The Yankees didn’t enter the All-Star break on the highest of notes, but they likely took some solace in knowing that all major league teams — including their heated divisional rival — have been forced to take the past few days off.
While the “first half” to New York’s campaign was exceptionally strong (62-33 record, best franchise mark since 1998), the team is chasing the Red Sox (68-30) in the AL East standings, and though Boston’s 4.5-game lead appears substantial, this arms race is progressing at a historic pace. In all likelihood, the Yankees and Red Sox will be fighting for a divisional crown until the last week of September, which means high-stake entertainment once the second half of the season commences this weekend.
But, the coming and passing of the Midsummer Classic means it’s time for midterm report cards. In an effort to let readers participate in the grading of Yankees players and management, Bronx Pinstripes created a Google Form. So far, we’ve received 146 responses. For those who’d like to vote but haven’t yet, here’s the link.
The Results: 73.4% voted B, 14% voted A, 11.9% voted C, 0.7% voted D
The Skinny: In Gardner’s first 32 games, he hit a measly .198 with one home run. But since May 8, the 34-year-old has resembled his old self, hitting .289 with eight homers and a .362 on-base percentage in 49 games. Gardner’s defense and speed is still above-average, and no one disputes his positive influence in the clubhouse. Although Gardner will be a free agent this upcoming winter, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Yankees make an attempt to re-sign him.
The Results: 66% voted A, 30.6% voted B, 3.5% voted C
The Skinny: Judge may not match his Rookie of the Year numbers by season’s end, but he’s on pace to finish the regular season with 43 home runs and 102 RBI. Those are numbers the Yankees will take every year. Like Gardner, Judge’s defense has been exceptional. Although his hitting splits on the road and at home are drastic (.355 BA, 17 HR, 43 RBI in 46 home games, .205 BA, 8 HR, 17 RBI in 47 road games), Judge has managed to stay healthy, and his decision to pass on the Home Run Derby was a smart one. Overall, a solid first half for Judge.
The Results: 68.8% voted B, 20.8% voted A, 10.4% voted C
The Skinny: Gregorius’ first-half can be best described by Frank Sinatra’s classic tune “That’s Life.” He was riding high in April (.327 BA, 10 HR, 30 RBI), shot down in May (.149 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI), and back on top in June and July (.292 BA, 6 HR, 17 RBI). Gregorius looked like a legitimate MVP candidate after the first month, but his horrendous second month put him back in his place. He’s really seen baseball’s peaks and valleys. Despite the mood swings, Gregorius’ numbers are still decent, and it’s easy to ignore his May slump since his stellar defense (.988 fielding percentage — 2nd best among qualifying shortstops) and health have been a constant.
The Results: 66.7% voted B, 27.8% voted A, 4.9% voted C, 0.7% voted D
The Skinny: It took quite some time for Stanton to get comfortable with New York City. In his first series at Yankee Stadium, fans mercilessly booed him, and Stanton didn’t respond too well to the treatment. But, he remained confident that a resurgence was on the horizon, and over the last month and half, he’s proven his doubters wrong. His offensive numbers are vastly similar to the first half numbers he posted last year (he won the NL MVP award, remember), but the difference is his strikeout rate. Stanton is still trying to figure things out in the Bronx, though his stellar road stats overshadow the home woes. No one was really afraid of Stanton in the spring, but he’s instilled some fear in his opponents since June. He’s reminding everyone that he’s still one of the best sluggers in baseball. Stanton fits as the team’s designated hitter.
The Results: 62.5% voted B, 23.6% voted A, 13.9% voted C
The Skinny: April wasn’t a month to remember for Hicks. After Opening Day, he landed on the disabled list, and when he returned to action in mid-April, he struggled mightily at the plate. But Hicks’ innate ability to play a great center field kept him in the lineup, and since May 18, he’s hit .273 with 13 home runs and 29 RBI. His most memorable performance thus far came against the Red Sox in late June, when he hit three homers in one game. His overall production on offense and defense makes him a must-start, and that’s why the Yankees haven’t found a regular role for rookie Clint Frazier.
