Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
You have to look hard to see flaws or needs in a team that is playing as well as the Yankees are this month. But remember, the Red Sox seemed perfect on April 20, when they were 17-2 and 7 ½ games up in the American League East. The Yankees will be excellent all year, but it won't always be as easy as it has lately appeared.
While winning 17 of 18 games before Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Red Sox -- which nearly became yet another thrilling win, after the Yanks erased a 4-0 lead, only to lose on a J.D. Martinez home run in the eighth -- the team wanted for nothing. But zoom out, and the need to add a starting pitcher like Cole Hamels or Michael Fulmer remains.
It was tempting for a time to think that CC Sabathia's excellence could cancel that need. Going into Thursday's start, the old lefty's 1.39 ERA was third in the majors among pitchers with more than 30 innings pitched, and his 28.6% soft-hit rate was a career best. He had not only completed the transition from power to finesse pitcher, but found a way to dominate with his new identity.
Sabathia was far from atrocious on Thursday. He was one batter into the fifth inning when a 55-minute rain delay iced him for the night. He wasn't going deep into the game anyway, having thrown 80 pitches and allowing four runs on nine hits -- but several of those hits were luckily placed against infield shifts. Others, like Hanley Ramirez's homer in the fifth, were quite well-struck.
Sabathia still had his signature moxie, striking out Andrew Benintendi to end the fourth and strand Mookie Betts on second. He will always be an elite competitor, wiggling out of spots in which many others would fold.
But the veteran was due for a regression, having entered the game with a .211 opponents batting average on balls in play. That number suggested that luck had been on his side -- and hit luck rarely holds for an entire season. He is also 37 years old, and has been on the disabled list once already this season. No one will be surprised if that happens again.
However he performs, Sabathia will be an essential leader for the rest of what looks like a special season for the team. And will surely win more games. But considering his age and likelihood of regression -- with Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka inconsistent and Jordan Montgomery injured -- the basic equation for Brian Cashman hasn't changed: If he wants to win the World Series, he'll probably have to add a pitcher.