Thursday, July 1, 2010

Patience Wearing Thin Over Yankees Offense

Let's get this out of the way up top: There's no shame in being shut down by Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez in back-to-back nights.

They are, arguably, two of the top five pitchers in the American League right now. If anyone should be ashamed, it's the Mariners, who are buried in last place despite having the best 1-2 starting rotation punch in the sport.

So yes, any team can be stifled by good pitching, and ranting about two games in late June would be pointless (though I suspect many will anyway).

That said, the losses do put the spotlight on the Yankees offense, and the view isn't exactly flattering right now.

Depth is obviously a concern. The likes of Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis, and Chad Huffman won't remind anyone of the Boggs-Strawberry-Raines salad days of the Yankees bench. Brian Cashman has admitted as much, and has hinted that upgrading his reserves is a primary goal as the trade deadline approaches.

But the Yankees have more to worry about than the bench.

Take a closer look at the regulars who the Yankees are leaning on so heavily to remain healthy and effective. Derek Jeter is hitting 33 points below his career average; Mark Teixeira is sitting 55 points below his. Alex Rodriguez is showing signs of coming out of his power slump, but remains on pace for his first sub-30 home run season. Jorge Posada is getting old on us, Curtis Granderson is lowering expectations by the day, and Francisco Cervelli is suddenly on a trajectory for Scranton.

On the flip side, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner are having legit strong seasons, while Robinson Cano continues to pick up the slack for all the teammates struggling around him. Cano is the only thing separating the Yankees from third place right now.

One thing that did stand out about the Lee and Hernandez performances was the striking similarity to games the Yankees lost in the postseason throughout the 2000s. A frontline starter punches the Yankees in the mouth, and they don't get up.

Will this Yankee team be remembered for that same trait? You can say they won the title last year, and are therefore exempt of such a comparison. But there's no Hideki Matsui here, no Johnny Damon, and many of those who remain simply don't look like the same players.

Are some of the key figures on the roster getting old? Perhaps—it was bound to happen, of course. But there's still enough talent on the roster to rise above the decline of a few.

(Eyes burning hole through center of Mark Teixeira's torso).

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus .