State of the Yankees: May 31 edition

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Updated: May 31, 2013

Through all of the injuries, the New York Yankees had been bouncing along at or near the top of the American League East anyway in 2013 … then it happened.

 

“It” being the Subway Series with the New York Mets, and there hasn’t been this one-sided a battle in New York since the pilgrims traded some baubles to the Indians for Manhattan. The Mets took two games at Citi Field on Monday and Tuesday and then came to Yankee Stadium and didn’t miss a beat, taking the final two games of the series for their first sweep ever of the Bronx Bombers.

 

Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are set to be activated on Friday and it couldn’t come at a better time. As inspiring a story as Lyle Overbay has been this season, the fact remains that the Yankees have been using a guy who has put up a .239/.315/.369 line in 571 plate appearances over the last two seasons as their cleanup hitter. Not to disrespect what Overbay has done (.247/.289/.461 with eight homers and 29 RBI in 191 plate appearances), but … yeah, a healthy Teixeira is better.

 

So what is the state of the Yankees after 53 games? Shakier than it was four days ago, to be sure.

 

Starting Pitching: Grade A-

Despite being without injured Andy Pettitte (who is slated to return on Monday), the Yankee rotation has held its own. Over the last two weeks, the rotation is holding hitters to a .241 average and has recorded a 1.11 WHIP to go with an ERA-minus of 96 (compared to their full season total of 90).

Hiroki Kuroda has been far and away the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation. In 11 starts and 67.2 innings, Kuroda has an ERA of 2.39, a WHIP of 1.005 and has just 14 walks to 46 strikeouts.

 

CC Sabathia has been shakier at 3.96 and 1.321 and Phil Hughes has been, well, Phil Hughes (4.97, 1.38)—allowing 11 home runs in 54.1 innings. In the second game at Citi Field, Hughes was cruising until he missed his location on a two-strike pitch to David Wright, who hit a ball that may actually land sometime this weekend.

 

Vidal Nuno deserved better than he got while filling in for Pettitte—in three starts, he has an ERA of 2.12 and a WHIP of 1.00 in 17 innings … and managed to go just 1-1, losing a tough one Thursday night because the Yankees just couldn’t score against the Mets (seven runs in four games).

 

Relief Pitching: Grade A-

The Yankee bullpen has an ERA-minus of 78, tied for eighth in the majors, and over the last two weeks, it has recorded a mark of 67. That said, it’s been a tough week for the pen. Over the last week, the bullpen is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings. David Robertson took the loss in the Monday game against the Mets and Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the season on Tuesday. Joba Chamberlain gave up a tough-luck run on Thursday when John Buck’s slow roller didn’t go foul.

 

The find of the year in the pen has been 25-year-old right-hander Preston Claiborne. A 17th-round pick in 2010 out of Tulane, Claiborne has allowed only nine hits and one run in 14.2 innings since making his debut on May 5. He has 11 strikeouts, hasn’t walked a batter and the only run he gave up was a home run to Baltimore’s Matt Wieters on May 22.

 

Offense: Grade C-

To say the Yankee offense has been struggling the last couple of weeks would be to insult all struggling offenses. New York has just 41 runs in its last 12 games and is hitting .227/.268/.380 as a team. That’s not good. That’s not even close to good. It’s actually pretty darn bad.

 

After a solid start, Vernon Wells has gone ice-cold. Since May 14, Wells is hitting .151/.196/.245 with one homer and two RBI in 56 plate appearances to go with 10 strikeouts. That has dragged his overall numbers down to .258/.307/.447, getting closer to the offensive non-entity he was with the Los Angeles Angels the past two seasons.

 

The aforementioned Overbay, meanwhile, is at .232/.279/.411 with two homers and seven RBI in 61 plate appearances over the same period. That means we’re starting to see why the Angels were ready to part with Wells and why Overbay has been released twice since August.

 

But seriously, outside of Robinson Cano (.296/.351/.545 with 14 homers and 36 RBI), no one in pinstripes is really hitting well. Among regulars, the next best marks belong to Brett Gardner (.262/.330/.421) and no other regular is over .260.

 

Fielding: C

The Yankees are in the middle-of-the-pack defensively in terms of ultimate zone rating per 150 games with a mark of 1.0. That means over 150 games their defense will save them a whopping one run. That’s down precipitously from my last report.

 

OVERALL: A

I’m sticking with this grade for this team because as of the end of May, the Yankees have gotten a total of 31 plate appearances from Derek Jeter, Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. Meanwhile, they have received 800 PAs from the group of Chris Stewart, Overbay, Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, Brennan Boesch, David Adams, Ben Francisco, Austin Romine, Chris Nelson, Reid Brignac, Alberto Gonzalez and Corban Joseph. That is more than 40 percent of their total plate appearances on the season.

 

Take that factoid into consideration and suddenly 30-23 and two games out of first place in the American League East doesn’t look half bad at all.

 

Phil Watson was a writer and editor for several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now an independent sports journalist based in upper Michigan. He contributes to several websites, including Yahoo! Sports and HoopsHabit, as well as writing and producing his own daily sports commentary, “After Further Review,” at afrmediaonline.com.

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