Eighty-one games down, eighty-one to go. The 2012 MLB Season is officially half way over, and that means its report card time. Grades are based on results, but also take expectations into consideration.
Disclaimer: Some of the grades may seem a little harsh because—after researching some statistics with runners in scoring position—I deducted about a half letter grade from everyone… and it was well deserved. Just for fun, here is what each of the Yankees starters are hitting with runners in scoring position: Jeter (.274), Swisher (.264), Granderson (.232), Ibanez (.230), Rodriguez (.227), Teixeira (.216), Cano (.200), Martin (.140).
Russell Martin (F): Since being an All Star in 2011 Martin has been on the decline. His batting average this year is, amazingly, still far below the Mendoza Line (.178) and a slow start cannot be used as an excuse. He batted .167, .203, and .194 in consecutive months to start the 2012 season and has not had a hit in 12 at bats in July. I understand that there is more to a catcher than offense, but in addition to being a black hole in the order, he has thrown out runners at a below league-average level this year (24% to 27%).
Mark Teixeira (C): Despite yet another slow start, Tex has gotten his power numbers to a respectable level—he is on pace for 28 HRs and 92 RBIs). Those numbers are still below his three-year average with the Yankees (which have dropped in each of his three seasons) but I think by the end of September his power numbers will be somewhere close to 30/100.
Robinson Cano (A-): It might seem like I am grading Robbie a little harsh, and considering he is on pace for 40 HRs and 46 doubles, and I probably am. But to start the season Cano was reminiscent of the 2008 Cano, who was lazy in the field and swung at everything at the plate. Astoundingly, his average with runners in scoring position is only .200 this season (I actually did a double-take when I saw that number), and I think he was a big reason the Yankees offense struggled in April. Cano is the centerpiece to this Yankees team though, and it is no coincidence the Yankees took off when Cano did—in June Cano batted .340 with 11 home runs and the Yankees won 20 of 27 games.
Derek Jeter (A): I think we can all agree that Jeter’s start to the season was something special, but a bit of a fluke. At the beginning of this season I predicted Derek to finish with a .304 average, 26 doubles, and 10 home runs. On May 1—when Jeter was batting .400—it appeared I drastically underestimated his potential, but he has since come back to earth. Still, Derek is on pace for the numbers I predicted, which in my book is an A for a shortstop in his late thirties.
Alex Rodriguez (C-): I think we know what A-Rod is at this point in his career; and I think we know what he is not—a middle of the order bat. Whether you agree with it or not, the Yankees are not going to remove him from the 3-4-5 spot in the order this season. As long as Alex can continue to stay healthy and be semi-productive the Yankees can deal with it.
Curtis Granderson (A-): Granderson has managed to follow up his MVP-caliber 2011 season with another productive season thus far. Grandy has played in every game the Yankees have played this season, and I don’t think that can be understated. With Gardner’s injury the Yankees have been shorthanded in the outfield and forced to play aging veterans in left field. Granderson has provided stability as well as production in center field.
Raul Ibanez (A-): Obviously, Raul’s numbers are not that of Granderson or Cano’s, but considering expectations entering the season he deserves an A-. At the start of the season it was thought that Ibanez would DH against right-handers and play left field sporadically. Well, Ibanez has been required to play in 68 of the teams’ 81 games and he has stabilized the Yankees left field situation since Gardner has been out.
Nick Swisher (B+): Swisher had a poor May sandwiched between a great April and June. Swisher’s 46 RBIs are good enough for third most on the team, primarily because he has the second highest average with RISP—.268—only to Jeter’s .274. He and Ibanez have provided production in the lineup behind Cano, Rodriguez, and Teixeira, and helped carry the Yankees through April. It will be interesting to see how Nick finishes this season however, which could be his last in pinstripes.
Eric Chavez (B): Brian Cashman’s coup-de-grâce the past few seasons has been finding productive veterans who are willing to play off the bench for the Yankees. Chavez is one of those veterans who provide depth on the left side of the Yankees infield and a consistent bat when called upon.
Andruw Jones (C): Jones is all-or-nothing (42% of his at bats have resulted in either a strike out or home run). Ideally, the Yankees would like him to make more contact to give Girardi a more dangerous bat off the bench, but he does provide adequate defense and is fine as a backup outfielder.
