Tuesday, April 19, 2011

AL East Notes: Pitching Panic in New York?

About three weeks into the Major League regular season, what may very well be the MLB’s "best division" has had one heck of a roller-coaster-type start. The Baltimore Orioles started off the season hot, but after a 6-1 start they are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and have fallen to a  6-9 record. The Boston Red Sox, who were widely believed to be World Series contenders after signing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, began their season with only one win in their first eight games. It is possible that the Red Sox are working out their issues as they have won three straight games coming out of the weekend. Despite the issues these two clubs have had, there is one other AL East powerhouse that might have some problems even though they have a winning record. To find out who, hit the jump!

Phil Hughes: Just one of a few
pitching problems for the Yanks
The New York Yankees lead all of baseball in home runs (27)--which can't be much of a surprise considering the team has six players that already have four homers each. The offense for the Bronx Bombers has certainly clicked and is a major reason the team finds themselves four games over .500 and with a three-game lead in the division. The big question mark for the Yanks during the spring, a question mark that has carried over into the season, was the starting rotation. Phil Hughes, the number three man for the Yankees rotation, has put up a whopping 13.94 ERA over his first three starts. Hughes' disappointing start has landed him on the 15-day DL with "arm fatigue." Experts around the league believe that the righty's issues have stemmed from a lack of velocity when throwing his fastball. After removing the injured Hughes from the rotation, Bartolo Colon has made his way in after cleaning up all three of the messes made by Hughes himself. Another sore spot for the New York Yankees pitching staff is rookie right-hander Ivan Nova. In addition to posting another high ERA for the Yankees (7.71), Nova has struggled to eat up innings as he's left two out of his three starts before completing the fifth inning.

Now that the numbers have been thrown out there, it's time to make some sense of how this pitching mess could effect the New York Yankees. Often times when talking baseball we (the average fan) tend to break down the game into three categories: "Starting Pitching," "Bullpen," and "Offense." It is easy to see a teams strengths and weaknesses individually, but it's the way they all interact that could create a massive "snowball" effect for New York. With the tail end of the starting rotation performing quite a few strokes over par, it has been the bullpen that Yankees Manager Joe Girardi has depended so greatly on. Girardi has been forced to use his 8th inning man Rafael Soriano seven times in only 14 games. The constant use of Soriano could be the cause for his latest struggle against Texas, where he gave up two earned runs in route to another nail biting victory for the Yanks. Another highly-used reliever for the Yankees has been veteran closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera has saved seven out of the nine wins for New York this season. Even though the skipper has called for his closer many times this year, Rivera continues to defy age as he is perfect in save attempts and has yet to give up a run.

All-in-all, the Yankees have managed to contend in the American League with a decent bullpen and an offense full of sluggers. It will be important for the Yankees to correct their starting pitching woes quickly. If they fail to do so, the Yankees bullpen that has held this heavy load early, is likely to collapse sooner rather than later.

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