Monday, April 9, 2012

Say What?! Yankees 0-3 after sweep to Tampa Bay

Rays 3
Yankees 0

Woebegone is the life of the Yankees. Who would have thunk this: not only are the Mets undefeated after three games, but the Yankees are winnless and have looked just plain awful after their first series of the season. Concerns about the Yankee rotation were augmented after a hideous three game stretch that can't make anyone in the Yankees front office comfortable as the Yankee season limps out of its start.

For the Yankees, this is the first time they have begun a season at 0-3 since 1998, the same season that saw the Yankees win 114 regular season games, en route to a sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series, so all ended well the last time this had happened to the Bronx Bombers. But the difference between that team and this one is significant: the starting pitching. That '98 team that started 0-3 had crafty veterans from David Cone to David Wells and Andy Pettitte in the rotation. This year's rotation, outside of CC Sabathia, is a gigantic quagmire. While Yankee fans can take solace knowing the Red Sox are also 0-3, the first time since 1966 that both the Yankees and Sox started a season at 0-3, and that the Baltimore Orioles are 3-0 right now, there are reasons for concern for this team.

Hiroki Kuroda, who was a clear mistake to make a number two starter, was lit up on Saturday night, giving up six runs en route to a Tampa Bay 8-6 victory. This time around it was the inconsistent Phil Hughes, who needs to prove that he is back to his 2010 form, who got tagged on Sunday. While Hughes wasn't awful, he especially didn't help. He got into trouble right away in the first inning, surrendering a double to Evan Longoria and then a triple to Matt Joyce to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Two innings later, Hughes served up a solo shot to Carlos Pena, who proceeded to hit his second homer of the series, to make it 2-0.

Hughes lasted only four and two-thirds innings, and while he wasn't bad as he did strike out five batters, it was a bit of a step backwards from his fabulous spring training outings.

Offensively, the Yankees bats were silenced by second year righty Jeremy Helickson, who dazzled for 8 and 2/3rds innings, giving up only three hits on 118 pitches. Even when Helickson walked Nick Swisher in the ninth, he still had great velocity and probably could have finished off the game. Still he was very good. He shut down Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, who were a combined 0-for-11 against the sophomore, and he never allowed a Yankees batter past second base.

Another big concern for the Yankees after this awful loss is the ineffectiveness of Mark Teixeria. Teixeria is hitting .111 this season and is off to another slow start; he is notorious slow starter, but for a guy who is the heart of the Yankees lineup, they need him to produce especially since Teixeria is coming off his worst season in which he batted .248. If the Yankees are going to go anywhere, they need Teixeria to have a big season at bat. Teixeria's slow start looms even larger when the struggles of both Jeter and Granderson are added to the equation. Jeter is only hitting .231 and Granderson .167.

While the Yankees are not an aging team, their average age is 29, they display way too many issues; the number one issue is the rotation. Sabathia was lit up on opening day and didn't look good at all in spring training. While one would expect Sabathia to work through his early struggles, the people behind him represent a huge question mark. Meanwhile Kuroda is dreadful, period. He is NOT a number two starter; moreover, he struggled to achieve an ERA under four in the pitcher-friendly National League when he played as a Dodger. The fact that he was promoted to the number two guy in the rotation over Ivan Nova who won 16 games for the Yankees last year, describes a huge mistake by manager Joe Girardi. Speaking of Nova, who pitches Monday night in Baltimore, he needs to bounce back from a horrid spring, where he posted a six ERA. Which Nova will the Yankees get this season?

Then, of course, the rotation rounds out with Freddy Garcia, who has really nothing left; his once dynamic 90+ mph fastball is barely over 85; he walks the ballpark every time and he is prone to getting lit up by opposing batters. Finally, there is Hughes, who was decent on Sunday, but he is basically the 2012 Yankees version of A.J. Burnett; one never knows what one will get out of him on a start-by-start basis.

So who are these New York Yankees? Are they good enough to again rebound from an 0-3 start? Yes, they should change their luck very soon. Is this a sign that the Yankees aren't ready to compete with the Rays, Tigers and Angels? Yes. And that constitutes the problem.

No comments: