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Yanks show signs of potential in 1st half

Club remains inconsistent, entering All-Star break at 44-44
July 11, 2016

You could say just about anything about the 2016 Yankees and not be incorrect, attempting to evaluate this up-and-down team that has shown glimpses of potential to compete while also providing plenty of evidence to suggest that this just might not be their year."I think you could probably say it

You could say just about anything about the 2016 Yankees and not be incorrect, attempting to evaluate this up-and-down team that has shown glimpses of potential to compete while also providing plenty of evidence to suggest that this just might not be their year.
"I think you could probably say it in one word: inconsistent," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "At times, it's different things. It's not necessarily been just one thing. It's something that we need to really iron out."
At various times, the depth of the Yankees' lineup and suspect rotation have been glaring problem areas, preventing them from utilizing their greatest strength: a power bullpen that ranks among the league's most intimidating. But when everything clicks, it can sway your thinking into "maybe" territory.
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The club is 35-27 since May 6, but its battle against the break-even point is momentarily paused at 44-44, and the Yanks haven't been two games over .500 since April 12 (4-2). From that vantage point, should they buy? Sell? Can they do both? If you poll the personnel in the clubhouse, there's a belief that this team deserves a chance to prove it can play up to expectations.
"It's not the first half we wanted, but hopefully we have picked up some momentum for the rest of the year," outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury said.
The Yankees had three players selected as All-Stars, with pitchers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller joining outfielder Carlos Beltrán, who has already hit 19 homers, matching his total from all of last year. Shortstop Didi Gregorius and lefty Aroldis Chapman also mounted solid cases to make the roster. Chapman's return bolstered the lights-out relief trio, as expected. Masahiro Tanaka was one of the American League's better starters over the first half, and for a seven-start span, CC Sabathia was the best in the Majors. Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have enjoyed flashes as the dynamic duo atop the lineup that the Yanks envisioned, while Starlin Castro has made a nice transition to second base. Brian McCann's past three weeks have been hot, and Austin Romine has shown pop in the backup catching role.

Much of the Yankees' offense hinged upon the belief that Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez could repeat their 2015 performances, when they combined for 64 home runs. That hasn't materialized, as Teixeira showed little power before going on the disabled list with a knee injury and A-Rod has been demoted to a part-time player. Chase Headley's first month was miserable, Dustin Ackley didn't produce much before sustaining a season-ending injury, and Aaron Hicks is still waiting to catch fire. Righty Nathan Eovaldi went into a June tailspin that landed him in the bullpen, while the enigmatic Michael Pineda has continued to have trouble getting the third outs of innings. The middle-relief crew of Chasen Shreve, Nick Goody and Kirby Yates struggled getting the ball to "No Runs DMC."
General manager Brian Cashman insisted that, on paper, the 2016 roster is a more talented group than the '15 batch. That club produced 87 victories and made it to the AL Wild Card Game, but this current crop needs a second-half surge to repeat that accomplishment. The most glaring difference has been the offense. New York was second in the Majors in runs scored last season, but the Yankees ranked 24th heading into the All-Star break this year, with only the Royals and Rays having scored fewer runs in the AL.
Girardi suggested that the title of first-half MVP should be split between Beltran and Gregorius. While several around the Yankees have remarked that they can't imagine where they would have been without Beltran's switch-hitting prowess, Gregorius has been the best all-around talent; Sabathia called him "our most exciting player." Gregorius' reputation of not being able to hit left-handed pitching has been disproven, and he has grown in all facets of his game, particularly as a skilled defender up the middle. He's looking to become just the fourth Yanks shortstop in the past 75 years to hit over .300, joining Derek Jeter, Gil McDougald and Phil Rizzuto.

Miller has enjoyed a dominant first half, which began with him serving as the closer while Chapman served his suspension, then moving back into the eighth inning when Chapman returned. Miller scored points in the clubhouse with his selfless team-first attitude, saying that the most important thing was to win games. With a sparkling 1.37 ERA, striking out 69 against six walks in 39 1/3 innings, Miller has certainly helped with that mission. He was rewarded with his first career All-Star selection.
Rob Refsnyder has forced the Yankees to consider finding a way to give him consistent playing time. The 25-year-old posted a .276/.337/.368 slash line in 87 big league at-bats, showing the ability to make adjustments after beginning the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Drafted as an outfielder before being converted into an infielder, Refsnyder has seen time at second base, third base and right field in the Majors this season.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.