The Toughest Stretch Of The Season

Jones homers twice and Mo makes history as Yankees wrap up homestand with a win
The In-House Midseason Pickups
Hopefully he's still smiling in three weeks. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The Yankees just wrapped up a successful homestand against the Mets and Blue Jays, winning four of six games after taking three in row in Tampa and Baltimore. The team finally gets a day off today after playing 16 games in 16 days and 32 games in 33 days, but they’re going to need this rest. The nine-game West Coast swing that begins tonight will undoubtedly be the toughest stretch of baseball for the Yankees to date this season, and possibly all year. Why? Check this out…

May 27: Michael Pineda
May 28: Felix Hernandez
May 29: Jason Vargas
May 30: Trevor Cahill
May 31: Brett Anderson
June 1: Gio Gonzalez
June 2: OFF
June 3: Jered Weaver
June 4: Dan Haren
June 5: Ervin Santana

Those are the starting pitchers the Yankees are (tentatively) going to face on this trip. The worst of the bunch has been Vargas, who has a 3.69 FIP and has gone 7+ IP with no more than one run allowed in three of his last four starts. His performance in 2011 is on par with guys like Ricky Romero and Matt Cain, for perspective. It’s like the Mariners, Athletics, and Angels all conspired to line up their best starters for this trip just to make life miserable for New York.

Because those nine games aren’t tough enough, the Yankees will come home from the road trip, take a day off, then play three straight series (nine games in nine days) against the Red Sox, Indians, and Rangers. Those three clubs are a combined 83-63 with a +91 run differential to date, though with any luck the Tribe will have cooled off by the time they come to town. Even if they do, it’s still obvious that these next 18 games are going to be absolute hell for New York.

If there’s any good news to be found in all this, it’s that it will still be early-June by the time this stretch is over. Every game counts the same, absolutely, but it’s a whole lot better to run through this gauntlet when you have about a hundred games left in the season as opposed to say, 30. There’s just that much more time to dig out of a potential hole, that’s all. Plus it’s not like the Mariners and Athletics are unbeatable, those starters are good but the rest of the team isn’t.

Every team in baseball is going to run into a stretch like this, and as cliche as it sounds, stretches like this help separate the contenders from the pretenders. For all their flaws – the RISPFAIL, two starters with arms held together by duct tape and stem cells, a LOOGY that is more like a LNOGY, etc. – the Yankees still have the second best winning percentage (.563) and run differential (+51) in the league by a pretty comfortable margin (Tampa is third with a +21 run diff.). The M’s, A’s, and Halos aren’t looking forward to seeing the Yankees this week, you can be sure of it. So enjoy the off day folks, the next few weeks are going to make you wonder what you did to anger the baseball gods.

Jones homers twice and Mo makes history as Yankees wrap up homestand with a win
The In-House Midseason Pickups
  • Dirty Pena

    Meh, let’s just go out and put the “un” in “unsustainable performance” for most of these guys. It also should be nice for the Yankee pitchers to pitch in these parks and to these lineups.

  • Fairweather Freddy

    At least they don’t have to face the great Dallas (‘this is MY MOUND”) Braden

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      that guy is a tool.

  • Jerkface

    A good narrative changer for the Yankees would be if they carved up this road trip.

  • Matt Imbrogno

    That is a rough stretch. Hopefully, the Yankees can play the old “Let’s-wait-out-the-starter-and-destroy-the-bullpen” game.

  • El Maestro

    A 11-7 record for the next 18 games would make me happy.

    • Ted Nelson

      That’s a 99 win pace, so I think it would make most people happy.

  • Frank

    The staff ERAs for the M’s, A’s and Halos are second, third and fifth in the league (not sure if in that particular order). This should be a real test for the Yanks slumping offense.

    • Dirty Pena

      It’s tough to consider 65 runs in the past 11 games “slumping”.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Maybe inconsistent is a better word to use

  • Alfredo

    this will be a very tough stretch. i hope we win more then half of these games.

  • Alfredo

    i would love to go 14-4 but i highly doudt that our offense can beat up on these pitchers.

    • Mike Axisa

      14-4 is a little ridiculous no matter who they play.

      • Ted Nelson

        Only a 126 win pace… no biggie.

        Honestly, though, judging from a lot of the grades on the confidence polls… that’s what a lot of fan expect.

  • Jerkface

    The opposing offenses are only better than Minnesota in the AL. They are the bottom 4 teams. The Yankees can beat them by stifling their offenses.

    • Ted Nelson

      Good point. You don’t have to score 5+ per game if the other team is only scoring 1 or 2 runs. For the offense this will be a test, but for the team as a whole it doesn’t really have to be any more than any other opposite coast road trip.

  • CMP

    Over the next 9 games against those pitchers Mike listed, I’d be thrilled with 5-4 and happy with 4-5.

