The New York Yankees will enjoy an off-day Monday, one that might come at a good time for them as they search for a way to get all facets of their game in sync. Some positive and negative developments have encapsulated the Yankees first four series of the season.
Castro fitting in
Coming to a new city after years with another is never easy for a ballplayer, but Starlin Castro has made the transition seamlessly. Despite slowing down a bit over the last week, Castro has provided the Yankees with plenty of offense from the bottom third of the order. Castro is now hitting .333 with a .378 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. Castro has three doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs in 45 plate appearances. Further, Castro has been solid at second base, a position he is still learning.
A-Rod off to slow start
Alex Rodriguez might have spoiled some fans with his return performance in 2015. After hitting 33 home runs last season, many expected Rodriguez to provide similar thump in the middle of the Yankees' batting order. Rodriguez snapped a 0-for-20 skid Sunday with his second home run. Unfortunately, Rodriguez is hitting just .118 (4-for-34) with 13 strikeouts.
Rodriguez has looked more like the player many figured he would display at the start of last season considering the rust after a year away from the game. Rodriguez contends to be feeling good at the plate and believes there is a turnaround coming. The club needs Rodriguez to be productive in order for the team to be successful; otherwise, he will be clogging up a roster spot.
The Yankees rotation was never considered to be a top-flight crew, but it was arguable they had enough talent and upside to propel the team to a postseason berth. Something with need to change soon with the starters, or else the pressure will remain firmly on the offense and bullpen.
Besides Masahiro Tanaka (17 2/3 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 16 K), the rest of the rotation has struggled to a combined 6.14 ERA in 44 innings of work. The group, consisting of Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino, has averaged just 5.5 innings of work in their eight starts. Of particular concern for the Yankees, the number of home runs allowed by Eovaldi (4) and Pineda (3) in their starts, and opponents are hitting a robust .383 against Severino. As for Sabathia, he has looked OK in his starts until the third time the order comes to the plate.
Things can turn around in a hurry of course, and the Yankees would like Tanaka's Sunday start to set the standard for the rest of the group.
A Tale of Two Offenses
The Yankees scored eight or more runs three times, including 16 in one game, during their first two series, but just 14 runs in their last two series. The Yankees are getting on base for the most part (.333 on-base percentage), but the team's problems with runners in scoring position became exacerbated this weekend when the team went a combined 1-for-35.
The good news is the Yankees are getting home runs (14, good for ninth in MLB) and five of their regular position players are hitting over .300. As a bonus, the Yanks are stealing bases looking to generate runs (MLB-best 13 steals). The hits with runners in scoring position will begin to drop, so of the issues discussed, this is the one I suspect erased first.
Backend of bullpen; even better than expected
The backend of the bullpen was (and is) expected to be quite good, especially when Aroldis Chapman comes back from his 30-game suspension to add to last season's duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. So far this season, Betances and Miller have been practically unhittable (27 strikeouts of their 33 recorded outs).
Chasen Shreve deserves some praise, having thrown 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in impact innings. Shreve started out with a bang last season and faltered down the stretch. Shreve looks very good thus far, answering the call as a bridge to Betances and Miller.
The real surprise of the bullpen has been the emergence of rookie right-hander Johnny Barbato. Barbato has struck out nine batters in six innings of work without allowing a run. Barbato has come into various tough situations and has handled them like a veteran. If Barbato and Shreve can continue to do their part in the sixth and seventh innings, combined with continued excellence from Betances and Miller, the backend of the bullpen is going very special when Chapman returns.