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Today is July 14, 2010.  There’s no baseball being played anywhere.  So I’m going to take this opportunity to do my mid-season Yankee rankings.  Overall, I don’t think Yankee fans could be much happier with the team.  The Yankees lead the entire league with a 56-32 record, two games ahead of Tampa for best in the AL and four games ahead of the NL-leading Atlanta Braves.

Most Valuable Player – Robinson Cano

Hands down the Yankees MVP this season, Cano has been almost unstoppable at the plate and has played superbly on defense as well.  He earned his second all-star appearance this season and his first ever appearance as a starter.  Cano leads the Yankees in batting average, runs scored, doubles and slugging percentage.  He is second in on-base percentage and homers, and third in RBI.  He also boasts a team low 40 strikeouts out of all Yankees with at least 200 at-bats.

Most Improved Player – Nick Swisher

Swish is one of my favorite Yankees and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.  The attitude and passion that Swisher brings to the game is unmatched.  His fun-loving personality is a big reason for the Yankee’s success the past season and a half.  Swisher has improved his eye at the plate, putting in a lot of work with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Last season, Swish hit .249 with 29 homers, 124 hits 82 RBI, scored 84 runs and had a .371 on-base percentage in 498 at-bats.  Midway through this season, in 315 at-bats, he is hitting, .296, with 94 hits, 15 homers, 49 RBI and has scored 55 runs due to his extra hits.  His OBP is .377.

Biggest Disappointment – AJ Burnett

The sad thing is Burnett is exactly what everyone has criticized him for in the past – being inconsistent.  Only two years removed from an 18-10 season for the Blue Jays, Burnett is performing below his salary at 7-7 with a 4.70 ERA.  He is arguably the Yankees weakest starting pitcher right now, especially considering his win on July 7 in Oakland was his first since May 30th.  He was 0-5 in five starts with an 11.35 ERA in June.  The sad thing is Burnett started the season 4-0 with an ERA under 2.40, then was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA before things went very downhill.  The Yankees will need his veteran presence on the mound in the second half, especially since Phil Hughes will face innings limits later this season.  Burnett needs to find a way to turn his season around.

Biggest Surprise – Phil Hughes

In spring training, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain had to compete for the fifth spot in the Yankees starting rotation.  Hughes had a successful spring while Joba struggled, earning Hughes the nod.  Hughes dominated for the Yankees from the beginning.  He started his season 5-0 with a 1.38 record, taking advantage of massive run support from the Yankee offense.  Hughes is one of the top ten pitchers in the American League this season, boasting an 11-2 record with a 3.65 ERA, earning him a spot on the All-Star team.  However, he will face inning limits later on this season, requiring the Yankees to get someone else to finish the season after he hits the limits.  No word on his post season availability.

Grades

Offense: A The team is 2nd in runs scored and RBI, 5th in hits and 7th in batting average.

Starting Pitching:          A- Sabathia & Co. are 1st in wins, 7th in ERA(2nd in AL only) and 10th in strikeouts.  By the way, Andy Pettitte is 11-2 with a team leading 2.70 ERA.  He could end up having the best season of his career at age 38.

Relief Pitching:              B- Joba and David Robertson are the go-to guys in the pen’ but their ERA’s are 5.79 and 5.46,          respectively.  The bullpen has also only lost 10 games, a little better than average.  But the Bombers still have the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera.

Coaching:                        A Joe Girardi appears to have a good thing going with the Yankees right now and a great support staff, including pitching coach Dave Eiland and hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.  The Yankees are in first place, enough said.

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I’m home sick with a cold, sinus, and congestion. So while I’m sitting in bed blowing my nose every five minutes, I’ve been reading blogs and people’s tweets on Twitter.  Here are some things for you all to read about this morning.

Top stories from last week:

Peter Abraham on his blog earlier today posed the problem of Chien-Ming Wang. He also touched up the subject of Joba Chamberlain, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

This ultimately boils down to one person, the pitching coach.

Dave Eiland.

Abraham has this to say:

Eiland has plenty to do. The pitching staff is second in the AL in walks and first in home runs allowed. Only two teams — hapless Baltimore and Cleveland — are allowing a higher OPS.

A.J. Burnett has been a disappointment. Andy Pettitte is walking more batters per nine innings (3.9) than he has since 1999. Edwar Ramirez has vanished to the minors. Jose Veras is an unreliable mop-up man and Joba Chamberlain has gone more than six innings twice in 11 starts.

Even Mariano Rivera has had his issues. Apparently Eiland can’t stand behind those guys, either.

If pitching is the foundation of a championship, the Yankees have cracks in the cement that go beyond Chien-Ming Wang. But fixing him would be a good place to start. Let Guidry take his shot.

What Abraham means here by Guidry “taking his shot” is allowing Guidry to talk with Wang, study his mechanics, and offer his advice. He is, after all, a guest instructor during spring training, and a respected former pitcher of the organization.

