Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why this year isn't last year... (but it could still be 2013)

Last year, the Yankees fell out of first on May 22. Within days, their faces appeared on milk cartons. To this day, their whereabouts remain a mystery. It is believed that Derek Jeter escaped and is living with a woman and a talking horse. Nobody knows what happened to Preston Claiborne.

Aside from their uniforms and love for the injury attorneys, Celino and Barnes - (call 88888888!) - the '15 Yankees hardly resemble last year's collection. At this time last May, three story lines dominated the Yankiverse:

1) Jeter's impending retirement, the blob that eventually consumed the team.

2) The feel-good rise of Yangervis Solarte, which was starting to fray.

3) The emergence of Masahiro Tanaka, whose elbow was starting to fray.

In June, the entire team frayed. It went 11-16. By August, Yankee Stadium was a bone yard, waiting for the retirement ceremonies to begin.

One question today dominates every Yankee fan's sense of well-being:

Are we simply repeating 2014?

Happily, I can say the answer is NO.

This year, Joe Girardi is not hamstrung by a lineup that is, essentially, a farewell tour. No knock on Jeter, but looking back, it's hard to justify a .257 ground-ball machine situated between your two best hitters. Throughout 2014, Brett Gardner batted first, Jeter second, and Jacoby Ellsbury - a lead-off batter - hitting third. Basically, we had nobody who could hit third. In the end, it killed us.

This year, Gardner and Ellsbury set the table - with A-Rod, Tex and maybe even McCann to anchor the lineup. (Two games do not the "Avengers: Age of Beltran" make.)

This is not 2014. However...

(Oh, how I hate that word. And how I hate this following sentence:)

It is a long season.

We must remember 2013, when the Yankees looked invulnerable around now. We were red hot, ascending into first in mid-May... and the team actually led the AL East until May 25, later than last year's edition. Not only that, but we anticipated a wave of returning stars to boost us, if anyone faltered.

Why were we in first? Three reasons: Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Robbie Cano. They were crushing it in the middle of the order. Moreover, we awaited the return of Curtis Granderson, A-Rod, Tex, Youkilis, Cervelli (Chris Stewart was catcher) and even Jeter, who kept reporting progress from his ankle. The fill-ins were outdoing all expectations - Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix were playing especially well. Mariano was closing, Andy was starting. Everything looked rosy.

And then came June:...11 wins and 16 losses.

Last night, the Yankees hit five home runs. This morning, we enjoy the best record in the AL. Chris Capuano is returning. Ivan Nova is healing. Beltran and Sabathia might be gathering momentum. At Scranton, Rob Refsnyder is hot, and he's gone 15 games now without an error. Everywhere, the Yankees are on fire.

Enjoy it, while it lasts. And whatever you're doing, juju-wise... don't let up. Somewhere, Preston Claiborne is looking for way home.


JM said...

You know, compared to 2014 after 33 games, we've only scored 19 more runs. Which is fine, but that's an extra 0.57 runs per game. That seems low given some of the scoring we've done game to game, but there it is.

The big difference this year is that magical RA column. This year? 124. Last year--152. 28 runs, almost a full run per game. And I would bet that whole kaboodle is thanks to Pineda, Betances and Miller.

Put a couple pinches of extra run production together with that, and bingo. And those three moundsmen would be near the bottom of my list for most likely to hit the DL, unlike about half the lineup.

It might be an interesting year, after all.

joe de pastry said...

I remain pessimistic because I think the injury epidemic is right around the corner and because the bullpen is being overworked.