The Results: 43.8% voted C, 37.5 voted D, 10.4% voted B, 6.3% voted F, 2.1% voted A
The Skinny: Before Sanchez suffered a right groin strain on June 25, his play was rather dissapointing. In 63 games, he’s hit a measly .190, and that average doesn’t reflect the type of hitter he is (many Yankees executives believe that Sanchez is the team’s best overall hitter). Although he’s demonstrated some pop, he’s failed to reach base more than 30% of the time, which is a concern. Perhaps some bad luck factors into his on-base percentage, but Sanchez needs to start producing with runners on base (hitting .206). The Yankees also insist that Sanchez’s defense has improved, but his nine passed balls are the third-most in the AL, as are the 34 wild pitches thrown while he’s behind the dish. Sanchez is expected to be activated from the disabled list this upcoming weekend. The Yankees desperately need him to wake up and remain healthy.
The Results: 58.3% voted B, 35.4% voted A, 6.3% voted C
The Skinny: The Yankees must view Andujar’s production as a pleasant surprise. Considering that Brandon Drury was the team’s Opening Day third baseman, they clearly didn’t believe Andujar’s bat and glove were ready for the big league level. Were they wrong or what? Andujar has been one of the Yankees’ few consistent players, and his 41 extra-base hits lead all AL rookies. He’s exceeded expectations at the plate, and even though he’s still improving his defense at the hot corner (.958 fielding percentage ranked 11th among qualifying AL third basemen), there’s a reason why the Yankees aren’t inclined to move Andujar for coveted trade target Manny Machado.
The Skinny: It was clear that the Yankees needed a spark plug when they were a middling 10-9 in late April. So, management decided to promote the 21-year-old Torres to the majors, and overall, he’s played extremely well. He leads all AL rookies in home runs, RBI, and OPS. Granted, there have been some growing pains (he’s still learning second base — a new position for him), but his numbers warranted a trip to the All-Star Game. The Yankees raved about Torres when he was their No. 1 prospect, and so far, he’s lived up to the billing. He’s been that spark plug.
The Results: 59.4% voted C, 25.2% voted D, 11.9% voted B, 2.8% voted F, 0.7% voted A
The Skinny: It’s no secret — the recurring issue with Bird has been his health. He was on the disabled list for all of April and half of May, and in his first 33 games, he hit just .194 with five homers and nine RBI. It took a little while for Bird to find a groove, and in his last nine games, he’s hitting .281 with three jacks and 12 RBI. The Yankees haven’t lost faith in Bird. They still believe he’s the first baseman of the future. But Bird needs to maintain his latest numbers to ensure that his role with the club won’t change. He’s shown glimpses of greatness, but the sample size still isn’t big enough. Yankees need him to stay healthy and produce, since they haven’t received much power from their other first base options.
The Results: 39.6% voted F, 34% voted D, 22.9% voted C, 3.5% voted B
The Skinny: Walker’s been a major disappointment for the Yankees. He’s received plenty of opportunities to turn things around (51 starts), and he simply hasn’t taken advantage of them. The Yankees took a chance on Walker, who was low-cost, low-risk free agent, but this experiment failed significantly. Wouldn’t be surprised if Walker is playing for another team before the season ends, since the Yankees have better, healthier infield options.
The Results: 61.1% voted B, 18.8% voted A, 18.1% voted C, 1.4% voted D, 0.7% voted F
The Skinny: It’s difficult to criticize Romine’s performance as a backup catcher. He offers plenty of value behind the plate with his ability to block and call a good game. His contributions have been appreciated more this year because Gary Sanchez’s offensive and defensive struggles stand out. Romine’s sudden power surge has raised eyebrows, as has his average with runners in scoring position (11-for-34, .324). He’s one of the better backup catchers in the game. Solid first half for him.
