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There's Hope For The Punchless Yankees' Offense

May 7, 2011 - John Whittaker
Note from the Whitless Wonder: Sorry for posting this Saturday night. Just ran out of time Friday and kind of forgot about finishing it earlier Saturday. At least you're not paying for it!

On April 23, the Yankees pounded out 15 runs and 14 hits in a 15-3 win over Baltimore.

Five days later, the Yanks put up another 12 runs in a 12-3 win over Chicago.

Other than those two games and their 27 runs scored, you'd need Seal Team 6 to find the Yankees offense. It's been pretty tough to watch guys who only two weeks were ripping the cover off the ball struggle to hit the ball out of the infield now. Take out the Chicago game and the Bronx Bombers have scored 34 runs in the 11 games since that Baltimore beating, an average of 3.09 a game and a far cry from the six runs a game they averaged in the first three weeks of the season.

Not surprisingly, if you look at the last seven days, only Brett Gardner has really stepped up at the plate. In 15 at-bats, Gardner put up a .467 batting average and .667 on-base percentage, walking nine times while striking out only twice. The problem comes when you look at what the rest of the team has done. Among the regular starting lineup, only Robinson Cano hit above .250, while the team as a whole hit only .240.

Alex Rodriguez hit only .167 in 24 at-bats last week. Nick Swisher hit .136 last week. Derek Jeter hit .208. Jorge Posada hit .227. Everybody hit the skids at the same time, and the end result was the Yanekes made Rick Porcello and Brad Penny look like the 1962 version of Sandy Koufax.

It's no surprise, then, that the Yanks lost their last three games against Detroit while scoring a total of 5 runs.

Here's why Yankees fans shouldn't worry.

Look at those batting averages again. It's a safe bet that Rodriguez doesn't have too many weeks where he hits .167 with no home runs. Swisher is due for a rebound week. Even Jeter and Posada should hit at least closer to .250 every week. Even Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson cooled off from hot starts that might have inflated expectations for them. The Yankees' hitters were due to come back to earth. Rather than parachuting to the ground slowly, they spent the last week pulling the emergency rip cord before crashing Wile E. Coyote style.

A rebound is due and can't come soon enough. The schedule stays tough until mid-May, and with series upcoming against Tampa Bay and Boston, this is no time to be struggling. It's hard to say that a first place team needs to pick it up, but hitting the way they have recently, the Yankees won't be in first place for much longer.

Last Week's Record: 3-4. Division Standing Through 29 games: 17-12, First Place in the American League East.

What I Liked This Week Good Starting Pitching All Around: Last week was generally another good starting pitching week, though it was wasted by the offense. A.J. Burnett threw two solid games, and I was really encouraged by his 9 strikeouts and 1 walk in 13 innings. So far, so good for Burnett. C.C. Sabathia had a weird start last week, throwing seven innings, but walking 3 and giving up 4 runs to get beaten by the aforementioned Brad Penny. Even Freddy Garcia's ERA is a bit inflated by three bad pitches that got taken out of the ballpark. Overall, I'd have taken either of his two starts this week if the offense was rolling. And, as always, another shout out to Bartolo Colon, who is rapidly outpitching his El Burrito Grande nickname and forcing me to come up with something better.

Brett Gardner: It's hard to believe, but Gardner is being more aggressive at the plate, yet walking more. Apparently, his sit-down with Kevin Long resulted in Gardner not looking at quite so many close pitches, meaning he wasn't hitting in an 0-2 count all the time. It's amazing how much your mindset matters in baseball. Looking to hit early in the count, Gardner is getting better pitches to hit and not allowing pitchers to dictate the tempo of each at-bat. If he can keep this up, Brett might be moved back to the leadoff spot in the lineup.

What Concerns Me David Robertson: Control problems killed Robertson last week, who helped blow a game for Freddy Garcia on April 29 against Toronto. In his 2.1 innings, Robertson has given up 2 runs and walked 4. Maybe it was just a bad week, but this sort of inconsistency is why Robertson never gets moved into a more trusted role in the bullpen. He'll pitch great when you don't expect it, and when he earns a promotion, promptly blows.

Struggling Veterans: With only three remaining members of five championship teams on the roster, as a fan I really want to see Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera be productive forever. My head knows it won't happen, but that doesn't mean my heart doesn't root for it to happen. Right now, the head is winning the battle as I watch Jeter and Posada. Jeter's killing off entire populations of earthworms in infields throughout the American League, and Posada's batting average looks like the thread count on a cheap set of sheets. Both show occasional signs of snapping out of their season-long slumps, but their age and peripheral numbers say it's not likely. Joe Girardi will have some interesting things to kick around at the All-Star Break this year.

What's Coming Up: Three games on the road with Texas, three games at home against Kansas City, before a three-game set with Boston that starts Friday.


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