The Yankees need The Captain to start swinging the bat better
The 2011 MLB season is still in the early stages of infancy, but three World Series contenders have already identified major flaws in their championship dreams. The Red Sox are in the bottom third in the league in four major pitching categories: Earned Run Average (30th), Quality Starts (29th), Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched (28th), and Batting Average Against (26th). The big difference between the Sox and the Yankees was supposed to be the starting rotation. So far that has not been the case for the Sox. The Tampa Bay Rays have only scored 36 runs in 11 games, a measly 3.27 run per game average. Take into account that the Rays scored 25 runs in two games (yes that’s only 11 runs in the other 9 games) and it becomes clear how badly their offense is struggling. Some help is one the way. Evan Longoria will come off the disabled list by the end of April. However, Manny Ramirez has decided to “retire” and “travel the world” amid another drug scandal. Without Ramirez the Rays will have issues scoring runs all season. That leaves us with the New York Yankees, my pick to win the AL East. Let’s take a look at three major problems that face the Yankees early in the 2011 season.
#1: Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada
Much was made about the offseason saga between Derek Jeter and the Yank’s front office. Well maybe Brian Cashman didn’t play hardball quite hard enough. Jeter is hovering just above the Mendoza line with a .206 batting average. His much-heralded slide-less swing has been abandoned after just 9 games. It’s still early and he’s only had 34 at bats which is just about 5% of the 600-plus at bats he usually averages, but it is still alarming that people have talked about Jeter’s swing change since September and he has already discarded it. On the other hand it looked like Posada was going to fit into his new designated-hitting role quite nicely. Posada hit 3 home runs in the first three games, but he has gone 0-15 in 4 games since his last home run. The Yankees pitching staff has too many question marks for the lineup be doing anything other than firing on all cylinders. Both Jeter and Posada need to turn their seasons around, and do it quick.
If Hughes doesn't find his velocity soon, he may be spending a lot more time watching games
#2: Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova
Phil Hughes is struggling to throw a fastball with any kind of life. In both starts this year Hughes’ velocity has been way down. Coach Joe Girardi thinks that it will sort itself out. But Phil Hughes is worried. Hughes has only lasted 6 innings in those two starts and is sporting a 16.50 ERA. Nova on the other hand has shown promise, the first time through the lineup. In his first two starts, Nova has dominated the first few innings, but struggled the second and third times through the lineup. This proves that his stuff is electric, but he needs to learn how to pitch through the course of a game once hitters have figured him out. He is still young and has thrown only 51 innings in his young big league career. Nova is also getting used to new catcher Russell Martin. The Yankees need him to figure himself out to anchor the back-end of the rotation.
#3: The Texas Rangers
The defending AL Champs are off to a blazing hot start. Although they lost Cliff Lee in the offseason, they added some serious defense at the hot corner in Adrian Beltre. Beltre can also swing the bat. Although Josh Hamilton just broke his arm and will miss 8 weeks, the Rangers’ lineup is still red-hot and should be able to keep scoring runs without him. Oh and by the way, the Ranger’s pitching staff sans Cliff Lee is first in all four major pitching categories (ERA, WHIP, QS, BAA). If the Yankees can sort out the aforementioned problems (read: trade for Felix Hernedez), then the Rangers will truly prove to be the largest impediment to their 28th World Series win.