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Yankees Week Two – Getting Right in Cleveland + A Triple Play = 4 – 1

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Week Two for the New York Yankees was a far more fun ride than Opening Week.  An offensive outpouring in Cleveland followed by taking 2 out of 3 from Baltimore has left the Yankees within striking distance of 1st place in a very strange AL East.  Now the Yankees enter the second half of April within striking distance of 1st place in a very strange AL East.

Week Two for the New York Yankees was a far more fun ride than Opening Week. An offensive outpouring in Cleveland followed by taking 2 out of 3 from Baltimore has left the Yankees within striking distance of 1st place in a very strange AL East. Now the Yankees enter the second half of April within striking distance of 1st place in a very strange AL East.

By Nicholas Rossoletti (Yankees Correspondent/Trade Correspondent):

In baseball, a momentum turn can be a slight thing.  A player getting a seeing eye single through the infield that turns him from slumping to streaking. A pitcher getting a lucky hop that turns a rally into a double play.

For this Yankees team, the momentum turn seems to have been C.C. Sabathia‘s gem against the Tigers on a Sunday afternoon.  

The Yankees used that 7 Inning performance to jump-start the second week of the season. In almost every regard, Week Two was the anti-thesis of Week One.

After Sabathia dominating the Tigers’ line-up and the Yankees getting after Detroit ace Justin Verlander, the Yankees headed to Cleveland where it was either raining or the Yankees were scoring runs.

After Opening Week, the 11 and 14 runs scored in the first two nights in Cleveland allowed the fan base to breathe easy.  This run shed some light on an issue I wanted to look at this week.  

Before the season got under way, my pre-season piece focused on the Vernon Wells trade and keeping the faith in a Yankees front office.  

The line-up’s ability to score runs has been largely based on the performance of their veteran acquisitions in the off-season (and the fact that Robinson Cano is absolutely an offensive superstar).

Pronk Cometh:

"Pronk" is a key to the Yankee line-up. His infamous plate patience is one of the few things that even injury could not steal from him. Now with Hafner seemingly healthy, the question has to be asked: How potent a weapon for this Yankee team could he really be?

“Pronk” is a key to the Yankee line-up. His infamous plate patience is one of the few things that even injury could not steal from him. Now with Hafner seemingly healthy, the question has to be asked: How potent a weapon for this Yankee team could he really be?  Hafner has hit for a 3 Slash Line of .324/.419/1.040 in his 37 At-Bats during this year – with 3 HRs and 7 RBI.  In the last  4 years as an Indian, he still plated 217 Runs in just 1476 At-Bats. Hafner has always hit between the white lines.

Vernon Wells has started the season off strongly as his BB Rate is up to 11.9% and his BABIP is .321. Both numbers support Wells as an improved offensive weapon.

 The BABIP should regress, but it probably will not be such a large regression as to destroy Wells’ average. These are the numbers that need to be watched from Wells and will determine the viability of Wells’ long term success.  

Obviously, all statistics this early in the season have to be looked at through the lens of small sample size.  It is impossible to say with any particular certainty at this point how Wells’ early season success will translate, but we are seeing the right numbers take a step up and his current production is clearly a factor in the Yankees lineup, which is a positive.  

Given the over-negative reaction to his acquisition, it is safe to say that Wells has bought himself some breathing room in New York.

Along with Wells, Travis Hafner has started the season hot.  Hafner’s claim to fame the last several years has been his inability to stay on the field.  

The difference between Hafner and Wells is that Hafner’s 12.8% BB Rate may actually be sustainable while Wells’ rate seems more likely to regress.  

Throughout his career, Pronk has maintained excellent BB rates even when injuries sapped his power potential.  

To date, Hafner has rediscovered that power while sustaining the BB Rate.  If that continues, the DH position in the Yankee lineup should be filled most game days regardless of the health of the players around Hafner.  

Hafner’s success and health in the middle of the Yankee line-up is incredibly important given the current state of team.

Both players astounding start speaks to the continued success of the Yankees at filling their roster through acquiring major league veterans who have seen better days.  

In the past, the Yankees have found success with Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Bartolo Colon, Andruw Jones, Russell Martin and Nick Swisher.

