Sunday, June 8, 2008

Searching for the winning formula

Now these are types of wins that good teams produce. Nothing flashy on Sunday, just a 6-3 workmanlike effort over a Royals team still presumably shell-shocked from yesterday's tragic theater.

Last year's Yankees team -- a great one, by the way, if not for Wang's choketastic ALDS meltdown -- won games all the time like this. The formula is as follows: Opponent's starting pitcher worked into high pitch count by patient Yankees lineup until he's forced out of game between innings four and six. Starter is replaced by typical chink in opponents' armor -- middle relief. Once tapped into suspect bullpen, Yankees put up crooked number before turning it over to Joba and Mo. Done and done. And that's how you go 37-18 over your final two months.

Of course, Joba is gone from the bullpen now, which will put more onus on the starting rotation he's now part of. The 2007 team had a very 1996 dynamic to it with Joba-Mo playing the Mo-Wetteland role. This 2008 bunch still needs to figure out its formula for victory. By moving your best setup asset to the rotation, it could be assumed the starting rotation will be asked to carry a bigger load than in year's past.

Only problem is, it's a bit of a stretch to assume the rotation as currently constituted is capable of that. Right now you have Wang (steady despite recent downturn), Pettitte (a legitimate question mark), Mussina (in the midst of a unlikely career renaissance), Rasner (probably already pitching at the best of his potential) and Joba (too soon to say what to expect). Does that look like a bunch that's going to consistently carry you into the seventh inning and later? This is essentially still a team built to rely heavily on its bullpen.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Not a shocker that the bullpen needs to perform better for the Yankees to start gravitating away from that damned .500 mark. Brian Bruney is said to be coming back in a month, which could bring a big boost if he's as effective as he was prior to the foot injury. Counting on another Chamberlain to appear from the depths of the farm system is asking too much. Realistically speaking, a trade seems to be the most sensible route to address this issue. How many more Kyle Farnsworth terrorist attacks do you need before you properly defend your fair team, Cash?

So, in summation, we'll do the Peter Gammons breakdown on the 2008 Yankees as of May 8.

If the Yankees offense continues to produce, if Mariano Rivera remains his dominant self, if Joba Chamberlain can progress steadily, if Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes can figure out their problems, if Brian Bruney can come back and pitch effectively, if Brian Cashman can pull off a trade to bolster the bullpen, if Kyle Farnsworth can announce his retirement from baseball to become a professional buck hunter ... then the Yankees will be back in the postseason in 2008.

Doesn't sound that bad, right? Right guys???? Nevermind.

Around The Horn: Joba's second start was a step in the right direction. His lasted into the fifth inning, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out a career-high five. His pitch count will be risen to 90-95 for Friday's outing against the Astros. I predict a big performance there. ... Johnny Damon continued to spurn me for leaving him on my fantasy bench this week, following his six-hit Saturday with another two base knocks Sunday. His .328 average is only one point behind Hideki Matsui for the team lead. Como se dice All-Star? ... Speaking of fantasy, for those not paying attention to KC baseball -- and who among us would admit to that -- Jose Guillen is on pace for 120 RBIs. He's likely a free agent if you're in a mixed-league format. ... The Giambino continues to rake, he hit his third homer in four days on Sunday, giving him 14 for the season. That equals his 2007 power output. If he ends up going 37 and 100 on us, it's not going to be so easy to cut him loose, right? ... Dan "Don't Call Me Don" Geiss picked up his first Major League win on Sunday, following Joba in the fifth inning with 2.2 scoreless innings. To quote the construction worker in Major League, "Maybe [this guy] ain't so fuckin' bad."

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