This may be as good as it gets for the New York Yankees: a mediocre season in a mediocre division. At 47-47, the Yankees are technically still in the hunt. Yet here at the halfway point it’s hard to get excited about this team especially with Masahiro Tanaka the latest pitcher to land on the disabled list thanks to a small tear to his UCL (not good news at all).
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Tanaka had been one of the few bright spots in a season full of mediocrity. He’s in the league’s top 10 for wins, strikeouts and ERA. Even if the Yankees were tanking, fans could count on a Tanaka for a brilliant start to end the skid.
Early on, the pitching staff was decimated by injuries: Ivan Nova, lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia, out indefinitely with a wonky knee. Michael Pineda, out until at least mid-August with shoulder issues. Now that Tanaka is on the DL — and could likely be gone for the season — the Yankees must make due with one guy left from the opening day rotation, Hiroki Kuroda, and a cast of also rans that includes David Phelps, Shane Greene, Chase Whitely and, the newest Yankee, Brandon McCarthy.
Even with patchwork starting pitching, the Yankees starters have for the most part, kept the team in games long enough to get to a pretty stellar bullpen (.236 BAA and 343 strike outs). All-star reliever Dellin Betances has been lights out and David Robertson has emerged as a top closer in the non-Mariano Rivera era. It’s been the lack of offense that has really killed this team.
Runs have been at a premium and particularly hard to find with runners in scoring position. The “big hairy beasts” that GM Brian Cashman signed in the offseason have been mostly toothless kittens. (I’m looking at you Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.)
The Yankees did catch lightening in a bottle with rookie Yangervis Solarte who got off to a sizzling start. Solarte recently was sent back to triple-A after crashing down to earth; however, with Beltran hurt (again) after a freak batting practice accident, he will get a reprieve until the slugger returns.
Another total and utter failure in the lineup was Alfonso Soriano (.211 BA/.244 OBP/.367 SLG). He was initially recharged after coming back to New York from the Cubs last summer, but was so lost all this season that the front office finally, and mercifully, designated him for assignment.
The guys that have been hitting the best right now are the speedy Brett Gardner at .279/.353/.424 with 15 stolen bases and nine home runs, and the equally speedy Jacoby Ellsbury at .282/346/.400 with 24 stolen bases and six homers. Mark Teixeira has been a solid power source (and a true big hairy beast) at 17 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .464 slugging percentage. And, yes, Derek Jeter has been having a good farewell tour season. All this aside you can’t win games unless you can get those men on base home.
The Bombers could get a boost by calling up Rob Refsnyder. He’s been lighting up the triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a .336/.408/.552 batting line, 42 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and 43 RBIs through 88 games. That would be fun to watch. Or perhaps Cashman has a trade or two up his sleeve … although I’m pretty sure replacing the entire rotation is not going to be a doable task.
Unless they get healthy soon and/or pull off some miraculous trade(s), the Yankees are incredibly average and show few signs of getting any better in the second half. The scary part is that given the middling state of the rest of the division and the addition of the second wild card spot, this still may enough to get them to the post season. Welcome to mediocre league baseball, folks.