Despite the concerns about all the injuries and the age on this squad, your New York Yankees are still within striking distance. Six games out of first behind Boston, only three behind for a playoff spot. Despite all the injuries and all that crap, the Yankees are 51-44. How can the Yankees improve and make the playoffs in the second half?
1. Get Guys Healthy and Productive: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson have combined to play in just 24 games this year. Teixeira re-injured his wrist and is now out for the season. Granderson had another freak injury after only eight games in May but should return soon. Jeter returned for one game last week but hurt his quadriceps, probably from the rust of not having played since October. A-Rod is on the way back down in Triple-A. And now, Robinson Cano seems to be banged up after taking a fastball off the leg from Matt Harvey in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Hopefully, the Bombers will have Jeter and Cano back in the lineup for this weekend’s showdown at Fenway Park.
2. GET THE OFFENSE GOING: The Yankees have one of the weakest lineups in baseball right now. They are 11th in the AL in runs scored and their team batting average, OBP, slugging %, and OPS are close to last in the league. Basically, the injuries have siphoned their power. The Bronx “Bombers” have only three players with an OPS above league average (Cano, Brett Gardner, and Lyle Overbay). Only three have an average above .260 (Cano, Gardner, and Ichiro). A year after hitting 245 home runs, the team only has 88 at the moment. In such a great hitter’s park, how can you be that bad? The team’s hope right now is to get Jeter and A-Rod back to keep bums like Eduardo Nunez, David Adams, and Luis Cruz out of the lineup every day.
3. More Consistent Pitching: The Yankees have the 2nd lowest team ERA in the American League, and that’s pretty much how they’ve been winning. You have a very reliable quintet of relievers in LOOGY Boone Logan, rookie Preston Claibourne, strikeout machine Shawn Kelley, fireman set-up man David Robertson, and of course, the great Mariano Rivera. The rotation overall has been a bit mediocre. Hiroki Kuroda has been stellar, 2nd in the league in ERA. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes have been pretty disappointing so far. David Phelps has had some very good starts but a couple of brief and piss poor ones have inflated his numbers. Then you got Ivan Nova, back with a vengeance. He’s looked impressive in two starts since being recalled. I hope to see everyone improve in the second half, particularly Pettitte and Sabathia.
4. Scavenging the Trade Market: The team is clearly quite a few moves from becoming a serious contender. They really need some help in both the outfield and on the left side of the infield, assuming Jeter and A-Rod can’t play there every single day. The Yankees have reportedly expressed interest in Michael Young, but there’s no telling if the Phillies want to try to buy or sell themselves. In the outfield, Brian Cashman should look to the Cubs as a trade partner, as Alfonso Soriano, Davd DeJesus, and Nate Schierholtz all could be very good fits for the club.
5. Beating Division Rivals: The Yankees are 20-17 against the other four teams in the AL East, but that is inflated by an 8-1 record against the Blue Jays, who were playing very bad baseball in April and May. They start the second half at Fenway and have 10 more games against the hated Red Sox after that. They also have 10 games against Toronto to play, nine against Tampa Bay, and just seven versus Baltimore. Beating these teams is crucial for a playoff spot and better chances to win the division.
6. Stop Winning So Many Games by the Skin of Your Teeth: The Yankees have been winning too many of their games by nail-biters. They are 16-9 in one run affairs and have a negative run differential on the season. Mariano is on pace for over 50 saves, for what would be only third time in his career. Clearly, this is due to the mediocre offensive output. Will it hold up like the Orioles last year or will their be a regression? Time will tell, but the Yankees need to start making victories more easier to come by instead of clawing for every single run. The returns of Jeter, A-Rod, and Granderson should at least make it somewhat better.