Friday, April 25, 2008

Who Are These Yankees?

The same question might be asked of the Orioles, Tigers, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Dodgers, and Padres to start. The open to the season has produced a strange imbalance in the Force. Teams that have been perennial division leaders have underperformed and a number of exciting clubs have overperformed to begin the year. This isn't unique to the 2008 season, but the annual surprises always....well.....surprise.

With that bit of convoluted logic, I want to look at the Yankees slow start and talk about a few interesting things that may slip below the mainstream radar (or not).

1. The Bench

When was the last time we've had this kind of bench. Morgan Ensberg has played very well at both 1st and 3rd, and has produced nicely at the bottom of the order. Bengie Molina did a fantastic job filling in for Jorge before he was hurt and then Chad Moeller stepped in without missing a beat. Gonzalez actually outplayed Jeter while he was in the lineup and in the field, mainly thanks to a slow start and an injury to the Captain, but who thought you'd get a temporary upgrade during that stretch? So far, so good. I'm liking Cash Money's work here.

2. The Young Guns

Everyone knew that Hughes and Kennedy would have their ups and downs this season, but who figured that all the downs would come at the start of the season? I'm not so surprised by Kennedy's struggles since he's really only getting his feet wet, but Phil Hughes pitched in a playoff game last season, and pitched very very well. He almost threw a no hitter against the Texas Rangers in hitter-friendly Arlington. Is he trying too hard to impress? Is he feeling the pressure? He threw more first pitch strikes in his abbreviated start yesterday, which is a good sign, but he'll need 4-5 quality starts to pull his ERA out of the cellar. He is the most important player on this club in 2008 and he needs to get it going. I have some faith that he will, since his promotions have always resulted in a rough patch before he adjusts and dominates. Maybe breaking Spring Training with the big boys was a bigger transition than we thought.

3. Cano's Woes

How does Robbie Cano go from 60 to zero in 2 seconds? He was awful to start 2007 and now he's repeating himself. In fairness, he's had very good at bats lately and has stung the ball for a few loud outs. He'll crank it up soon. I think he must play poorly in cold weather, which he has to work out before October.

4. Giambi is Toast

I thought the Spring might prove me wrong, but we all see what Jason Giambi is now. He's a .230 hitter with a great eye and a gut full of TNT. He's basically Dave Kingman with more walks. That's not an awful thing, but it's not something I want on my club. Especially a club that has a $200 million budget. I can't wait until he's out the door at the end of the year. I don't know if the Yankees plan to go after Mark Texeira, knowing that Boras is his agent, but I'd take a decent glove with 20 home run power and a .280/.370/.475 batting line for half the price. I'm thinking of a Youkilis, Garko, Casey Kotchman type player. Somewhere in that range. Maybe that's easier said than done, but those players were all minor leaguers at one point and there have to be more growing somewhere.

5. Aging

Damon, Giambi, Abreu, Matsui, Posada, Mussina, Pettitte, Mariano

Those players are all getting up there, although some have been good and some have been bad. Giambi and Mussina are off the books in the off season, so I have no worries. Posada and Mariano are locked up for awhile and I have no beef. Damon and Matsui will open the new Stadium with the team, but you have to wonder if they'll be around any longer than that. I'd give Matsui even odds, but Damon is a lock to be gone. Abreu is an intriguing case. He's still good, but you don't want to sign him to anything more than a year this off season, if you don't have to. His decline might be offset by a good eye, but he's no spring chicken and you have some talented outfielders in the system eyeing an opportunity. If he takes a one year deal, I think the Yankees jump on resigning him. If he takes a two year deal, they probably do it. Anything more, and I have to say, "No!"

This is an issue for the 2008 season because our minor leagues may have some answers to the voids in the lineup coming soon. Obviously Montero is mashing in the lower levels and should step in for Posada if he can play any kind of defense behind the plate. Jackson, Tabata, and Gardner will be showing off for Damon/Matsui/Abreu's spots. We might see some of the bullpen futures up with the Yankees as the season progresses. Will we see Juan Miranda?

The face of the team is slowly changing, and there will be a lot more focus on the youngsters if the team is mired in mediocrity as long as they were last season. A youth movement has started since camp broke, but it might explode if the aged vets don't get their asses in gear.


Pete said...

I, for one, want to see Gardner up here before too long. Most every day River Avenue Blues posts the farm teams' stats and most every day I see that kid's gotten a couple of hits...

Can't wait until Giambi and Moose are gone - although they've picked up their game in the last week or so, it won't last.

IMO Gonzalez should take Betemit's place, and either Damon or Matsui should be dealt by July for some sort of bullpen help or catching prospect. Then get Gardner up here & let him lead off.


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