• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

We’ve been having a great time up here in Boston. Our basketball team, the Boston Celtics (perhaps you’ve heard of them) just won the NBA championship last night by tearing the Lakers of Los Angeles limb from limb, burning their villages and abducting their women, who, let’s face it, were only too happy to be saved from their unsatisfying unions with the Tinseltown hoopsters. Earlier this year, our football team, the New England Patriots, made a bid for NFL history, winning an unprecedented 18 games in one season before appearing in the Super Bowl for the fourth time since 2001. (Somehow, I can’t quite remember what happened in the Super Bowl itself. Let’s just move on.) And of course, back in the fall, our major league baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, won its second World Series of the past four seasons. Boston these days is naught but trilling laughter, babbling waterfalls, and frolicking unicorns. (And gloating.)

Alas, our good friends to the south have not been so lucky. New York once had a basketball team. This was replaced some months ago by a sexual harassment boondoggle, and the Knickerbockers (as I believe they were called) have not been heard from since. Their football teams have had mixed success. One team, the Jets, has a fixation with videotaping rivaled only by Paris Hilton’s. The other team, the Giants, has fared better—but again, I’m suddenly drawing a blank about what actually happened with them last season. Strange. And finally, their two baseball teams have also left something to be desired. The Metropolitans recently suffered an embarassing front-office meltdown after suffering a humiliating sub-.500 start after suffering a truly mortifying collapse at the end of last season. And the Yankees—oh, the Yankees. Long looked to as the balm to soothe the frighted souls of tortured New York sports fans, the Yankees are currently only adding to the angst along the Hudson. Is there any hope that the Yankees will turn things around in time to save their city? Let’s take a look.

Their starting pitching has been bad, ranking towards the middle-bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category. Their defensive efficiency is in the bottom third of MLB. They’ve been beset by injuries. All of these were entirely predictable, but what has surprised so far is that their offense, while still one of the top five offenses in the AL, has not been enough this year to get them out of third place behind the Red Sox and the Rays.

So what do they need?

The obvious place to start is with their starting pitching, which has been inconsistent and injury-ravaged. Now, with ace Chien Ming Wang on crutches for the next six weeks, Yankees fans are anticipating a trade. At Yankees Chick, Maureen has an open letter to CC Sabathia. At River Ave Blues, Mike has a rundown of some other possibilities, acknowledging that the price for CC may be too high. Certainly, acquiring a durable, dominant starter would give the Yankees a huge boost and would set them for the postseason, where having a one-two punch in one’s pitching rotation is de rigeur.

But they may want to take a more conservative approach. After all, Mike Mussina is having a very good year. Andy Pettitte has actually been pitching better than you think he’s been pitching, thanks to a lousy BABIP. Joba Chamberlain’s transition to the starting rotation has been very promising. And Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy certainly have time to come off the DL and contribute. In fact, the Yankees are still so convinced of Hughes’ enormous potential, he’s still considered “untouchtable” in any trade deal.

Finally, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, Carl Pavano is set to return in August. Now, no one in New York wants to count on Carl Pavano. And I freely admit that the concept of hanging your postseason hopes on a man with scarcely more than 100 innings of work since 2005—the man who once went on the DL with a bruised ass, for crying out loud—does have an air of the ridiculous about it. But it’s not like he’s Matt Clement. If the Yankees do decide they simply must acquire a starter, it might be a better move just to go for a relatively cheap innings-eater than spend a lot of prospects on a mid-season replacement for Wang.

Because while acquiring a Sabathia-level starting pitcher would certainly be an enormous boost to the team’s outlook, the Yankees still have a good shot at getting to the playoffs without making any moves at all (advancing is anther story). Keep in mind that their offensive attack has also been blunted by injuries. There was an uncharacteristic stint on the DL for Alex Rodriguez, an all-too-predictable injury to aging catcher Jorge Posada, and day-to-day aches and pains for Derek Jeter. Jason Giambi was, for much of the start of the season, mired in a terrible slump. Johnny Damon also began rather anemically. All of this combined for a slow start by the vaunted Yankee offense—emphasis on “slow.” The Bombers have never been known for their speed, and so far this year Yankee baserunners have been even slower than usual. (Cashman really ought to pick up a few defensively-minded speedsters to come off the bench.)

However, the Yankee offense is clicking on all cylinders at the moment, pounding their foes with 29 runs over their last three games. Have they turned a corner? Perhaps.

But I’m not entirely convinced. Because so far this season, despite scoring a lot of runs and hitting a lot of extra-base hits, the Yankees rank 9th in the AL in walks, tied with the Indians and just above the Baltimore Orioles. The four teams below them include notoriously free-swinging teams such as the Angels and Royals. Last year, the Yankees finished third in the league in walks. So for New York’s offensive outburst to stick, their hitters are going to need, in the immortal words of Axl Rose, just a little paaaaatience, yeeaaaaaaahhhh.

