Is it time to panic in the Bronx?

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain watches the ninth inning of MLB American League baseball action at Yankee Stadium against the Boston Red Sox in New York June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Considering the Yankees are currently sitting six games above .500, the question in the title of this post seems rather silly. Until you take a closer look, that is.

After sweeping a hapless Oakland team and taking two of three from the Angels in L.A., the Bombers were just swept by the Red Sox, who outscored their hated rivals 25-13 in the process. Joe Girardi’s club has now lost seven in a row to Boston and is just 1-8 in the season series.

Adding insult to injury, it appears as though reliever Joba Chamberlain could need Tommy John reconstructive surgery after he was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. The injury is a major blow to the club, as Chamberlain heads to the DL with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He had stabilized one of the biggest issues for the Bombers, who have struggled getting to Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

If Rafael Soriano (elbow) could ever get healthy and pull his head firmly out of his rear end, then the loss of Chamberlain could be slightly mitigated. But the $35 million offseason acquisition has been nothing shy of disastrous thus far in the Bronx, so relaying on Soriano at this point isn’t prudent.

Of course, the Yankees can pick their poison in terms of what their biggest weaknesses is right now: their bullpen or their starting rotation. For the most part, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have pitched beyond expectations. Teams with as much offensive firepower as the Yankees have will certainly take Garcia’s 3.86 ERA and Colon’s mark of 3.39.

But at some point, A.J. Burnett will have to step up. He’s 6-4 on the year but his ERA is north of 4.30 and worst of all, he remains inconsistent. One start the Yanks are getting seven innings out of him and the next he’s done in five. Assuming Colon and Garcia have at least one bad stretch coming up between them, the Bombers need a more consistent effort out of Burnett. (It would have also been nice if CC Sabathia could have stopped the bleeding with a win over Boston on Thursday night but alas, not even the big fella could save this club right now.)

The other more subtle issue that seems to be growing more problematic by the day is Girardi himself. His moves lately are baffling and just in terms of managing his pitching staff, it seems as if he either leaves his starters in too long or overuses his bullpen. It’s like there’s no middle ground with Girardi and you have to wonder when his players will start losing confidence in him – if they haven’t already, that is.

The good news for the Yankees is that the American League doesn’t look as strong as it has in recent years. The Red Sox are the class of the division and the league, but the Indians have figured out that they’re the Indians, the Tigers are inconsistent and the Rangers look a lot less scary than they did a year ago. It’s not inconceivable that an 88 or 89-win Yankees team could make the postseason as a Wild Card and hope to get hot at the right time. After all, they’re still third in runs scored, first in home runs and second in slugging percentage and OPS. In other words, their offense can certainly carry them all season.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a major dark cloud that is presently hovering over this club and it’ll be interesting to see what the front office has in store if things continue to get worse.

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Blogging the Bloggers: Bartolo Colon, Nicole Bobek & Steroids

DEADSPIN wants to know if you’ve seen Bartolo Colon, because the White Sox have no idea where he is.

SPORTSbyBROOKS fills us in on what 1995 U.S. Figure Skating champion Nicole Bobek has been up to lately and it ain’t pretty. (Hint: It has to do with crystal meth.)

YARDBARKER wants to know if you can name all 32 NFL teams in 60 seconds or less.

TONY BLOGS.NET talks about the death of baseball. (Hint: It has something to do with steroids.)

THE BIG LEAD asks what rappers match up with NBA players.

Top 10 Active Gopher Ball Leaders

Some pitching statistics are not very complimentary, most of all the gopher ball line….that is, for pitchers who have a penchant for throwing that big fat pitch that a hitter tends to crush over the fence. Here is a list of the active pitchers who lead the majors in this category, and only includes players who are currently on a major league roster:

1. Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia Phillies (474)—Okay, so he’s been pitching since 1986 and throws mostly slow junk, but Moyer has given up double digits in gopher balls 16 times, including FORTY FOUR in 2004 while with Seattle, the fifth highest total for a single season in baseball history. And he is only 31 behind all-time leader Robin Roberts, who gave up 505 long balls. Way to go, Jamie.

2. Randy Johnson, San Francisco Giants (399)—We can pretty much give the Big Unit a pass, because he’s struck out 4,819 batters and is closing in on 300 wins.

3. Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox (363)—All you can say is that sometimes the knuckleball is completely baffling, and sometimes it looks like a soccer ball to the hitter.

4. Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves (356)—As good as Glavine is and has been throughout his illustrious career, he has always had the penchant for giving up the long ball.

5. Javier Vasquez, Atlanta Braves (304)—Since breaking into the big leagues in 1998, Vasquez has AVERAGED 29 homers given up per season…he’s been as low as 20, and as high as 35. Batter up!

6. Livan Hernandez, New York Mets (301)—I read recently where Livan’s pitches were clocking in the 62 mph range…..are you kidding me? Yet, he’s still getting hitters out with regularity.

6. Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers (301)—Jeff Suppan has always had decent control, averaging 68 walks per season since breaking in with the Red Sox in 1995. But he’s also given up an average of 27 homers per season. Sometimes control means you leave it out over the plate.

8. John Smoltz, Boston Red Sox (277)—Smoltz has only averaged 16 homers given up per season, including a few years as the Braves’ closer, but still—you pitch since 1988, your numbers are going to add up.

9. Bartolo Colon, Chicago White Sox (245)—In 2004, Bartolo won 18 games but gave up 38 homers. Somebody must have inspired or bribed him with cheeseburgers the next year when he went 21-8 and won the AL Cy Young.

10. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees (235)—For all those years with the short porch in right field in the old Yankee Stadium, Pettitte gave up a career high 27 homers while pitching for the Astros in 2006.

Source: Baseball Reference

2009 MLB Preview: #16 Chicago White Sox

Click Here to see Previews of all 30 MLB Teams

Offseason Movement: GM Kenny Williams made a pair of trades that could help the Sox in the near future. Williams first traded outfielder Nick Swisher to the Yankees for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit, then dealt veteran pitcher Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for catching prospect Tyler Flowers and infielder Brent Lillibridge. Marquez has a chance to earn the fifth spot in the rotation, although a hamstring injury could hold him back. The Sox also added veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and young Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo.

Top Prospect: Gordon Beckham, SS
Beckham helped lead Georgia to a second-place finish at last year’s College World Series, hitting .474 with five dingers and 2 RBI in 14 games. At one point during the college season last year, he was also tied for the Division I lead for home runs with 28. Thus far in spring training, Beckham is 6-for-18 with four doubles and two home runs. The 22-year old prospect probably won’t make the Opening Day roster, but once he learns how to play second after making the switch from shortstop in college, Beckham is going to be playing big league ball.

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Hot Stove League: Pitchers Flying Off Shelves

This past week, John Smoltz officially signed with the Red Sox and the Braves inked Derek Lowe to a four-year, $60 million deal, something Atlanta’s rival New York Mets could not match. Imagine that. But what runs deeper here is that the second and even third tier of pitchers continue to be signed and many position players remain team-less.

Less than a month before pitchers and catchers report, here are some of the big names still available: Manny freaking Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey, Orlando Hudson, Frank Thomas, and to a lesser extent, Kevin Millar (20 homers last season) and Orlando Cabrera. To put this in perspective, the Astros signed pitcher Russ Ortiz to a minor league deal a few days ago, the Dodgers signed reliever Guillermo Mota, the Angels inked Darren Oliver for one year, and the White Sox brought back a Bartolo Colon who is on the downside of his career. Clearly, it’s a pitchers’ market this off-season, and it’s almost mind-boggling that Ramirez has gone almost three full months without being signed.

Part of the problem here is that the big spenders (ahem, New York teams) have blown their collective load on the likes of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez, etc., leaving a team like the Dodgers the likely scenario for Man-Ram in 2009, which at the end of the day is probably best for both sides anyway. But some of those other guys are going to have trouble finding work, or they are going to take a recession-friendly deal from a team they wouldn’t have signed with otherwise. It’s already happened with Pat Burrell in Tampa and Jason Giambi with Oakland.

In other more recent news, the Red Sox avoided arbitration with Kevin Youkilis on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a four-year deal. And the Dodgers finally released beleaguered outfielder Andruw Jones, who the Braves are considering bringing back for the league minimum salary. The Braves are also mulling over whether to bring back injury-plagued LHP Tom Glavine for one more season.

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