How would you rank the Yankees concerns down the stretch?
1. Mark Teixeira’s calf
As Joe Girardi said before and after the Baltimore series: Until Teixeira plays several days in a row without a problem, his calf is going to be a concern. This lineup badly needs him in the middle — especially against lefties — and right now it’s hard to know exactly when he’ll be back, how effective he’ll be when he comes back, and whether he’ll suffer another setback.
2. CC Sabathia’s effectiveness
He hasn’t been bad, he just hasn’t been himself, and that’s a concern for two reasons. Looking back, is there something that caused this sudden dip in performance (a lingering injury or other issue)? Looking forward, can Sabathia be the go-to ace the Yankees are expecting, a guy who can get them into the playoffs and lockup some wins once he’s there?
3. Derek Jeter’s ankle
Unless he absolutely cannot play, Jeter’s going to play. He wanted to stay in that night Girardi pulled him because he clearly couldn’t walk right. Problem is, the Yankees have seen small injuries get bigger, and they’re running a little bit of a risk with Jeter. They don’t have much choice given the division race, but it’s still a concern. Hard to imagine this lineup without him.
4. Andy Pettitte’s stamina
Ivan Nova pitched very well last time out, and Phil Hughes has been good since the end of April. If Pettitte can return to form tomorrow, the Yankees will have a pretty deep rotation down the stretch and into the postseason. But Pettitte rushed himself back out of necessity. He’s got, at most, four starts to build stamina and prove himself all over again.
5. Lineup vs. lefties
Some of this problem is solved if Teixeira comes back and hits, but as it is now, the Yankees have a very left-leaning lineup. And many of those lefties — Ibanez, Chavez, Ichiro and even Cano — have struggled against left-handers this season. It was a relatively minor problem before the Teixeira injury, and the relatively minor additions of Casey McGehee and Steve Pearce haven’t done a lot to fix the problem. Andruw Jones keeps getting chances, but he’s just not hitting.
6. Success vs. playoff teams
The Yankees have a losing record against four different teams this season. One is the AL Centeral-leading White Sox. Another is the wild-card-leading Athletics. Another is the wild-card-chasing Rays. And the other is the NL Central-leading Reds. The Yankees also have a .500 record against the second-place Orioles, who are in line for a wild card spot right now. To be fair, the Yankees have a winning record against potential playoff teams the Rangers, Angels and Tigers.
7. Phil Hughes’ home runs
On the whole, Hughes has taken a step forward this season. He’s basically returned to his 2010 form, except with a lower ERA and an ability to make some adjustments (becoming more aggressive with his fastball, learning the slider/cutter hybrid). But he still gives up a lot of home runs, which might be par for the course with a fly ball pitcher, but it still makes for some uncertainty against powerful lineups.
8. Middle relief
Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano remain a potent 1-2 combination in the late innings, but the path to those late innings has grown shaky. Boone Logan’s been good, but Clay Rapada and certainly Cody Eppley aren’t as good as they were in the first half. Joba Chamberlain’s emergence eases some of those concerns. So does the return for David Phelps from spot-starting duty.
9. Russell Martin’s offense
Might have ranked higher at the All-Star break, but this point Martin has picked up some big hits and shown a more productive bat. He’s been better offensively and has been especially helpful against lefties. Also, the Yankees have grown used to his production. It can’t be much of a concern when you know what to expect.
10. Robinson Cano with RISP
I’m a big fan of the slash line when evaluating an offensive player, and Cano’s slash line is outstanding. He’s been as good as ever except for one thing: His RBIs are way down. Some of that is because he’s struggled with runners in scoring position. Part of it, also, is because he’s struggled against lefties. He’s vital to this lineup, and with him, the Yankees expect and need the very best in all situations.
Associated Press photos