    • Ted Nelson

      As jerkface points out above, these pitchers don’t have much offense behind them. I mean I wouldn’t be particularly upset with a 5-4 stretch (90 win pace), but it’s not just the pitchers they’re facing we have to consider.

      • CMP

        That’s true but its gonna be a tough trip regardless against all that good pitching.

        The games are probably going to be close and the Yankees are going to have to play good defense and fundamental baseball since runs are going to be harder to come by.

        • Ted Nelson

          It’s MLB… a lot of games are close and you always should be playing good baseball.

          • CMP

            The Yankees have not exactly doing that lately, though, have they?

            Of course every team should play that way. My point is if they don’t, they’re probably going to struggle.

            • Ted Nelson

              Again… if teams don’t play well… yes, they’re probably going to struggle.

              The Yankees have the 6th best defense in MLB according to fangraphs’ FLD (Mariners and Athletics are 2nd and 3rd worst). I’m not that worried about their defense costing them games. Of course it could happen, but if can happen in a 10-9 game just like a 1-0 game.

              I appreciate your point about low scoring games being more likely to be close than high scoring games, but at the same time stating that the pitching is going to make it hard without stating that their offenses are likely to counter-balance a lot of that is just mis-leading and only 1/2 the story.

              I also think Vargas is a little overrated in the article… 1/2 his starts are against 4 of the worst offenses in the league, and in 2 of his 3 starts against top 5 AL offenses he’s give up a combined 11 ERs in 10.1 innings… for all 3 starts it’s 12 ERs in 18 IP, which is an ERA of 6.00.

              • CMP

                “but at the same time stating that the pitching is going to make it hard without stating that their offenses are likely to counter-balance a lot of that is just mis-leading and only 1/2 the story.”

                No, regardless of how good or bad a teams offense is, if they have excellent pitching the games are going to be tough to win.

                Time and time again we’ve seen in baseball that teams can win with great pitching even if their offenses are shaky. The SF Giants had shitty offense last year and won a WS with their pitching.

  • Rob

    On the bright side, we won’t have to face some no name, soft tossing lefty that we have never seen.

    I wonder what the yanks records are against these pitchers? I know its bad against felix.

  • Spectra

    Wait a minute where was this analysis when for two series straight we got lester, beckett, Bucholtz, Price, and shields. The last 16 games were probably much harder than those coming up. Plus the offenses that we’ll no play aren’t nearly as good as the AL East

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      agree..and the yanks should’ve won the games against Price and Lester.

    • Clay Bellinger

      The point is that there are no true soft spots in the upcoming stretch. The 16 game stretch also included some not so great pitchers…Bergensen, Capuano, Reyes, Davies.

      • Ted Nelson

        The point that’s largely missed, though, is that it’s a two way street: to win you have to score more runs than your opponent and they have to score fewer runs than you. Scoring against these guys is tough, but stopping their offenses from scoring really isn’t. The Ms have 3 guys with wOBA above .300, 1 above .333. We complain about Jeter, 2/3 of their line-up is Derek Jeter. The As have one guy with a wOBA above .323. The Angels have better individual hitters, but their offense somehow still stinks (maybe just luck…).

        • Clay Bellinger

          Oh, I’m not saying that most of these games won’t be winable. As you said, these clubs lack offense. I was just commenting towards to idea of why this stretch may be more difficult then the last. All of the games will be played out west and it’s rare that a team goes through this many games without getting to face a pumpkin.

          • Ted Nelson

            Yeah, I wasn’t really criticizing your comment. Just saying that the article above talks about how good the starters are without mentioning that their offenses are anemic, and most of the comments follow suit.

          • Ted Nelson

            And I would call Vargas a pumpkin… his success is largely against bad offenses. In 3 starts against the Indians, Red Sox, and Rangers his ERA is 6. It’s still only one real pumpkin, but I think he is one.

    • Mike HC

      The entire league is pitching well this year. Everyone looks to have “all star” stats this year.

  • pat

    We actually have pretty good numbers vs a bunch of those guys.

    Cahill- .310/.370/.643
    Weaver- .263/.341/.558
    Santana- .288/.371/.511

    OK numbers vs a couple

    Vargas- 299/.317/.429
    Gonzalez- 232/.377/.357 (1.7 whip)
    Haren- .267/.322/.400

    And not so good vs one guy, .249/.321/.355

    • Matt Imbrogno

      I’m pretty surprised the OBP vs. Felix is that high.

    • Clay Bellinger

      I thought the numbers vs. Gio were better than that. If they are what they are above, shouldn’t he be moved to the not so good category?

      • Clay Bellinger

        I take that back. Although they haven’t really hit him all that well, he’s walked the world and they’ve put up a bunch of runs on him.

  • Ted Nelson

    I think it’ll be good for the offense to face a stretch of playoff-caliber starters and a few playoff-caliber teams.

