The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

April 28, 2010

Robinson Cano has been one of the few bright spots for the Yankees this year

The Yankees have hit their first losing skid of the season, losing four of their last five games, the last being a humiliating loss to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4.

So with that, I’d like to shed some light on some of the good things I’ve seen over the past 19 games, some of the bad, and definitely, the ugly parts of this 2010 Yankees season.

The Good

Robinson Cano – Wow. The Yankees second baseman has been scorching hot to start the season, batting .389 with five homers, 16 RBIs and an on- base percentage of .432. Most importantly after being installed in the No. 5 spot behind Alex Rodriguez, Cano is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with runners in scoring position after batting .207 (38-for-174) last year in the clutch.

The starting pitching staff

Four of the five starting pitchers — Pettitte, Sabathia, Hughes and Burnett — have ERAs under 3.20 and are a combined 9-1 with 79 strikeouts in 98 innings. Sabathia and Hughes both lost no-hitters in the 8th innings, and Pettitte has his lowest ERA of his career, through the first three starts of the year — 1.29.

Mariano Rivera – The greatest closer of all time is 6-6 in save chances with a 0.00 ERA through eight games. If opposing teams see Mo coming into the game, it’s pretty much curtains.

Brett Gardner – You’re probably thinking, WTF? But yes, Gardner has been pretty good in the limited action he’s seen. In 54 at-bats, Gardner is batting .298, with a .387 OBP and a league-leading nine steals. He’s second on the team in runs scored, and in limited playing time against lefties —his supposed weakness — he’s bat .300. Chip in some extra-good defense, which we all notice more when old man Marcus Thames plays in left field.

The Bench – Besides for Randy Winn, the Yankees bench has been pretty good so far. Back up catcher Francisco Cervelli has called some great games, and is hitting .429 with 5 RBIs in only 14 at bats. Marcus Thames, whose defense is shoddy at best, is actually smoking left-handers, batting .500 off them in 14 at-bats. Utility infielder Ramiro Pena hasn’t hit well in 9 at-bats – .111 — but he did have a huge two-rbi single with the bases loaded vs. the Angels last week, and his defense, as always, as been impeccable.

The Bad

Curtis Granderson – After a good start and blasting the game-winning home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the rubber game of the series with the Red Sox, Granderson has slumped, going 0 for his last 19, dropping his average to .234. He has played some pretty good defense in center, and I’ve yet to see the bone-head routes critics say he often takes to fly balls. He does have four stolen bases, so while if you asked me 9 days ago what I thought of Grandy, he would have been in The Good section. But I think he’ll bounce back.

Mark Teixeira – Off to the worst start in his career, Tex is hitting .129 with two home runs and 9 RBIs. He is second on the team in walks with 15, which is a good sign, but he’s looked lost at the plate so far in April — second in strikeouts behind Nick Johnson. His defense, however, has been outstanding — zero errors —  so he’ll stay out of The Ugly for now.

The Ugly

Nick Johnson – It looks as if the Yankees do miss Matsui. Johnson has been abysmal at the plate this year, and is currently in a 1 for 20 slump. He does lead the team in walks with 18, but the Yankees can’t have a .135 hitter in the two-hole. It seems as if he’s scared to take the bat off his shoulder, which shows, since he also leads the team in strikeouts.

The bullpen sans Mo – During the Yankees current skid, the bullpen has blown the lead in three of the four losses. First, it was Joba Chamberlain giving up a two-run jack to Kendry Morales on Friday, Damaso Marte throwing a 3-0 meatball to Morales, who deposited it in the rocks in center field for a 3-run bomb on Sunday, and then a combo of Boone Logan and David Robertson failing to record one out in the 6th after Phil Hughes left them with a 2-1 lead on Tuesday vs. the O’s. The pen, minus Mo,  has allowed 20 runs in 32 innings. That’s awful and needs to change.

Javier Vazquez – As the fourth starter, Yankees brass imagined Vazquez pitching with less on his plate compared to his first stint in pinstripes in 2004, when he was asked to be the ace on an aging staff. He should excel, pitching against other fourth starters, right? Nope. Javy has been atrocious, with a 9.00 ERA, giving up 25 hits in 20 innings with an 18:11 strikeout to walk ratio. Hitters are batting .400 against him, and he’s given up five home runs in three starts, when he only gave up eight all last year.

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