The rotation, as a whole has been the biggest disappointment. CC Sabathia continues to be the anchor for the staff, but even he has not looked dominant as often as expected. He did string together four straight outings of at least eight innings pitched, but he’s also had his fair share of clunkers. He is 6-2 with a 3.66 ERA and 69 Ks in 71.1 innings, which is good, but not necessarily “ace” materials.
Hiroki Kuroda (4-6, 3.96 ERA) has been wildly inconsistent especially outside of Yankee Stadium, where he is 1-4 with a 4.55 ERA. He has looked nothing like a $10 million player.
Ivan Nova (6-2, 5.60 ERA) and Phil Hughes (4-5, 5.64 ERA) are lucky to have won as many times as they have. Last season’s surprise, Freddy Garcia, was demoted after performances many expected last season, bad ones. He now only sees the ball in situations where games are out of hand.
The best news concerning the rotation was Andy Pettitte‘s return to the Bronx after one season of retirement. He has been tremendous so far (2-2, 3.59 ERA), especially considering he was away from the game for a year.
Despite losing closer Mariano Rivera for the season on May 3rd when he tore his ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice at Kauffman Stadium; and then David Robertson on May 15th, the bullpen has been a bright spot for the Yankees. Prior to their injuries, Rivera and Robertson were pitching extremely well so their injuries were met with nervousness.
Much of the remainder of the bullpen has held their own and stepped up thus far. Rafael Soriano has converted all six save attempts that have come his way since taking over for Robertson. Cory Wade has been a very effective bridge to the end game relievers and has done an admirable job in the late inning role as of late. Boone Logan continues to be a quality lefty and David Phelps has given the Yankees some strong performances in various spots this season.
Considering the injuries and the inconsistencies of the performance of his players, Joe Girardi has done a fine job this season. He has played the cards dealt to him and with as much success as can be conceived. He can’t take the bat in his hands or pitch, he can only put out the players who are performing and he does this well. He makes lineup decisions based on advanced metrics which I like and isn’t scared to move guys around the order if necessary.
I do believe he is a bit too loyal in some respects, (see Hughes and Garcia) but in all he’s not made things much worse in his actions, especially since we don’t know exactly what he is being told to do from the Yankees’ brass. In all, Girardi has done an admirable job maintaining an even keel despite the frustrations he must be enduring.
OUTLOOK – REMAINDER OF SEASON
For me, it all comes down to pitching. The question is this; can three of their pitchers be above average from here out? The team cannot succeed with one or two superior starters. Without that the Yankees are going to have a tough time winning and making the postseason. If general manager Brian Cashman has to make a move outside the organization or move someone up within it, he’s going to have to make that decision soon. Hughes is not the answer. Nova has been getting wins, but will not continue to do so giving up over five runs a game. Kuroda is not a dominant pitcher. That leaves a lot of pressure on Sabathia and Pettitte and wishful thinking beyond that.
The offense has run into some hard luck which I feel is going to change soon enough. They’ll eventually run a hot streak as a group which will make us forget all of this RISP talk. Getting Gardner back into the lineup is key and should provide a big boost. His presence in the lineup will jumpstart the offense’s ability to generate runs so they do not have to wait for the long ball to carry them.
Once Robertson comes back and assuming he is healthy, the bullpen should continue to be a strength. It is uncertain where Girardi will place Robertson and Soriano as far as the eighth and ninth innings are concerned, but this is a good issue to have.
The rest of the American League East has given the Yankees a chance to hang around. The Bombers have had one small stretch where they looked to be the team we expected to contend for the division title. They are fortunate to be in the position they currently find themselves heading into the final four months of the regular season. There is a lot of baseball yet to be played, and hopefully the best of what the Yankees have to offer in 2012 has yet to come.