    It should be good for the pitchers to face a bunch of guys who can’t hit.

    • CMP

      With a bad trip, Jeter could come back to NY with a sub .300 OBP.

      Girardi could almost have no choice but to drop him in the lineup.

      • Ted Nelson

        He’s not going to drop Jeter out of the line-up. With a bad trip he’ll still be shy of 3,000 hits (even with a very good trip he’ll probably be shy). You don’t drop the face of your franchise and captain from the line-up when he’s about to have a huge moment like that. It would be terrible PR. This is a milestone that the Yankees are looking to make money on. With a decent stretch he’ll do it at the stadium or possibly Wrigley. It’ll be a big moment.

        • Ted Nelson

          Oh, drop him in the line-up… still doubt it’ll happen for the same reasons mentioned above, though dropping him in is not as bad PR wise as dropping him from. Misread that.

        • CMP

          Not out of the lineup, just DOWN in the lineup.

          Agreed nothing’s gonna happen till 3000 but it would almost be ridiculous to bat a guy with that kind of OBP leadoff ahead of your big boppers.

      • tommydee2000

        Not a chance. Hit #3,000 needs to come in the 6/7-6/16 time span before they go on the road. Don’t kid yourself, they have considered that.

  • Tim Perry

    Looking it this half full, I will say I see a lot of righties in that lineup which the Yanks seem to have better swings against…….We’ll see

  • Fairweather Freddy

    This kid Pineda they’ll face tommorrow night is supposedly the real deal. Fastball clocked around 96 mph, a hard slider and quality change up. He’ll be tough, a good warm up test before facing King Felix on Saturday night

  • CMP

    Nasty injury by Buster Posey last night.

    Wonder if the Yankees could nab one of their starters like Bumgarner or Sanchez by using some of their catching depth if the injury turns out to be as devastating as it looked.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      Not gonna happen.

    • Mike HC

      We are not that far off from having those collisions at the plate banned. More because of the head injuries, but also because of stuff like that.

      • Clay Bellinger

        Have you heard talk of this? Or are you just speculating?

        • Mike HC

          Pure speculation based on where we seem to be headed in regard to concussions.

          • Mike HC

            Just look at Jorge. Baseball players are built like football players these days too. Those hits are devastating and not completely necessary.

            • Mike HC

              Posey hurt his ankle on that hit, but also basically lowered his shoulder into the side of Posey’s neck. A couple of inches up, and a leg injury would be the least of his worries.

              • Mike HC

                Wow. I’m watching espn right now, after I wrote the comments, and Posey’s agent is calling Torre (head of something) and trying to get them to change the rule.

                • Clay Bellinger

                  Wow is right. After seeing your comment I searched it out of curiousity. I saw the same stuff. Good thing you’re not the guy who predicted the end of the world!

                  Not sure how I feel about the idea though.

                  • Mike HC

                    You didn’t hear? That was just a miscalculation. End of the world has been rescheduled for sometime in October.

                    • Clay Bellinger

                      Haha, yeah I saw that. I hear he also miscalculated in like 1994…that dudes predictions have lost all credibility.

                      Ok, go ahead…post the off-topic link.

  • Jake

    The good news is that I’ll be out of town this weekend. Since I moved to Seattle, my Yanks are 0-5 at Safeco in games I’ve attended. Although the game I went to last year wasn’t a fair fight: Felix v. Javy Vasquez.

  • Mike HC

    On the bright side, we will get to watch some of the best pitchers in baseball that I rarely get to watch because they are on the west coast.

  • BavarianYankee

    oh man, that’s sick. Felix/Pineda and Weaver/Haren or two of the very best 1-2 combos right now and the A’s pitchers aren’t bad either. That’ll be a very tough road trip. The good thing is that neither SEA nor OAK have any kind of offense, so a few runs could be enough in those games.

  • Mister Delaware

    C’mon rain!

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    As good as Felix is, all it takes is a Jeter HBP and Granderson homer for us to win 2-1. The worst part would be fantasy owners watching Felix get a line of 9 inn, 0.33 whip, 13k, inf k/bb, AND NO WIN.

  • MikeD

    The Yankees just completed a stretch of 31 games in 32 days, and now they head into this tough 18-game run, so basically the Yankees are in a 50-game period that could define the season. And guess what, they’re in first place 32 through it. I don’t want to sound as if I’m aiming low, but if the Yankees can even split the next eighteen games and stay right near the top, we could be set up well for the remainder of the season. And if they can get hot at the right time (and despite all the complaining the last week, haven’t they won seven of the last nine?), then we can really be in good position.

    If I thought both Hughes and Soriano would have been worthless and DL’d at this point heading into the season, I’d have figured we’d be in tough shape. Instead, we’re in first.

  • rek4gehrig

    Meh. To be the best you have to beat the best. Bring ’em on :-)