Baseball season is one month old and the New York Yankees are floundering in last place. They are coming off of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox and have lost five in a row. They haven't won more than two games in a row so far this season. So what has gone wrong with the Yankees so far this year?
Offensively they have struggled, scoring an average of just 3.52 runs per game. Their offensive star has been second baseman Starlin Castro, who is hitting a cool .314/.352/.500 on the year. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been hitting better than you'd imagine two guys who combine to be 79 years old, and catcher Brian McCann is playing pretty well so far too.
Chris Tillman is trying to reinvent himself
Chris Tillman has changed his pitching arsenal early in 2016 and has received mixed results thus far. The increased usage of a cutter and sinker have changed the way Tillman pitches.
The biggest liability that they didn't expect to have in the lineup is Chase Headley. After trading for Headley during the 2014 season, the Yankees signed the third baseman to a four-year, $52 million contract. That's not huge money, especially for the Yankees, but Headley hasn't even come close to living up to it this year. He is hitting .156/.267/.156, an OPS+ of 25. Yes, he has no extra base hits this season.
Also dragging down the offense is shortstop Didi Gregorious. He's not supposed to hit well, but this year instead of being slightly below average at the plate, he has been miserable. With an OPS+ of 65, it's like the equivalent to how badly J.J. Hardy played last year.
The other big thing holding back the Yankees so far this year has been the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is having another fine season, averaging over six innings per start with an ERA of just 2.87. After him, though, it has been a whole lot of garbage. Of the other four starters in the rotation, the lowest ERA of the bunch is 5.06. Sadly for the Orioles, they will see Tanaka this time around.
The Yankees have allowed an average of 4.87 runs per game, second worst in the American League. They have the fearsome duo of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances at the back end of the bullpen, but the rotation has been so bad that it has often not mattered. The game plan for any team against the Yankees is to jump on their rotation so that Miller and Betances are rendered obsolete.
Game 1: Tuesday, May 3rd, 7:05 PM
Chris Tillman (5 GS, 25 IP, 3.25 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (4 GS, 19.2 IP, 6.86 ERA)
Don't look now, but Chris Tillman might be starting to put together a decent season. Tillman has pitched just one clunker this year and is coming off of two good starts against both the Rays and the Blue Jays. He hasn't been pitching deep into games although he has gone six or more in his last two starts. His overall IP/G is still skewed a little by his Opening Day start that was washed away by rain after two innings.
Severino is the youngster of the Yankees, just 22 years old. He made his major league debut in August of last year and looked like he might be the next big thing for the Yankees, but it hasn't turned out that way so far in 2016. It's too early to make any declarations based on the numbers, but he's striking out fewer this year so far. His BABIP is a crazy high .417, but it's fueled by an increase in line drive % from 20% last year to 32.4% this year. It's still early, but right now he's getting hit very hard.
Game 2: Wednesday, May 4th, 7:05 PM
Tyler Wilson (5 G/2 GS, 17.2 IP, 3.06 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (4 GS, 21.1 IP, 5.06 ERA)
I gotta admit, Tyler Wilson has been better this year than I expected. After starting in the bullpen his last two games have been starts in which he's given up three runs in five innings and two runs in 4.2 innings. Neither of those thing is spectacular, but I hope he'll be pitching deeper into games as he gets stretched out a little.
CC Sabathia hasn't been a good pitcher since 2012. He has yet to get blown out in four games this season, giving up three runs each in all four starts. Two of those have met the minimum requirements for a Quality Start (6 IP, 3 ER), but twice he hasn't gotten out of the fifth inning. His strikeout numbers have continued to drop and this year he has added in an increased walk rate.
Game 3: Thursday, May 5th, 7:05 PM
Mike Wright (4 GS, 23.1 IP, 5.40 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5 GS, 31.1 IP, 2.87 ERA)
It would behoove the Orioles to win the first two games of this series, because this one is going to be tough.
I still think Mike Wright's future is in the bullpen, but over his last two starts he has impressed me. His game against the Royals looks bad on paper, but going into the seventh he had allowed just two runs. He ended up pitching 6.1 with five runs. Ouch. And against the White Sox he pitched six good innings.
As for Tanaka, he's been what the Yankees have hoped for after they signed him to a big contract out of Japan. He seems to have worked through his shoulder injury and has given the Yankees five good games to start the season. He's striking guys out (8 K/9) while not walking many (1.7 BB/9). He's also getting ground balls just about 60% of the time, which helps explain why his HR rate is just 0.6 HR/9. Hopefully the Orioles drive that number up some.
I'm feeling relatively confident about this series, although it's unlikely that the Yankees' losing streak will stretch to eight games. It would be great if it did, though. The Orioles will be playing without J.J. Hardy and possibly Zach Britton, which is troublesome, but my solution to that is for them to just hit all of the dingers.