The Calm Before The Storm…

“Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.”

—Arthur Ashe

The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox both won Thursday, so the Yankees find themselves a 1/2 game behind the O’s this morning.  All three teams have ten wins, although the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox have four, five and six losses, respectively.  Surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Rays have nine wins albeit with eight losses.  The biggest surprise is the cellar dwelling Toronto Blue Jays at 3-12.  It’s still very early with 147 games yet to be played for the Yankees but crucial games are on the horizon.

The AL East is the only division in baseball with at least four teams over .500 although just one game separates every team in the AL Central with just a single win needed to put the bottom of the division at .500.  Again it’s early, but the AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball at this point.

The next week will be a challenge for the new and improved Yankees.  When they complete the current three game set in Pittsburgh, they’ll head to Boston for three games beginning on Tuesday.  They are certain to face Red Sox ace Chris Sale who pitched yesterday and gave a performance that justified Boston’s decision to give up their best hitting and pitching prospects over the winter.  Although he didn’t figure in the extra inning decision, he went eight innings, allowing no runs and four hits.  Walking only one batter, he struck out thirteen.  Unfortunately, he’s in prime shape for his next start.  

After the Boston series, the Yankees return home to face the Baltimore Orioles.  Not to look too far ahead, but these series are followed by the Toronto Blue Jays, the World Champion Chicago Cubs, and arguably baseball’s hottest team, the Houston Astros.

Next week’s schedule represents the most difficult stretch the young Yankees have faced this year so it will be interesting to see how they respond.  The Red Sox and Orioles begin a three game series tonight so on the bright side, they can beat each other up before the Yankees face them.  

I am hopeful that Greg Bird’s bat starts coming around before the team gets to Boston.  Aaron Judge has the “wow” factor with his behemoth home runs in games (and batting practice) but Bird remains the team’s best hitter (potentially) even if the stats don’t show it yet.  I remain convinced he’ll soon be raising eyebrows with his hitting prowess but it would be nice if his offensive show could begin sooner rather than later.  Maybe it’s waiting for him at Fenway Park.

Based on stats, Chase Headley is arguably the current best hitter with a .396 batting average.  He’s off to a great start and admittedly, I didn’t see this coming.  We’ll see if it is sustainable, but for now, he’s a vital part of the lineup.  I wish I felt as good about Jacoby Ellsbury.  Even though he is hitting .302, has stolen four bases and has been Joe Girardi’s clean up hitter of choice in recent games, he just doesn’t do it for me.  Too often, and this is a very generalized statement without digging into the actual stats, it seems like he is underperforming in critical situations.  I really have to wonder if an outfield of Aaron Hicks-Brett Gardner-Aaron Judge is better than Gardner-Ellsbury-Judge.  The way Hicks is hitting right now, it is.  Gardner is hitting worse than Ellsbury but this probably gets into a debate about who do you trust more.  

Being in Pittsburgh tonight means that Matt Holliday’s bat takes a seat on the bench with no DH.  This probably puts even more pressure to get Hicks into the lineup, especially with the pitchers taking at-bat’s.  Both Gardy and Bird need to start mixing in a few hits.  

Have a wonderful Friday!  Let’s make this two in a row tonight!

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