Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where the Season Stands

The Major League Baseball regular season is just over a quarter of the way through. There have been some surprises in the division that the Yankees play in. People knew that Tampa Bay would be good and that Toronto would compete, but not one person had the Baltimore Orioles in first place a quarter through the season. Buck Showalter has found life in his young team, and players really take to Buck's methods. Still, I expect the Orioles to fade down the stretch. With the team they have, I don't see them competing for a playoff spot this year.

The Yankees are two games over .500 before a long west coast road trip that includes stops in Oakland, Anaheim and Detroit. They sit in fourth place in the AL East just in front of a surging Red Sox team that is slowly beginning to find its way. The Yankees will make the playoffs this year. Their lineup will be back to normal in a couple of weeks when Gardner returns. A-Rod's power is back, even though I'm not sure it went anywhere in the first place. Teixeira will get back on his way to a 30-100 season, even though I think his batting average will not be spectacular. Granderson will not have the year he had last year, but he is a consistent producer and plays a great center field at Yankee Stadium. The hitting will simultaneously fall in line with the pitching.

Yankee starters are not blowing anyone away. They give up a couple of runs every night, but lately the rotation has looked better since Hughes decided to show up. Kuroda and Nova are still big question marks. Kuroda lacks consistency which is what the Yankees expected from him when they gave him the contract. They signed him to be their number two starter and he has looked like a number four thus far into the season. Nova walks the tightrope every start. He gives up a lot of extra base hits but his strikeouts are up from last year. He has the ability to get out of jams and pitch himself to a win. Fastball location has been Nova's problem this year. His off-speed pitches have been great this season, but his fastball is hit or miss start to start.

One thing that I can praise Girardi on is his use of the bullpen. He knows how to operate a bullpen without exhausting his relievers. He stays away from using guys three days in a row and seems like every match-up he makes turns out as a positive for the Yankees. When Robertson returns, the bullpen will go back to it's usual dominance with Robertson working the eighth inning and Soriano closing games out, which seems to be the way to go after Robertson's shaky save opportunities.

The Yankees have not hit their stride yet, but when they do, expect them to climb atop the division to stay. When everybody starts to get going, people will be less skeptical about 2012. While it's not good to struggle for as long as the Yankees have, it's better to get it out of the way in the beginning rather than in September.

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