Thursday, April 11, 2013

Yankees Offense Sizzling


Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, and Kevin Youkilis

You can’t predict baseball right? After a sluggish 1-4 start to the season wit little going right, the Yankee bats have caught fire to even their record at 4-4. It all started with a big unexpected home run by Jayson Nix off Justin Verlander, and now the Yankees have averaged 10.6 runs over their last three games. Brian Cashman has appeared to yet again catch lightning in a bottle with Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Brennan Boesch off to really good starts. Combine them with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner getting hot, and the Yankees really have something going.

What has been so great about the last three games is the versatility the Yankees have shown with their bats. With the injures and free agency losses, it was thought that the Yankees would lack power, which has not been the case as they are second in the AL in home runs with 15. However, unlike last year, the Yankees are not scoring most of their runs just because of home runs. They are also second in the AL in team batting average at .281, and they have been going first to third on hits a lot more this year. The Yankees have also been getting the job done with RISP and with 2-out hits. They have scored 44.9% of their runs this season on hits with two outs and RISP, and they are hitting .361 as a team in those situations. The Yankees are hitting .319 as a team with RISP overall.

A strange lineup move has paid off for the Yankees thus far. With Cano struggling, Joe Girardi moved him from the third spot in the order to second between Gardner and Youkilis. The second place in the order is usually a high on-base percentage player, and Cano does not take a lot of walks. Also, obviously Cano is the best hitter on the Yankees, and the best hitter usually hits third or fourth. The idea behind this was for Gardner to get on base, have the hole open between first and second base for Cano, and he would see more fastballs since Gardner is a threat to run. As soon a Gardner got hot Cano did as well, although two of his three home runs were hit the other way. Pitchers started pitching him outside more last postseason and the beginning of this season, and it looks like he has finally adjusted. It will be interesting to see how long Cano stays in the two hole. I think it might be a good spot for Wells right now, as he has five walks this season and a .467 OBP.

Wells, Youkilis and Hafner have combined to hit .354 with six home runs in the first eight games. Who knows how long they can keep it up, but they are making Cashman look really smart right now. Wells’ bat speed looks vastly improved and he has used the whole field this year, as he had three hits to the opposite field on Monday, which is the same number of opposite field that he had all of last year. Youkilis has done a great job of using the whole field as well, and if he can stay healthy, he should be able to produce very well. It looks very clear that injuries were the main reason for his struggles last season. Much like Raul Ibanez last spring, scouts were worried about Hafner, and they were saying that he could not get around on a fastball anymore. That appears to be false, as he has hit .333/.419/.556/.975 and two home runs this season.

All of this gives the Yankees hope that they can at least tread water in April until the reinforcements come. Also, it is fun to imagine the lineup with Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson back with Youkilis, Wells and Hafner all still hitting well. Teixeira will be welcomed back, as LyleOverbay is the one new player who has not been very impressive. He has hit very few balls with force and his defense has been awful.

Granderson coming back will be more interesting because it will create a log jam in the outfield. If Wells continues his pace and Ichiro continues to struggle than Wells may take Ichiro’s playing time. This is coming on the heels of Joel Sherman writing that “the top of the Yankee hierarchy” demanded that Ichiro be brought back after his solid end to last season. This is what I feared when it happened; the Yankees only brought him back because they have a chance to make marketing money if he gets to 3,000 hits. It appears that this might have been another Cashman vs. ownership battle. So, it will be very interesting to see if Girardi takes away Ichiro’s playing time, if that is necessary. 

Obviously, the Yankees will not continue to score 10 runs a game, but it has certainly been fun to watch. How long can they keep this up? Time will tell. 


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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)