108 To Go

Hard to believe, but the Yankees have completed one-third of their schedule. They sit at 31-23 with a two-game lead in the AL East. They have scored 283 runs and allowed 214. Last year at this point they were 34-20, two games behind Tampa in the East. They had scored 307 runs and allowed 216.

The runs allowed numbers are somewhat of a shock to me. I think everyone assumed that the pitching, especially the starting pitching would be the downfall of this team. And, consider the 2010 pitching staff we are comparing this one to. At this point last year, AJ Burnett was just starting his swoon. Ditto for Phil Hughes. Javier Vazquez had found his groove and Sabathia and Pettitte were pitching very well. In fact the pitching was so good that just a month later the potential Cliff Lee trade sent fans into a tizzy because it seemed like overkill. Now, I don’t expect this to continue. Maybe Garcia and Colon will finish the year with sub-3.50 ERA’s, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The point is, so far, so good with the pitching.

As for the offense, you can easily ID the three holes in the lineup- DH, SS and RF Their OPS+’s are 70, 82 and 84 respectively. Swisher will probably hit. I say probably because he has had weird years like this before. Statistically, nothing is really wrong. His walk rates are the same as are his line drive rates. His BABIP is a bit lower, but not enough to explain his season so far. It’s eerily similar to 2008 when he hit .219/.332/.410 and it’s hard to figure out why.

For Jeter it is hard to imagine that he will rebound, but optimists will point to his recent stretch of .368/.500/.474 ball as signs that he is turning things around. Even if he doesn’t, he is signed through at least 2013, so don’t expect any radical moves.

That leaves Posada and I wrote about him Wednesday. It looks like the end it approaching and DH is obviously the easiest spot to fill. I would like to see the Yankees give him a little more time, but clearly the clock is ticking.

One last note. I was glad to see Joe Girardi denounce the speculation that tonight’s start would determine Ivan Nova’s future in the rotation. Nova has certainly been mediocre this year, but he has shown plenty of potential. Kicking him out of the rotation now is counterproductive. First, who exactly is going to replace him? Sure Adam Warren looks good in Scranton, but he is a rookie just like Nova. He will probably struggle just like Nova. This is what most young pitchers do and unless he totally falls apart, the Yankees should give Nova the ball every fifth day and let him establish himself as a big leaguer.

Second, and this is something the Yankees are lousy at, 2012 needs to be in the conversation when Nova’s future is discussed. It seems reasonable to assume that Garcia and Colon won’t be back or their magic will have worn off. Phil Hughes is still an injured player at this point, CC Sabathia is going to opt-out and see if the Yankees chase him. That means the 2012 rotation right now is…AJ Burnett! The Yankees would be wise to give Nova every chance in the world to establish himself now. It will payoff down the road.