The Yankee Analysts' May 2011 Monthly Wrap-Up

Where are all the A-Jax lovers now? (photo c/o Getty Images)

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.

8 thoughts on “The Yankee Analysts' May 2011 Monthly Wrap-Up

  1. stunna4885

    marte, soriano, feliciano, chavez, montero, hughes and whatever trades the yanks make will make this team absolutely dominant down the stretch. and lets just say they only get a few of those guys back there still like adding huge pieces at the deadline. elite offense and bullpen + solid pitching + additions = awesome. like usual it will come down to the yanks and sox for the pennant because the entire al is mediocre.

  2. Davey

    Nice wrap up of a bizarre month to be sure. What freaks me out is what happens to the team when the wheels come off the Colon/Garcia/Burnett/Nova bus. The rotation feels like Russian Roulette.

    • stunna4885

      why are the wheels going to come off? is every yankee fan on this planet absurdly negative.

  3. Davey

    You’re right. Bartolo Colon is going to win 17 games this year.

  4. Joe

    If Swisher continues to improve and we get a bat and a starter at the trade deadline, I like our chances. We HAVE to have a lefty in the minors that is better than Logan. I can’t watch him let another left handed batter get a hit.

  5. Duh, Innings!

    Sabathia has been Sabathia, Burnett, Colon, and Garcia have pitched like solid #3s, and Nova is barely a #5 some people mistake as a #4. If Nova stinks it up in his next start but the Yankees win it, give him another start cuz literally no loss. If he stinks it up in his next start and the Yankees lose, demote him to AAA and see if Adam Warren or someone else can get the job done, but I would have that replacement on an even shorter leash because Nova did have some good starts this year and has done more.

    The Yankees should be preemptive and get Derek Lowe. He wouldn’t cost any top pitching prospects or Montero which means the Yankees could still trade one of their top pitching prospects or Montero for another starter. Lowe is historically an innings eater even though he’s pitched only 67 innings across a dozen starts this year. He does have 58 strikeouts and suffered two hard-luck losses early in the season. He could/some would argue should be 5-2.

    Do you really want a callup replacing Nova for the stretch-run? I don’t. I don’t care that Lowe is old, he is more of a sure thing to get it done than a callup. And what if Colon and/or Garcia turn bad? Bye bye 2011 Yankees, and possibly 2012 Yankees cuz who the hell is in their 2012 rotation after Sabathia and Burnett? They’ll get guys but who? I’m guessing Mark Buerhle will remain a Chi-Sock. Will Burnett be good then?

    These trades safeguard the Yankees as follows if Lowe is acquired before another starter:

    1. Lowe replaces whoever is sucking between Nova, Nova’s replacement, Colon, and Garcia, most likely one of the former two, assuming Lowe is acquired in the middle of or later this month after Nova is replaced by a callup or not.

    2. The next starter acquired after Lowe replaces whoever is sucking or getting injured between Lowe, Colon, and Garcia. Or the Yankees have the option to get another starter to safeguard against one of these three sucking or getting injured.

    Lowe eliminates the issue of who’s the #5 and another starter would safeguard against a bad starter.

    Also, if the Yankees got Lowe and say Gavin Floyd then re-signed Colon for another year, their 2012 rotation is set assuming Sabathia remains with the Yankees: Sabathia/Burnett/Floyd/Lowe/Colon with the last two in walk years and Burnett in his second to last year under contract. And who’s to say a callup including Nova couldn’t bump Lowe or Colon to the pen if either doesn’t get it done?

  6. Duh, Innings!

    Furthermore, the Yankees need innings from their starters and I’m sorry, as great as Colon and Garcia have been pitching, I am not sold on both of them giving the Yankees six innings or more a start each throughout the year, and forget Nova doing that. Forget Nova’s replacement doing that, unless he’s The Second Coming Of 2005 Chien Ming Wang, Aaron Small, or Shawn Chacon.

    Lowe and Floyd are innings guys. No, not aces or #2s, but guys who would be solid #3s with the Yankees bullpen, offense, and bench moreover both would be Yankees next year. Who the hell is worth signing among that pool of free-agent starters besides Mark Buerhle who again, I’m resigned to think will remain with the Chi-Sox? I don’t want a career/mostly NL pitcher, another Javier Vasquez. Adam Wainwright is still out with an injury no? Forget him with that.

    I don’t want to hear about Billingsley or Kuroda anymore, they are career NL pitchers. Lowe would cost far less and has done it in the AL as a reliever and a starter.

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