Remember heading into the All-Star break when the Mets seemed poised to take back this town? Yeah, about that. Amazingly, in just the first weekend back, the Yankees and Mets momentum has reversed.
We had the young Mets riding high, winning 8 of 10 to finish off the first half. Newspaper and TV outlets had announced it was time for the Mets to end the Yankees long running reign as kings of New York. Things looked even brighter when the Mets were set to face the lowly Padres to start off the half. After a promising win on Friday night, the Mets offense went silent as they dropped the next two games. It wasn’t just that they lost, it was how they lost. Although the pitching remained strong, the return of an anemic offense reminded us of this teams achilles heal. Daniel Murphy will need to get out of this recent slump, while the revival of Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud must continue for the Mets to turn things around.
The Yankees closed out the first half getting bad news, after bad news. Their aging roster continued to get banged up and one after another went down in the starting rotation. C.C. Sabathia had knee surgery to finish his year, Michael Pineda’s return remains in doubt and no one really knows what the future holds for Mashiro Tanaka. With nothing but negativity surrounding the Yankees heading into the break, starting the second half with a sweep of the Reds was exactly what this franchise needed. Despite the lack of depth in the starting rotation, unlikely candidates have stepped up. Hiroki Kuroda is now the “ace” of this staff by default, and he pitched quite well out if the gate. David Phelps had a solid performance and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy showed signs of returning to his old form. Jacoby Ellsbury carried the offense over the weekend and he may need to do so the rest of the way if the Yankees are going to make any sort of a run. So far, so good for the Yankees.
I realize we are only ONE series into the second half, but it’s amazes me just how quickly the mood surrounding each franchise can change. I still believe the Mets have a brighter future ahead of them, but I’m not ready to commit to their reign starting in the second half. Many questions still remain surrounding the Yankees, as I don’t have confidence that they will be able to stay healthy enough to reach the post season. But the AL East lacks a dominant team and the division is there for the taking. A big splash from Brian Cashman at the trade deadline wouldn’t surprise me, as that is what it will take to keep this team afloat. One thing I do know for certain, it’s good to have baseball back in full force.
Tonight, Yankees rookie Chase Whitley was lit up for 8 ER in just 3.1 IP against the Toronto Blue Jays. This was easily the worst outing in Whitley’s young career, as he has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation up to this point. The question remains though, just what do the Yankees have in Whitley?
The 25-year-old came into this game with a 3-0 record and a 2.56 ERA. With Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia on the shelf, Whitley has been a saving grace for the Yankees. Although Whitley was undefeated in his first 7 starts, he has only pitched more than 5 innings twice, and has never thrown more than 100 pitches in a game. I realize he’s young and probably on an inning/pitch count, but that isn’t too reassuring for me. It’s hard to count on a pitcher who can’t get through more than 5 innings in a start. With the Yankees rotation as thin as it is, it will be difficult having to use your bullpen for an extended period of time every fifth game.
More than anything else, Whitley just ran into a very good offensive team tonight who was seeing him for the second time around. But that is also what would alarm me the most. Is Whitley going to turn into one of those guys who the league quickly figures out? Or will he be able to make the adjustments as quickly as the batters will to him?
I know I’m only talking about 8 starts here, so I won’t get too carried away with any forgone conclusions about what Whitley will ultimately become. But if I were Brian Cashman, I wouldn’t be trigger shy when it comes to adding another starter. The name of the game is pitching, and I’m not sure you should be counting on Chase Whitley to be one of the starters you count on to help get you into the postseason. Best case scenario, Whitley slides into the fifth starter spot where he can eat up innings and keep the Yankees in ball games.
One of the biggest questions entering this season for the Yankees was – Can CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda return to their “ace” form? Well, it appears that may not be completely necessary. Today the Yankees new 1-2 punch, consisting of Mashiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, led the way throwing a combined 14 shutout innings in a sweep of the Cubs.