The rotation needs to be fixed…and fast. This cannot allow to continue.

With all of the injuries and unexpected (and expected) cold starts, I don’t think the Yankees have much to worry about with their April record. They finished 12-10 for the month, their best since 2006.

I’m going to keep this post short. I’ve been sick since Saturday morning with what is a bad sinus attack. Plus I’ve been running ragged since arriving home from the Academic Bowl Nationals and finding out I got a promotion at my job. I guess my immune system crashed. Good thing I didn’t keep my original plans to go to NYC and ride in the 5-Boro Tour of NYC ride yesterday. Heard it was raining (like, duh, the game was postponded.)

We all know a few things have happened with the rotation. CC Sabathia has not been the pitcher we were expecting him to be. He went 1-2 in April (now 1-3 due to his Saturday loss). I think CC is trying too hard to fit in and get himself acclimated to the culture in the city. He even has stopped tweeting!  A few pleasant surprises: AJ has been mostly decent, going 2-0 with an abysmal 5.40 ERA.  Andy Pettitte has been strong, going 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA. However, I am very concerned that he will suffer from arm fatigue later this season. He needs to take it easy.

We all know that Chien-Ming Wang has had a disastrous start to the season, with 0-3 and his famous 34.50 ERA. He is now working on his mechanics, his hip and foot problems and hopes to get this corrected. If not, it’s time to give him the boot. He may not be the #2 or #3 ace the Yankees were looking for.

The bullpen has been 1/3 efficient and 2/3 disastrous. Kudos to Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, and Mark Melancon for providing the glowing pitching the Yankees needed. Joe Girardi needs to better manage his bullpen and so do Dave Eiland. The 2/3 I am talking about comes from Damaso Marte, Jose Veras, Jon Albaladejo, and Edwar Ramirez. All of them have a combined 37 appearances with an ERA of over 8. That is pitiful.

Mariano has been pretty good, except for one blown save against the Sox. If you omit that, he’s been nearly lights-out.

As for the batting line-up, we have a few lone stars. We had Robinson Cano’s hot month, which is unsual for him. We’ve also seen Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Johnny Damon have solid months. After a poor start, Hideki Matsui is back to hitting the ball effectively. Nick Swisher was the “Man of the Month” for his hot few weeks until the last couple of weeks when he cooled down considerably.

We have had some flashes of brilliance from Brett “the Jet” Gardner. We sorely need his speed, but his bat isn’t what it can be. Instead we have Melky “I can hit home runs and strike out too” Cabrera. We basically need someone better in CF. Third base is a huge black hole. Girardi puts too much confidence into Cody Ransom. If he cannot deliver, put in Ramiro Pena. That has given the Yankees a good glove to use. If Pena cannot deliver, put in *shudder* Angel Berroa. I’d rather vomit, but until Alex Rodriguez comes back, it’s not even worth it to get into discussion here.

Mark Teixeira has been abysmal. His wrist is bothering him and he isn’t hitting, but he is earning his walks.

The Yankees need to do 3 things.

1) Address their bullpen woes, and get their rotation in order. If Phil Hughes can keep this up, keep him in there and send Wang to the bullpen.
2) Get all the injuries fixed. It’s time to have the players ‘fess up if they hurt. Marte did not after the WBC and look at where that puts him.
3) Start hitting the damn ball.

The Yankees can get off to a good May if they can play well against the Red Sox and Rays this week. That will give them momentum.

Slow day today in the Yankee world.  Here is the little bit that is making news.

This story from Bryan Hoch at mlb.com.  He interviewed Kevin Long, the Yanks hitting coach about the new lineup.  Here’s a quote:

“Potentially, we look great on paper,” Long said. “But we have to come together and jell as a team. We have to become a team as quick as possible. We’re going to have to work at this thing, but having somebody of Mark Teixeira’s caliber and talent certainly makes things look a lot easier.”

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Joseph P at River Ave Blues wrote a great piece on why baseball does not need a salary cap.  Honestly, his reasoning seems so concrete, I’d invite someone to try and beat it.  He makes a phenomenal point that each team should play to its strengths and the fact is a salary cap limits a team’s ability to make big moves when they need to.   I’d continue on and say that its not our fault that the Yankees can make the moves they do.

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Finally PeteAbe at Lohud Yankees gathered the salaries for the Yankees 25 man roster.  Here are the major players:

Rodriguez: $32 million
Jeter: $20 million
Teixeira: $20 million (+$5 million signing bonus already paid)
Burnett: $16.5 million
Rivera: $15 million
Sabathia: $14 million (+$9 million signing bonus in 3 installments)
Posada: $13.1 million
Damon: $13 million
Matsui: $13 million
Nady: $6.55 million
Cano: $6 million
Swisher: $5.3 million
Wang: $5 million
Marte: $3.75 million
Molina: $2 million
Cabrera: $1.4 million

The totals come to $187.9 Million.  Not too shabby.

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