There are two ways to look at the New York Yankees as they head into June. One is that this team isn’t very good, they sit two games under .500 and in fourth place in a very weak American League East. The other way to look at it is that a mere three weeks ago, they were 11-18 and looked like they didn’t stand a chance.
So what’s different?
Aroldis Chapman has been invaluable
Chapman has been a perfect six-for-six in save opportunities since rejoining the club. But it isn’t so much about we he’s doing all alone, but what he has done for the bullpen.
The Yankees starters are still, in large part, a mess, but now they barely need to go six innings. Dellin Betances has become the best seventh inning guy in baseball, and Andrew Miller was arguably the best set-up guy in the American League before he became the best closer in the American League last season.
It has changed the dynamic of the Yankees game plan, as well as the mentality in their starters, and it has shown on the mound. Ivan Nova has looked good — even in his one loss — and Nathan Eovaldi has strung together three good starts. Why? Because they know they don’t have to go to the seventh inning, and could even get bailed out in the sixth if need be, and longer outings have always been the bane of Eovaldi and Nova’s existence.
C.C. Sabathia looks good
That’s not a typo, folks. In fact, over three starts in May — with a quick D.L. trip in between — Carlsten Charles has allowed one earned run over 20 innings. He was arguably the best pitcher in the second half for the Yankees last season, so this may not be an anomaly.
Last season saw C.C. draw the angst of many fans when he decided to step away and help himself over the team. It was a necessary evil, and it is now looking like those demons did have control of him. He seems happier and healthier, but more importantly, he seems like C.C. again.
That could be a dangerous thing.
Michael Pineda is hard to watch
You know that Big Mike only makes $2.1-million this year? There is also this.
Pineda came into today with a 13.00 first-inning ERA. He’s given up three runs in the initial frame already.
— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) May 28, 2016
#Rays lead 3-0 E1, increasing Pineda’s first inning ERA this season to 14.40, currently third-highest in majors. #Yankees
— Matt Stein (@MattSteinSTF) May 28, 2016
In the past, the Yankees — especially under the leadership of Joe Girardi — have stuck with some pretty bad pitchers because of the ludicrous salaries in which the powers that be had signed them. That’s not the case with Pineda. He cost the Yankees Jesus Montero, who has actually had a worse run in the big leagues than Pineda himself.
The truth is Pineda looked good in a 76.1 inning 2014 and then the first half of last year, but other than that, his Yankees tenure has been a train wreck. So, there isn’t a big salary they have to worry about, he doesn’t have a strong history of ace-like stuff, and to add to it all, the Yankees are pretty much done by the second inning when he takes the mound.
I’m not saying that they have to dump him, but he needs to be out of the rotation until he figures things out. He isn’t even giving the Yankees a chance to win, and right now, a guaranteed loss every five days is not something the Yankees can afford.
More importantly, what teams employ the two starters who have worse than a 14.40 ERA in the first inning this year? Sheesh.
Beltran’s bat is hot
It’s funny how everybody wants to get rid of this guy to make room for Aaron Judge. I’ve expressed my opinions on The Judge. Since I wrote that piece, Judge’s average has dropped from .286 to .240, he’s getting on base at an unacceptable .300 lick, while becoming a league leader in strikeouts and strikeout rate. Sure, he hits pretty home runs, but he needs more discipline or else big league pitchers will eat him alive.
Carlos Beltran, however, is who he is. Has he lost a step? Sure. Would it be a heck of a lot better if the Yankees could dump A-Rod, move Beltran to DH and get Rob Refsnyder everyday at bats in right? No question. Can Beltran still hit? You bet.
Beltran is one of the Top Five switch hitters of all time, and when he hangs it up, he will be in Hall of Fame discussion. He is also a guy that has come back from the odds, when everyone thought his broken body could do no more, and has done it.
Right now, Beltran is making the Yankees offense go — with increasingly better play from Jacoby Ellsbury as well — and he needs to remain in the lineup.
Speaking of hot bats…
When you look at a young up-and-coming shortstop and see that he is batting .272 heading into the third month of a season, you often go, “ho hum”, and move on, especially in today’s game which is saturated with big-time young shortstops. But Didi Gregorius is a different story.
Does everyone realize that Sir Didi was hitting .221 on May 1st? He’s now hitting .272, having hit safely in 12 of his last 15 games. Add that glove to the mix, and it looks like the Yankees had a steal of a deal to bring him on board as the next Yankees shortstop.
Gregorius is just 26, and it seems like he may finally be growing into his game. That’s exciting to watch.