In other pieces, we have mentioned this history of success by the Bombers on acquiring veterans to fill out the roster.  While I would love to say that every veteran acquisition this year looked like a real threat to challenge for playing time all season long, that just isn’t the truth.

Lyle Overbay has been a nice addition for the Yankees early on, but his statistics paint a picture for a player who may soon find himself on the short end of a slump.  Yankee fans should keep their minds open to the fact that Overbay is merely a stop-gap, and if Mark Teixiera is out for a long period of time, the team may have to make a trade.

Lyle Overbay has been a nice addition for the Yankees early on, but his statistics paint a picture for a player who may soon find himself on the short end of a slump. Yankee fans should keep their minds open to the fact that Overbay is merely a stop-gap, and if Mark Teixiera is out for a long period of time, the team may have to make a trade.

Hafner and Wells are not the only veteran acquisitions to help the Yankees lineup through the early part of the season.  Lyle Overbay was all but an afterthought in Red Sox camp during Spring Training and there may be a reason for that.  Overbay has helped the Yankees by playing above his head to this point.  

While Wells and Hafner both have peripherals that would lead us to believe that they may be able to sustain production, nothing about Overbay’s statistics support a .280 hitter in the Major Leagues.  His 2.5% BB rate is simply atrocious and slightly surprising.  

Overbay normally walks at between a 9% and 11% rate so the decrease in walks to start 2013 does not bode well.  Additionally, Overbay’s BABIP of .333 is slightly high given his statistical norms.  

None of this is great for continued production from Overbay, who is already only a replacement level asset who adds 0 Wins Above Replacement.  

With Mark Teixeira‘s predictions for his return seeming blatantly optimistic, it would not surprise me if the Yankees began looking for trade partners with spare first base options.

Overall, the veterans in Yankees line-up made the second week of the season far more enjoyable than the first. On the rotation side of things, the season is beginning to play out in a very have or have not form.  

When Sabathia, Andy Pettitte or Hiroki Kuroda are on the mound the Yankees seem to have a very legit chance of winning a ball game.  When Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes take the mound, the Yankees have a very legit shot of going to the bullpen sometime in the first four innings.

Nova’s start in Cleveland was postponed due to rain, and the team decided against giving the aging starters an extra day of rest in favor of skipping Nova’s start all together.  Hughes’ start was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect second week as he could not get out of the fourth inning against the O’s.

Last week, we discussed at length the Ivan Nova Question and how David Phelps was looming in the background waiting to potentially take that rotation spot.  I think in most fans and even some writers minds Phelps is currently the fourth best starter on the team.  

In his appearance on Saturday, he was dominating.  Phelps struck out 6 over 4 frames and didn’t walk a soul.  I just cannot fathom how a team looks at Phelps’ stuff and doesn’t want more innings out of his arm.  

As is, when we ended the major league portion of the piece last week, I talked about how the sky wasn’t falling.  This week, I would like to follow up that point with the fact that the AL East is wide open.  The Rays lineup is one of the worst in baseball right now.

Tampa is not quite Houston or Miami quality ineptitude with the bat, but they are far from a dominant lineup.  The O’s can be wildly inconsistent and the Yankees managed to take 2 out of 3 against their rivals over the weekend.  Toronto is injured and their pitching staff seems less dominating than previously thought.  

The best team in the division right now is Boston, whose team is ultimately pretty similar to the Yankees.  The spring breeds hope every season, and Yankees fans should be hopeful.  This team is a contender right now.

As we move forward, the back end of the rotation will be a larger story especially considering the nature of the rotation.  Aches and pains have already sprung up for Andy Pettitte.  The younger starters will be leaned on more to spare the bullpen and aging starters as the season moves along. Andy Pettitte has come up huge during his two starts for the New York Yankees thus far - going 2 - 0 with a 1.20 ERA.

As we move forward this year, the back end of the rotation will be a large story. Aches and pains have already sprung up for Andy Pettitte. The younger starters will be leaned on more to spare the bullpen and aging starters as the season moves along. #46 has still come up huge during his two starts – going 2 – 0 with a 1.20 ERA.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade and Yankees Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter.

Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.

He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love.

The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball

“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~ Al Gallagher, 1971

a    nicholas rossoletti

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Posted on April 17, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Yankees Week Two – Getting Right in Cleveland + A Triple Play = 4 – 1.

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