The 2011 MLB season is half over, and the Yankees are 50-31 (.617). Because of their resurgence, they have earned fewer failing grades than through one-quarter of the season.
In this article I will assess each person (players and management) who has had a significant role to date, taking into consideration their entire first-half performance. (All stats and grades are through 7/2/2011).
Curtis Granderson (A): Granderson has been the most consistent offensive player for the Yankees this season, and is their mid-season MVP (and would finish in the top 5 for AL MVP voting). A recent drought of 16 games without a home run has leveled off Curtis’ numbers, but he still ranks near the top in SLG and OPS, and has scored the most runs (72) in all of MLB.
Mark Teixeira (B+): On Thursday against Colorado, Teixeira joined an elite group of switch-hitters who have reached the 300 career home run milestone. This club includes: Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Chili Davis, Lance Berkman, Reggie Smith, and Rubin Sierra. (You may notice, five of the eight members played for the Yankees at one point in their career.) It is likely that Teixeira will become only the third of those players to reach 500 career home runs, and is realistic that he will end his career ahead of Mantle as the all-time leader in home runs as a switch-hitter. What does any of this have to do with his mid-season grade? –Teixeira has done one thing well this season: hit for power. His batting-average is .243, or 40 points below his career average and 13 points below his average in 2010 (when he posted the worst BA of his career). He is also getting on base less frequently; his OBP of .351 is 24 points below his career average. However, Mark is on pace for his Yankee career high in home runs and RBI’s, and that is what he gets paid to do.
Brett Gardner (B+): Since May 1, Gardner has put up better numbers than he did in 2010, and has been a tremendous leadoff hitter in Jeter’s absence. Gardner has a .382 OBP over the past two months, and has scored 32 runs. His stolen-base percentage is still 68% for the season, about 15 points below what it should be.
Robinson Cano (B): Unfortunately for Cano, the standards he set in 2010 have made his 2011 seem subpar, which it’s not. His numbers are not far off the pace he set for himself in 2010, but he is getting on base considerably less and expanding the strike zone too often. The most concerning statistic for Cano is that he has made 6 errors through 81 games after making just 3 errors all of last season.
Alex Rodriguez (B): A-Rod has had an odd season. He started extremely hot out of Spring Training, but then batted below .200 for over 20 games. Since then he has been much better, posting .326/.416/.570 in June. His power numbers are down however, and Alex will have to go homer-happy in the second half in order to reach 30 home runs (which he has reached in each of his last 13 season).
Nick Swisher (C+): Swisher finally started hitting about a month ago—from the left side at least. He was one of many Yankees who had a tremendous June; collecting 7 of his 10 home runs and 23 of his 43 RBI’s in the month. Surprisingly, Nick already has nearly as many walks (51) as he did all of last year.
Russell Martin (C): Russell has been awful since the beginning of May, batting .188/.306/.293. He has more double plays grounded-into (7) than extra base hits (6) in that time. Going forward the Yankees need Martin to be fully healthy and hitting, while working the pitching staff which he has done exceptionally well.
Jorge Posada (C): Jorge has done nothing but hit since the dust settled from the controversy on May 14. In June, Posada batted .382 with 8 extra-base hits, while posting an OPS of 1.007. For whatever reason, Posada has seemingly figured out his role as designated hitter.
Derek Jeter (D): The fact that the Yankees did not rush Jeter back tells part of the story—they are 14-3 since he went on the DL. The other part is that Jeter is simply not hitting. Overall, Derek has been the Yankees’ least productive hitter. Against left-handed pitchers Derek has been great, posting a .299 average with .403 OBP. He has been dreadful against righties however. As a leadoff hitter, he is hurting the team because he gets on base too infrequently. His .324 OBP is 32 points below Gardner’s, whose OBP has been on a steady rise since May 1.
Mariano Rivera (A+): Mo is somehow having one of the best years of his career at age 41, leading the league in saves. Never ceases to amaze…
David Robertson (A+): Robertson is the Yankees’ unsung hero of 2011. David has allowed only 4 earned runs in 32.1 IP this season, holding batters to a .192 BA. His one achilles’ heel is that he walks too many batters— but makes up for it by holding batters to an amazing .130 BA with RISP (which allows Girardi to have supreme confidence in Robertson when calling upon him with inherited runners).
Bartolo Colon (A): Prior to going on the DL, Colon was the Yankees’ most effective starting pitcher. At 38—and admittedly 65 pounds overweight—the question with Colon is health, not ability. His fastball is consistently in the mid-90s and he has walked only 18 batters in 84.1 innings. A healthy Bartolo Colon will add tremendous depth to the Yankees starting rotation going forward.
Joba Chamberlain (A-): Unfortunately for Joba and the Yankees, this is a season-ending grade… Joba was having his best season since 2007; his walks were down by nearly 2 per 9 innings and he was allowing fewer hits per 9 as well. Something that will be dissected going forward was if the “Joba-Rules” affected his arm in any way.
