Monday, April 19, 2010

Early Impressions

1. Since the All-Star Break last year, including the playoffs, the Yankees are 43-10 at home. That also includes the 5-1 first homestand the Yankees just completed last week. They have turned the New Yankee Stadium into their own personal playground. Not only are they build to play there (good pitching and a team with a lot of power to left), but the players have been talking about how - with all of the new amenities - they are spending more time around the park and therefore each other. The genuinely enjoy being at the stadium. While I'm a believer that their talent and composition to play in the park are the biggest factors in this success, enthusiasm for the workplace every day has to help. Now, we might say that anyone should be excited to be able to play baseball every day and get paid lots of money for it. And that's true. But it's all relative. These guys are used to it and having a place that is so modern and has everything they can ever need is a plus, as they have been saying.

2. Mariano Rivera has now converted 50 straight games at home. Incredible. The record for consecutive home saves converted is 51, held by Eric Gagne. Even though it's not a big record, I'd like to see Mariano get it. Not only because I'd like to see him get any accolade he possibly can, but because it shows such amazing consistency. Not easy to pitch in that type of high leverage situation and give it up as infrequently as he does. We've come to expect it at this time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't consistently appreciate it. My guess is a number of Red Sox fans will atypically be rooting for Rivera here too, just so that Gagne no longer has the record.

3. What has impressed me the most about the Yankees so far is how focused they have been. It's been like this season is just an extension of the 2009 Playoffs. Even in losses they are playing sharp defensive baseball and not giving away at bats. They have a 10 game error-less streak going (longest in the majors, and longest in April history for the Yankees), which is to say they are defending the baseball. They are getting outstanding starting pitching. They are scoring runs. They are pretty much doing it all. I said to my buddies the other day, how are we supposed to even react to a hot start in April? Usually the Yankees are playing lethargic, "we'll turn it on later" baseball at this time of year, with a record to match it. This has been the total opposite. I think that speaks to the culture that has been created with this club, and how energized they are to win every day. It's like they got a taste and don't want to give it up. It really began with Pettitte's Game 3 start in Boston, and everyone else save Vazquez has followed suit, and he's looking to turn it around tomorrow. Pettitte has been good every time out all season, Sabathia and Burnett were excellent after their last two starts, and Hughes had a good first outing. The offense and defense has followed suit. Good job by Pettitte getting it going and everyone else following his lead.

4. Related, it is silly the way this Yankee team makes starting pitchers work. Let's take the weekend series against Texas for example. It took C.J. Wilson 112 pitches to get through 6 innings (5 runs, 3 earned), and that may as well have been a complete game the way the next two starts went for Texas. Scott Feldman used 73 pitches to get through 2.1 innings, where his outing ended after surrendering 4 earned runs. Rich Harden needed 93 pitches to get through 3.2 innings, giving up 4 earned runs. For the three starters, that's 278 pitches in 12 innings/26 outs, or almost 8 pitches an out and over 23 an inning on average. Tough to win games that way, and that's what the Yankees are doing to you right now. This really goes back to being into every at bat, which is so outstanding to see this early in the season. There have been an amazingly low number of frustrating at bats from the Yankees through 12 games, and I'm easily frustrated by weak at bats. My buddies and I were talking the other day about what makes pitchers groan more when they see the Yankees on the schedule: having to face Jeter/Teixeira/Rodriguez/Cano or having to deal with throwing The Nicks (Johnson and Swisher) 30% of your total pitches, even when you're getting them out. It might be the latter. On Saturday through three at bats between the two they were 0-1 with 2 walks off Feldman. It took him 26 pitches to arrive at that result.

