Looking Ahead to the Yankees' First Week Back

The last time I wrote a weekly forecast for the Yankees, maybe a month or so ago, the feel was optimistic. They had a week full of unspectacular pitchers to look forward to, and they took advantage of each one of them. This next week will be a bit different. On tap the Yankees will face Seattle then Baltimore, before heading to Minnesota - all while clinging to a 3.5-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays and a 4-game difference over the Baltimore Orioles. They'll all be coming out with guns blazing, showcasing their best pitching talent.

Friday, July 17th vs Seattle - Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) vs Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.29 ERA)

Montgomery has been solid since the Yankees last saw him make his Major League debut June 2nd. A 2.62 K:BB ratio is nothing to shake fist at, and his HR/FB rate (5.4%) is encouraging - especially as he enters Yankee Stadium. Limited walks combined with a low tendency to allow home runs makes this a difficult matchup for the Yankees on paper, especially since they've hit lefties worse this season (.242 BA vs. .259). For Tanaka, this is a prime chance to build some momentum. He was solid his last time out in a win against the A's on the 9th, and he'll look to string together three straight starts with three or fewer runs allowed, after allowing 11 over two straight to end June.

Saturday, July 18th vs Seattle - Michael Pineda (9-5) vs Hisashi Iwakuma (1-1, 5.22 ERA)

Ah, always nice to have Michael Pineda throw against the Mariners. He might even get to face Jesus Montero, who the Yankees traded for him! That would be fun. If I had to guess, I'd say Montero homers to right off of him.

Don't let the numbers fool you, Iwakuma can throw. He had a few brutal outings before going on the DL in April,and struggled in his return on July 6th. He then went out and impressed against the Angels, throwing eight scoreless innings with 6 K's, and just three hits allowed. The crafty 35 year-old was very dependable last year and should give the Yankees trouble.

Sunday, July 19th vs Seattle - C.C. Sabathia (4-8, 5.47 ERA) vs Felix Hernandez (11-5, 2.84 ERA)

I will say this - it would not surprise me to see C.C. have a decent outing against the Mariners' offense, who don't scare many pitchers. That said, the Yankees used up their get-to-king-felix-for-a-million-runs card already so I think we can safely say King Felix will be King Felix.

Tuesday, July 21st vs Baltimore - Nate Eovaldi (9-2, 4.50 ERA) vs Wei-Yin Chen (4-5, 2.78 ERA)

Eovaldi is a different guy at Yankee Stadium, with a .273 BAA and 3.72 ERA in 8 home starts. He'll need to be on, as runs should be at a premium in this game. Chen's 3.60 K:BB is nice, and he's gone at least seven innings in four of his last five starts (went eight three times). He will hang around and is another guy who limits walks, with just a 5.7% rate. That's big against the Yankees, who eat pitchers alive by taking lots of pitches outside the zone. and working counts.

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2015 Yankee Schedule Released

Today's a scheduled off-day and this season is basically over anyway, so why not get all psyched up about next year?  MLB released the full 2015 schedule today and here, in no particular order, are the Yankee-related highlights. - The Yankees open on Monday, April 6th at The Stadium against the Blue Jays.  They play their first 6 at home against the Jays and Red Sox before heading off on a 10-game road trip in the second week of the season.

- The NL East is the interleague divisional opponent this year and that means more Subway Series.  The Mets will come to town for 3 from April 24th-26th and the Yanks go to Citi Field for 3 more on September 18th-20th.

- The All-Star Game takes place on Tuesday, July 14th in Cincinnati.

- The Yanks get 2 10-game homestands within a 4-week stretch from August 17th-September 13th.  That's pretty sweet.

- The longest road trip of the year is a 9-game/10-day one in mid-May.  Takes them from Tampa to KC to Washington.  Nothing too taxing going out to the West Coast, which is nice.

You can find the full schedule right here, if you're interested in perusing it for yourself.

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Rival Roundup - The Boston Red Sox

RedSox The last of a four-part series, Rival Roundup has been an overview of the Yankees' American League East rivals. As stated throughout the series, almost half of the Yankees' games will be against these four rivals. This last installment looks at the Boston Red Sox. Like the first three in the series, we have enlisted the thoughts of member sites of The ESPN SweetSpot Network. For this installment, my good friend, Jeff Polman, of Fire Brand of the American League will provide some insight throughout the piece.

Of course the last installment had to be the Boston Red Sox. Cue the bad-guy organ music! Actually, a lot of steam has gone out of the antipathy between the two teams. They spend too much time respecting each other these days. Even so, the bottom line for both teams and the teams' fans is that both ends of the "rivalry" are shooting for the same prize. Only one can win the division. And as we have seen, it is not like the rest of the division is going to stand by and let this be decided by the Red Sox and Yankees.

