Monday, May 22, 2017

The Yankees' 27 Percent Solution

The Yankees were looking to avoid a rather ignominious sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field yesterday afternoon. They did.

As you know, Bob, Joe Girardi is terrified of his starting pitchers reaching 100 pitches. Therefore, even if a starter is cruising, he won't let that pitcher begin an inning in which he might go into triple digits. Thus was CC Sabathia relieved after only 5 innings, having thrown 95 pitches, 67 of them for strikes. You don't need to be an expert mathematician to know that's a pretty good percentage, but I've crunched the numbers for you: 70.5 percent of the Big Fella's pitches were for strikes. In case you need your memory refreshed -- or, in case Binder Boy Girardi does -- that's a good thing.

Then again, so is winning. And since the Yankees won, can we really say Girardi was wrong to relieve CC after just 5 innings? Even if he did allow 2 runs (only 1 of them earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts?

But you gotta back up your pitcher with runs. The Yankees picked up 3 runs in the 2nd inning, including a home run by Brett Gardner, his 8th of the season, surpassing his total from all of last season. If he were playing for the Boston Red Sox, I'd smell something fishy about that.

The Yankees did not score again, and hung on through the pitching of Sabathia, Chad Green, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances. Between them, the bullpen went 4 innings, with only a walk by Green spoiling a perfect performance. This is exactly the kind of relief pitching we need until Aroldis Chapman returns from the Disabled List.

Personally, I would have preferred that CC go at least to the 6th, and that Green pitch the 7th and the 8th, with Betances closing it out. Then again, as I said, it's hard to argue with a win. Yankees 3, Rays 2. WP: Sabathia (4-2). SV: Betances (2). LP: Chris Archer (3-3).


So, 7 weeks into the 26-week Major League Baseball regular season -- 27 percent in the books -- here's where the Yankees stand:

* They are 25-16 following the games of May 21. For comparison's sake, they didn't reach 25 wins until June 2 last year, May 27 in 2015, and May 24, in 2014.

* They have a winning percentage of .610. That's a pace to go 99-63. The last time they had one that good or better over a full season was in... the last Pennant or World Championship season, 2009, when they went 103-59, for .636.

* What's more, they seem to be having more fun than any Yankee team since that 2009 squad, of CC's loose-as-a-goose pitching, of Nick Swisher's goofiness, of A.J. Burnett's "walkoff pies," of Alex Rodriguez acting like he had nothing to lose, and of the normally tight and corporate Derek Jeter just going with the flow to have arguably his best season. The young New Core Four of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro is having a ball, or so to speak.

* They lead the American League Eastern Division by half a game over the Baltimore Orioles, 4 over the Red Sox, 4 1/2 over the Rays, and 8 over the Toronto Blue Jays. In the all-important loss column, they lead the O's by 1, the Sox by 5, the Rays by 7 and the Jays by 10.

* Their run differential of +55 is the best in the AL, and trails only the Los Angeles Dodgers, at +64, in all of MLB.

* The only teams in MLB with a better record are the Houston Astros (.659) and the surprising Colorado Rockies (.622). In other words, if the current standings were in place at the end of the regular season, the Yankees would avoid the Wild Card Game, and have home-field advantage in at least the AL Division Series, possibly also the AL Championship Series if the Astros got knocked off in their ALDS, and would have HFA in the World Series against whoever wins the NL Pennant, except the Rockies. And with Aaron Judge hitting in the thin air of Denver, I like our chances.

* For comparison's sake: The Mets are 18-24, 7 1/2 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East, 6 1/2 games out of the NL's 2nd Wild Card spot, and have a run differential of -27. We Yankee Fans have gone on and on about how many runs we've scored so far, and the total is 232. But the Mets have allowed 237. And that's with that allegedly great pitching staff they've got.

The Yankees have come home, and, weather permitting, will start a series with the Kansas City Royals tonight. All 3 games are scheduled for a 7:05 PM first pitch. Here are the projected starting pitchers:

* Tonight: Michael Pineda vs. Jason Vargas.

* Tomorrow: Jordan Montgomery vs. Danny Duffy.

* Wednesday: Luis Severino vs. Jason Hammel.

Oh, and, before you tell me that this term is baseball blasphemy, need I remind you that nicknames do get continued. The Dallas Cowboys had a Doomsday Defense II, the Los Angeles Lakers had a Showtime II, and the Detroit Red Wings had a Production Line III (although only the 1st 2 versions actually won the Stanley Cup).

And some baseball teams (including the 1990s Atlanta Braves and the early 2000s Oakland Athletics) borrowed the term "Big Three" for their top starting pitchers from the 1949-53 Yankees (Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat).

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