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New York Yankees First Half Review

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The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 8-6 on Sunday afternoon taking two-out-of-three in Boston to complete their first half of the MLB season.

The Yankees finish the first half atop the American League East with a record of 48-and-40 and sit three and a half games up on the second place Tampa Bay Rays.

As for the first half, there were ups, downs and plenty of surprises, none bigger than the play of designated hitter Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod is the Yankees’ and baseball’s comeback player of the first half. After being sidelined all of 2014 due to a performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez was arguably the Yankees’ most important bat as he hit .278 with 18 home runs and 51 runs batted in. The 39-year old has an on-base percentage of .382 and a slugging percentage of .516. The Yankee slugger has batted third for the Bombers the majority of the first half and his 18 home runs ranks first among all Major League designated hitters.

Along with Rodriguez on the offensive attack, was Yankees first baseman, Mark Teixeira. Teixeira batted .240 in the first half, but had 22 home runs and 62 runs batted in – which ranks first in the American League.

Teixeira has also been great defensively for the Yanks committing only two errors and saving many more with his strong ability to pick balls thrown in the dirt by other Yankee infielders, who have been absolutely terrible defensively. Teixeira staying healthy is a huge key for the Yankees down the stretch in the second half as they need their clean-up hitter in the lineup.

As for the rest of the Yankees’ infield; dreadful is an understatement. Yankees’ third baseman Chase Headley has committed 16 errors and shortstop Didi Gregorius has made nine. The Yankees’ defense has the fifth worst fielding percentage in the majors, and needs to improve.

Gregorius however has improved as of late, and looks more comfortable at shortstop which is important for the Yankees.

The Derek-Jeter-replacement has also looked better at the plate, hitting .290 in July thus far. Gregorius is the Yankees most improved player of the first half.

The major question mark in the infield is at second base as the Yankees have gotten limited production at the plate.

The starting second baseman has been Stephen Drew, and besides the occasional home run, but Drew has been awful. The starting second baseman has played great defensively, but at the plate Drew is hitting .182 which is unacceptable.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi has shown great patience with Drew, but enough is enough. Yankees back up second baseman Jose Pirela has gotten his share of chances as well, but Pirela is hitting .212 in 19 starts and isn’t the answer.

The Yankees recently called up second baseman Rob Refsnyder from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and in two games played Refsnyder has two hits, one of them a two-run home run in Sunday’s rubber game in Boston. Refsnyder’s two-run home run is evidence of the rookie’s considerable potential with the bat, which is an upgrade over Stephen Drew. It leaves Yankees fans wondering what is in store for the rookie, and the Yankees second base job in the second half.

The Yankee outfield held its own in the first half despite losing center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for a month due to a knee injury. With Ellsbury out, Yankee all-star Brett Gardner took center stage as a strong catalyst atop the Yankees lineup hitting .302, with 42 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases.

Gardner earned a spot on the American League all-star team along with Mark Teixeira and set-up man Dellin Betances.

One outfield concern for the Yankees is the health of Carlos Beltran. Beltran has been sidelined the past two weeks with a strained rib cage and hasn’t played since July 1st. If Beltran’s health continues to be an issue, Yankees fans might not be far from seeing right fielder, and the organizations number two prospect Aaron Judge, who is currently at Triple-A Scranton. The 6-foot-8-inch outfielder is another rookie to keep an eye on as the second half approaches.

On the mound, the Yankees have been good enough in the first half, but health remains an issue. Yankees proclaimed ace Masahiro Tanaka is pitching with a partial ligament tear in his elbow, and missed time in the first half due to a forearm strain. Even though Tanaka and Girardi insist their Japanese ace is healthy, the Yankees have to be holding their breaths every time Tanaka takes the mound.

Yankees number two starter Michael Pineda has been fantastic for the Yankees so far, but has had fatigue issues. Pineda is 9-5 with a 3.64 earned run average in 106.1 innings pitched, already 30 more than last year’s total. Pineda’s fatigue and rest will be important in the second half and is something to keep an eye on.

Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia has not been good for the Yankees, as the six-foot-seven-inch lefty is 4-8 with a 5.47 earned run average. Many believe that Sabathia should have been put in the bullpen when Yankee starter Ivan Nova returned from Tommy John Surgery, but Girardi elected to keep Sabathia in the rotation and move Adam Warren to the bullpen. Bottom line is Sabathia needs to pick it up in the second half.

With Nova back in the rotation, he is someone to keep an eye on in the second half as well, as the righty could give the Yankees much needed quality innings.

The last man in the rotation is Nathan Evoldi. The right handed flame thrower has been up and down for the Yankees despite his 9-2 record. Evoldi has looked really good at times, and really bad at others. Either way Evoldi needs to be more consistent in the second half.

In the bullpen, the Yankees have been great, with all-star Dellin Betances leading the way. The right hander has a 1.53 earned run average, with 77 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. Betances along with closer Andrew Miller returning from a strained elbow, make up one of the best back ends in the league.

The Yankees bullpen should be rested and ready to go in the second half.

For a team that has fought through health issues, being in first place at the end of the first half is quite the accomplishment that no one saw coming.

First Half accolades:

Surprise- Alex Rodriguez

Ace- Michael Pineda

Disappointment- Stephen Drew, C.C. Sabathia

Question Mark- Carlos Beltran

Leader- Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances

MVP- Mark Teixeira

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