And that might not be such a bad attitude where their pitching situation is concerned, if the only option is a half-season rental that ends up costing them key prospects. Indeed, patience could be just the ticket, given that New York can unload a number of contracts at the end of this season if they so choose, including those of the aforementioned Mssrs Pavano, Giambi, Pettitte, and Abreu.

-What They Need Index-

15 Responses to “What they need: New York Yankees – A Little Patience”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    It’s no coincidence that the Yankees are surging now that A-Rod is back from the DL. But Jason Giambi has also played a big part. It’s hard to imagine that this guy who was struggling to reach the mendoza line a month ago is now the owner of a .403 OBP and is challenging for the league lead in homers. Of course, people point to the thong. But I credit the mustache.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    He’s got a lucky thong and a slump-busting ‘stache. Nothing can keep a man like that down for long.

  3. Yankees will be fine (if not this year, then next) – they are doing the right thing by not making a panic trade for some overpriced veteran.

    And our NY Giants are just fine – thanks for asking.

  4. Greg Martin says:

    All I can say to the Yanks is, \"Have fun with Sidney Ponson! …again.\"

    Says alot about a team when they are scraping the most wretched offal of the discard bin. …and it\’s refuse they\’ve placed there before, to boot.

  5. I agree that picking up Ponson seems a little desperate, since he certainly doesn’t deserve any more chances. But, on the other hand, it’s a low risk high reward move. And if any clubhouse has demonstrated an ability to keep big egos under control, it’s the Yankees clubhouse. So maybe this will work?

  6. Paul Moro says:

    Coley, what’s the “high reward” for Sidney Ponson? MAYBE keeping his ERA under 5 for 5 starts?

  7. Well Paul, in nine starts with Texas he kept his ERA at 3.88. If he could repeat that sucess in New York I think that would qualify as a high reward. And if he sucks, the Yankees will have wasted, what, $350K? Peanuts.

  8. Paul Moro says:

    Unsurprisingly, I’m calling fluke. The guy was striking out 3.8 guys per nine innings in Texas. That’s Carlos Silva territory. And Silva doesn’t walk as many guys as Ponson does. Plus, only 6 percent of his flyballs were leaving the yard although Texas is a homer-friendly place and for his career, he’s averaging around 13 percent. The man had a 1.56 WHIP for god’s sakes. No way his ERA should be that low. Guys hit .300 against him, and he let .353 percent of guys reach base.

    I’m not saying that Ponson isn’t a low-risk. But he ain’t high-reward. Besides, there are plenty of younger arms within that system that could perform just as well/poorly. At least getting big league experience will be beneficial to the younger ones. On Ponson, it’s wasted.

  9. Coley Ward says:

    Signing a Carlos Silva wannabe might sound like an iffy proposition, but it’s a lot smarter than actually signing Carlos Silva (ahem, Bill Bavasi). If Ponson’s early season success turns out to have been a fluke, then then Yankees have only wasted a couple hundred thousand dollars. And if Ponson keeps up his low ERA, if only for a couple of starts, then they’ve made a shrewd pickup.

  10. Coley Ward says:

    Of course, for all the reasons you mentioned, I agree that it’s unlikely that Ponson will continue to have success. But the Yankees aren’t paying much to find out.

  11. Lyndsay says:

    I see no reason for the Yankees to have anything. I find this to be a rather enjoyable time to watch them. as my mother likes to say, you’ll be hungry and love it!

    /smug bostonian

    p.s. Sarah, if you are seriously suggesting they keep Pavano around a little while longer and use him as an innings eater (which is how I read it)…well, clever trick there to pull on ol’ steinbrenner. I think all teams should try and trick them into making stupid decisions, just for our own amusement.

  12. Nick Kapur says:

    Don’t look now, but the Yankees have won seven games in a row and are the hottest team around. They did lose Wang for the year, but Rasner and now Joba are pitching great, and Mussina has been great all year, plus Pettite being decent. So despite losing Wang, the Yanks have better pitching now than they did a month ago. After all, Wang wasn’t pitching all that amazing this year anyway.

  13. Coley Ward says:

    I could be wrong, but I think the Rasner express is about to run out of gas. But you’re right that between Mussina, Pettite and Joba they’ve got a good top three.

  14. Paul Moro says:

    The only things that give me pause about Rasner are his percentage of infield flies (too high – bound to get lower) and his homeruns allowed per flyball (too low – bound to get higher).

    But aside from that, he’s been a lot better than I thought, especially if his increased strikeout rate isn’t a fluke. He won’t keep his ERA so low, but he might be a serviceable number 5 starter.

  15. Nick Kapur says:

    Rasner’s a good pitcher. He always had good peripherals in the minors, but he’s never been healthy. Now he’s finally healthy for at least a short spell. He got off to a terrific start this season in the minors, and he’s entering his prime. He’s not a crazy amazing prospect, but he’s definitely a major league starting pitcher.

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