Friday, June 14, 2013

Yankees Play Two to Lose One and the Pattern Continues: Time For a Shake Up Part I

It took 18 innings and overs 5 1/2 hrs, but the Yankees completed an embarrassing three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A's Thursday, 3-2. Now, don't get me wrong, losing to the A's is not embarrassing. in itself. They're a good ball club and are red hot, winners of 9 of 12 and 41-27 overall.

The inconsistency of the Yankees performance is what is troubling. We all knew that eventually the talent level on the roster would catch up to the standings.  It's been a topsy turvy season due to all the injuries, the reliance on players that aren't used to playing every day, are past their prime, or are injury prone or any combination of the aforementioned.

The starting pitching, once a strength, has struggled outside of Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda was on the hill in Thursday's finale with the A's and completely dominated the Oakland lineup over eight innings. He allowed two hits and two earned runs and had nothing to show for it in the box score.  The Yankees offense  sputtered as it did the entire three game series in Oakland.

Two runs in 18 innings Thursday and eight total runs in the series' 36 innings; that was the entire Yankees output in the series. Robinson Cano's 16th home run of the season accounted for all of the Yankees runs in the finale and that occurred in the 1st inning. The rest of the day was one wasted opportunity after another or no opportunities at all.

The Yankees finished with 10 hits on the day with 80% of the production from Cano (3), Ichiro Suzuki (3), and Brett Gardner (2).  The pen did a fantastic job to keep the game even, particularly Adam Warren, who tossed six scoreless innings. The A's finally pulled things out with a run off of Preston Claiborne and an ineffective Mariano Rivera. Remarkably the team remained just three games behind first place Boston in the AL East and just two games back in the loss column.

That's why the Yankees need to shake things up before things get worse, especially when it comes to the replacement players that were brought in.

The culprits: Let's start with Vernon Wells. The Yankees primary left fielder started out like a house afire - a .911 OPS in the month of April with six home runs and 13 RBI. Since then Wells is 27-146 (.185) and just 4-42 in the month of June. Wells' main accomplishment has been to stay healthy, which is no small feat for him.

Kevin Youkilis seemed like a good stop gap measure with no Alex Rodriguez around, but after an adequate .769 OPS in 17 games, he missed all but one game in May due to a bad back and is 5-37 (.135) in June.

Travis Hafner appeared to be completely rejuvenated in April - a 1.104 OPS with six home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games. MVP type numbers, but "Pronk" is 16-102 (.157) since then with four home runs and 12 RBI.

Lyle Overbay's playing time has been cut down considerably since the return of Mark Teixeira, but up until then Overbay played well over his head and produced a number of clutch moments for the team. Less play means less effectiveness and on top of that Overbay is trying to learn a new position (RF). He's had just six hits in his last 31 at-bats. (.194)

The Yankees hoped that the return of Teixeira would infuse more offense, but so far he is still looking to get his groove back. Tex is 8-49 since he returned from the DL, and thought he has managed seven walks, three home runs, and 12 RBI in 13 games, a .367 slugging percentage is nothing to brag about.

I have already speculated that Ichiro Suzuki's days in the Bronx could be numbered. A .644 OPS in April was followed by a .631 OPS in May. About halfway through June and there's no sign of things getting better, evidenced by Ichiro's .634 OPS. A .293 average for the month is an improvement, but all 12 of his hits are singles and he's attempted to steal a base just (successfully) once.

The Yankees announced on Friday that David Adams was sent down to Triple-A to play regularly. Adams did a nice job at first as one of the fill-ins for Youkilis, but owned a .587 OPS when he departed. The Yankees called up outfielder Thomas Neal, a 25-year old with 23 Major League at-bats (With Cleveland). Neal signed prior to the season as a minor league free agent and had a robust .339 average for the Scranton RailRiders. Add on a .426 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging pct. (12 doubles, 2 HR) and you can see why the Yankees feel his right-handed bat might help against left-handed pitching.

Catcher Francisco Cervelli will likely be back before the All-Star break, though no one knows if he'll hit like before he was hurt. Curtis Granderson has an outside chance of being back before the break, but is likely to be back afterwards. Derek Jeter just got the clearance to resume baseball activities and Alex Rodriguez, well, there's no real idea when and if "Mr. Makes His Own Trouble" will suit up in a Major League uniform again.

In the meantime, the Yankees may have to dip back into Scranton for players like Ronnier Mustelier or Zoilo Almonte to jump start the offense.

Stay tuned for Part II: Time for the Yankees to Cut Hughes and Joba Loose

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