For the April 2011 Monthly Wrap-Up, please click here.
By now we’re all aware of the rather erratic month the Yankees experienced in May. This rollercoaster ride featured a six-game losing streak — the team’s longest since 2007 — yet the Yankees still managed to eke out a winning record, going 15-14, and maintained their hold on first place, despite being bumped out of the top perch for a couple of days.
Strangely enough, one of the Yankees’ tried-and-true advantages — their home ballpark — hasn’t been terribly friendly to the team this season, and in fact, their 6-7 record marked their first losing month at home in new Yankee Stadium history.
For no apparent reason, the Yankees have hit .262/.349/.455 on the road compared to .247/.326/.440 at home this season. While it’s nice to see the Yankees take care of business on the road — considering they historically tend to hit quite a bit less proficiently when away from the Bronx — the team will need to start hitting the way it usually does at home as the season progresses.
Here’s how the offense performed in May 2011, sorted by fWAR. I’ve also gone ahead and highlighted the team leaders (among the starters) in each category.
Curtis Granderson continued his incredible season in May, posting a team-best .439 wOBA (after a .402 wOBA in April). Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez tied for second-most valuable on the team in terms of fWAR, which is ideally right where you’d like your 3-4 hitters to be, although Tex was far more impressive in May. Alex’s triple-slash of .286/.325/.403 is pretty puny for him, though given that he’d sunk to considerable depths for a good portion of May before starting to pull himself out, I suppose we should be reasonably happy with how he finished out the month. Still, I’d like to see more power production out of A-Rod.
Brett Gardner turned his season around in May, while Russell Martin cooled off a fair amount from his torrid April but still posted an excellent month for a backstop. Derek Jeter fortunately managed to snap out of his woeful April with a fairly respectable .324 wOBA, though he’s still leading the world in GB%, and the fact that his OBP (.326) and SLG (.329) are nearly identical is terrible. The only AL shortstops with enough PAs to qualify for the leaderboard with lower fWARs than Derek are Alcides Escobar and Cliff Pennington — not exactly stellar company. I’ll admit that Jeter has certainly looked better at various times throughout May, but I’m still not convinced that he’ll be an asset instead of a drag on the team for the rest of the year.
Jorge Posada, despite posting one of the better OBPs on the team in May, still managed to provide negative value, primarily due to the fact that he only had five extra-base hits all month, none of which were home runs. And Nick Swisher — despite also getting on-base at a decent clip — continued his season-long slump, and was no better than a replacement-level player in May (0.0 fWAR).
Here are the offense’s season-long numbers for your reference:
As you already knew, it’s been the Curtis Granderson show in 2011, with Alex Rodriguez having a good (.370 wOBA), albeit not-quite-where-we’d-like-him-to-be offensive season, and Mark Teixeira tearing it up. Though Robinson Cano‘s at a .363 wOBA on the season, his .321 OBP is miserable, and it’d be great to see him working the count just a tad more (that 3.6% BB% is the 4th-lowest among qualified hitters in the AL) and stop hacking at every single pitch he sees, but at this point I suppose Robbie is what he is. Still, we know he can be even better.
Though Brett Gardner’s picked his game up since April, he’s still been slightly below league average (95 OPS+), but if you want to know why the Yankees — despite leading the American League in runs scored per game and wOBA — seem to somewhat regularly fall into collective offensive funks when behind, look no further than the fact that the team has had to pencil in three near-automatic outs into the lineup almost every game in Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada. While I still expect Swisher to get it together, Jeter’s slump had been an ongoing saga, while at this point I think it may be safe to say that Posada is cooked. Many figured if Posada was still struggling come June that we’d see Jesus Montero‘s long-awaited pinstripe debut — I know there’s been some hesitancy among the online Yankee community regarding bringing Montero up due to his slow start to the season by his standards (.306/.342/.410; .333 wOBA), but Jorge can only continue to play so poorly (he’s nearly cost the team a full win by himself), before he forces the team to pull the trigger on Montero.
