Jul
18

A tougher schedule

By

A lot of Yankee fans are looking at 2008 and taking solace in its similarities to 2007. After all, last year at the All Star break, the Yanks were 43-43, 9.5 games in back of Boston and eight out of the Wild Card. This year, they’re six out and 5.5 behind the Wild Card leaders.

If only baseball were that simple. First, we have the problem of the run differential. Last year at this time, the Yankees had been one of the unluckiest teams in baseball. Having scored 464 while allowing only 393 in 86 games last year, the Yankees should have been 49-37, a six-game swing above their actual record.

This year, the Yanks have scored 436 runs and have allowed 412 in 95 games. So while they’re pitching has been better this year than last, the Yanks are playing right where their run differential would have them — at 50-45 and in third place in the AL East.

This run differential is but a minor problem compared to the overarching issue. Last year, in the second half, the Yanks ran over a weak slate of teams en route to their 13th straight postseason appearance. This year, they aren’t so lucky. Pete Caldera gives us the bad news:

In these final 67 games, beginning Friday night against Oakland at the Stadium, the Yankees will face teams that currently own a combined .536 winning percentage. Only the Blue Jays have a tougher second-half schedule.

That is not good news. Between now and the trade deadline, the Yankees face the A’s, Twins, Red Sox (in Boston) and the Orioles. They play in New York against the Angels to open August and then hit the road for 10 games in Texas, Anaheim and Minnesota before things get any easier.

So right now, starting this evening, it’s make-or-break time for the Yankees. They need a strong start to the second half to push forward toward the playoffs, and if they sag against the A’s and Twins this week as they did against the Pirates and Blue Jays last week, it’s going to be a tough climb against tough competition.

Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera are going to have to hit; Jeter will have to pick it up; and Mike Mussina will have to hope that this Fountain of Youth he’s discovered doesn’t run dry as the season drags on. While Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds reports puts the Yankees’ playoff chances at eight percent and Cool Standings puts it at 15 percent, this won’t be easy. Here we go.

Categories : Analysis

59 Comments»

  1. TurnTwo says:

    if they are gonna get back in this, realistically, id have to think they need to win 3 out of the next 4 series coming up to end the month… so 2 out of 3 against the Athletics, Twins, Saux in Fenway and/or Baltimore.

    if they do that, id reevalutate at the deadline, and buy.

    if they dont do that, then it depends on what the Saux, Rays, Twins, Athletics, etc, do in the same time frame.

    the good thing about this stretch is that they are basically playing against the teams they are competing against for the WC and Division. we’ll get to see head-to-head how they stack up.

    • B says:

      I think they need to try to acquire a quality starter to even attempt to win 3 out 4 of those series.

      I do like the fact that Gardner works the count somewhat but I believe that he needs to be trying to disrupt the game more by trying to get bunt singles! Then the ablity to steal second, I think we help the Yankees as well.

    • B says:

      According to MLBTRS, the Yankees are looking for a #3 or #4 type starting pitcher. Here are some pitchers taht could be available:

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/.....ng-pi.html

      • In the “spaghetti at the wall” mindset, I’d like us to inquire about the following back-of-the-rotation options:

        Odalis Perez, Randy Wolf, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, Kevin Millwood, Paul Byrd, Bronson Arroyo, and Josh Fogg.

        Virtually all of these pitchers are signed to contracts that aren’t massive, per se, but are big enough that the non-contending teams they play on would be interested in cutting bait with them without taking back a prospect of substance. Again, the goal is not to have one of these guys win the World Series for us, just to give us a better chance to win than Ponson and Rasner have been giving us until we get Wang/Pavano back in late August/early September. I think all 8 of the above pitchers have better stuff and have been good pitchers more consistently than Raz and the Fatman.

        Internally, the only other options I see are Karstens, Aceves, McCutchen Horne, Jason Jones, and IPK who could realistically contribute this year (assuming Hughes gets shut down).

  2. ChrisS says:

    Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu, Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera are going to have to hit

    Fixed.

    • whozat says:

      Brett Gardner OR Melky Cabrera needs to hit.

      • Chris says:

        Until Damon is back, they’re both playing, and who knows when he’ll be back. They say next week, but a setback is certainly possible, if not likely.

