It’s well documented that the Yankees have blown the 10 game lead they established on July 18th. At this point, the past can’t be a concern anymore. There are 25 games left this season, and if the Yankees wan’t to play some October baseball, there are quite a few things that need to turn around for the club:
Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position
This has been a theme all season, and it finally caught up to the Yankees as of late. On the season, they’re hitting .250 in these situations, with a barely above average 102 wRC+. This is a drop off from a .261 overall average and 109 wRC+. Yes, they stormed back from 6-1 last night with a few hits with men in scoring position, but that was the one exception in recent memory. If they want to win meaningful games, they have to deliver in clutch situations.CC Sabathia Must Dominate
CC, when healthy, has had a good year (3.42 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, 3.20 SIERA). It’s been frustrating, however, to see him surrender leads multiple times as he has in his past two starts. In his final five or six starts, it would be huge if the Yankees could win just about all of his starts.Hiroki Kuroda has carried the load in his absence, but he can’t do it alone. Phil Hughes has generally been pretty good, with some very poor starts sprinkled in here and there. The back end, anchored by Freddy Garcia, David Phelps, and the hurt Ivan Nova has been extremely inconsistent. Down the stretch, they need Sabathia to come up as big as his weight, especially with Andy Pettitte returning effectively being a question mark.
Bullpen Must Turn it Around
In the last 30 days, the Yanks pen holds a 4.65 ERA, up from 3.45 on the year. Part of it may be the starters not getting deep enough into games, allowing guys like Derek Lowe, Cody Eppley, and Joba Chamberlain to see too much time. But, we did see David Robertson get bombed yesterday, inflating his ERA to 4.85 over the same time period. The bigger concern with D-Rob his strikeouts have vanished. He’s not even cracking 7 K/9, while his career mark is 12 K/9. Of course the pen as a whole weaker without Mariano, but guys like Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are known to be at the top of the league. Even Boone Logan had become pretty reliable until late.
Curtis Granderson has to Step Up
Over the last 30 days, Granderson has a wRC+ of 77, and Chris wrote about his struggles yesterday. The Yankees need him to get going in the worst way. With his on-base percentage at .268 during the this time period, he’s essentially been an automatic out. Without A-Rod and Mark Teixeira for extended period of time, Granderson’s lack of production has been a killer. Additionally, who knows what the aformentioned two will offer given the fact they’re coming off injuries. So, it’s up to Granderson to return to being a dangerous bat along with Robinson Cano in the heart of the order.It seems like a lot of people still expect Rodriguez to be the lethal force he once was, putting up wOBAs well into the .400s. That’s not going to happen anymore, no matter how much he’s paid. Given his age, a lot of what he may do the rest of the way will be a bonus.If A-Rod doesn’t hit and the Yankees don’t make the playoffs, it won’t be his fault. Guys like Cano and Granderson need to carry this offense down the stretch. Teixeira, too, if he’s healthy. Derek Jeter has done a lot of the heavy lifting for the offense in the past few weeks, but he’s more of a table setter. Nick Swisher has been big as well, but the expectations for him aren’t nearly as high.
Pinch Hitting for Lefties
Why did Joe Girardi let Eric Chavez hit twice against Randy Wolf yesterday? It may have worked out the second time (walk), but Chavez has a negative wRC+ against lefties this season, and is a .167 hitter vs. them in 2012. Remember, a 100 wRC+ is average. What’s the point of having guys like Steve Pearce and Casey McGehee if they’re not going to be used against left hand pitching? You might argue that pinch hitting in the sixth is too early, but in reality, it’s not: Buck Showalter isn’t going to let Chavez face a righty late in the game, and it also benefits him that another lefty, Granderson, bats right behind him (I’m not sure exactly why Buck brought in Strop for Wolf last night with Curtis hitting, though).
Girardi may have been worried about McGehee or Pearce facing a righty later in the game, but there is always Chris Dickerson off the bench. Additionally, Pearce is only slightly below average against righties this season (82 wRC+). While not good, it’s not as bad as Chavez against lefties. McGehee, on the other hand, is actually worthless vs. righties.
This may seem like micromanaging and overscrutinizing, but with the way the team is hitting, you have to play the advantages. It’s not like what Girardi did last night in this situation was the first time: it’s happened a lot this week. Yes, Chavez walked his second time, but did hit into a double play his first opportunity.Beat the Orioles and Rays Head-to-Head, Clean Up Against the Bad Teams
Last night’s game was obviously brutal. These next three vs. Baltimore are the last chance to create some breathing room, so there’s no time better than now. They face Tampa Bay three more times, too, another chance to add space.There are 16 games left vs. the likes of Toronto, Minnesota, and Boston, all teams below .500. That’s a big portion of the remaining schedule, and will be another opportunity for the Yankees to distance themselves from the competition. They can’t play down to these teams like they have in recent weeks.–All of this is a long list, but it’s nothing they shouldn’t be able to do. The remaining schedule isn’t very difficult, and they still have opportunities against their main competitors. Plus, some of the horrific performances they’ve experienced can’t possibly go on much longer (one would hope).There’s no better day than today: play well this month and push off football season heating up in New York.