Thursday, July 20, 2006

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The Yankees have the 4th best record in baseball. Unfortunately for them, the only teams with better records are the ones keeping them from a playoff spot. They are 1-1/2 games behind the Red Sox, 3 games behind the White Sox and 6 games behind the Tigers. They have just came off a 5-1 homestand and have 9 of their last 11. They are playing very well. Good pitching,timely hitting and few breaks have fueled their recent winning ways.

The much maligned pitching staff, which everyone always claims is a weak spot on the team, has the 5th best ERA and the 3rd best BAA in the American League. Not too shabby for a team that supposedly can't pitch. Clearly they have had problems at the 5th starter spot, but they were the first team in the AL to have 3 pitchers with 10 wins. The Yankees should continue to win at about a .600 clip which would give them about 97 wins for the season. The question this year is whether that is going to be enough to get them in the playoffs.

The Yankess aren't hitting as many home runs as they have in previous years, but that is understandable given the loss of Sheffield and Matsui. They are tied for second in runs scored however. They are still scoring enough runs, they are just doing it in a slightly different way. The Yankees do have their question marks, the most glaring of which would be the set up spot for Mariano Rivera. Farnsworth has been less than consistent up to this point. The Stadium radar gun clocked him at 101 a couple of nights ago, but too often he has seemed afraid to throw his fastball in the strike zone. Octavio Dotel is expected back in the next week or so and should provide the Yanks with some needed help in the 8th inning.

The biggest obstacle to the Yankees making the playoffs (besides the teams that are ahead of them right now)is their defense. In order to go deep in the playoffs or even get to the playoffs the Yanks are going to have to tighten up their defense. Arod is having a sub par defensive year at 3rd, Jeter is no more than adequate at short, Cano is an adventure at 2nd and Melky Cabrera is the only outfielder who can actually throw anyone out. They make too many silly errors and allowing good teams extra outs is always a recipe for disaster. The Yanks have never been the best defensive team in the league, but they really need to get better in the second half. The Yankees are seldom going to win a game because of defense, but they sure as hell can lose them.

It's only July, so nothing is critical right now, but the Yankees need to continue to keep pace with the teams they are chasing. They are in good position to make a push for the playoffs, but it's always better to have someone chasing you than to have to do the chasing.



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