It's time for the first edition of the Subway Series and that means we've got another Amazin' Avenue Five For Five series preview. The Yankees play host to the Mets this weekend and they are currently, like the Mets, within shouting distance of first place in the American League East. In order to give us a preview of the series, I spoke with Brandon C, manager of SB Nation's Yankees blog Pinstripe Alley and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us. I also took some Mets questions from Brandon, which you can find over at Pinstripe Alley.
SS: Who or what has been the biggest success so far this season and conversely, the biggest disappointment? Any surprises?
BC: The biggest success so far this season has been Derek Jeter and the team still winning despite multiple injuries to important players. The biggest disappointment has been the injuries, as well as the early season struggles by the offense with runners in scoring position, which has been horrendous to say the least.
SS: With Mariano Rivera out for the year and David Robertson on the disabled list, Rafael Soriano has taken over as the Yankees' closer. How has he looked so far and do you feel confident he can adequately do the job?
BC: If you asked me the day he took over for Robertson I would have said I was not very confident. Since then Soriano has shown that he can fill the role more than adequately, so I feel confident when he enters the game. Despite his past as a terrific closer, he never seemed like an automatic out guy for the Yankees. This is the closest he's been to that, which is of course excellent to see for a Yankees fan.
SS: Coming into this season, it seemed as if the Yankees had an embarrassment of riches in their rotation but an injury to Michael Pineda and the struggles of Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia seems to have torpedoed that depth. How would you assess the way the starters have pitched so far?
BC: CC Sabathia has been-well-CC Sabathia. Hiroki Kuroda has put together a streak of solid starts, but has earned the "inconsistent" tag for whatever reason. Andy Pettitte has shocked me by pitching like the Andy Pettitte of old, despite the time away from baseball. Freddy Garcia this season has been just horrendous, but luckily the return of Pettitte made that a lesser issue for now. Nova's main problem is the number of home runs he is surrendering, which is unlike him. In his last start Nova was terrific, so I'd give him an "incomplete" evaluation. Phil Hughes, a personal favorite, has definitely earned the inconsistent tag that Hiroki Kuroda for whatever reason received. Every time Hughes steps on the mound you can expect a home run to be given up, but that's about all you can really predict. Hughes can be absolutely terrific or absolutely terrible, so he's a mystery.
SS: Despite a solid .213 isolated slugging, Mark Teixeira has put up a pedestrian .332 wOBA, which seems to mostly be based on a low batting average due to a .239 BABIP. This is Tex's third straight season with a below .300 BABIP and it continues to drag his overall numbers down. What have you seen from him offensively that may be causing this drop?
BC: Teixeira's main problem in the beginning of the season was an illness that he just couldn't seem to shake. There's no stat (that I know of) for batting average with illness, so I'll tell you what I've seen. Teixeira has been trying to beat the shifts that teams put on him, but in the process messes up his swings. The shifts tend to get to Teixeira more than the average player, but when he does beat them he has his best games.
SS: Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter are off to great starts offensively but by the advanced defensive metrics, both have been below average thus far. While we know defensive numbers are inconsistent in small samples, how have those two looked defensively to your eyes?
BC: Granderson has an odd tendency to take abnormal paths to the baseball on fly balls. As his Yankees tenure has progressed Granderson's fielding has gotten seemingly worse, which is strange to see. I've never been a big fan of Jeter's defense, as the gold gloves and web gems are more of a sign of lack of range than actual defensive talent.
Thanks again to Brandon of Pinstripe Alley for answering these questions for us. Game one tonight begins at 7:05 PM on SNY (and MLB Network nationally), as Johan Santana faces off against Hiroki Kuroda. Game two starts at 7:15 PM on FOX and it'll be Dillon Gee on the hill against Phil Hughes. And on Sunday, Jon Niese faces Andy Pettitte in a 1:05 PM matinee, which you can catch on PIX11 or TBS.