Considering the decrepit state of the New York Yankees‘ roster, the first half of the season went as well as it possibly could have. With starting players and superstars dropping like flies, the pinstripes, while playing a lot of backups and castoffs, own a respectable 51-44 record. However, there is no real reason to believe that there is a championship team here.
Playing to the best of their abilities, the Yankees are a fourth place team, six games behind the rival Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They will go into their first post-All-Star Break series against the Red Sox in Fenway trying to find a way to play like the gritty team that started out this season 30-18. The lineup, though, which features names like Travis Hafner, Luis Cruz, and Vernon Wells, provides little reason for hope.
Nicely put, the offense is ineffective. They have scored 373 runs in 95 games, which is fewer than the historically terrible New York Mets have in 91 games.
Pitching, both from the starters and the relievers, has kept the Yankees in the hunt. One of the good long-term stories is their sudden starting depth. Hiroki Kuroda, who was snubbed from an All-Star roster spot, has passed the struggling CC Sabathia as the ace of the staff while Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have been spotty in the middle. At the back-end, David Phelps has had a taste of success while Ivan Nova re-emerged with two consecutive terrific outings. Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have shown future value during spot appearances this year. Meanwhile, Michael Pineida is finally healthy again and is trying to find his 2011 All-Star form down in Triple-A.
The bullpen is spectacular. Mariano Rivera has come back from his devastating knee surgery and put up 30 saves in the first half to regain the dominant form that has made him the game’s greatest closer. He is leading from the back, and manager Joe Girardi has been able to masterfully mix and match names like Preston Claiborne and Shawn Kelley to go along with set-up man David Robertson to lock down the middle innings.
The offense still has to change. Maybe some of the injured stars will come back and contribute the way they were expected to. Derek Jeter, now out with a quad injury after recovering from a broken ankle, either could return as soon as Friday in Boston or could head to the DL again. Curtis Granderson, who is only up to swinging a broom, might be back in August as his fractured left hand continues to heal. Alex Rodriguez is progressing slowly up the Yankees minor league system but is trying to return from two hip surgeries. GM Brian Cashman, with a wild card spot in mind, could add a piece or two via the waiver wire or trade. The Yankees are just three games back of the second wild card.
It is astounding that the Yankees have done as well as they have with the lineups that they have been running out there every night. It also is a scary thought when you think about what the second half of the season could look like for them if the status quo remains.