The Soft Underbelly

Shave that facial hair, Chad. (AP)

The injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have hurt the Yankees in more ways than one. Obviously the biggest loss is in the rotation, where both guys where providing the team with lots of high quality innings every five days. As we saw with Adam Warren, plucking a kid out of Triple-A and inserting him into the rotation is much more effective in theory than in practice. It’ll be impossible for David Phelps and Freddy Garcia to replace what Sabathia and Pettitte the team on the field, so the Yankees are just going to have to hope they can tread water for the time being.

The losses of CC and Andy go beyond the rotation, however. Garcia’s move to the rotation also weakens the bullpen despite what will surely be D.J. Mitchell’s best efforts. Cory Wade’s crash back the Earth and the still weird acquisition of Chad Qualls further weaken the middle relief corps. Both Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley have been effective matchup guys, but asking them to face batters of the opposite hand on a regular basis is a recipe for trouble. There’s no way around it, the team’s biggest weakness right now are those innings between the starter and the Boone Logan/David Robertson setup duo.

To make matters worse, Garcia is not stretched out — he’s probably scheduled for something like 60-70 pitches tonight — and Phelps is expected to throw only 80 pitches when he makes his return to the rotation on Wednesday. Not only is the middle relief a sore spot, but the Yankees will send two starters to the mound against the Rays this week who will be unable to pitch deep into the game. The Mitchells and Wades and Quallses will be ripe for exposure. That also puts some pressure on Ivan Nova to give the team some distance on Tuesday. After years of beating up on the middle relievers of other teams, the Yankees might get a taste of their own medicine against Tampa.

The good news is that this is just temporary. Sabathia figures to be back shortly after the All-Star break and both Garcia and Phelps will get stretched out before long. Middle relief is relatively easy to fix, at least in the sense those guys are easy to replace if they stink. The Yankees aren’t committed to any of them long-term, so if Qualls stinks they can cut him and try someone else. If Wade doesn’t right the ship they can send him on his way. Joe Girardi & Co. have been building and rebuilding bullpens on the fly for five years now, no reason they can’t do it again. For the next three days though, we’re all going to have to hold our breath whenever that bullpen door swings open prior to the seventh inning.

Fan Confidence Poll: July 2nd, 2012

Record Last Week: 5-2 (36 RS, 29 RA)
Season Record: 48-30 (373 RS, 312 RA, 46-32 pythag. record), 6.0 games up in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Red Sox (four games, Fri. to Sun., two on Sat.)

Top stories from last week:

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Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Yanks earn split with ChiSox behind Hughes


Source: FanGraphs

On a steamy Sunday afternoon in which the Yankees celebrated their history, the current team went back to what the Bombers do best to beat the White Sox: they pitched well and they hit the ball out of the park. The win clinched a split of the four-game series with Chicago and gave New York a very solid 5-2 homestand. Let’s recap…

  • Rebound: The ChiSox struck for two quick runs in the first — replays showed that Alejandro De Aza did not touch the plate on the first run, however — and a few years (months?) ago this would have been an ugly four-inning, six-run type of outing for Phil Hughes. Something like that. Instead, he settled down and allowed just four baserunners (zero runs) is the next seven innings to turn in a high-quality start. Phil struck out eight, walked one, and completed eight innings for the second straight start and third time in six starts. Over his last ten outings, Hughes has pitched to a 3.27 ERA with a 4.21 K/BB and only once in his 16 starts has he walked more than two hitters. That’s pretty darn good. Go Philbert.
  • Two Times: The Yankees used a nice and simple formula to get back in the game. Raul Ibanez singled to lead off the second and one batter later Eric Chavez homered into the second deck to tie the game at two. In the next inning, Robinson Cano followed up a Mark Teixeira walk with a two-run shot that fell just short of the right field bleachers. Pretty simple; see ball, hit ball a mile. Robbie’s hit nine homers in his last 14 games, by the way.
  • Leftovers: Derek Jeter went 1-for-5 and for the first time since the first series of the season, he’s sporting a sub-.300 average (.299) … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once, though Russell Martin needed some help from a Kevin Youkilis error … Chavez is up to six homers on the year with a .348 wOBA, and I don’t think you could ask for more from a bench player … the Yankees went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they squandered a bases loaded, no outs situation in the first when Cano bounced into a 1-2-3 double play … Ibanez stole a base (!) and had his tooth chipped by the bench when he tried to avoid a foul ball (he’ll be fine) … Rafael Soriano walked a batter in an otherwise flawless ninth inning, his 18th save in 19 chances.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees won for the 26th time in their last 35 games and with the Orioles losing to the Indians, they’re now six full games up in the AL East. That’s pretty cool. The Bombers are off to Tampa for a three-game set against the reeling Rays starting Monday night. It’ll be Matt Moore and Freddy Garcia in the opener.

Austin & Sanchez continue to slump, Charleston wins anyway

Triple-A Empire State (5–3 loss to Rochester)
CF Chris Dickerson, DH Jack Cust & SS Doug Bernier: all 0-3 — Dickerson drove in a run and struck out … Cust walked and struck out three times in the most Jack Cust day ever
2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
LF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — that’s 15 homers in 500 plate appearances since signing last year
1B Russell Branyan & C Frankie Cervelli: both 1-3, 1 BB — Branyan struck out twice … Cervelli allowed a passed ball
3B Brandon Laird: 0-4, 1 K
RF Cole Garner: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
RHP Chris Schwinden: 4 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 6/3 GB/FB — 54 of 85 pitches were strikes (63.5%) … not the best organizational debut
RHP Chase Whitley: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 30 of 47 pitches were strikes (63.8%)
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — six of seven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Three of my five or six all-time faves in one photo. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Pretty good Sunday, eh? Hot, definitely, but no real complaints as far as the Yankees are concerned. Old Timers’ Day was just swell, they managed a win to split the series with the White Sox, and they traded for Chad Qualls for some reason. Raul Ibanez chipped a tooth when he hit his head on the bench ducking away from a foul ball, but he’ll live. Not a bad day at all. Hard not to be pleased with a 5-2 homestand.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. ESPN is in Los Angeles for the Sunday Game, with the Mets (Dillon Gee) going up against the Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw). Feel free to talk about that game or anything else you want here. Have at it.

Danny Farquhar clears waivers, sent to Double-A

Via Mike Ashmore, right-hander Danny Farquhar has cleared waivers and been assigned to Double-A. The Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Athletics earlier this week and then designated him for assignment when they claimed Chris Schwinden from the Indians. The poor kid’s been bouncing around quite a bit of late, so at least now he finally knows where he’ll be for the next few weeks. In theory, of course.