This will get to the Yankees bullpen. For now, please forgive the scenic route.
The detour begins at Most Valuable Player. Until the award’s name is changed to Best Player, I am going to take “Valuable” seriously and part of value is rising when all around you is falling.
To use Joey Votto as an example. The Reds have not been a good team, but any long-shot chance they have to surprise needs to come with a good start. They have not had a good start and neither has Votto for a fourth straight year. I suspect as always his numbers will be there in the end. However, when his club needed him to be Most Valuable, he again was not.
So now the veer to the Yankees bullpen. These days the Yankees injury list gets used like the 4 train. That left the Yanks with the kind of lineup Sunday that an opposing spring training team complains does not have the required number of starters. Just this was not March at Joker Marchant Stadium. It was three weeks into April at Yankee Stadium.
Yet, the offense, often lacking pedigree and fame, actually has performed. The 2019 Yanks have a better average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than last season when they scored the majors’ second most runs.
The rotation ERA is better, too, and in the last six games, the starters have a 1.64 ERA. That includes two dominant outings by James Paxton, against the Red Sox (eight shutout innings) and Sunday against the Royals (six shutout innings). The stuff was not as overpowering as against Boston. But Paxton struck out the same 12 despite two fewer innings by mesmerizing across the board — his whiffs finished with two curves, five fastballs and five sliders.