Friday, July 18, 2014

I've Got Til 5! - Second Half Surprises

While it's not impossible for the Yankees to win the American League East this season, it certainly won't be easy.

Thankfully no other team in the division is playing so well that the Yankees should already be thinking about one of the two Wild Card spots. The division leading Baltimore Orioles aren't an offensive juggernaut, and have been relying on their pitching staff quite a bit. The 2nd place Toronto Blue Jays have pretty much been the opposite of the Orioles, relying on their bats to overcome a mediocre pitching staff. The Tampa Bay Rays have hit poorly while being just "okay" on the mound, and the Red Sox have gotten solid pitching as their offense has produced the least amount of runs in the American League.

So even though the Yankees currently sit with a .500 record, while having a run differential that leads some to believe their record is above them, there's still a chance.

"So you're telling me there's a chance."

I'll admit that some Yankees are playing better than they probably should. Brett Gardner is having a career-year at the plate, Ichiro Suzuki is not hitting like the 40 year-old that he is, and Masahiro Tanaka is already showing signs of getting tired. But let's forget about those things, and root for them to continue. And at the same time, here are five guys that I believe will have a nice 2nd half...

1. Chase Whitley

While it took until his eighth start this season to suffer his first loss, Chase Whitley has had it rough since then. In fact, in his last four starts, Whitley has failed to go beyond four innings. To make matters worse, Chase gave up 20 runs in those four starts.

Now, it's certainly true that I haven't seen nearly enough of Chase Whitley in Major League Baseball to say for sure, but I think we're going to see better things out of him in the second half. That's because batters have a Batting Average on Balls In Play (known from here on out as "BABIP") of .354, which is incredibly high. Combined with Whitley's line drive percentage against of 23%, which to be fair isn't small, tells me a slight correction is coming.

There's one other thing about Chase... his FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching rate, of 3.98. If the Yankees infield can do a little better job, then that too could go a long way towards the Yankees getting more out of Whitley's starts.

2. Brian McCann

While we've already seen a turn-around from Brian McCann, I'm sure there are some fans out there that believe it won't continue. After all, the All Star break did cut off any momentum the Yankees backstop created.

But I believe it could continue. McCann's BABIP of .255, coupled with a career-high line drive rate of 27%, makes me believe that he'll keep that hot streak going through the rest of the season. And having a guy that could hit .275/.350/.480 the rest of the way could be a huge help.

3. David Robertson

While it's hard to believe that we could see a guy whose ERA is 2.76 improve, that doesn't mean it's not true.

Opposing hitters have a BABIP of .356, while at the same time hitting D-Rob a little harder than in recent history. And if those two things come back down to Earth, then there's no reason we couldn't see Robinson go from being a "good" closer to a "dominant" one in the second half of the season.

Oh, and there's one other thing... Like Chase Whitley, David has a FIP much lower than his ERA (1.73). This is yet another reason for Brian Cashman to think hard about a player's fielding ability, as well as his bat, when looking to upgrade the infield by trade.

"That's right, kids."

4. Carlos Beltran

Despite what his batting stats may tell us, Carlos Beltran is actually hitting the ball as hard as he ever has. His career line drive percentage is 20%, and Beltran is actually hitting the ball well 21% of the time. So it really doesn't make sense that his BABIP is a lowly .222.

His batting line of .216/.271/.401 is far from impressing Yankees' fans, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Beltran hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .300/.350/.500, which isn't much better than he hit from 2012 to 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

5. Brandon McCarthy

From 2011 through 2012, when batters had a BABIP of .298 (pretty much exactly league average) against McCarthy, Brandon's batting line against was a very respectable .262/.294/.384. That triple-slash against this season is a less-than-respectable .300/.311/.463.

While that bump in BABIP is a bit understandable, thanks to hitters making better contact off of McCarthy's pitches this season (26% line drive percentage this season, versus 21% between 2011 and 2012), it doesn't mean that we shouldn't expect more from the newest member of the Yankees' rotation.

You see, hitters this season have a BABIP of .348 against McCarthy, which is definitely higher than one would expect. Seeing as how McCarthy is a ground ball pitcher, if the Yankees can find a way to improve their infield defense (saying that is getting very tiring), then I see no reason why Brandon McCarthy couldn't have a healthy second half of 2014.

While in previous seasons it's been expected that the Yankees would reach the postseason, this year is definitely different. Even though the Yankees were in fourth place in the division on this day last season, and missed the postseason for only the second time in 19 seasons, they still had 51 wins. Back in 2008, the only other time in 19 years they missed the playoffs, the Yanks still had 50 wins at this point. So this may be the biggest second half mountain the team has had to climb out of in a very long time.

"Yeah, I think I'll stick with baseball cleats."

Before I leave you to the weekend, I wanted to let you know that I'm going on vacation next week, so there won't be an "I've Got Til 5!" post. I'd still love to hear any ideas for this column you have, so feel free to let me know via Twitter (either at the blog @greedystripes or at my personal account @BryanV21), the comment section, or by email (either at or

Have a good one, and as always... GO YANKS!

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