    • kunaldo says:

      it would be nice if gardner hit, but the reason the others have to hit is because they’re expected to

      • ChrisS says:

        regardless, he’s in the starting line-up and this site in particular has been adamant in their support for his call-up and insertion to the starting 9. To exclude him from the guys that need to hit is ignoring his struggles.

        But hey, the last three games before the break he did alright and didn’t look lost at the plate, so maybe he will hit. I fully support Brett Gardner, and I want him to succeed. Because that will make the Yankees better. But if he finishes the season with a better OPS than Melky, I’ll eat an entire white onion raw. And I hate raw onions.

        • Ben K. says:

          You’re getting me in a bad mood so pardon my rudeness.

          Here’s why I didn’t mention Brett Gardner:

          1. He’s had a whopping 44 plate appearances at the big league level. We don’t know how he’s going to hit. It’s a sample size issue.

          2. You’re being dense if you think the Yanks’ playoff hopes rest on Brett Gardner’s bat. He’s not even supposed to be in the lineup but we have a center fielder who couldn’t hit a nail with a hammer and an injured left fielder.

          3. When Johnny Damon returns, I’m expected Gardner to see a marked decrease in playing time.

          4. Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu and, to a lesser extent, Melky Cabrera were expected to be major pieces in the puzzle. Cano’s been better of late, but his season totals are awful. Bobby Abreu is hitting .240/.321/.367 since June 1, and Melky just flat-out sucks with his .218/.273/.273 line spanning over 240 plate appearances since May 6. They’re expected to hit. Brett Gardner? Who cares about him in the long-term?

  3. Brad K says:

    Cano will hit better. Abreu will probably improve slightly but not enough to have impact. Melky most likely will not improve much and certainly not enough to turn this around. Historically speaking the more games Melky plays the worse his numbers get. Admittedly he only has 2 1/2 seasons worth of numbers to look at, but the trend seems to be downward as the playing time increases. Gardner, I wouldn’t hold breath.

    I think the real question is what does next year look like? What have we learned from this year and how does it compare to what was expected?

  4. Chris says:

    One thing to consider with the tougher schedule is that the Yankees are going to be be playing the teams that they are chasing. They can make up (or lose) ground very quickly when they’re playing the Twins, A’s and Red Sox.

  5. Adrian-Retire21 says:

    Unlike last year Pettitte was better and won 6 games in August.We had Wang also.

    The problem is Cashman won’t fix the pitching until it does bad.But I fear the pitching because they have no expirence pitching good in a whole year(i.e Ponson,Joba,Rasner) and Hughes and Kennedy as back up is dangerous.

    Lets hope Cash has a plan because he’s plan to start the season has been a bust.

    • steve (different one) says:

      Lets hope Cash has a plan because he’s plan to start the season has been a bust.

      actually, it wasn’t. or at least it wasn’t until Wang got hurt running the bases in an interleague game.

      Joba was transitioned perfectly, giving them 4 solid starters.

      Hughes and Kennedy haven’t succeeded, but if Wang were healthy, the rotation would be just fine without either of them.

      you know how it REALLY would have been a bust? if Cashman listened to everyone here and dumped Mussina over 3 terrible starts last year instead of looking at a 15 year track record.

      the Yankees have prevented runs at a perfectly acceptable rate. the pitching has not been the problem. it’s about league average. which is what everyone expected.

      the problem is that the “plan” was to pair league average pitching with a 900 run offense. but instead, they have a 750 run offense.

      the offense is what has been “a bust”.

      • Ed says:

        Mussina had been crap for about 3 years. He’d start off the season good not great, then after the all star break would just flat out suck and usually miss time with an injury.

        If you judge a player by his entire career rather than the recent years, we should’ve kept Randy Johnson and brought back Clemens again.

        • steve (different one) says:

          wow, so being a top 10 pitcher in the league is now “crap”.

          http://www.baseball-reference......2006.shtml

          let’s see, 4th in ERA, 3rd in WHIP, 3rd in Hits/9 IP, 3rd in BB/9…

          • Ed says:

            Mussina happened to be a great pitcher in the first half of ’06. He was below average in the second half. He was also a below average pitcher in ’04, ’05, and ’07.

