Monday, April 26, 2010

A Streak Comes to an End

With today's 8-4 loss at the hands of the Angels, the Yankees have finally dropped their first series of the season. They opened the year with five consecutive series wins over the Red Sox, Rays, Angels, Rangers and A's, during which time the team has looked nothing short of dominant.

The offense is being led by Robinson Cano who is looking like he can contend for a batting title. His swing is as smooth and quick as ever and his defense has been impressive. He homered today and is now batting .368/.411/.646 with five home runs, 14 RBI, 17 runs and two stolen bases. Batting out of the five hole, Cano could go off for career highs in practically all of his offensive categories. The most promising sign is how he's been hitting with RISP (.333 avg, 1/2 K/BB ratio) and with RISP w/ two outs (.429 avg, 1/1 K/BB ratio).

Also having notably good seasons thus far are Derek Jeter (.316 avg, 3 HR, 3 SB), Jorge Posada (.315 avg, 4 HR) and Alex Rodriguez (.294 avg, 2 HR, 10/11 K/BB ratio). Teixeira is having a typically slow start (.119 avg, 16/11 K/BB ratio) but he's been swinging the bat better over the past couple of games and as the calendar turns over to May, I think he'll break out of the funk. New acquisitions Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Marcus Thames have fit in well. Granderson has played stellar defense in center, is looking decent against lefties so far (.250 avg) and has come up with some clutch hits. Johnson hasn't found his swing yet, but is seeing a ton of pitches per plate appearance and already has 18 walks in 16 games played. In limited action, mainly against lefties, Thames has a .462 average with one home run.

The pitching has also been a strong point, with one exception. Javier Vazquez has been terrible and it's no surprise that he was on the mound for the clincher of today's first series loss. He gave up five runs in three and 2/3 innings today to push his ERA to 9.00 in 20 total innings. He has a bad history against the Angels, and Bobby Abreu specifically (10 career homers off of Vazquez), but the team surely wants to begin seing some improvements. He's given up too many hits and home runs (five home runs allowed in four starts) and, after posting an excellent 238/44 K/BB ratio last year, Vazquez is sporting an uncharacteristic 18/11 K/BB ratio. I think he'll eventually bounce back, but he definitely won't be posting numbers like he did in Atlanta. Then again, nobody probably expected that type of dominance in the AL anyway. He'll be an effective fourth starter in due time, but it'll certainly be hard to trust this guy once the  pressure of the games increases, such as in playoff baseball.

Vazquez has been the outsider this year, as the rest of the staff has been fantastic. Andy Pettitte is having a spectacular April, going 3-0 in 28 innings with a 1.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 22/9 K/BB ratio and .216 BAA. He's really looked sharp and healthy and it's great to see. C.C. Sabathia (2-1, 3.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 23/10 K/BB ratio), Phil Hughes (2-0, 2.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 16 K in 12 IP) and A.J. Burnett (2-0, 3.29 ERA, 16/8 K/BB ratio) have all been exceptional. Hughes has really shown some flashes of dominance, especially in his last start. Burnett has been wild at times, but has done an excellent job of limiting the damage and showing poise with runners on base - he's kept the team in every game he's pitched. If Vazquez can turn it around and the Yankees truly do get a break out season from Hughes, the team arguably has the best pitching staff in baseball.

With today's series win streak coming to a close, this year is still full of promise for the defending world champions. Manager Joe Girardi has to be happy with what he's seen so far, but there's always room for improvement (i.e. Vazquez and Teixeira, some members of the bullpen). Hopefully the Bombers begin a new series win streak starting on Tuesday when they travel to Baltimore to take on the Orioles for a three-game set.

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