At 59-57, the Yankees’ chances of making the playoffs are slim to none. ESPN has done the math for you and placed those chances at a dismal 2.7 percent (for the record, their cross-town rivals’ odds are at 1.7 percent.) We’ve been spoiled over the years for sure as the Yankees have made the playoffs 17 out of 18 seasons coming into this year. Now that the team is headed nowhere and the future looks grim, why should we keep watching?
1) Mo’s Farewell Tour
Ok, this one’s obvious. It’s the last season for the most dominant relief pitcher in MLB history, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him go. This bad week notwithstanding, Mariano Rivera is having a strong final season (35 saves, 41 K, 8 BB, 2.44 ERA). A clean final month and a half should drop that ERA back down below two, where it’s been all year. Teams have been saying goodbye to Mo in their own unique ways (props to the Twins for best gift), and we still get to look forward to Mo’s last games in Fenway Park and of course, Yankee Stadium. Rivera may be the most dominant athlete at one position ever, maintaining an unprecedented level of excellence for 17 years. How will we survive without him?
Favorite stat: more men have walked on the moon (12) than scored off Mariano Rivera in the postseason (11). And he’s faced 527 batters in the postseason. Sick.
2) Maybe we’ll get a healthy Jeter at some point?
Joe Girardi told reporters this morning that Jeter is headed back to Tampa Bay to increase his rehab workload. "At some point this week," Jeter will start tossing and hitting the ball off a tee on his way back from a strained calf muscle. Despite everything that has happened in Jeter’s miserable season, you’d have to believe that #2 will be back on the field (or at least DHing) in a few weeks. Even though his return will be too late to help the sinking ship, he can work on padding his Hall of Fame stats.
At 3,308 hits, DJ is seven hits away from Eddie Collins (9th on the all-time hit list) and 11 hits away from Paul Moliter (8th place). Jeter is also 11 runs-scored away from Tris Speaker (12th all-time) and 17 away from Lou Gehrig (11th). Other somewhat close records—11 doubles from passing Gehrig for 1st place on the Yankees all-time list and two more RBI to pass Bernie Williams for 6th place on the Yankees all-time list.
April: 16.2 IP, 23 H, 12 ER, 8BB, 18 K, 6.48 ERA
On April 27, the Yankees placed Nova in the disabled list for triceps inflammation. Nova made two solid relief appearances in May, and was then sent down to the minors to start (which he did, brilliantly). On June 21st, Nova was called back up, and when he started two days later, everything was different.
From June 23 to today: 57.1 IP, 8 GS, 46 H, 13 ER, 15 BB, 55 K, 2.04 ERA
Nova has been efficiently dominant for almost 2 months now. He’s thrown more than 7 innings in five straight starts, and he hasn’t walked more than three batters since April. His complete game, 11-strikeout performance against Baltimore on July 5th may be his best performance in his pinstripe career. Nova is an intriguing part of the rotation moving forward, and his fastball-curveball combination is working as well as it ever has.
Did you know that you can buy MLB player pillow pets? Neither did I, until this weekend when my girlfriend bought me a Robinson Cano pillow pet. It looks great at the foot of my bed underneath my Robinson Cano poster.
Yes, he’s having a down year, but the line of .287 BA, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 22 2B, 57 BB (!!), 7 SB, .491 SLG is still pretty impressive. The 5-time All Star second baseman has produced a 4.7 WAR, good for 8th best in the league. Without any protection and battling through some horrifying slumps (from May 31 to June 27, he put up .225 BA (18-80), 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 19 BB, 14 K line), Cano has had a disappointing walk year. Still, he’s been the best second baseman in baseball for a few years now, and I, for one, will miss him if he leaves. Hopefully, he’ll start one of those patented "Cannihilation" streaks and demolish the baseball for the last few weeks of the season (maybe Arod, Soriano, and Granderson can give him some protection).
For a fourth outfielder, he’s playing pretty well:
.273 BA, 8 HR, 25 2B, 5 3B, 20 SB, 61 R, 3.3 WAR (8th among AL outfielders)
Always a Gold Glove contender in the outfield, Gardner has changed his game offensively. Now the 29-year-old is more aggressive at the plate, resulting in more power and more strikeouts. His extra-base hits are up (32 in ’10, 34 in ’11, and 38 already this year with 46 games remaining), but his stolen bases have taken a huge hit (47 in ’10, 49 in ’11, and 20 this year)—maybe he’s worried about re-injuring his thumb? Maybe he’s just lost his confidence in his running?
Gardner has always been an interesting player in my book. When he first came up, he was strictly a speed guy, but his game is definitely evolving this year. Not everyone likes the new Gardener, but I think he’s becoming a better all-around offensive player. If only he could cut down on the K’s.
6) Heir to the Thrown
The likely successor to the GOAT has put up phenomenal numbers and has finally cut down on the walks. In 2013, Dave Robertson has the Mo-esque line of 49 IP, 33H, 10 ER, 13 BB, 58 K, 0.94 WHIP, 1.84 ERA. The 28-year-old allowed a run Sunday afternoon, his first since June 16th-- a span of 55 days!
Watching Robertson pitch is obviously a thrill, but he also solves the Yankees closer problem for 2014. While I don't envy his task of stepping into Rivera's shoes, Robertson has had years of experience in New York (and years listening to the Word of Mo). Next year, the spotlight shines brighter and the 9th inning should be all Robertson's.
7) The younglings close to the Show
(MLB-C) Austin Romine: Yeah, yeah. Admittedly, he’s had a terrible season given a HUGE opportunity. Yet, he’s slowly turning things around. Over the past month, Romine has batted .355 BA (11-31), 4 2B, HR in extremely limited playing time. With the season all but lost, Girardi needs to ease back on the Chris Stewart-gas pedal, and give Romine some regular playing time. Can Romine adjust to major league pitching? Or is this just a small sample size mirage?
(MLB-RHP) Delin Betances: Ranked as the #63 MLB prospect in the nation last year, Betances was moved to the bullpen in AAA this year after major control issues. Since the move, the 6’8" power pitcher has dominated AAA hitters, posting strong numbers on the season— 2.97 ERA, 33 G (6 starts), 72.2 IP, 88 K, 37 BB, 10.90 SO/9.
(AAA-C) JR Murphy: We’ll probably get to see a bit of Murphy in September as the kid has put up strong numbers in Scranton. Murphy shows a good batting eye with patience at the plate and has a short, compact power stroke. His power is still developing, but scouts believe that in time he could put up decent HR- numbers. His numbers in AAA this year: 44 G, .274 BA, 3 HR, 16 2B, 19 BB, 28 K.
(AAA-OF) Melky Mesa: Mesa is probably too much of a free-swinger to succeed at the major league level, but he’s a fun speed/power guy that will get a chance to play in September. In 74 games in AAA Scranton, Mesa has hit .264 with 12 HR, 28 XBH, 33 RBI, 8 SB, and a horrifying 10:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
(AAA-OF) Adonis Garcia: The 27-year-old Cuban outfielder was signed last year after a strong record of hitting in Cuba’s top league. Far from a top prospect though, Garcia has put up modest numbers in Scranton: .282 BA, 9 XBH, 31 G. Could get a chance to play in September.
(AAA-RHP) Mark Montgomery: The 22-year-old has closer potential with a solid slider/fastball combination and decent control. In Scranton, he’s put up good numbers (40 IP, 49 K, 25 BB, 3.38 ERA) and should be in the majors in a month.
(Note: Obviously the Yankees have higher ranked prospects, these are just the kids most likely to play in New York this season.)