The Yankees were a mess in Texas. Not only did the team lose three games, but they looked downright awful in the process as just about every weakness manifested itself in the weekend series. Below is a snapshot of what felled the Yankees in Texas, and what threatens to make their October a short one.
1) Lack of Rotation Depth
C.C. Sabathia did not pitch in the series and Andy Pettitte was still making rehab starts in the minor leagues, so the three starters that the Yankees sent to the mound were not exactly Cy Young caliber. Although neither starter pitched particularly poorly, they also didn’t pitch that well. In total, the trio of Vazquez, Burnett and Moseley surrendered 10 runs in 15 1/3 innings, which resulted in the bullpen being over extended during the long weekend. It’s easy to dismiss this series because of the pitchers used, but outside of Sabathia, the Yankees have no guarantees for the post season. Instead of having a pitcher or two step up during September, it seems as if the pack has taken a collective step backward heading down the stretch, leaving the entire playoff rotation up in the air. Who knows, come October, rookie Ivan Nova might be making a start. Such a scenario would have been unfathomable as recently as three weeks ago, but it is quickly becoming one of the Yankees more attractive alternatives
2) Inconsistent Lineup
Despite averaging a league leading 5.34 runs per game, the Yankees have been wildly inconsistent over the last five weeks. Since August 1, the team has scored three or fewer runs in 17 of their last 40 games (compared to 31 times from April to July). Part of the reason for this inconsistency has been an overdependence on a core group of hitters. Instead of featuring their trademark circular lineup, the Yankees have become overly reliant on Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. When those four do not contribute, the Yankees don’t seem able to score. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez (whose return from the DL has seemed to throw everyone else into a slump), such was the case this weekend in Texas.
Teixeira, Cano and Swisher, September 6-12
3) Poor Defense Behind the Plate
Over the weekend, the Rangers were 5-5 in stolen base attempts, a problem that has haunted the Yankees all season as both Francisco Cervelli (15.5%) and Jorge Posada (17.1%) have suffered from the infliction. Combined, they have only nabbed 21 of 128 runners trying to steal, a woeful rate of 16.4%, and each ranks ahead of only Rob Barajas and Ryan Doumit among catchers with at least 500 innings behind the plate. Not only have Posada and Cervelli had trouble throwing out runners, but they haven’t been much better catching pitches: the Yankees rank sixth in baseball with 12 passed balls and eight with 60 wild pitches. Throw in a major league leading 18 errors from behind the plate, and it’s easy to see just how weak Yankees’ catchers have been on defense. Just as Texas did over the weekend, this weakness could be easily exploited in the post season. Remember, unlike last season, the Yankees will not have Jose Molina to serve as a deterrent.
Catchers With Lowest CS%, Minimum 500 Innings
4) Over Management
All season, Joe Girardi has showed a penchant for making very curious moves. When the team is firing on all cylinders, they are often easy to overlook, but in close games, many wind up playing a vital role. Every game this weekend featured several questionable decisions, whether they pertained to lineup construction, bullpen management or in-game strategy, that contributed to the sweep. With the Yankees seeming to have much less margin for error this year, success in the playoffs could come down to which manager best positions his team to succeed. Based on his decision making this year, it’s hard to be confident that Girardi will be that manager.