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Rival Roundup - The Toronto Blue Jays

20111118-blue-jays-logo Part three of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at the American League East rivals the New York Yankees will have to navigate for almost half of the team's games in 2014. After visiting the Orioles on Friday and the Rays on Monday, our next stop is the Toronto Blue Jays. To offer insight and perspective of someone who covers the Jays closely, we turned to one of our fellow members of the ESPN SweetSpot Network, Matthias Koster of Mop Up Duty. Koster's thoughts will pop up throughout.

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Rival Roundup - Tampa Bay Rays

Rays The second of a four part series, Rival Roundup takes a look at each team of the American League East. The Yankees will play almost half of their games against these four clubs so it is really important to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. We have reached out to our ESPN SweetSpot Network partner sites to contribute their thoughts to the series. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Rays and Tommy Rancel of The Process Report has been kind enough to provide his thoughts that will be sprinkled throughout.

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The Offseason Schedule

We have four months until pitchers and catchers report in February, and of course that means four months of Yankee speculation. With the re-signing of Joe Girardi yesterday, the team kicked off their offseason in the right way, by acquiring the manager essential to their future plans. Now the organization has to figure out the Robinson Cano dilemma, hand out qualifying offers, clean up their 40-man roster, and find replacement starting pitchers, a third baseman, a backup shortstop, an outfielder, perhaps a catcher, and a closer. The 2013-2014 offseason is shaping up to be one of the busiest in recent years, and it'll be interesting to see how they shore up so many position while staying under a $189 million payroll. Here are the dates to look forward to this winter.

October 23rd: World Series Begins

October 28th - October 31st: World Series ends, immediately followed by free agency. Former teams may discuss contracts with free agents, and qualifying offers can be announced, but other teams cannot negotiate with free agents, either privately or publicly.

October 29th: Gold Glove Awards announced.

November 2nd - November 5th: 5 days after the World Series finale, all qualifying offers must be tendered. The Yankees will likely offer Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda offers. Teams must also set their 40-man rosters to recall players from the 60-day disabled list.

November 3rd - November 6th: 6 days after the World Series finale, all free agents now have the opportunity to sign with other clubs.

November 6th: Silver Slugger Awards announced.

November 9th - November 12th: 12 days after the World Series finale, this is the last day to accept a qualifying offer. As I mentioned, Cano, Granderson, and Kuroda will likely received offers, and for each declined offer and movement to a new team, the Yankees will receive one first round compensation pick in the 2014 draft.

November 11th: Executive of the Year award and Rookie of the Year award are announced. A new waiver period begins, and the three day GM/Owners Meetings begin in Orlando. Not much usually happens publicly during these meetings, perhaps some rumors leak. This is usually the time when General Managers let everyone know their future plans, be it selling or buying, and trade framework begins to take form.

November 12th: Manager of the Year awards announced. Perhaps the Yankees only real shot at a major award here, with Joe Girardi facing some good competition with John Farrell, Terry Francona, and Joe Maddon.

November 13th: Cy Young Awards announced.

November 14th: MVP Awards announced.

December 2nd: The last day to tender a contract or salary arbitration to team controlled players. David Robertson, Brett Gardner, Shawn Kelley, Jayson Nix, Ivan Nova, Francisco Cervelli, and Chris Stewart are all arbitration eligible, as well as a number of other players that may be affected by this deadline.

December 9th: Essentially the last day to make any final changes to your 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft. This is also the beginning of the three day Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista. This is the major meetings of the offseason, where many free agents and teams either sign, or at least set up the interest and framework for contracts. Likewise, all those trades discussed a month earlier in the GM/Owners Meetings now have a better chance to be worked out.

December 12th: The end of the Winter Meetings, which ends with the Rule 5 draft.

This isn't the end of the offseason, but it is the end of most of the official deadlines and meetings. Arbitration dates will be set for some players, though it's very rare for a Yankee player to actually get to that point, most of the time the team and the players negotiate a salary without reaching a hearing. Many free agents set Christmas (December 25th) as the day to have a new team, that way they can enjoy the holidays without worrying about their future. In recent years, under the new CBA, many free agents have held out through the month of January, waiting for the majority of free agents to sign, giving themselves a better hand in negotiating with more desperate teams. This strategy has both succeeded and failed for a number of them, but I expect the free agent market to continue to play out until at least late-January. By mid-February, pitchers and catchers meet, and we'll have our first Spring Training game on February 28th.

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How's That Early Second Half Schedule Looking?

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) The Yankees resume their regular season tomorrow night tonight and they'll start it deep in enemy territory with a 3-game weekend series in Boston.  At 51-44, they currently sit 4th in the AL East , 6 games behind the Sawx (5 in the loss column) and 3 games behind both the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card.  As luck would have it, the Yanks play their first 10 games of the second half against those 3 teams in what could be the make-or-break stretch for their postseason hopes.