20 games started: 14-2, 2.31 ERA, 144 SO, 32 BB, 1.01 WHIP, 128.1 IP
The Results: 99.3% voted A, 0.7% voted B
The Skinny: Severino has emerged as one of baseball’s elite starters. The proof is in the pudding, as he’s first in the league in wins, seventh in ERA, 10th in strikeouts, and seventh in innings pitched. Plus, he’s allowed two or fewer runs in 14 of his 20 starts. Severino has delivered. Severino has excelled. The Yankees wouldn’t be where they are without him. That simple.
15 games started: 6-4, 4.54 ERA, 83 SO, 22 BB, 1.13 WHIP, 83.1 IP)
The Results: 66% voted C, 25.7% voted B, 6.9% voted D, 1.4% voted A
The Skinny: Tanaka’s first half consisted of quality starts, uninspiring starts, and a month-long stint on the disabled list. He hasn’t looked like an ace or a No. 2 starter, which is a concern for the Yankees. Tanaka’s biggest problem, however, has been the home runs — he’s allowed 18 of them. At his best, Tanaka can be special. At his worst, he’s like any other run-of-the-mill pitcher. Yankees have to hope that Tanaka returns to his 2017 postseason mode.
18 games started: 6-4, 3.51 ERA, 77 SO, 29 BB, 1.27 WHIP, 100 IP)
The Results: 73.4% voted B, 13.3% voted A, 11.9% voted C, 1.4% voted D
The Skinny: The Yankees were wise to bring Sabathia back on a one-year contract, as he’s given the team quality starts on a consistent basis. Although his spring (2-1, 2.40 ERA in eight starts) was stronger than his early summer (4-3, 4.30 ERA in 10 starts), he’s currently the Yankees’ second-most reliable starter. Credit to Sabathia for making the proper adjustments. He’s learned how to pitch effectively as a veteran southpaw.
12 games started: 2-5, 5.49 ERA, 92 SO, 30 BB, 1.30 WHIP, 78.2 IP
The Results: 60.4% voted C, 25% voted D, 9% voted B, 4.9% voted F, 0.7% voted A
The Skinny: German’s first half was very Jekyll and Hyde. For a 24-year-old rookie, that’s not surprising. Back on May 6 against the Cleveland Indians (his first start), German allowed no hits and struck out nine over six innings. But since then, he’s allowed four or more runs in six of his last 11 starts. If the Yankees acquire a starting pitcher before the July 31st non-waive trade deadline, it’s safe to assume that German loses his spot in the rotation. But he has the stuff to become a decent long-man if he can find some consistency.
18 games started: 6-7, 5.46 ERA, 85 SO, 39 BB, 1.51 WHIP, 90.2 IP
The Results: 49.3% voted F, 36.8% voted D, 13.2% voted C, 0.7% voted B
The Skinny: Here’s the good news: Gray has been healthy all season. Well, that’s all the good news. Gray’s 5.46 ERA is the fourth-highest among AL pitchers who have made at least 15 starts. In 18 total starts, he didn’t last five innings in seven of them. He’s been erratic and terrible at times, and in eight starts at Yankee Stadium, Gray is 2-3 with a whopping 8.25 ERA. His numbers on the road aren’t too shabby, but the Yankees need him to solve his home woes soon. Right now, it’s hard to envision the team trusting Gray in any playoff situation.
43 games: 7-3, 3.09 ERA, 2 SV, 14 HLD, 53 SO, 14 BB, 0.96 WHIP, 43.2 IP
The Results: 62.2% voted B, 19.6% voted A, 16.8% voted C, 1.4% voted D
The Skinny: It’s tough to nitpick Robertson’s first half numbers. The 33-year-old has been a reliable 7th inning option and set-up man — a workhorse, really (his 43 appearances leads the team). In his last six appearances, Robertson has struck out seven hitters and allowed just one run and hit apiece over 6.1 innings. Since May 25, he’s 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA (21 outings). Robertson has been very strong, even though he had a few poor outings to begin the year.
