Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Opposition Research: Ricky Keeler Talks New York Yankees

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With interleague play now behind us, the Indians head to baseball’s biggest stage this week as they swing through New York for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. This is the first time we’ll see the Bombers this year, so I asked Ricky Keeler from the great Yanks Go Yard blog to talk about New York’s playoff hopes, Derek Jeter‘s defense, and what the Yankees will do at the trade deadline.

You can also hear Steve Kinsella and me talk Tribe on this week’s Yanks Go Yard podcast, which we recorded with Ricky Sunday night.

  • The Yankees are in first place and have the second-best record in baseball, yet as of Sunday the whole AL East is within six games of them. What are the odds New York makes the playoffs? What are the biggest questions that could change things?

The Yankees’ odds to make the playoffs are very good. They should be sporting the league’s highest payroll and the collection of talent they have. The biggest challenges they face are will the starting pitching keep giving them 6 IP’s per game and will the offense finally break out of the funk they are in, particularly with runners in scoring position. The key for the offense down the line will be to find a way to manufacture runs rather than relying on the long ball on a cold October night.

  • The Yankees are 21-7 since May 22, including a well-publicized 10-game winning streak. What’s been driving this hot streak?

The Yankees have played .667 baseball since May 22nd. The reasons for the turnaround then when they were 22-22 are their starting pitching and timely hitting. The starters have given them quality starts over 75% of those starts since May 22. Solo homers are great but they have done better as of late in clutch situations. Guys like Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano are starting to play up to the back of their baseball cards. Also, the bullpen has been the best in baseball and it even gets better with the return of David Robertson to pitch the 8th inning.

  • Do you expect the Yankees to make any moves before the trade deadline? Are there any specific players you think they should target?

The Yankees in my opinion need to stand pat. Obviously guys like Matt Garza and Josh Willingham would fit in nicely, but Brett Gardner’s return coupled with the potential returns of David Aardsma and Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen may be the best moves Brian Cashman could make.

  • Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

    Sabermetric fielding stats have never liked Derek Jeter’s defense, but this year he’s on pace to post his worst UZR ever. Anecdotally, has he lost a step in the field? Is there still talk of moving him to the outfield?

It does look like most of his bad UZR is almost entirely due to bad range, which is backed up by a much lower Speed score than usual. That indicates to me that he has lost a step in the field. That being said, UZR is extremely unreliable in a small sample size, and the season so far definitely qualifies as a a small sample size. It usually takes about 3 years for UZR to become reliable. But, if you look at the past 3 years, UZR shows him to be a below-average defender, so this year probably isn’t completely a fluke.

Long story short, Jeter is a bad defender, and it looks like he may have lost a step, but it will take more time to tell if he is really as bad as his UZR has shown this year.

  • Who’s pitching for New York this week, and what should Tribe fans look for from them?

The Indians will see Hiroki Kuroda on Monday, Phil Hughes on Tuesday, and Andy Pettitte on Wednesday. With all three pitchers, the Yankees are looking for them to bounce back after average-mediocre starts in their previous outings. With Kuroda, watch how he handles situations with men on base because that’s where he slows up his delivery and it can sometimes get him into trouble. For Phil Hughes, the key will be whether he is able to locate his fastball. While the velocity has returned after a dismal 2011, the location still allows for baseballs to fly out of the park if those fastballs are too far elevated. Finally, with Andy Pettitte, look for him to take advantage of a young Indians’ team that has not seen him before and for him to continue his home dominance (hasn’t allowed more than 2 ER in any home start this year).

  • What’s your prediction for the series?

I have the Yankees taking 2 of 3, winning the first and last game of the series. I think their bats will be enough to carry them through against Cleveland’s pitching, which has the tendency to pitch to contact, which is ultimately trouble when you are playing in the bandbox known as Yankee Stadium. Cleveland’s offense has been solid, but I think the Yankees will come up with the more consistent offense this week and it may just come from the consistent home run ball.

You can hear our answers to Ricky’s questions here, and check out YanksGoYard.com for great Yankees coverage all season long.

How many games will the Indians win this series?

  • 0 (55%, 6 Votes)
  • 1 (27%, 3 Votes)
  • 3 (9%, 1 Votes)
  • 2 (9%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Tags: Andy Pettitte Brett Gardner Curtis Granderson David Aardsma David Robertson Derek Jeter Hiroki Kuroda Joba Chamberlain Josh Willingham Mark Teixeira Matt Garza New York Yankees Phil Hughes Robinson Cano

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