Chris Stewart (B+): .270 with a .311 slugging percentage might seem insignificant, but Stewart has been solid for the Yankees all season and actually been an offensive upgrade from Martin this season.
CC Sabathia (A-): CC has been everything the Yankees expect him to be; he has won 9 games and pitched a ton of innings—over 7 per start. I believe this recent trip to the DL—his first as a Yankee—is as much for a little needed rest as it is an injury.
Ivan Nova (B-): Nova looked to be experiencing a sophomore slump to start the season. In April and May he posted back-to-back months of five-plus ERA. But like the rest of the pitching staff, Nova rebounded in June to go 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 5 starts. His batting average against is still too high (.278) but trending in the right direction.
Hiroki Kuroda (A): The Yankees were hoping that Kuroda could provide stability to the rotation that desperately needed innings, and that is exactly what he has done. Hiroki is third on the team in innings pitched (102.1) and has posted the lowest ERA among the five starting pitchers (3.17).
Phil Hughes (C+): At the end of May I was convinced that Phil Hughes would never be a good starting pitcher again; his ERA was 6.32 in 52.2 IP and there looked to be no improvement or consistency in his game. Then June came and the entire staff—especially Hughes—turned it around. Phil has seemingly returned to his 2010 form when he won 18 games and was one of the best young power arms in the game.
Andy Pettitte (A): I was as skeptical as anyone of Pettitte’s return. We had witnessed the story before, most notably with Roger Clemens. A 40-something year old pitcher comes out of retirement only to fall short of expectations. Well, Pettitte had silenced me and the rest of the critics in 2012 before breaking his ankle. Hopefully Pettitte’s body will cooperate and recover in time for the September run because the Yankees will need him in October.
Rafael Soriano (A+): Soriano is one of these guys who is just better as a closer. The intensity of the ninth inning does not translate to the seventh or eighth, which is why he was an average set-up man. Since Mariano (and Robertson) went down and Soriano took reigns on the ninth inning he has closed 19 of 20 opportunities, and given the Yankees every bit of what Mariano has for the last 15 years.
Boone Logan (A-): Put Logan in the Pleasant Surprise category. This season Boone has not only led the league in appearances (41), but has managed to hold lefties to a .215 BA and only a .268 OPB. As a lefty out of the pen, they do not get much better than Boone Logan around Major League Baseball.
Clay Rapada (B+): As good as Logan has been against lefties, Rapada has been even better—left handed batters are only batting .138 against Clay with a .239 OBP and .207 slugging percentage. So, why the lower grade? Logan has been in significantly more high-pressure situations than Rapada this season. But as a second lefty out of the pen, they do not get much better than Clay Rapada around Major League Baseball.
David Robertson (B): I was contemplating giving D-Rob an Incomplete, but he has made 24 appearances which does warrant a grade. In April, Robertson was perfect—11 IP, zero earned runs. After Mariano went down for the season Robertson assumed the closer role but struggled in two chances, blowing one of them, and then went down with an injury that lasted far longer than most expected. A healthy Robertson and Soriano could still combine to be one of the most lethal late-inning duos in Baseball, however.
Freddy Garcia (F): I wasn’t going to grade Garcia, but seeing as how he will be making a good number of starts with Pettitte on the DL, I decided to give him the honor. 24 earned runs in 36.1 IP is not good, but as long as he can give them 5 innings per start the Yankees should be fine.
Cody Eppley & David Phelps (A-): Combined 2.87 ERA in 66.2 IP is incredible for two guys nobody had heard of three months ago. Why only the A-? Because it is one thing to pitch well in the middle of games or in mop-up duty—and give credit to them for doing so—but the real test will be if Eppley and Phelps can translate their success to more pressure-packed situations.
Mariano Rivera (Incomplete): If you told me in March that the Yankees would lose Mariano Rivera for the entire season, and then two weeks later lose David Robertson for over a month, I would have told you the Yankees bullpen is screwed. The bullpen has been has been without its top two guns for much of the season and has still managed to post a 3.30 ERA.
Brett Gardner (Incomplete): It seems that Brett might be one of those players that is perpetually injured. When healthy, Gardner is one of the most underrated players in Baseball. When he does return the Yankees outfield will receive a huge boost, not only defensively but will also receive a sparkplug in the ninth spot.
Overall First Half (A-): Considering the Yankees have the best record in Baseball (49-32, .605 win %) and not clicked on all cylinders, I think there are good things to come in the second half.