When the Yankees signed Tanaka, Brian Cashman tried to downplay expectations, labeling him as a middle of the rotation starter. Yeah, right. We all know the Yankees history of opening up their check book to bring in the game’s top talent, but even the Yankees wouldn’t lay out $155 million to a guy they expect to be at best a #3 starter. As of right now, Tanaka has been as good as advertised, if not better. He has quickly put the league on notice, striking out 28 batters in his first 3 starts. Whether Cashman wants to admit it or not, the Yankees brought him in to be the team’s ace. So far, so good. Continue reading
Mashiro Tanaka made his much-anticipated debut last night and didn’t disappoint. Despite a shaky first few innings, Tanaka settled in to throw 7 innings while allowing 3 runs with 8 strikeouts on his way to earning his first win. Continue reading
The Yankees have reportedly signed Tanaka to a 7-year deal.
Wait, not that Tanaka. The Yankees desperately needed to add depth to their starting rotation and Masahiro Tanaka does just that. The 25-year-old signed a 7-year deal worth $155 million, add-on the $20 million negotiation fee and you get $175 all together for the most sort after pitcher this off-season. After missing the playoffs for only the second time in the past 20 years, this move puts the Yankees right back in the World Series conversation.
Tanaka is coming off a season in which he went a perfect 24-0 with a 1.27 era. He is in the early stages of his prime years, which won’t leave anyone second guessing a 7-year deal. His contract may sound steep, but given what front line starters are receiving these days, his contract is right on par. Hell, if his production is anything close to his final year in Japan, you could argue he would have earned a Clayton Kershaw, paying him up to $30 million a year. There is an opt-out clause after 4-years, so only time will tell how this will play out in the long run.
Brian Cashman knew he had to not only add a starting pitcher to this roster, but a potential ace to anchor what is currently in place. Currently, there are 3 starters in set to round out this rotation, C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. Despite the name recognition, there are still question marks in this group.
Last year Sabathia went through the worst season of his career, going 14-13 with a 4.78 era. To make things worse, when the Yankees needed him the most in the second half, he pitched to a horrendous 6.08 era over that span. Sabathia has made headlines recently for his new slimmed down look, It appears he has gotten himself into shape in hopes of returning to his old form. Kuroda’s numbers look solid at first glance, going 11-13 but with a 3.31 era. After pitching to a strong first half, similar to Sabathia, he struggled mightily in the second half going 3-7 with a 4.25 era. You have to wonder if age has caught up with Kuroda as he will be 39 come opening day.
Ivan Nova made his return to the rotation about half way through the year and pitched quite well in his return. Nova went 9-6 with a 3.10 era, but he did pitch to an era over 5 just two years ago. Let’s not forget about Michael Pineda, the prized return in the Jesus Montero trade with Seattle. Pineda has been hampered with injuries and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011. He finally showed some signs of health in the middle of 2013, but only pitched 40 innings in the minors. Although he possesses the talent, his health is one giant question mark and there is every reason to believe he will be on some sort of innings limit this year. It’s hard to put much faith into Pineda.
What I’m really trying to get at is this was a move the Yankees HAD to make. With the Yankees spending most of their off-season money revamping the offense, they were sorely overlooking their biggest need, pitching. But it appears Brian Cashman had a plan all along as the Yankees have had the strongest off-season in all of baseball.
Reality is, the Yankees reverted back to their old ways and made Tanaka an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Since being placed back in the starting rotation, Ivan Nova has made four straight quality starts. Over that span he has lowered his era from 5.16 to 3.63 and has quickly made himself someone Girardi can hand the ball to every fifth day.
His last two starts weren’t just quality, they were great. Nova threw a complete game against the Orioles last week, allowing just two runs on three hits with 11 strikeouts. Last night, he followed that up by going eight innings surrounding just one run with 6 strikeouts against the Royals. Nova has combined for 17 strikeouts in his last 17 innings pitched, which is excellent.
Pitching has been the least of the Yankees problems this season. Overall the staff has thrown quite well, the offense is what has been letting this team down. If the bats do ever wake up for an extended period of time, the Yankees will rise right back up the standings if they can continue to pitch at this rate.
The recent success Nova is having is a great sign for the Yankees future. With CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte all either in the back end or end of their careers, it is important to have an influx of youth in the rotation. The Yankees will look to have the 26-year-old Nova and 24-year-old Michael Pineda, when he returns to full health, as starters they can count on for years to come.