Here’s what the pitching staff did in May, sorted by fWAR (yellow highlights indicate the starter that did best in a given category; orange highlights reflect which reliever did best. For relievers, I limited the “team leader” designation to pitchers that threw more than five innings):
May was the CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon show on the starting end of the equation, while David Robertson performed yeoman’s work out of the bullpen. His 17.25 K/9 is absurd, although it comes with an equally absurd 8.25 BB/9. Still, whatever D-Rob is doing is working, as batters hit just .159 off of him, helping him post a team-low 0.75 ERA and 1.86 FIP. Though the results haven’t always been pretty, Joba Chamberlain quietly had a strong month, with a team-low WHIP and an absurd 98% strand rate. It’s no surprise that the Yankee bullpen currently ranks at the very top of the American League in both ERA and FIP.
Here are the pitching staff’s seasonal numbers, for additional context:
CC Sabathia’s been rather quietly having a monster season, and is tied for 2nd in the AL with Felix Hernandez with 2.2 fWAR. I’m guessing he’s mostly flown under the radar due to the fact that, while he’s been quite good, he hasn’t really been overwhelmingly dominatingly good. His best overall game was his second start of the season against Minnesota, when he gave up a mere two hits over seven shutout innings and retired the last 17 men he faced in a row. His second-best was probably the start against Toronto last week, where he went nine and retired the last 15 men he faced, but he also gave up four runs on eight hits. In fact, outside of that start against Minnesota, CC’s given up at least five hits in every single start — not that hits-against are necessarily an indication of how well or poor one pitched, but combined with a third straight season with a declining K/9, it’s made CC seem, well, more hittable than usual. Regardless, he’s currently posting what would be the best ERA and FIP of his Yankee career, so I’ll shut up now and let CC continue to do his thing.
I’ve sung Colon’s praises quite a bit, so no need to rehash that here, and the numbers show that he’s been the Yankees’ second-best starter on the season. While Freddy Garcia‘s performed about as well as I think most of us would have hoped for/expected, the two biggest rotation disappointments (non-Phil Hughes division) on the season would have to be A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. Burnett’s been better than expected, only because he really couldn’t have been worse than he was in 2010, but he’s still been pretty erratic; and Nova’s been all over the place, and his inability to miss bats hasn’t exactly inspired a ton of confidence when he takes the hill.
As far as the bullpen goes, once again, all hail D-Rob. Prior to this monthly review I actually had no idea Robertson’s numbers were as good as they were. While he still walks far too many hitters, his ability to work out of jams has become the stuff of legend at this point, and he’s not only been the second-best reliever on the team, but he’s been more valuable than three-fifths of the starting rotation. Beastly.
Here are the team’s offense and pitching numbers month-by-month and on the season:
The Yankees featured a less robust offensive attack in May than they did in April, but countered it with better pitching. For all the hemming and hawing over the offense’s performance in various facets of the game, i.e., hitting with men on base, hitting with runners in scoring position, seemingly falling asleep against the other team’s bullpen, etc. — and I’m certainly one of the team’s more vocal critics on those fronts — they still feature the top offense in the league, with a .346 wOBA, and are the only team in the AL averaging more than five runs per game, which is even more impressive when you consider the depressed run environment of 2011.
They’ve also underperformed their pythagorean record by three games, which tends to happen when you go 6-9 in one-run contests, so Yankee fans can take heart in the fact that the team should be even better than they’ve been.
Despite what the numbers say (98 xFIP-) I’m not so sure the pitching staff is going to continue to be this effective going forward, and many of us expect that the Yankees will make a move for a starter at some point before the trade deadline. Given the likelihood of pitching regression, the team will need Nick Swisher to regain some semblance of his 2009/2010 form, Jorge Posada to remove the giant fork from his back or be willing to accept a lesser role in favor of Montero (or perhaps another DH imported via trade) and Derek Jeter to at least hold the line around a .320-ish wOBA, while everyone else produces at least at the levels they’re at (save Granderson, who probably isn’t going to finish the season with a .424 wOBA; though he’s already done plenty in putting the offense on his shoulders) if they’re going to remain at the top of the AL East.