33 games: 1-1, 1.85 ERA, 4 HLD, 34 SO, 6 BB, 0.82 WHIP, 39 IP
The Results: 69.2% voted A, 25.2% voted B, 4.9% voted C, 0.7% voted D
The Skinny: Holder has emerged as a reliable middle-man out of the bullpen, which wasn’t the case back in early April when he allowed a combined six hits and six runs in two consecutive outings (he barely made the team out of spring training). Since April 21, Holder’s allowed just five runs (two earned) and struck out 30 in 36.1 innings. Plus, his 0.82 WHIP is third-best among AL relievers with at least 30 appearances. Holder has made the Yankees’ bullpen deeper, and no one saw it coming.
41 games: 3-0, 1.35 ERA, 26 SV, 68 SO, 16 BB, 0.83 WHIP, 40 IP
The Results: 97.9% voted A, 2.1% voted B
The Skinny: 2017 wasn’t an easy season for Chapman. He dealt with control issues, some injuries. Perhaps his 2016 title run with the Chicago Cubs beat him up. This year, Chapman has resembled his old, dominant self. His triple-digit fastball is nearly untouchable (topped out at 104.4 mph in early July), and his 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings ranks second in the AL — a big difference from his mark of 12.3 last season. The most impressive thing, however, is that Chapman has been pitching with lingering left knee tendinitis. He’s been a trooper and an electric closer.
36 games: 5-2, 2.74 ERA, 57 SO, 9 BB, 1.02 WHIP, 46 IP
The Results: 59% voted B, 18.8% voted C, 18.8% voted A, 3.5% voted D
The Skinny: Green’s most recent outing (July 15 against Cleveland) was ugly. He allowed three runs, three hits, and a walk in a 5-2 loss. But outside of that outing, he’s been pretty good. Green hasn’t allowed a run in 28 of his 36 appearances, plus he’s offered the Yankees length out of the bullpen. He hasn’t come close to his 2017 numbers (those were quite ridiculous), but Green is still a valuable arm to have in late-inning situations.
40 games: 1-3, 2.61 ERA, 15 HLD, 72 SO, 19 BB, 1.04 WHIP, 41.1 IP
The Results: 50% voted A, 45.1% voted B, 4.9% voted C
The Skinny: Remember when Betances was shunned from New York? He had no control, no command, no confidence. He wasn’t trusted in big situations last year, and those fears returned early this year. But overall, this first half might’ve been Betances’ best. Although he allowed six runs in his first six appearances, his latter 34 appearances have been terrific (1.56 ERA, 60 strikeouts in 34.2 innings). Betances’ fastball command is back, and his curveball is still nasty. Good news for the Yankees.
36 games: 2-2, 4.54 ERA, 3 HLD, 44 SO, 17 BB, 1.49 WHIP, 33.2 IP
The Results: 44.4% voted D, 26.4% voted F, 22.2% voted C, 6.3% voted B, 0.7% voted A
The Skinny: The biggest reason — and perhaps the only reason — why Shreve is still on the major league roster is because he’s the Yankees’ lone lefty middle-man. But that may not be a good enough reason to keep him around much longer. Shreve can’t be trusted in high leverage situations. Plus, he has a 6.94 ERA against lefties. That’s not a good look. Shreve’s leash isn’t long — especially if the Yankees look to bolster their bullpen before the deadline.
20 games: 0-1, 1.85, 2 HLD, 29 SO, 9 BB, 1.23 WHIP, 24.1 IP
The Results: 44.4% voted B, 31.3% voted A, 23.6% voted C, 0.7% voted D
The Skinny: The best ability is avail-ability, and Warren had some troubled with that in the first half. From April 21 to June 3, he was on the disabled list. Since returning to the Yankees, Warren has pitched just 16 innings, but he’s holding righties to a .163 average. Plus, in his 12 outings since early June, he owns a 1.13 ERA. Warren is another long-man the Yankees hope is available for the remainder of the year.
Midterm Grade: B
SOME OTHER GRADES:
24. Manager Aaron Boone
Team record: 62-33, 2nd in AL East
The Results: 53.8% voted B, 35% voted A, 8.4% voted C, 2.1% voted F, 0.7% voted D