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Was the Yankees' Dominant June Real or An Illusion?

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Ivan Nova: Will he and the rest of the rotation thrive against tougher opposition than they saw in June? (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Ivan Nova: Will he and the rest of the rotation thrive against tougher opposition than they saw in June? (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Given all of the weaknesses of the 2012 Yankees, a list that includes, but is not limited to, Russell Martin’s miserable season, Mark Teixeira’s mediocre one, Derek Jeter’s post-April slump, A-Rod’s dwindling star power, Brett Gardner’s season-long injury, Raul Ibanez being 40 and over, Freddy Garcia’s early flame-out, and Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury," it’s hard to believe that the team would have compiled a .741 winning percentage.

Their 20-7 record is equivalent to a 120-win pace. What is most impressive about the June run is that there were no lightweight clubs in the mix. The Tigers currently have a losing record, but the Yankees had to beat Justin Verlander to take two out of three. Otherwise, they were all winning teams, including the three best teams in the NL East. Somehow, though, they finished the month outscoring their opponents by a ridiculous 137-93.

The offense was impressive, especially given the quality of opposition starters during this stretch, but it was the pitching that truly shone. Yankees hurlers allowed 3.4 runs per game during the month, with an ERA of 2.99. It was the best on the circuit. And yet, here is what troubles me:

As good as the opposition was last month, how many of those teams could really hit? Of the three American League teams, the White Sox, Tigers, and Indians have offenses that are about average overall. The Rays can’t hit at all. The NL East teams have strong pitching and some terrific hitters, but not really deep lineups. As ranked by Baseball Prospectus’s True Average (a stat that sums up hitting in one number that’s scaled like batting average), the five best offenses in the AL other than the Yankees are the Rangers, Angels, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Indians. The five best in the NL are the Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, Diamondbacks, and Mets.

The Yankees saw just two of those teams in June. So the question is, is the staff as good as it seems right now? Are these dominant performances by Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Hiroki Kuroda exactly what they seem, or have they been given a handicap in facing weaker opponents? What happens when you bring the faded Garcia into that mix? Will these normally second-line starters do as well against the best the leagues have to offer?

I would like to think so, but I’m not sure. Worse, I’m not sure they can do anything about it if these devil’s advocate wonderings prove to be true. You can always try to pile on more hitting (if you can't raise the bridge, lower the river), but adding pitching at the level they might require it is always a tall order.