Talking Baseball

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Posted by Ben K. on Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Different Midseason Report

Apparently, the 2004 Yankees are the closest to perfection any baseball team has ever achieved.

At least, that's what the New York Daily News Yankee beat Anthony McCarron would lead you to believe. In Tuesday's paper, McCarron was faced the assignment of assessing the Yankees' first half success and failures. Based on what he wrote, he couldn't find any failures. Here's what McCarron had to say about his search:
The assignment went something like this - write a story detailing five things that went right for the Yankees in the first half of the season and five things that went wrong. But with a team that is 55-31 and seven games in front in the AL East, it's tough to pick that many deficiencies.

In fact, we couldn't. The editors even agreed, a rarity in writer-editor relations.
Imagine that. No failures at all. Now, I don't like to insult fellow journalists. It's a tough job trying to get stories and present them fairly and accurately. But McCarron's assessment seems to be a little glorifying of the New York Yankees.

Off the top of my head, I can easily name five faults with the Yankees through the first half of the season. Here they are:

1. Mike Mussina
2. Jose Contreras
3. Kevin Brown
4. Jon Lieber
5. Felix Heredia

Looking back at McCarron's article, it's clear that he focused on some of the same problems that I see with the Yankees. He's critical of the starting pitching and the lack of successful lefties out of the bullpen. He also notes that Jason Giambi was sick and hurt and thus is a problem. Finally, he ends with his fourth complaint: since the Yankees are always coming from behind to win, their starting pitching is giving up too many runs. So that means that starting pitching is problem 1 and 4. Basically, the guy who covers the Yankees everyday all season can only find three faults in this team. Maybe his editors should ask if he's a little too close to the team and a little too close to Yankee cheerleaders John Sterling and Charlie Steiner who he visits every game during the Daily News Bottom of the Fifth.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand: the pitching problems of the New York Yankees.

On the whole, the four Yankee starters listed above are 29-15, which just goes to show how meaningless the win-loss record statistic truly is. Overall, these four pitchers sport an ERA of 4.93 and a WHIP of 1.38. It's not really necessary to say that these four guys are fooling no one. The Yankees' killer offense seems to be masking a problem, but for the Yanks to succeed in October, Mussina and Brown will have to get their command back. I'm crossing my fingers that El Duque is for real, but we won't know that for a few weeks. So generously, that's four problems right there, according to Mel Stottlemyre and Joe Torre.

Moving onto Felix Heredia, we see the same problem. Opponents are hitting .270 against the lefty specialist and he's 6.18 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. The Yankees need a lefty out of the pen to get those pesky lefty power hitters out, and for now, Heredia's that guy. Breaking it down, however, Heredia could easily return to form. Left-handers are only hitting .217 against him, and he has pitched better of late. Gabe White, the other lefty option out of the pen, was so bad that the Yanks traded him back to Cincinatti. In effect, the Yankees paid the Reds for White last year and then paid them against this year to take White back. Crazy economics. But anyway, for the first half of the season, Heredia can be considered a problem. However, he should be expected to rebound, and I think he'll be a great contributor down the stretch. Additionally, he could be a nice fantasy pick-up for teams searching for holds under the radar.

Finally, I would like to propose something a little shocking here: Alex Rodriguez has been a problem for the Yankees so far. I'm sure Anthony McCarron wouldn't think to examine Rodriguez under a fine-tooth comb because he is after all A-Rod. But A-Rod's numbers aren't going to blow anyone away. His .270/.361/.510 line is very un-A-Rod. He's slugging a full 100 points lower than the last two years and his OBP is off by about 30 points as well. He's striking out a lot and he's pressing with runners in scoring position. In 83 at bats with runners in scoring position, A-Rod is hitting .217. He has only 35 RBIs in those situations with a .307 OBP and a .446 slugging. Luckily for the Yankees, A-Rod always seems to improve his hitting in the second half, and many analysts still pick him as the candidate to beat for the MVP. But so far, I think A-Rod has been something of an offensive disappointment. Defensively, he'll win a Gold Glove at third, but at bat with runners on base, he is having a very un-A-Rod-like season hitting 100 points lower than he usually does in those situations.

So the Yankees are primed to make yet another run at the title, and seemingly the pieces are in place. The pieces, however, just might need a little adjusting. I'm sure these adjustments will come. On the other hand, the media covering the Yankees should not toe the party line. If there are flaws, do some research and bring them out. Often times, these flaws come in the least expected, and most interesting, places.

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