            Perhaps crap was an overstatement. Would it make you happier if I simply said he’s been bad?

      • B says:

        Who are the 4 solid starters that you are talking about?

      • Brad K says:

        What are you smoking? Yes the Yankees pitching is around league average which means that half of the teams in the MLB have better output from their rotations. These teams include, Red Sox, White Sox, Rays, Angels, Cubs, Philly, Mets, Brewers, Diamond Backs, A’s. What do all of these teams have in common? They are either 1st or 2nd in their division or they are leading in the WC. This includes the 2 teams ahead of us in the AL East and 2 of the 3 teams ahead of us in the WC. Was this Cashman’s plan? Was the plan to be just average, middle of the pack?

        As far as the offense goes that clearly has been a bust but why is that surprising to you? Posada had a career year last year, A-Rod had an MVP season last year. The rest of the team is just another year older so was it really reasonable to expect them to score 900 runs without infusing the lineup with some new blood? As teams get older don’t the numbers tend to trend downward (Jeter)?

        • mike says:

          I agree with you, but the offset in the offense was to be abated with an improving Cano and Melky, FA push by Abreu, healthy Giambi, and a stronger offensive bench with Ensberg and Bettemit, as well as Molina upgrade over any other backup to spell Posada.

          That, with an improved staff (saving runs) was going to be the plan

          • Brad K says:

            Cano is already a lifetime .301 hitter so how much improvement were we going to see. Abreu is Abreu. FA aside I didn’t see him exceeding his career avg. Now I would be happy to get to his career avg. counting on Giambi would be a mistake regardless of the outcome this year. He has been way to inconsistent with injuries over the years to be helpful.

            As far as guy’s like Ensberg and Bettemit…come on. What was the chance that these guy’s were really going to contribute? Again was this Cahman’s plan?

            • whozat says:

              “As far as guy’s like Ensberg and Bettemit…come on. What was the chance that these guy’s were really going to contribute?”

              As bench players? Over Miguel Cairo? Pretty good, actually.

              • Look, damnit, you’re just not getting it. All 13 of our pitchers are not in Cy Young contention with sub 2.00 ERA’s and all 12 of our position players are not in MVP contention, each with 25 HR’s and a .360 average, so Cashman’s plan obviously failed.

                Why can’t you see what’s so damn cut and dry? He SUCKS!

        • whozat says:

          “What are you smoking? Yes the Yankees pitching is around league average”

          It’s been about average while being ravaged by injury. With Wang still in and even ONE of Hughes or Kennedy being league average, it’d be better.

          The real surprises are the horrendous decline of Cano — who isn’t old and shouldn’t be so bad — and Abreu’s sudden inability to get on base. Walking is an old-player-skill that he shouldn’t have lost.

          And of course, there’s the jeter issue.

        • steve (different one) says:

          The rest of the team is just another year older so was it really reasonable to expect them to score 900 runs without infusing the lineup with some new blood?

          this would be true if they ONLY scored 900 runs last year. they didn’t. they scored 968 runs last year.

          even if you docked them 100 runs for all of the reasons you mentioned, if the Yankees were on pace to score 868 runs, they would be in first place right now.

          would i be surprised to see a 968 offense turn into an 868 run offense for those reasons you listed? no.

          am i surprised to see a 968 run offense on pace to score 750 runs? hell yes.

          and you should be too.

          • steve (different one) says:

            crap. screwed up the tags.

          • ceciguante says:

            if your point is “the offensive falloff is bigger than anyone should have expected,” i hear that to an extent. but this lineup is old, and injuries to damon, posada and matsui should not have shocked anyone. with an old lineup, your bench needs some talent. but our bench is horrible. instead of dion james, tim raines, straw or canseco, we’ve had betemit, gonzalez, duncan, gardner and ensberg. crap.

            melky is a 4th OFer and is playing like one. cano is admittedly a surprise. but almost everyone else is getting up there, and i don’t think you can just start with an assumption of “ok, i’ll knock off 100 runs, that’s at least where we should be.” this team overachieved on offense last year, and now injuries AND ineffectiveness have caught them. sure, the hitting should improve somewhat, but the team as constructed was lacking depth on offense and pitching, and was flawed. ~868 run offense and league average pitching is simply not a very scary team.

