So far this season, it seems every time a Yankees’ starter gives up one or two runs, the offense cannot find a way to score. And if the pitchers are having a rough day? Well, forget about it, a Yankee loss seems automatic.
The exception to this pattern occurred two days ago when Phil Hughes had another rough outing against the Tampa Bay Rays — he lasted only four innings while allowing five runs to cross the plate. Luckily for Hughes, after he surrendered the game-tying home run to Wil Myers in his last inning of work, the bullpen kept Tampa off the board and the Yankees offense managed to produce enough grit to win the game in the bottom of the 9th on a Alfonso Soriano game-winning hit.
And while that blip on the radar was a nice change of pace, the 2013 Yankees are still coming into tonight’s contest against the Dodgers playing a game under .500 since the end of April and they also rank near the bottom of the league in terms of wRC+ – (They’re currently 28th.) In a way, it’s sad the Yankees are in the same vicinity as the Astros, White Sox, and Marlins offensively but it’s also remarkable that the Yankees are realistically only two or three winning series away from holding a Wild Card spot.
The teams the Yankees are chasing for that spot – including the Cleveland Indians – are all near the tops in wRC+ – Even the Toronto Blue Jays who are currently in last place in the American League East, have a higher wRC+ than the Yankees (the Jays are 10th with a wRC+ of 102). And if New York wants to keep their season going when the calendar turns to October, they’ll need to start raising their wRC+ in order to catch up to teams like the Rays, Red Sox, and Orioles. It just goes to show how lucky the Yankees have been so far and how a strong April can help seemingly save your season from being an utter disaster.
Now, the idea that this team can become an offensive threat overnight is a little crazy, however, the addition of Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano in the lineup does gives Yankee fans some hope for change.
It’s hard to expect Jeter to be vintage Derek Jeter but he’ll have to be if the Yankees want to reach the post-season. If he can have perform close to his 2012 campaign in the final days of July and for the final two months of the season, the Yankees should be getting a 118 wRC+ out of him. However, even if Jeter is average for the remainder of the season, the Yankees would still be extremely happy considering their production from shortstop in 2013 is the worst according to wRC+. Take another look at the chart above. Do you see the league average? In 2013, the Yankees shortstops own a paltry 49 wRC+. It’s an understatement to say the jump Jeter gives the Yankees just being in the lineup is pretty significant.
As for Alfonso Soriano, well, his numbers speak for themselves. Usually, I’m not raving about a guy with a 101 wRC+ and a wOBA .324, but it’s been a rarity for the Yankees in left field. Vernon Wells went from April All-Star to what we all thought of him before the Yankees traded for him and Zoilo Almonte was playing pretty well before his injury took him out of the lineup. But perhaps the saddest fact of all is that Melky Mesa leads the Yankees left fielders in fWAR after only playing four games out there.
Once Curtis Granderson returns, Soriano should become the regular DH which is another spot in the lineup where the Yankees are in dire need of help. Jeter has played one game there and he owns the highest fWAR for the position which is pretty sad and indicative of this season has been so far for the Yankees. But back to Grandy, and how he’ll help the offense. The Yankees are in dire need of some power and even though Granderson’s strikeout totals have risen every year since he’s become a Bronx Bomber, he’s hit 84 home runs since 2011.
If all things hold up, and Granderson returns in time to join the team in San Diego this weekend, the Yankees lineup is suddenly middle of the pack and considering how the team is currently sitting near the bottom of the league in offense, he might be the spark the club needs to get them to the post-season.
A lineup featuring Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro wouldn’t seem all that bad especially with how well Ichiro has been playing since the end of June. (.304 BA, .333 OBP in July) and it would be better than a lineup with Vernon Wells, Eduardo Nunez and taking up value spots in the batting order.
Now, if only we can find someone to take over third base. Hmmm.