The Yankees seem to be getting a little long in the tooth. (Photo credit)
Even when the Yankees lose, they win. They lost the best shortstop of all time to the 60-day disabled list at the beginning of the season. They lost one of the best hitting infielders of all time to the 60-day disabled list at the beginning of the season. They lost one of their best power hitters to the 15-day disabled list on May 29. They lost the future ace of their pitching staff to the 60-day disabled list at the beginning of the season. And they just recently got back their power hitting first baseman from the disabled list.
So, if you weren’t paying any attention to the first paragraph: the Yankees have lost Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Michael Pineda, and Mark Teixeira to the disabled list at some point this season. And yet, they have continued to win like only the Yankees can.
If I asked the average baseball fan which team Chris Stewart, Jayson Nix, and Travis Hafner were getting significant playing time on, I would bet that it would take them some time to figure it out. Has that ever been true for any player dressed in pinstripes? The Yankees usually sign players with the biggest names. Therefore, we usually know which team they are on.
But this season, due to the multitude of injuries to their stars, New York was forced to follow the small market team path and sign undervalued veterans for cheap.
This Yankees team full of misfits has somehow managed to not only maintain contention in one of the best divisions in baseball, but they are currently in second place, not far behind the Red Sox. And after looking at the numbers, I’m still not quite sure how they are doing it.
Let’s take a look at their lineup and batting averages for the June 9 game against the Mariners, which they won 2-1.
Brett Gardner: .284
Robinson Cano: .272
Mark Teixeira: .167
Travis Hafner: .242
Vernon Wells: .238
Ichiro Suzuki: .259
Jayson Nix: .256
Reid Brignac: .208
Chris Stewart: .276
That should give you a pretty good idea that the New York offense is nothing to be frightened by. How can the second best team in the A.L. East not have one starter hit over .300?
This mystery can only have one explanation: otherworldly pitching. The Yankees are ranked in the top-10 in wins, losses, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, and even saves. The rotation, headed by one of the most consistent aces of our time, C.C. Sabathia, has been significant to the Yankees’ success.
The three ageless wonders, Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte at the top of the rotation are 17-12 combined this season and have set the tone for the entire rotation. Phil Hughes and David Phelps have been solid complementary pieces to the rotation, but have been a bit inconsistent this season.
But even the ace of this staff, Sabathia, has had his share of poor moments this season. He has given up four or more earned runs in six of his 14 starts this season. Because of that, his ERA has boomed to 4.07, which is higher than the past nine seasons. It really makes you wonder how the Yankees are still winning even when their ace has been shaky at times.
But what makes this team so special is that all their starters need to do is pitch six innings with a lead. Because, when they take a step off of the mound with a lead in the game, everyone watching knows the game is all but over.
From Boone Logan to David Robertson to Mariano Rivera, offenses have not had much of a chance to claw back into games against these guys. And it should be of no surprise that Rivera is dominating again. With 23 saves in 24 opportunities, it makes you wonder whether Mo will actually retire at the end of the season like he has said. Health permitting, how can someone so effective turn down all that money?
The 2013 New York Yankees are another case of how important pitching is, but the real question is how long can they get by without some help from the offense? Will the offensive woes end once they get back some of their injured stars?
Mark Teixeira has not done much in the short time he has been back and there are definitely questions about how Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, who have been inconsistent in their elder years, will do when inserted back into the lineup.
The Yankees do play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, but that logic can go both ways, helping both teams. It's hard to see the Yankees’ aging pitching staff maintaining its current numbers throughout the season, and at the same time, I don’t foresee the team's offensive numbers getting significantly better even when their starters return.
According to ESPN, the Yankees are the oldest team in the MLB with an average age of 31. It is hard to envision them succeeding over the course of the entire season. Injuries will continue to affect this team, and by August they will likely be forgotten in the playoff race.
New York has been wildly impressive in the first 10 weeks of this season. But, when a team relies too heavily on one aspect of the game, it is difficult for them to thrive for the entre season, especially when their most important players are either in the tail-end of or past their primes.
By: Matt Levine