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April 11, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

On the one hand, six games is about 50 games too early to do any bridge-jumping, and even then a .500 record is nothing to despair about. Losing three of the last four is hardly the problem, it's what's been happening in those four games that gives cause for concern.

In these first six games, the Yankees' offense has consisted of two players, Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter... well, I guess you can include Ruben Sierra in that, too, but he's really only had one at bat that was worth anything in these six games. Outside of those three players, the Yankees have six extra base hits, they're hitting .236 with a .663 OPS. Obviously they'll do better than that, but how much better, and will it offset Matsui and Jeter's inevitable regression?

Some of the players who are struggling are players who there were legitimate concerns about before the season. Jason Giambi has an acceptable .847 OPS, but he's been hit by 3 pitches, and had his homer been a few feet shorter, it would have been a flyout, so that's not the strongest .847 OPS. He needs to start hitting the ball with more authority.

Jorge Posada hit 8 home runs through April last season, and only hit 13 more the rest of the way, he posted a .793 OPS after May, which is a decent OPS for a catcher, but for a 33-year-old catcher with a career .854 OPS it's an ominous sign.

Tino Martinez had a decent season last year, but he's 37 and wasn't very good the previous two seasons. Tony Womack just plain sucks.

Turn to the rotation, and even the good looks bad. Randy Johnson isn't blowing people away, he's giving up hits, his fastball seems a little slow -- not positive signs. Mike Mussina is getting hit, he's not hitting 90 with his fastball again, and he was lucky to not get knocked out of the park by the Red Sox last week. Carl Pavano was great in his first start and looked a little shaky the second time around, though he got knocked upside the head with a line drive before he had a chance to really get going. Jaret Wright bore a disturbing resemblence to Jose Contreras on Friday night.

Tanyon Sturtze has gotten off to a good start -- but Joe Torre appears to be not willing to use any other relivers in a tight situation, a problem he suffered from last year, which resulted in an exhausted bullpen in October. Now, it sounds silly to be complaining that Tanyon Sturtze is getting worn out, but when Sturtze struggles, Torre will just start overusing the next reliver who pitches well. If he were to use his whole bullpen instead, especially early on to find out who's really worth using and who's not, then he'll both find out who his best relievers really are over the course of the season, and he'll avoid burning them out.

I don't place much importance on the outcome of this week's series with Boston. Of course I really want them to win, but more imporant than victory is that they get better performances out of the players who've struggled so far. I think we learned last season that April slumps and hot streaks don't decide a season, and the continuation of these slumps doesn't mean that these players won't perform all season. But a lessening of these concerns through strong performances would be very beneficial for the emotional well-being of a lot of people, myself included.