We're at a point in the season where any kind of evaluation of a player or team still has to be preceded by "it's still early, but..." At the same time, these games count just as much as those in August and September and after what felt like a never-ending offseason and spring training, we've finally been able to put speculations behind us and begin gauging where we're at. And considering the fact that any attempt to make a preseason prediction for this team generated so many possible outcomes that it felt like an exercise in futility, having some concrete facts and figures to review feels like a breath of fresh air. Let's take a look at some of the questions we were asking just a few weeks ago and see what the early-going has had to offer in the way of answers.
How will the lefty-heavy Yankee lineup fare against left-handed pitching?
Looking at the slash lines, the results have been mixed. In 179 at-bats against left-handed pitching, the Yanks have hit .263/.378/.453, compared to .227/.302/.404 in 374 at-bats against righties. Surprisingly, the strictly left-handed hitters (Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Garrett Jones) have fared drastically better against fellow lefties, .297/.400/.392, than righties, .210/.280/.353, although that is likely aided by the relatively small sample size, as well as the fact that they did well padding those stats against David Price on Wednesday night. Joe Girardi has done a good job of using Chris Young and Gregorio Petit to break up the monotony against left-handed starters (they're 3-2 against them so far), and that should continue to help, especially if an upgraded right-handed backup infielder can be found.
Can Alex Rodriguez hit well enough to be an everyday player?
In case you haven't been paying attention, the answer is a resounding yes. He's far exceeded expectations, leading the team in OBP, SLG, and OPS. Perhaps the lone hole in his game has been his excessive strikeouts with 19 so far. However, that doesn't mean he's been a feast-or-famine type of hitter, as he also leads the team in walks with 13, which is a product of consistently working deep into counts. He'll likely regress a bit, and how the rigors of a long season affect his soon-to-be 40-year-old body remain to be seen, but the DH job belongs to A-Rod, and he'll stay a key component of this lineup, especially as they lack any other real 3-hole hitter. Which brings us to our next question...
Can Carlos Beltran bounce back and be the heart-of-the-order hitter, as well as the right fielder, they need?
Beltran's start to 2015 couldn't be going much worse than it is, and it doesn't help his cause that Chris Young is playing like someone that wants to (and deserves to) be a starting outfielder. Girardi has been patient with him, though, and will continue to be because that's what you do with someone who has Beltran's resume and paycheck. Right now, it looks like the best the Yanks can hope for is to just keep plugging him in and hoping he has a few hot streaks in him over the course of the season.
Can the starting rotation remain healthy, and if so, can they be effective?
Getting out of spring training relatively unscathed felt like the first big step, and with each time through the order it's getting a little easier to feel more comfortable both in the staff's health and their ability to be the pitchers we'd all like to see them be. In his previous two starts, Masahiro Tanaka has seemed to shake off the rust from his shortened spring training. Despite his 0-3 record, CC Sabathia has looked like his old stuff has been there all season, and earlier this week against Detroit he put it all together for a complete game, 2-run performance. Michael Pineda also took some time finding himself, but had a breakout performance last night against the Mets. Nathan Eovaldi's issue of giving up too many hits hasn't gone away, but as long as he can scrap together 1-run, 7-inning starts like he did his last time out all will be forgiven. Starting pitching hasn't been perfect for the Yanks this season, but they're healthy and they're improving each time out, which is all anyone can ask for.
Who will be the Yankees' closer?
It took forever to find out, and neither Dellin Betances nor Andrew Miller appeared all that caught up in which role they were given, but it's evident at this point that Andrew Miller is Girardi's 9th inning guy. So far, neither has given up a run in 16.2 combined innings of work, and Miller is tied for second in the majors with 6 saves. Aside from good infield defense, the bullpen was the other area you could feel confident about coming into the season, and the twin towers have been showing everyone why.
Can Stephen Drew play well enough to deserve to be the starting second baseman?
Many thought that a lack of spring training was responsible for Drew's woes in 2014. It certainly hasn't helped him much in 2015. Despite a decent show of power, Drew has picked up right where he left off, batting .178 with a .283 on-base percentage. He's played good defense, though, and has dodged a ton of criticism due to the fact that his middle-infield counterpart, Didi Gregorius, has been an utter mess in every facet of the game. The way things are going, Brian Cashman will have no choice but to make a move for a replacement, whether it's Drew or Gregorius who's the odd man out.