D.Karpin: Yanks Early Report Card

The Yankees are finally off and running. Four straight wins and 6 of their last 7 with the lineup they’re putting out there is nothing short of remarkable. Moving forward, they look like they have some cohesion as a team, but there are still some glaring holes. Their bullpen, which was supposed to be their strength has had a few mishaps early on. Their line-up is still heavily unbalanced to the right side and they will have a clog in the OF once everybody gets back and healthy (if they can).

All of this adds up to a very intriguing team that’s shaping up for the 2019 season .. Here is some stuff I’ve seen so far that I’ve liked and some stuff that I’ve seen that I don’t like.

Like: Gio Urshela stepping in.

Look, this is a bench player but, you have to admit, he has been pretty impressive in his time here. Signed as an international free agent over 10 years ago, it looked like he might not get many more chances for his big league ticket. He has definitely brought a hunger with him to the Yankees. Through 14 games he’s batting .297 and has gotten on base about 37% of the time. Not phenomenal numbers but as for stepping in for Miguel Andujar, he’s done a good job, including a very clutch hit against the Angels last night in extra innings. He’s also a solid defender, check out this play from last week when he threw out Mookie Betts from his knees

Don’t Like: Brett Gardner; leadoff hitter?

I have never liked him in this position, it’s hard to defend a very average base runner with a .260 career average as a lead-off hitter. He’s got speed but unlike some other sports, speed will only get you so far in this game. If you make bad base running decisions and strike out a lot, then you might not be too valuable on base. And that’s considering that you’re getting on base at an acceptable rate. His .326 OBP this year is not and he hasn’t ever really had an OBP worth defending as a lead-off hitter. Look maybe in previous years when they did not have any better options it made sense, but they do have better options this year. To be fair, Gardner has gotten some big hits but players like DJ LeMahieu and maybe even Clint Frazier would make better lead-off hitters. You want someone at that position who can do a multitude of things with the bat (hit, make contact when needed and even bunt), can run the bases well and gets on base at a high clip. For a point of comparison; Gardner has struck out more than 100 times in each of the past six seasons. LeMahieu has only gone over 100 strike-outs ONCE in his career and he still batted .301 that year. I don’t suggest taking him out of the lineup, just move him down.

Like: Yankees may not have needed Bryce Harper?

Yes their line-up would have benefitted GREATLY from a powerful left handed bat. In fact he looks like he was tailor-made for their stadium so it was a bit crushing to see him sign somewhere else. I think now with the Yankees dealing with fallout from the Jacoby Ellsbury deal, they are a little hesitant to hand out another long-term contract to an injury prone player (even though they did just that before this season began) It definitely may come back to haunt them if they have to go up against, let’s say, Justin Verlander in the playoffs? But right now, it’s looking like they do not need him, at least not in the pure hitting sense. They definitely could have used him to balance out the line-up but let me show you some statistics.

Player A – GP 18 | BA .324 | Hits 22 | HR 6 | RBI 17 | OBP .342 | SLG .632 | OPS .974

Player B – GP 22 | BA .272 | Hits 22 | HR 5 | RBI 14 | OBP .410 | SLG .531 | OPS .94

Now, keeping those above stats in mind, who would you rather have? Player B is Harper, Player A is Clint Frazier. Yes, I did just compare the two of them in the same sentence and it’s not as farfetched as you might think. While Harper was a #1 overall pick, Frazier went 5th overall in his respective draft. If only he was a lefty then it would make perfect sense to have passed on Harper in clearing the way for this kid! Regardless he has still made the most of his chances now at the big league level this year, and it looks as if he’ll be in the Bronx for a long time, right now he’s leading the team in RBIs and tied for the lead in HRs. Also his attitude is great, he’s already talked about playing through some injuries in an attempt to stay in the lineup meanwhile over in Philly, Harper has already done something to irk some of his teammates… Of course it’s worth keeping in mind that this is only through about 20 games. Harper has played the full season while Clint has not, yet Clint’s got the same amount of hits as Harper. They could very well be regretting the decision to pass on Harper wholeheartedly down the line (possibly in the post-season) but right now, it’s looking like that red-haired kid out there in the outfield is doing just fine.

Don’t Like: All the injuries

Now I’m probably cherry picking here (and possibly could be linked with how bad the bullpen has been) but this has become a point of concern for them, especially with their best hitter going down with an oblique problem recently. How much longer can they keep winning with these guys? While some can probably be relied on throughout the entirety of the season (Frazier) others may not be so productive later into the summer (Urshela). They need to find ways to keep winning without their regular players.

Losing Severino before the season began was a tough blow but they’ve been able to overcome that with two phenomenal starts from CC and Paxton now looking like he’s found his groove. Tanaka has been great also, they’ve really needed him to perform well and he’s stepped up admirably. Also I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good of a fielder he is. Whit Merrifield of the Royals, who’s got plenty of speed, put down what looked like a perfect bunt against him in his last start and he threw him out easily at first. It’s underrated to have that good of a fielder on the mound, it can make it much more difficult for the hitting team to get on base effectively.

If it wasn’t for those 3 aforementioned pitcher’s collective performances, they would not be 2 games over .500 right now. But it is worth noting that they’ve run into some pretty bad teams early on and have been able to take advantage. That will not be the case all year, they have got to get healthier if they want to keep this up.

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