5. As I mentioned before the season, I though the respective second baseman for the Yankees and Red Sox were each teams' most important offensive players. Cano because he needed to step up and be the 5 hitter that can replace Matsui. Pedroia because the Red Sox offense needed him to be an impact player like 2008 and not an above average player like 2009. So far both have done so with flying colors. Cano has hit the ball for two weeks as hard as I've ever seen anyone hit a baseball. Certainly to the point where nobody is pitching around Teixeira and Rodriguez to deal with him, which was the concern. Pedroia has been every bit an impact offensive force again. The Yankees aren't winning just because of the way Cano is playing, but he is certainly helping. The concern for the Red Sox is that Pedroia has stepped up in about as big a way as you could possibly ask, and the team is second to last in the majors in runs scored. You would have thought going into the season that if Pedroia could return to near 2008 form, that would maybe be the boost this team needed offensively losing Jason Bay. But right now very few other players are hitting. The other key bats in that lineup need to follow Pedroia's lead the way the Yankees' pitchers followed Pettitte's. It's early, but you don't want to let offensive performance like they are getting from Pedroia fall by the wayside, because all he needs right now is a little bit of help and he'll turn some of the losses into wins. He's just not getting that help for the most part.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

My fear is that this space turns into a blog where you and DV take turns writing about your respective teams in the following fashion: DV writes a post about how terrible the Sox are followed by a post from you about how well the Yankees are playing.

That's not to say I'm a spoiled sport--if the Yankees are playing well then that's the only thing that can be written, just as if the Red Sox are playing like they currently are (horribly) then all that can be written is how awful they are. That's all that you two guys can do. The reason for my concern is that if that's what this blog is for 2010 it means that the Red Sox are having a terrible season.

As a fan, I've never really concerned myself with hoping the Yankees play poorly as much as I have about the Red Sox playing well. If both teams play well and make the playoffs, then so be it--my view is that any year the Sox make the playoffs is a good year.

What's unfortunate is that this Red Sox team (and yes, I know it's early, it's very early, the season is in it's infant stages right now) appears to have every problem that Sox fans expected it to have: not enough offense, inconsistent pitching, and a vastly overrated defense. At this point there's no question that the defense has been beyond atrocious. Yes, there have been injuries. But there's also been just pathetic mishaps out there as well.

This is a frustrating time to be a Sox fan, not just because of the product on the field, but because of the fact that there's really no reason for a team with a payroll of $165 million to not be in the hunt for a pennant. Hopefully that will change. And it may very well change. But if it doesn't, I don't know how many Sox fans can legitimately say they will be surprised.

--the Gunn

Ross Kaplan said...

I don't think I've ever seen Pat kvell this much about the Yankees. For those non-Jews out there in the blogosphere, kvell is Yiddish for speaking very proudly of someone or something. Even I have to admit I like Pat's writing style a lot better when he's pissed off at Girardi for over managing or wants to start blowing up the team after a bad stretch. As much as I enjoy seeing the Yankees succeed it just is not very exciting when everything is going well. The only possible thing to complain about is Teixera but we're all used to his slow starts by now and now he's starting to come out of his cold streak anyway. Then of course there's Javy's less than stellar performance so far, but as a 4th starter he can finish with a mid 4 era and still earn 14 wins.

Besides those 2 everything else is going well in Yankees land and hopefully things will stay that way even if it takes away some of the excitement.

Patrick said...

rossy, it is unusual to be feeling this good about the yankees this early in the season, and i am thoroughly enjoying it. very relaxing thus far. injury and/or a cold stretch could change that quickly, of course. really have to hope for health with this team. for some reason it seems like they are an injury hazard more than usual to me. most people would say that's because of their age, and while they are still relying on a number of veterans at key positions, they have been doing so for a while and are actually a younger team this year than last. however, while that will certainly continue to be a factor as long as they rely on those veterans, i think it may have more to do - and i'm just talking about my feeling that they are more of an injury hazard than usual, not that they actually are or are not an injury hazard - with the fact that they experienced such incredible health last year, and that they can't repeat it two years in a row. i hope that's not the case. in any event, all teams can experience injury at any time, and as always we just have to hope that is not the case with the yankees. if they stay healthy they should have a pretty competitive club.