With Wednesday's loss to Baltimore, a loss that had so much in common with the other early-season defeats for this team, the 2015 Yankees fell to 3-6. Shaky (at times) starting pitching, not enough offensive production until it was too late, Alex Rodriguez continuing to be one of the few bright spots of a roster that's becoming decreasingly compelling--mix it all together, and you have another frustrating divisional loss.
While nine games is just north of five percent of the 162-game slate New York will play this year, it is worth it to at least point out that this is the franchise's worst nine-game start since 1991, when the Yankees went 71-91. Is that poor a performance on the horizon? It's easy to say "it's too early to tell", and that's very true, but this team also isn't a case like, let's say, the Nationals or, to a lesser extent, the Rays, whom are waiting on key players to return from injury. This roster is the 2015 Yankees (minus Ivan Nova, if that gives you solace).
While the offense has actually posted respectable numbers thus far (45 runs scored is seventh best in the league), it is a stretch to say their performance has been encouraging. Steven Drew has six RBI and two home runs, but those homers constitute half of his hits. Brian McCann appears to be headed to a second consecutive uninspiring April, and Carlos Beltran has been pretty on par with what was described as "worst case" for him entering the season.
The team is having success with the long ball, but nine of their thirteen home runs have been solo shots (and no, this isn't a "Too Many Dingers" point, but rather that a high amount of home runs doesn't necessarily correlate to efficient offense). The play of Alex Rodriguez has been perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the team's play this year, while at the same time, giving this squad of Bombers a shot of national intrigue. The Yankees have excelled so far this year in doing close to nothing for the first six or seven innings of a game, somehow managing to put together three runs in the eight or ninth, but have it all be a tally or two short.
Like the offense, the starting pitching has been in sync with what many expected during the spring, another troubling sign for New York. Masahiro Tanaka simply could not look any less like the pitcher we saw in the first half of last season. It's only been two starts, and not every "ace"-type pitcher has looked Cy Young-worthy so far around the league (Jon Lester & Jeff Samardzija have really struggled out of the gate), but if he says the velocity won't be there for the time being, then is this what we're stuck with? Is this what we are to expect? If both answers are "yes", it would become increasingly difficult to see this team as a postseason contender.
CC Sabathia has actually impressed me so far by being solid, but unfortunately, that's about the highest compliment you could offer his results to date. Pineda has been fine, and is right up there with A-Rod as truly compelling, exciting reasons to watch this team (what a weird sentence to have just written....). Nathan Eovaldi showcased the swing and miss ability (six of his nine punchouts were swinging) that has been so maddeningly vacant from his career so far (a career 6.3 K/9 for a guy with a 98 MPH fastball is low) in Wednesday night's loss, so that is encouraging, even though his inability to go deep into games so far doesn't help the bullpen. The starting pitching has been a mixed bag through the season's first trio of series', but isn't that what we were told to expect?
The defense's ineptitude through nine games is alarming, but it can't stay this way for the full slate...right? Right now, the Yankees are tied for the worst fielding percentage in the league with the Nationals. Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius (whose issues this April have only been compounded by the fact that Shane Greene looks really, really good for Detroit) and Chase Headley, three parts of an infield that was advertised as a "very good one" defensively, all lead the way with two errors on the year. Washington is the only team that has surrendered more unearned runs (11) than the Yankees (9). This team simply can not afford to be giving away runs and outs. No team really can, but you can count on this team being in a lot of low-scoring, close games, so these defensive--and while we're at it, base running-- mishaps can not continue at this rate.
The bullpen may have been touched up in the finale against Baltimore, but every bullpen has night's like those, and other than that, its been an exceptionally strong group so far. Andrew Miller looks like a lights-out ninth inning option (because we're not allowed to call someone a closer anymore), David Carpenter has impressed (other than Wednesday), Betances has walked the tight rope on a number of occasions, but has made the big pitches when needed (though his inability to put the ball where he wants this year is frightening). I wrote before the season that the Yankees would have the league's best record when leading after six innings, and at the very least, that doesn't look like an outlandish prediction thus far. The Yankees' relievers have thrown the third most bullpen innings in the league thus far, which is something to keep an eye on as we head towards summer.
I suppose it may be hard right now to answer the question, "what is most concerning?" It is all concerning. The first nine games of the season for the Yankees has been a combination of all the worst fears surrounding this team entering April. It is still early, yes, and teams have come back from worst starts to make pushes for October. The Yankees just don't necessarily appear as if they are underperforming, which doesn't bold well for the fate of this club.
At least we have A-Rod.