Yankees Mid-Season Report Cards, Part Four

In this, the final part of our four-part series, we analyze and grade the Yankees pitching staff. Parts one through three detailed the other aspects of the team, but now it is time for the rotation and bullpen to feel the heat. The pinstriped hurlers have fallen under a lot of scrutiny this season, but how much of it is deserved? Let's find out!

Jason Anderson: C
Anderson has bounced back and forth between The Show and AAA Columbus, but he's been fairly effective while a Yankees. He isn't a dominant force out of the pen and he definitely doesn't look like closer material, or even setup material right now, but more often than not he gets the job done. His strikeout to walk ratio is poor to say the least, and his WHIP is abhorrent, but somehow Anderson has avoided any blowups. Torre hasn't used Anderson in many tight situations (he doesn't have a single hold or save), and with the way Anderson pitches, maybe Torre is correct in doing that.

Roger Clemens: B+
Clemens has been pitching like a 30-year old, and he's a month away from turning 41. With an 8-6 record and a 3.86 ERA, Clemens is putting up more-than-respectable numbers for any pitcher, let alone one his age. The six-time Cy Young award winner leads the league in strikeouts with 128, and his value to the Yankees cannot be understated. He recently won his 300th victory and struck out his 4,000th batter, and he brings enough veteran presence to the Yankees to stabilize any team. This will almost certainly be Clemens' final season in a brilliant career, and its great to see him go out with a roar.

Jose Contreras: Incomplete
Contreras has been something of an enigma this year. As a reliever, he was 1-1 with an 8.74 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. As a starter, he was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts. Things were looking up when the Cuban defector moved into the rotation, but after those first two starts Contreras went on the disabled list with an injured shoulder on June 11. He hasn't pitched since. The biggest question is what the Yankees should do with Contreras when he returns. Obviously, he struggles out of the bullpen and should be used as a starter – which he was in Cuba. But if he rejoins the rotation, who is forced out? None of the Yankee starters have made a case for their removal, so Torre will have his hands full when Contreras returns, which should be sometime before the end of July.

Chris Hammond: B
Hammond signed as a free agent after posting phenomenal numbers in 2002 with the Atlanta Braves. Hammond hasn't been quite so good this season, but he's been the most consistent setup arm out of the bullpen for the Yankees. Hammond doesn't feature a blazing fastball, or even a hard fastball. He throws a changeup, and a slightly faster changeup. Or at least that's what it looks like when he's on the mound. Hammond's soft toss means he can be hit hard, and he has been a few times. But more often than not, Hammond has gotten the job done with 10 holds and a save. He has also walked only seven batters in almost 40 innings, an excellent quality in a reliever. Without Hammond the Yankee bullpen would be in utter shambles and Yankee fans should be happy that he is there.

Sterling Hitchcock: C
Hitchcock started the year off strong. Many expected him to be a weak link in a weak bullpen, but by the end of May Hitchcock's ERA was a stingy 2.29. His relative success wouldn't last however. Hitchcock has since faltered and has forced his coaching staff to lose faith in him. The southpaw is used very infrequently, and almost never in close situations. If the Yankees don't show any faith in the Hitchcock, how can the fans be expected to? And more importantly, how can Hitchcock gain any confidence? He isn't an overpowering pitcher, and his stuff isn't what is used to be after Tommy John surgery, but Hitchcock still has talent. If he can get his head on straight and harness his natural ability, he could be a serviceable pitcher.

Dan Miceli: Incomplete
Miceli came over from Cleveland on June 25 after putting up excellent numbers with the Indians. The Yankees are his third stop this season, and in six stops with the Bombers, he has a 5.40 ERA and a save. Recently, Miceli was injured when a batted ball caught him on the leg. The right-hander has a good upside demonstrated by his excellent strikeout rates, hopefully he'll be able to produce for the Yankees in the second half, as they are desperate for a consistently good arm in the pen.

Mike Mussina: A
Mussina's been the best pitcher for the Yankees this year, and one of the best pitchers in the majors. He started the year by rolling off seven straight wins before hitting a bit of a slide. He is second in the league in strikeouts (121) and WHIP ratio (1.03), and he's got a shot at that elusive 20-win season. If Mussina is anything, it's consistent. The Yankees know that when he takes the mound, they're going to have a chance to win. And there's not much else to ask for.

Antonio Osuna: B-
Osuna seems to have a problem with staying healthy. He's been on the disabled list twice already in just the first half of the season. Both times it was with a right groin injury. He recently returned to the bullpen, but was hammered in his first appearance. When healthy, Osuna has been excellent. He has a 2-2 record with a 2.96 ERA in 25 games. If he can keep himself off the disabled list, Osuna is the answer the Yanks have been looking for in the setup role.

Andy Pettitte: B-
Ever noticed that almost everyone either started off hot and cooled down, or started off cold and caught fire? You've got to love the streaky nature of the game. Pettitte started out cold, pitching well enough to win but not dazzling anyone with his peripheral numbers. After reaching a low of 5-6 with a 5.33 ERA, Pettitte turned things around and has since pulled off a six-start win streak that has also lowered his ERA to 4.63. Pettitte's performance of the season came on July 6 against the Red Sox. After the Sox manhandled the Yankees for two straight games, Pettitte came out and shut down Boston for eight innings. He stopped the Yankee skid and gave his team a much-needed win. Pettitte has always been a gamer, coming up big in important situations, with that in mind Pettitte should come up big for the rest of the year.

Al Reyes: C
Reyes has been pretty good for the Yankees this season, despite only pitching a grand total of 17 innings. He has a good 3.18 ERA, an average 1.29 WHIP and an excellent .203 opponent's batting average. Reyes, like Anderson and Hitchcock before him, doesn't get into a lot of games and doesn't face a lot of pressure situations. Reyes has also been bounced between AAA and the majors, but he's looked pretty sharp. With three guys in the bullpen that Torre doesn't think he can rely on to handle close games, the Yankees are carrying some dead weight.

Mariano Rivera: A
The fact that Mariano Rivera missed the first few weeks of the season only demonstrated his importance to the Yankees. Without him, the bullpen was floundering. With him anchoring the back end of the pen, the Yankees look respectable in that area once more. Rivera is still one of the most feared pitchers in the game, dominating hitters, breaking bats left and right. This season he added a pitch to his repertoire: a tailing fastball over the outside part of the plate to a lefty that sets up his devastating cutter. Hitters set up looking for the inside cutter and get frozen on the outside pitch. This new development has more than made up for the few mph that he may have lost, and Rivera has put up sick numbers. He has converted 16 of 17 save opportunities, struck out 33 batters compared to four walks, and he has a 1.75 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP. If he can stay healthy, which he has since returning, he'll be the force that he has been for the last seven seasons.

Jeff Weaver: C+
At times Weaver has managed to look completely lost on the field. He has struggled with his identity as a pitcher – whether he should be Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux – and it has really hurt him. Weaver started the season off just fine, but then hit a bumpy stretch that lasted from the end of April to the end of June. Recently however, Weaver looks like he found himself. After allowing three runs in the first inning of a game against the Mets on June 29, Weaver retired 21 batters in a row. In his last start before the All-Star break, he pitched eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits while fanning seven Blue Jays. Weaver has tremendous potential, and if he can realize it sometime over the next few months, the Yankees will be in a fantastic position for the rest of this season and the next few years.

Well there you have it, folks. The Yankees have been dismantled, analyzed and put back together. They have most of the pieces in place to keep their streak of first-place finishes alive. With things seeming to break their way lately, the Yanks should have little trouble holding off the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. Enjoy the All-Star break!

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