It seems to be all but a foregone conclusion that Phil Hughes will not be brought back next season, and with his spot in the rotation currently in jeopardy, why not look to trade him now?
The Yankees have a set core of starters with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. The other two slots are currently being filled by David Phelps and Phil Hughes. Phelps has not been dominant himself, but the 26-year-old has done his job and kept the Yankees in ball games with a 5-4 record and 4.01 era splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Hughes has had an inconsistent season, to say the least. He is just 3-6 on the year with 5.09 era.
Ivan Nova was recently recalled from AAA and pitched well in his first start since returning. Nova pitched 6.2 innings against Tampa on Sunday allowing three runs with seven strike outs. In interviews since his return, he has clearly stated he wants no part in ever returning to the minors and could be a man on a mission to stay put in the rotation.
The other factor you have to consider is the rehabbing Michael Pineda. He is scheduled to next start in AA and could be only a few games away from a promotion to the majors. Pineda showed he has the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter with Seattle and all reports have been positive from his rehab. He could prove to be a vital piece in giving the Yankees one of the stronger rotations in the division.
It would not shock me to see a rotation by next month consisting of Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Pineda and Nova with Phelps returning full-time to his role in the pen. This would make Hughes the odd man out and thus expendable.
The Yankees are in dire need of offense and should start shopping Hughes around to see if they can find a good match. I wouldn’t look to just dump Hughes, as he does have a track record of some success in his career and should be able to attract a decent return. If the Yankees are able to garner an attractive offer, especially if it is a piece that can help the offense, I wouldn’t think twice about letting Hughes go.
Last night we got treated to yet another classic Subway Series game. In a day that started with the Mets honoring Mariano Rivera with farewell presents and had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch, it was only fitting the game would end with him back on the mound. Unfortunately for Rivera, he wasn’t smiling after his final pitch as the Mets won 2-1 in walk off fashion off of the future Hall of Famer.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Matt Harvey in his first start against the Yankees and he didn’t disappoint. The only problem was Hiroki Kuroda matched him and then some every step of the way. Very similar to last night games, there was no scoring through the first 5 innings as both starters were in complete control all night.
After both offenses looked very anemic early on, the scoring finally got going in the fifth inning. Brett Gardner led the inning off with a single to right which Marlon Byrd had a hard time handling allowing him to advance to second base. Robinson Cano followed that up with a ground ball to Ike Davis at first advancing Gardner to third. It appeared Matt Harvey was going to get out of the jam after he got Vernon Wells to pop up in the infield and Lyle Overbay due up. Then Harvey made his only mistake of the game, he hung a change-up to Overbay which he lined up the middle to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Harvey did settle in to throw two more strong innings as he finished the day with 8 innings pitched allowing one run while striking out 10 in what was another outstanding outing.
Kuroda was terrific last night. He was flying under the radar heading into last nights game with all of the attention going Harvey’s way. Kuroda had the Mets offense off-balance all night as he threw 7 innings allowing 0 runs while striking out seven himself. Brett Gardner once again made the defensive play off the game while robbing Daniel Murphy for the second straight night. In eerily similar fashion, Gardner chased down a deep shot to left center up against the wall to steal an extra base hit from Murphy and probably save a run with Ruben Tejada on first base. Besides this sole threat, Kuroda had an easy time with the Mets line up all night.
Mariano Rivera entered the game in the 9th inning and it was a safe assumption that he was going to close out his final game in Queens after starting the year 19-19 in save opportunities. The Mets quickly fought back as Daniel Murphy started off the inning with a double down the left field line to get things started. David Wright following that by lining a ball into Left Center, that nearly hit Murphy, to tie the game up and he advanced to second as the throw to home got away. Just like that in only two batters the Mets handed Rivera his first blown save of the year. Lucas Duda came up next and single into right center to score Wright and just like that in just 9 pitches the Mets won in walk-off fashion.
This was yet another great Subway Series game. I personally prefer these pitcher’s duel games, it adds to the dramatics as any one pitch or mistake can be the difference, which is what has happened these first two games. The final two games in Yankee Stadium don’t have anywhere near as good pitching match ups so I wont be surprised to see the offenses come to life a bit.