Does this current streak mark a turning of the corner for the Bombers?
Just prior to this run the team had lost six of seven and seemed to be in a hopeless free-fall in the American League East division. They hit rock bottom with a 6 – 0 loss to the Kansas City Royals that left them at 21 – 21 and tied for last place with the Boston Red Sox.
The lack of production with runners in scoring position by the heart of the order, inability of the starting rotation to keep the ball in the park, and injuries to key players all were widely pointed to as the reason for the New York Yankees demise. The team fell under a high-powered microscope of scrutiny and several high-profile players felt the brunt of the increased focus. In particular Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano (the aforementioned “heart” of the order) were criticized by the media and fans alike.
What has been at the root of the current success?
This four game stretch has been marked with better starting pitching that began with Phil Hughes six strong innings in a 3 – 2 win over the Royals.
Earlier in the year, Hughes was walking a tight-rope with the constant threat of being pulled from the rotation as his ERA had ballooned to 7.48. Since then, he has put together four consecutive starts of three runs or less, and after that win over Kansas City the New York Yankees hurler’s ERA is now 4.94.
Hughes isn’t the only starter that has apparently found answers to earlier problems, as these four games mark the first time this season that Yankee starters have strung together that many games yielding three runs or less.
“Runners in scoring position” are four words that have made New York Yankees followers wince. Following that loss to the Royals, a game in which the team was 0 for 13 with RISP, the Yankees .222 average with runners on second and third base put them next to last in MLB rankings for that category.
While not great, the team’s RISP average during the last four games is .241 – including three contests with more than one hit with runners in scoring position. It may be a sign that the New York Yankees have put their “funk” behind them.
Most telling that the team has turned a corner is the increased production from the three men mentioned above. In the current win streak, Cano, Rodriguez, and Teixeira are a combined 17 for 48 (.354 avg) with 8 HR and 16 RBI.
Teixeira, the most scrutinized of the group, has raised his average from .227 to .248 during that stretch – including a four hit, two HR performance yesterday.
Are there still concerns?
Some disturbing trends remain that the New York Yankees will have to address if they are to have a successful 2012 campaign.
First, the starting rotation continues to yield the “long ball”. Even though they are not giving up as many runs, in each of the four wins their opponents have hit at least one home run – six total – including two yesterday off ace CC Sabathia.
Second, the offense continues to depend on the home run as its primary means of scoring. To date the New York Yankees have won once without hitting a “dinger”. If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Home runs are a “streaky” thing and dependency on them means you will be prone to just as many droughts as you are to deluges. It is a risky way to live in the baseball world.
Finally, this streak of four wins has come against two teams – the A’s and Royals – that are 40 – 52 on the season. They aren’t exactly considered “powerhouses”.
That being said, the good teams win the games they are supposed to, and this New York Yankees squad finally is doing that. “Baby steps” as these wins may be, they are at least steps in the right direction and give fans hope that the team has finally gotten itself together.