CC Sabathia (B+): Two starts ago Sabathia was having a precarious—for him—season. Despite his last two dominant starts which have lowered his ERA and WHIP to his usual levels, CC has still come up short in big games this year; namely against Boston. In 3 starts vs. the Red Sox, CC is 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA. This is especially concerning because the Red Sox are susceptible to left-handed pitching but seem to have figured CC out.
Ivan Nova (B+): Nova’s numbers have improved in each month since the beginning of the season, when he had a rough start. Since then Ivan’s ERA and WHIP have improved and Girardi has gained more and more confidence in the rookie. The Yankees had extreme confidence in Nova coming into the season, and we are now seeing why.
AJ Burnett (B+): AJ has been exponentially better than he was in 2010, pitching deeper into games while getting out of big jams that he was unable to escape last year. Looking at CC’s numbers next to AJ’s, you can question why they earned the same grade; but you have to take expectation into consideration. The Yankees need CC to be an ace, and that job description includes beating Boston.
Freddy Garcia (B): Garcia’s numbers overall are solid: 7 wins with a 3.28 ERA. Furthermore, he is averaging nearly 6 innings per start and usually gives the Yankees a chance to win. But we have seen the good Garcia and the bad. Against good hitting teams such as the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers, his ERA skyrockets to 6.55 in 26.1 IP with a 1.877 WHIP. Garcia, now in the twilight of his career, is a finesse pitcher who needs to hit his spots in order to be effective. When facing disciplined teams who do not expand the strike zone, Garcia will continue to struggle.
Boone Logan (C-): Logan earned a failing grade at quarter-season due to his ineffectiveness against left-handed batters (his primary role on this team). Since then Logan has drastically improved. For the season he has allowed lefties a .260/.339/.380 split—still too high but much improved from his .310/.375/.483 split through 40 games. A slight drop in arm-angle seems to be a big reason why Logan has regained his effectiveness in 2011. The Yankees will need Logan, and possibly a trade-deadline acquisition in order to win in the AL East.
Rafael Soriano (Incomplete): I gave Soriano an ‘F’ through the first part of the season, but he hasn’t pitched at all since. Cashman’s feelings on the Soriano signing have been well documented and every report says that the signing was a Hank ‘n Hal decision. I think if management had confidence that they were going to get the performances they have from Robertson and Chamberlain, they would not have signed Soriano. With Chamberlain out however, a healthy Soriano could benefit the Yankees greatly in the second half.
Phil Hughes (Incomplete): Well, clearly Hughes didn’t just have a “dead-arm.” I don’t know what is/was wrong with Phil, but he hasn’t pitched enough to receive a grade. A report that Hughes is scheduled to start in Cleveland should give Yankee fans encouragement that Hughes can have a strong second half.
Eduardo Nunez (A-): Nunez has gotten his chance since Jeter went on the DL, and hasn’t disappointed. Nunez has batted .339 with two homers and five doubles, strengthened by the last two games. The most encouraging aspect of Nunez’ game is that he doesn’t strike out, especially in key situations. He has just 3 strike outs in 63 plate-appearances with men on base. His defense is still disconcerting, but Eduardo has the ability to make the spectacular play and I expect him to learn to make the routine play, much like Jeter did 15 years ago.
Andruw Jones (B-): Jones’ numbers are modest in very little playing time. Nearly 80% of his plate-appearances have come off of left-handers, in which he has all six of his extra base hits against. Compared to Marcus Thames, whom he replaced, he is not as productive offensively, but much better defensively.
Francisco Cervelli (F): Cervelli has made 5 errors in 22 games this year after finishing second in MLB for errors at his position last year (as a backup). He also cannot throw out runners, catching just 10% of would-be base stealers.
Eric Chavez (Incomplete): Chavez earned an ‘A’ for his tremendous start before getting hurt. In 39 plate-appearances, Chavez’s numbers were impressive: .303/.410/.424, while playing his usual gold-glove defense at third. A healthy Chavez will provide a strong bat off the bench and combine with Nunez to make up a formidable backup infield.
Brian Cashman (B): You can question Cashman’s demeanor and comments towards the media, which I do, but it is difficult to question the product he has put on the field. Assuming you believe Soriano was not his decision, virtually all of Cashman’s offseason acquisitions have been a success with the exception Pedro Feliciano. A more effective and additional left-hander out of the bullpen remains a need for the Yankees, which I expect Cashman to address as we approach July 31.
Joe Girardi (C): The Yankees were just 2 games above .500, hot off the “Posada controversy,” through one-quarter of the season. I felt then that Girardi mishandled the situation and I feel the same way now. You cannot argue with results since; the Yankees are 27-12, 15 games over.500. When you play .692 ball, the manager seems a lot better. I still question many of Girardi’s on-field and in-the-clubhouse decisions and do not feel he is the right manager for this team.
NYYUniverse.com Staff Writer
Follow me on Twitter @Yankees_talk