After about a week of baseball, here are my first impressions of the 2008 NY Yankees.
Pitching: After Chien Ming Wang and Phil Hughes, the starters have been beatable, especially Ian Kennedy. Mike Mussina's start wasn't as horrible as people seem to think. Besides the homerun he gave up to Vernon Wells, he was actually ok. He just doesn't have the ability to get people out as easily as he used to, so he requires more pitches. This is going to force the bullpen in early during his starts which won't be a problem if the other starters give them length. My concern with Moose is the effort he's expending coupled with his age may cut his season short. This also may not be a problem if Alan Horne's ready after the all-star break.
I'm also not too concerned about Andy Pettitte since he was injured, and he's still getting his legs back under him. He really only got roughed up for that one inning, and I think he'll be fine. Of greater concern is Ian Kennedy. It is only 1 start though, so let's wait and see.
Chien Ming Wang looked good in his first start, and great in his second start. It seems the new pitches he's worked into his repertoire are quite effective as is evident in the uncharacteristic 6 strikeouts. Phil Hughes' successful first start was of no surprise to this Yankee fan.
As I suspected, the bullpen hasn't been worrisome like people expected. LaTroy Hawkins is the only reliever that's caused any problems. Brian Bruney has been outstanding so far and seems pumped up with something to prove. I really like the attitude I see from him. Ross Ohlendorf and Billy Traber have also been getting the job done. Even Kyle Farnsworth has been pulling his weight. Even better is the unbeatable team of Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera. I've been a huge proponent of getting Joba into the rotation, but I don't know how they're going to mess with that combination. It's formidable. I thought Mo's slight decline would continue this year, but he's looked better than ever. He seems to be ageless.
Defense: There have been some great, good, awkward and not so good plays. I think the biggest defensive concern for everyone going into the season was Jason Giambi, of course. He actually looked limber in his first game snagging that line drive. I was in shock. Then, he reverted to true form by taking out that cameraman in the next game. He actually probably should've caught that popup foul ball, but it was a tough play. The fact is, Giambi will never be graceful out there and will always look awkward. He's never going to come up with a ball hit to him smoothly like Robinson Cano. What he has been doing well is knocking that ball down, staying with it and making the out. He's also saved a couple of errant throws while still staying on the bag. I believe Girardi's show of confidence in him by not taking him out for a defensive replacement has gone a long way. Also, after Shelley Duncan's disastrous play, there really isn't any question in my mind that he isn't the best option there.
Everyone else has been fine on defense except for the few errant throws by the infield. They all need to make sure they're set. Melky made a few great catches, but he needs to work on consistently tracking the ball better.
Offense: Once again they're off to a slow start. It should be noted that they faced some of the better starters during this week. Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Dustin McGowan and James Shields are no pushovers. There's no cause for worry quite yet. We haven't entered May with the slumping bats like last year. It doesn't even appear as if anyone is in trouble of continuing into a prolonged slump. Everyone's taking good at bats with good swings. I like the team's approach.
Coaching: If there was any wonder about this season, it was the transition from Joe Torre to Joe Girardi. It has been made immediately obvious how different they are. I have the utmost respect for Joe Torre, but I am loving Joe Girardi, especially the confidence he shows in his players. They are professional athletes and grown men who should be treated as such by allowing them a say in their own destinies. Most notable is his handling of the pitching staff. Game 1, he went out to the mound to talk to Wang instead of automatically pulling him when he got into a little trouble. He was rewarded with a strikeout and avoiding the bullpen. Based on what I've seen so far, I see the bullpen performing much better in August and September than previous years. This is hugely important.
All in all, I like the look of the team and am excited to see the rest of the season. I predict an AL East title back in the Bronx.