The first half ended in fitting fashion for the Yankees. They reeled off 13 wins in 15 games before heading to Anaheim and a sweep at the hands of the Angels, which is a pretty good snapshot for the way the season has gone so far. A 51-37 record is undeniably impressive, but a 2-12 record against the Angels and Red Sox makes it hard to get overly excited about the way the Yankees played throughout the first half of the season.
For every positive thing that's happened for the Yankees, there's been something to give you pause about the long-term hopes for the team. The back end of the pitching staff has been buoyed by Phil Hughes and the mighty Mariano, but the rest of the bullpen is a minefield fit for jungle combat. The offense is all-world, except when it goes through inexplicable outages against mediocre pitchers. The defense is better than it was last year, but still shakier than you'd like to see from a contender.
Those are pretty standard ups and downs, though, and all of them will likely wind up tilting in the Yankees' favor. You can't be so sure about the starting rotation, however.
A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia have done, more or less, what they were signed to do in the rotation, but that's been balanced out by the increasingly troubled performances of Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte. Chamberlain has looked lost for most of the last month, and Pettitte's Saturday outing renewed memories of his awful 2008 second half.
Throw in the still-running Chien-Ming Wang saga and there are serious questions about the fitness of 60 percent of the starting rotation. There's no obvious fix, either, although you can expect to hear a renewed wave of Joba to relief arguments. That might fix the weak underbelly of the bullpen, but it's unclear how much good that would do for the rotation.
More than any of the other issues, the rotation is why it's hard to turn cartwheels about being 14 games on the happy side of .500 and three games out of first place despite serious injury problems over the early part of the season.
Is that just a case of looking for the grey cloud on an otherwise sunny day? Maybe. You could say it was just a rough three games, but that's what you said after each Boston series, after the miserable performances against Washington and Florida. It's also what you could wind up saying following a playoff series against these same Angels, so its worth addressing the problems instead of just ignoring them.