After one month of baseball, the New York Yankees find themselves in first place by one-half game over the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the American League East no more than two-and-a-half games back. If they want to keep it that way, manager Joe Girardi will need to make some changes, starting with his lineup.
Also in this week’s Stock Column, the rotation is tipping toward turmoil while the bullpen has been solid.
Scale: Buying, waiting or selling.
1. Brian McCann’s weak April at the plate.
The Yankees’ catcher may be sporting an ugly .225/.262/.373 line, but that’s not going to last. His career numbers are drastically higher and, at 30-years-old, there’s nothing (medically, at least) to suggest he’s starting to regress.
An unnamed Yankees executive told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports the team is not worried about McCann either.
“He’s got to learn his staff, he’s got to learn the other pitchers. Give it some time.”
Good sign: McCann has slugged four home runs.
Bad sign: He’s only hit four doubles and walked four times. He’s just swinging at bad pitches.
2. It’s the beginning of the end for C.C. Sabathia.
He’s not the first 33-year-old starter to be forced to adjust his approach on the mound. The weight loss is a sign the lefty is committed to making his arsenal work despite his massive loss of velocity. He’s throwing more sinkers and cutters than he ever has but he no longer has a 95 mph heater to blow by hitters.
Sinkers and cutters are feel pitches and are not always easy to learn (Mo called his cutter “a gift from God.”) And what’s the old adage for sinkers? If it’s low, let it go, but if it’s high, let it fly? It’s been mostly the latter for Sabathia’s.
Good sign: His arm is apparently fine.
Bad sign: Just about everything else.
3. Derek Jeter is no longer a two-hitter.
Yanks Go Yard’s own Co-Editor Jason Evans covered this and he’s right. Jeter’s .240/.311/.271 line is not that of a two-hitter. Like Paul Konerko, Jason Varitek and several others before, Jeter is the unquestioned clubhouse leader, but he’s simply not the player he once was and he needs to play less.
Good sign: He’s staying healthy.
Bad sign: Girardi could be risking that by playing him way too much.
4. Solarte is coming back down.
He had an even bigger cool-down in the second half of spring training, it doesn’t mean he belongs in Triple-A. Of all players with at least 90 at-bats, Solarte has the second-best OBP on the Yankees to Jacoby Ellsbury.
He has the fifth-most hits on the team, but has only scored eight times. If Solarte were to hit second, he could see better pitches, score more runs and make a much larger impact on the lineup than he already has.
Good sign: Solarte’s OBP remains solid despite his falling AVG.
Bad sign: Girardi’s poor lineup construction may be hurting Solarte worst.
5. Dellin Betances is a shutdown setup man.
The Yankees’ rotation may be struggling, but the bullpen is showing major promise, thanks to Betances. He has struck out 28 batters in 15.2 innings, compared to seven walks. His ERA is 1.72, his WHIP is 1.02 and opposing hitters are managing a .161 AVG against him.
Combined with Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne, the back-end of the Yankees’ rotation could be a source of sustainable dominance for years to come. Add in veterans like Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton and the Yankees’ bullpen could be as good as anyone’s this year.
Good sign: Girardi handles his bullpen well and won’t overwork Betances.
Bad sign: 15 innings is a really small sample size.