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April 24, 2005

The Andy and RJ show
by SG

After a rough two games against Texas, the Yankees came out today and took care of business, playing a game that the front office probably dreamed of when they built this team in the offseason. Randy Johnson was dominating, despite not having tremendous velociy. Although he did get as high as 96 on one scoreboard reading, he was still working in the low 90s for the most part, but attacked Texas with sliders and impeccable control. He threw 103 pitches, 60 of them for strikes in 8 innings, allowing only 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, and with 7 strikeouts. I think most of us are not worried about RJ, but it was good to see him pitching so well. Tom Gordon pitched a perfect ninth, although his control wasn't great, but he looked pretty good as well.

The story of this game to me was the offense. Quietly, due to the Yankees' struggles so far, Derek Jeter is having a tremendous season. His 3 for 4 day, topped with a HR has him sitting at .361/.478/.514. The most pleasant sign for me is the spike in Jeter's walk rate. Most likely due to his slow start last season, Jeter's BB/PA ratio was a lowly .065. This was his lowest ratio since his rookie season. However, after today's game, he is sitting at .175, which would blow away his career high set in 1999, when he probably should have won the MVP. I'd expect that to come down as the season progresses, but it does bode well for the rest of this season.

But the real good news of the day was Andy Phillips. Prior to the game, 'Not Marv Cook', a poster at Baseball Think Factory posted:

"This would be a great day for Andy Phillips to pull a Bubba Crosby."

This was a reference to this game, when Crosby hit a 3 run HR to spark a 5-4 win over the White Sox for a Yankee team that had been struggling.

A surprising insertion into the starting lineup against a righty, Phillips had a big RBI double in the Yankees' 4 run second inning, and then hit a homerun in the 8th to turn a laugher into a blowout. He also seemed pretty good defensively, although he didn't really get tested. Joe Torre seemed very impressed on the postgame show, so look for Phillips to get some semi-regular playing time, or at least be called on to pinch-hit in key spots. Sierra will be out for 4-6 weeks, so he should have plenty of time to make the Yankees think about keeping him on the roster. Ideally, they will clean up the clutter in the bullpen at some point, and allow themselves an extra bat on the bench.

Paul O'Neill brought up an interesting point during the game about how having some youth on a veteran team can perk them up. Phillips is not young in years, but he is young in major league experience. Perhaps he can bring some energy to a team that's been lacking it. One thing I've seen with the Yankees so far this season is they seem kind of flat. I'm sure the pitching getting shelled has a lot to do with that, but they certainly looked like they had a spark today.

And now the Yankees are 8-11, the same record they had after 19 games last season. It doesn't really mean much, this is a different team, but it's a little more evidence that it's not time to panic yet.

The flaws that are on this team are not going away, but there is still a ton of talent on this team. As Yankee fans, we just have to hope that the good outweighs the bad enough that they can make the playoffs. Once there, I'll take my chances with RJ, Moose, Pavano, Mo, Flash, Sturtze? and this offense against anyone.