            • whozat says:

              “this team overachieved on offense last year, and now injuries AND ineffectiveness have caught them.”

              They didn’t really overachieve. Posada’s the only one who did. Alex a little. Health from Giambi, regression to his norms from Posada, a full year of Robbie’s expected performance, Jeter’s expected performance, Abreu in line with his norms, Matsui DHing full-time and so likely to be more healthy…This anemic performance is certainly a surprise.

              • ChrisS says:

                I don’t think that mid-30s hitters, with some down years previously, not reaching their career norms is a surprise. The fact is that the plan, apparently, going into this season was to try and wring one or two last good years out of Matsui/Abreu/Damon and then retool. Outside of Damon, it didn’t happen and it isn’t surprising.

                See: Bashe, PhillipDog Days: The New York Yankees’ Fall From Grace and Return to Glory, 1964-1976 Part 1: A Lot of Guys Got Old at Once or the Epilogue: A Lot of Guys Got Old at Once (Again)

            • steve (different one) says:

              all i ask is one thing:

              find me one person who posted before the season that the offense was going to be a problem.

              find me someone who thought the Yankees really needed to add bats in the off-season.

              no, it was all about the rotation and the bullpen.

              you are making it sound like Cashman ignored what was going to be an obvious problem.

              also, as far as the offense overachieving, remember, they got NOTHING from Damon, Abreu, and Cano for the first 2 months of the season and NOTHING from Giambi all year. there was improvement that could be expected to offset the inevitable declines from A-Rod and Posada.

              it was perfectly reasonable to expect this team to score 850-900 runs this year and i will guarantee you that every single projection system agrees with me.

              shit happens sometimes. i simply can’t make the honest argument that Cashman needed to address the offense in the off-season.

              you could argue that he could tinker with the bench, but on the other hand, most people here thought Ensberg was a nice pickup. they also thought Shelley Duncan might contribute SOMETHING.

              • I thought the Yankees needed to add bats back in the offseason and I was confident that they wouldn’t have enough offense to compete in the rough and tumble AL East, where the Rays are improving and the Red Sox live with a bon vivant passion for life and success, embodying a sense of fraternity and cameraderie and teamwork that the ancient, sweaty, greasy, and possibly-gay Spartan warrior-poets would be jealous of.

                I also thought that Jon Lester is The Greatest American ever, and he’s welcome to have sex with any of my daughters, my wife, or my mom whenever he wants to, and I thought that this catcher’s mask, chest protector, and kneepads combo is so damn sexy and patriotic,, I wouldn’t want to take it off to fight either.

                For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

  6. daneptizl says:

    Is there a chance Sexson can net us a supplemental pick after this year?

  7. Mike A. says:

    You know what? I’m glad they have a tough schedule. I’d rather they earned their way in rather than pounded shitty teams. They might get a shred of respect then.

  8. raymagnetic ®™ says:

    “While Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds reports puts the Yankees’ playoff chances at eight percent”

    I find the ELO version of the odds on Baseball Reference’s site to be more accurate. The ELO version has them at 15 percent same as Cool Standings.

  9. E-ROC says:

    Nobody said it was going to be easy. I think the Yanks will still make the playoffs. Just a gut feeling.

  10. mike says:

    Honestly, if Jeter, Abreu, Posada and Cano hit up to and beyond their expectations, they could have Melky and Gardiner get 600 at-bats each and it wouldn’t matter.

    The keys to the 900+ offense were not Melky or Gardiner – who are fringe major leaguers at this point – its the heart of our batting order. The great pitching numbers have been a blessing ( i dont think they are a mirage either ) but without those four key guys having an All-Star second-half.

    If those 4 guys hit a combined 20 homers in the second half as they did the first, it will be an early fall at the Stadium.

  11. Dave M says:

    Late August/early September schedule is BRUTAL -

    3 vs. BOS
    3 vs. TOR
    1 @ DET (make-up game)
    3 @ TB
    3 @ SEA
    3 @ LAA

    So, we have a 10 game road trip to start September, 7 of them vs. teams over .500. We also fly from Tampa to Seattle with no off-day, the furthest possible geographical distance bewteen MLB cities.

  12. usty says:

    I know this is off topic, so feel free to delete, mods. I have 2 tickets for sale to sunday’s game, Tier Reserved MVP 18, Row P, seats 23&24. These are my season tickets (c-plan) I’m asking 50 bucks for the pair (OBO). Drop me a line at DavidUst@gmail.com if you’re interested. Can do the whole paypal/forward tickets from the yankees thing. Thanks.

  13. Setty says:

    What do you guys think it will take to get Adam Dunn? Before wanting to chop my head off, let me preface this by saying I’m NOT a big Dunn fan. I know he strikes out a ton, but, that being said, if we can get him on the cheap (in relation to the Pirates OF and Holliday), I would not mind him to replace Matsui as a rental and bat 7th with his power (with the short porch especially) and his high OBP. Am i crazy?

    • whozat says:

      Why spend on a rental? This isn’t a series-winning team with Adam Dunn. If they’re going to spend, spend for a guy who can play RF for the next several years and/or a righty who can play solid 1B for a couple seasons.

  14. nick blasioli says:

    cash needs to trade for a good outfielder to replace hideki…now

  15. serious1jujar says:

    8 % chance, my left nut. The Rays will falter. We get the Wild Card.

  16. nick blasioli says:

    i sure would like to see marte and nady in a yankee uniform real soon..sexton can work out ok…well see..

  17. Paul Zuvella says:

    It seems like Cashman may have held on to some of these prospects for too long. IPK, Vasquez, Horne, Tabata, Melky,etc are all falling apart. It seems like he should have strengthened at least one position over the last few years that these guys have been developing. Instead the same holes need to be filled. Starters, relievers and the age and productivity of the outfield.

    I am afraid that they will have to do it at once and be stuck with the has beens on the free agent market over the winter.

    • Travis G. says:

      we actually have a very solid pen. bruney will be back soon making it even better. have you not watched Edwar, Robertson, Veras pitch exceedingly well?

      the starters are an issue, but we lost 60% of our opening day rotation. aint many teams that could survive that.

      • Paul Zuvella says:

        Edwar is awfully inconsistent, Robertson has ver y few innings under his belt and Veras has been on a roll lately. Don’t forget Bruney circa 2007. He was better for that first month but can hardly be considered a guy to be counted on. Other than Mariano and Joba for his brief stint, I can’t think of another bullpen member has been decent for more than a small sample over the last two seasons. I would hardly feel confident in this corps if the season were over now and I was getting the roster ready for 2009.

  18. Travis G. says:

    dont know if y’all saw the ODP stats on BTTF, but it lists Abreu as the worst regular RFer in the AL. that seems to be the weak link on offense. you just cant have your #3 hitter be that bad.

    http://www.baseballthinkfactor.....s_defense/

    the loss of Damon really hurt, as he’s the best LFer in the AL. surprisingly, Melky is not the worst CFer, and Cano aint the worst 2b either.

    really, this season is about the offense. with our 2008 average pitching, our 2007 offense would have us in first. Wang’s injury didnt help either.

    thinking about 2009, why not go after CC AND Sheets? we’d lose a 1st rounder anyway on one, so why not go for both bc you cant lose any more picks. that would make a sweet rotation of Sabathia, Sheets, Wang, Joba, Pettitte, with Hughes, Kennedy, etc. waiting in AAA for an injury.

    but perhaps more importantly, who’s going to be wrecking pitching along with Arod. i doubt Abreu will be brought back. a great 3-4 duo can carry an offense. the only FAs who could possibly fill that role are Dunn, Manny and Tex. while Manny is the best hitter, his D is atrocious, he’s a RHB, and he’s 36. Dunn and Tex are lefties, but not as good hitters. i guess Tex makes the most sense, as he’s the youngest, plays the best D, and switch-hits. but there’s the Boras factor, the aging Posada factor, and still the RF question.

  19. nick blasioli says:

    a good starting pitcher would set off this season and help out for next season…

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