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Thoughts At The Halfway Point.

YankeesGiven that this Wednesday’s Struming is on July 4, I assume few Strumings readers are working today. Therefore on this day of leisure and celebration, this Wednesday’s Struming is about my favorite leisure activity, the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are today literally at the halfway point of the 2012 regular season as the Yankees will play their 81st game of the 162-game season later. Though the last 2 losses to Tampa are disappointing, the Yankees are in first place and are on pace for a 95-100 win season and, barring a September collapse of Bostonian proportions, a spot in the post season playoffs. While hardly the ultimate goal, the first step for even dreaming about World Championships is making the playoffs. But the Yankees, while a strong team, are not without flaws and there are several concerns heading into the second half.

So this is a good time to recap the positives and the concerns of the season to date and the second half.

Positives:

1. Jeter—Perhaps this is an expected, but he is like the Energizer Bunny, bringing excellence every day. Yes his batting average is slipping to the .300 level, but that’s fine. He is a legend and every day he plays is another day he adds to his ultimate legacy.

2. Cano & Granderson—All-stars as is Jeter, they continue to put up serious numbers. Cano was unreal in June and he swings like he will get a hit every bat, and Grandy, while hitting for a lesser average, has a “Maris-like” swing well suited for the Stadium. But he’s not a home run hitter he says, the balls just happen to go over the wall.

3. Kuroda, Hughes, Nova—Each started slowly. Hughes in fact was dreadful early. But each has come on throwing solid start time after time. None are question marks going into the second half. CC has been typically strong as well, but that’s to be expected. Obviously we are all hoping his stint on the DL is short lived and he’ll be back shortly. If he’s not, the rotation will be a big concern. Maybe Freddy or Phelps can fill the 5th slot in the rotation, but it is too much to ask for them to both pitch regularly. Freddy was really awful early this season though seemingly more solid now.

4. Bullpen—Soriano was not a favorite of mine, and I also thought Cashman was correct in thinking that acquiring him was a bad idea, but he has been a godsend given Mo’s untimely injury. Robertson was great before his injury, and Logan, Rapada, Eppley, Logan and Wade (before June) have been effective.

5. Bench—Raul, Chavez, and Jones and Wise more recently have each been strong. Raul, though fading lately, has been terrific in a role far more extensive than anticipated.

Concerns:

1. Injuries—Injuries are to be expected for every team, good or bad. But watching Mo & Andy go down in freak injuries was disheartening. Mo is gone for the year and we’ll see whether Andy returns in September and how well he will pitch then. He had been terrific in his short return. Gardner has effectively been gone all season, and I worry if he will really return or merely have a series of setbacks. Joba set his timetable back with his freak trampoline injury on top of his Tommy John rehab and Pineda is a year one total wash out (I really liked Jesus Montero’s bat, but his stats are modest in Seattle so let’s not rush to judgment on the trade until Pineda pitches) .

2. A-Rod—Is that all there is? He has regressed. No injury to blame or shortened season. 30HRs/ 100 RBIs used to be a lay up for him. But no longer. Time to resign ourselves that A-Rod is a 25 HR/75 RBI guy, better than ¾ of the 3rd baseman in the majors, but a star no more. And the ROI on his salary is criminal and the crime will only accelerate if he deteriorates further.

3. Russell Martin—He is a solid defensive catcher, but a sub .200 average? Makes you appreciate the advantage the Yankees once had with Jorge’s bat superiority vs.virtually all other catchers (other than Pudge)

4. Age—Some of that has already been felt by Mo & Andy’s injuries (though their injuries were freak ones), but Jeter is 38, A Rod will be 37 shortly as is Kuroda and Raul, Chavez and Jones are all senior citizens in baseball terms. Age is always a concern as the marathon season wears on.

Overall assessment

How can you complain when your team is playing at a 95-100 win pace and is first place on July 4? You can’t. The Yankees win, and they never stop reaching for the stars. But the Yankees goals are higher than “making the playoffs”. They do not celebrate anything other than Championships (they have 27 of them). Is #28 ahead? Perhaps, but it won’t be easy.




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