After Boston, the Yanks will travel to Texas for 4 before heading right back east for a 3-game home set against Tampa.  Then it's travel off day to the West Coast, 2 games against the Dodgers, travel off day, 3 at San Diego, 3 at the White Sox, travel off day, and 3 back at home against the Tigers.  21 games, 15 on the road, the first 10 against the 3 teams they're chasing in the playoff race, and the final 3 against the reigning AL champs.  The extra off days are nice, but that's still a tough stretch.  There's the soft underbelly of the 6 against the Padres and White Sox, but after going 3-4 against KC and Minnesota last week even those games can't be called gimmes anymore.

The end of this first second half stretch will bring the Yankees to August 12th.  The trade deadline will pass in that span, and perhaps a player or 2 will return from the DL.  By that Monday, we should know if the Yankees are serious postseason contenders or packing up the tents for the season.  They don't necessarily have to gain a ton of ground in the next 3 weeks, but they can't afford to lose much more.

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The Next Four Weeks

West Coast trips are rarely fun for players or the East Coast fans, and this last road trip was no exception. The Yankees went 4-6 against the Mariners, Athletics, and Angels, while displaying an awful offensive deficiency and picking up a number of injuries on the way. As the Yankees head to Yankee Stadium to play the Dodgers tomorrow, it'll be their first home game in nearly two weeks, and the team yet again finds itself without Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira. Even with home field advantage in three of the last four series in June, the Yankees have a very difficult schedule to deal with. Despite their recent slump, the team has remained 7 games over .500, somehow right in the middle of the ongoing pennant race, and just 3.0 games behind the 1st place Red Sox. Though they don't face the Red Sox until after the All Star break, the Yankees now have to deal with the second place Orioles, the Rays, who are just 2 games behind them, and the Rangers, who are currently tied with them for a wild card spot.

Looking at the standings so closely in June, especially the Wild Card possibilities, is usually pointless, but with the fruitless lineup they've played over the last month, it looks like they'll need to catch lightening in a bottle at the right time if they want any chance at retaking the AL East.

The next two week stretch will provide an opportunity for the Yankees to flourish or flounder. After the Dodgers, the next three series feature top teams in the American League, all playing over .500. Losing against the Rays or Orioles would obviously send them further back in the AL East standings, and set up more obstacles for the team to overcome in the late summer. Meanwhile, losing against the Rangers could send Texas into an advantageous spot in the Wild Card standings.

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This week in Yankees baseball - Heading into Week 4

yankeeslogo The New York Yankees have won four straight series and that is what Joe Girardi likes. C.C. Sabathia picked up another win. Andy Pettitte won another start. Heck, even Ivan Nova won one of his two starts. Hiroki Kuroda pitched well enough to win his start but that game became a bullpen win after the bullpen blew Kuroda's. And perhaps we are a greedy and spoiled bunch, but it certainly seems like the last two series should have been sweeps. The team went ahead, 4-2 on Sunday just to see the bullpen cough up four runs to give the Blue Jays the last game of the series. Back on Thursday, the Yankees were down a run heading into the ninth and Francisco Cervelli smacked a homer to tie the game. But David Phelps--who figured prominently in both losses this week--got roughed up in the twelfth inning. The week could have been better...should have been better. But it could have been worse too.

Mariano Rivera added three more saves to his career total this past week and added to his total saves record (613) and his games finished record (898). After six games, Rivera's statistics are again in line with the rest of his stupendous career.

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Please, Give Me More Rainouts

The Yankees made the road trip to Cleveland, but only played one game due to rain. Outside of their division, this means that the Yankees are going to have a headache double header to play at some point in the future, most likely in September. Axisa at River Ave Blues is a little bit worried:

Now here’s where things get really messy: it’s supposed to rain all day in New York tomorrow. The heaviest stuff is expected in the morning, but the forecast right now says the showers will continue through the night. Three consecutive rain outs (in two different cities) would be pretty crummy. Not only would the bombers have three postponed games to make up just two weeks into the new season, but you also have to worry about the hitters losing their rhythm and what not. The Yankees’ bats did some major damage on Monday and Tuesday and I really would like that to continue.

I'm with him on the hitters out of rhythm part, but I'm still very happy about these rain outs. I'm not sure about 3 in a row, but I'd love to lose another 2 games this April due to rain.

Why? The Yankees are as weak right now as they are going to be all season. Starting in May, reinforcements start to arrive off the disabled list. I'd much rather play fewer games with Jayson Nix, Lyle Overbay, Ivan Nova, and Ichiro Suzuki in the lineup and more games featuring Michael Pineda, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. I'll trade an off day in April for a doubleheader game in September any day of the week.

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