-lipped Jeter admitted the hits chase was taking its toll. The Captain had been limping along to 3,000 until his 5-for-5 game Saturday. On Sunday, after he reached the milestone, he went 1 for 4, but in fairness no one was hitting James Shields. We’ll soon find out if he has another .300 season left in him.