A Better Yardstick

A five-game winning streak is nothing to sniff at, but it should also be viewed with caution. The Yankees beat up on two teams that they really should beat up on if they are going to be a serious playoff team. Now things are going to get a lot tougher.

Look at the breakdown of the next 44 games:

6 games against the Angels (and check out what Pujols has done recently)
3 games against Detroit
6 games against Tampa
6 games against the Mets (currently 1/2 a game better than the Yankees)
6 games against the Braves
3 games against Washington- on the road
3 games against Cleveland (first place Cleveland)
4 games against the White Sox
4 games against Boston- on the road
3 games against Toronto

That’s over 1/4 of the season against teams who are all .500 or better except for Detroit and Boston. And do you really expect either of those clubs to remain under .500?

There are a number of things that will determine whether or not the Yankees can succeed or fail over this stretch.

Start with Mark Teixeira. He was awesome over the weekend and the Yankees obviously need that to continue. He says his breathing is better, so maybe we will see the surge continue.

And let’s move to A-Rod. He belted two homers on Thursday and then didn’t have an extra-base hit all weekend. In fact, he has only five doubles all season which ties him with Russel Martin and Curtis Granderson for the lowest total among Yankee regulars. Is he a singles hitter now, or does he still have power? One interesting note is that he has stolen six bases already this season. He hasn’t stolen more than 4 since 2009.

Let’s move to a pitcher, Phil Hughes. Hughes had a terrible April, but in May he has looked like a solid middle of the rotation guy. His walk rate is way down and his ERA in the month stands at 3.45. If he continues near that pace, the Yankees could have a pretty solid rotation because…

…of Kuroda and Pettitte. Pettitte has pitched very well in two of his three starts. Kuroda lowered his ERA below 4 yesterday and for all the talk about his inability to pitch in the AL, the fact remains that he has allowed three runs or less in 7 of his 10 starts. Throw out the two starts where he got really hammered and his ERA is 2.42. CC will be CC and there is a chance he will be followed in the rotation by the best second, third and fourth starters the Yankees have had in awhile.

That’s important because the fifth starter is not doing so well. Ivan Nova’s overall ERA is ugly, but more concerning to me is the trend that developed in May. While his ERA in May is not very different from his ERA in June, it hides some underlying flaws. His strikeout to walk ratio has dropped from 5 to 2.58. He has allowed 8 homers in May compared to 4 in April. He is still striking out a lot of guys, but the other numbers are troubling. The Yankees will have patience with him, but I wonder how long they will wait if he keeps pitching like this?

The good news is that the Yankees should get some reinforcements during this stretch. Hopefully, Brett Gardner and David Robertson return to the club in the very near future. The Yankees will need them.