It is hard to believe we are almost two weeks into the Major League Baseball season. Unbelievably, two teams, the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins have yet to win a single game while the Baltimore Orioles’ reign as the lone undefeated club was ended on Wednesday night in Boston. Those respective franchises’ fans are at the opposite ends of the hope spectrum while rest of the league’s fortunes fall somewhere in between. Each MLB team, though still early, has some characteristics that are sure to endure for most, if not all of the remainder of the season.
Today, we look at three things that we have learned about the New York Yankees and how likely each is to last over the course of the 2016 campaign.
1-The bullpen is as good as advertised.
Despite the clunker put up by Ivan Nova on Wednesday, the New York relief corps has been nearly unhitttable. They had given up a grand total of two earned runs in about 22 innings prior to the other night. In addition, the Yanks still haven’t received the services of suspended closer Aroldis Chapman as of yet. In addition to the expected domination by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve is out to prove that the real Chasen Shreve is the one that resembles the pitcher from the first four months of last season. Rookie Johnny Barbato has carried his success over from an eye-opening Spring Training.
The bullpen will remain the team’s biggest strength over the course of the long season. Chapman’s addition next month will be a welcome sight for the other relievers. However, there does exist the potential for some storm clouds. The biggest of these could be the fact that the ‘pen will be asked to shoulder a enormous workload. That leads to point number two of the 2016 Yankees.
2-The rotation as a whole will not go deep into games.
No starting pitcher has gone seven full innings yet. Granted, most of the rotation has had only two starts each but I believe it will be an issue all year long. That’s not to say that a Masahiro Tanaka or a Michael Pineda won’t have their moments where they go seven or eight strong frames. However, the track record indicates that more often than not, we are looking at a group of hurlers who will struggle to pitch through seven full innings through most of the season. That is bad news for a bullpen, even one as superior as New York’s. It will be only a matter of time before fatigue sets in.
Luis Severino is still only 22 and there is no way Joe Girardi will push the envelope with him. Nathan Eovaldi threw seven or more innings in a single game seven times in 27 outings in 2015. C.C. Sabathia may not reach seven times all year, assuming he gets 30 starts. Tanaka has the potential to make 30 starts and go deep into games but until he proves it, that remains a question mark. Perhaps Girardi’s biggest task this year will be balancing a stout bullpen with a fragile rotation. That will go a long way in determining if the Yanks return to the playoffs.
3-The offense will be better in 2016.
Starlin Castro will not hit .350 all season. However, he is a major upgrade over Stephen Drew from a year ago. Didi Gregorius will not struggle in the first half this year as he did last. This could be the year Jacoby Ellsbury plays up to his gigantic contract. So far, the early returns are good for the veteran center fielder. The offense has been doing a good, but not a great job scoring runs so far. Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez have struggled out of the gate. At least two of those three players will round into form and when that happens, the lineup becomes that much deeper.
Of course, when you are talking about the current Yankees, inevitably the twin issues of age and injury are always just around the corner. Is Rodriguez finally showing that he is a 40-year old man that has had hip injury? Can Carlos Beltran make it through another season with only a minor trip to the disabled list? Will Mark Teixeira stay healthy in his walk year? The answer to the latter question may be the difference between the postseason and staying home. The early signs point to this Yankees’ team being more deep offensively. Can it remain that way for the entire campaign?