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Archive for July 5th, 2010

The Yankees begin the second half by returning to the 510 for the first time since Alex Rodriguez infamously ran across Dallas Braden’s mound. The much anticipated rematch between these two arch enemies will have to wait for another time, however, as Braden was just recently placed on the disabled list.

Surprisingly, Ben Sheets has managed to avoid being disabled, but his 3-7 record with an ERA near 5.00 has been a disappointment. Sheets, who pitched well despite losing to the Yankees back in April, has achieved a level of consistency over his past seven starts, surrendering either three or four earned runs over six or seven innings in each start.

Joe Girardi has resisted the urge to juggle the lineup despite watching it underperform for the better part of the last five weeks. Against Sheets, however, Girardi has decided to move Brett Gardner to the lead off spot and shift the struggling Derek Jeter down to the two hole. According to Girardi, the lineup change was prompted by yesterday’s injury to Jorge Posada (who is only available in an emergency situation) and his desire to have Nick Swisher break up the lefty bats of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. With Francisco Cervelli and Colin Curtis rounding out a weak bottom of the order, Gardner’s promotion also helps consolidate the team’s better hitters atop the lineup.

Javier Vazquez’ first win of the season was recorded in Oakland, but this time around he isn’t a pitcher desperate for a win, but an established member of the Yankees rotation. The A’s rank dead last in HRs, so Vazquez’ penchant for giving up the long ball should be mitigated.

vs. Ben Sheets PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Brett Gardner LF 2 0.444 0.500 0.444 0 0
Derek Jeter SS 7 0.250 0.333 0.250 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 7 0.333 0.556 0.833 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 6 0.333 0.333 0.500 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 6 0.500 0.556 0.875 0 1
Nick Swisher DH 0 0.375 0.444 0.375 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 5 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Colin Curtis RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 33 0.354 0.436 0.500 0 1
             
vs. Javier Vazquez PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Coco Crisp CF 17 0.000 0.500 0.000 1 3
Daric Barton 1B 9 0.333 0.429 0.333 0 1
Ryan Sweeney RF 7 0.143 0.143 0.143 0 0
Kurt Suzuki C 13 0.167 0.167 0.500 1 3
Jack Cust DH 9 0.333 0.333 0.667 1 2
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B 9 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Gabe Gross LF 6 0.000 0.200 0.000 0 0
Mark Ellis 2B 19 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Cliff Pennington 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 92 0.200 0.273 0.333 3 9

 

Yankees vs. A’s      
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 2-1 NYY: 7-2 NYY: 5-1 NYY: 1114-759
  • Javier Vazquez is making the 400th start of his major league career.
  • Earlier in the day, Andy Pettitte was named to the American League All Star roster as an injury replacement for the now disabled Clay Buchholz.
  • The Yankees recorded 50 wins in their first 81 games for the first time since 2004, which was also the last time the team was in first place at the nominal half way mark.

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The Yankees celebrated George Steinbrenner’s birthday as well as the nominal end to the season’s first half by eking out their 50th victory with an extra inning triumph over the Blue Jays. The walk off celebration put the team squarely on pace for another 100-win season, but there is some concern about whether the Yankees can maintain that pace in the second half. Before looking ahead, however, it is time to look back over the first half and determine not only the most valuable contributors, but also the most disappointing laggards.

Position Players

The Good

The clear cut MVP among all position players was Robinson Cano. In fact, a strong case could be made for Cano being MVP of the entire American League. His OPS+ of 163 and wOBA of .411 both easily led the team. More importantly, Cano exhibited an impressive level of consistency across most key splits. As many managers have learned the hard way, Cano is not neutralized by left handers. In fact, he almost hits them better. Through the first 81 games of the season, Cano has a .977 OPS against right handers complemented by a .946 OPS against lefties, including a league leading 10 home runs. Unlike in years past, Cano has also performed equally well at home and on the road, and avoided a prolonged slump. Of most importance, however, Cano’s OPS of .955 with runners in scoring position and .997 OPS in late and close situations have completely dispelled the notion that he can’t hit in the clutch. Meanwhile, on defense, Cano posted an UZR/150 of 9.6, good for fourth among all second basemen in the major leagues.

Is Robinson Cano the 2010 AL MVP?

  BA OBP SLG wOBA RAA WAR
Rate 0.343 0.396 0.569 0.411 24.6 4.5
Rank 2 8 5 5 5 2

Aside from Cano, the Yankees most productive player, and perhaps most pleasant surprise, over the first half has been Brett Gardner. Once a slap and run type player, Gardner has evolved into a much more complete hitter as evidenced by his OPS+ of 130 and wOBA of .385, good for second on the Yankees and eighth among all outfielders in the major leagues. By stealing 24 of 29 bases, Gardner has also continued to use his speed as a weapon, something that has also come in handy in the field.  Had he enough innings to qualify, Gardner’s UZR/150 of 8.3 would rank fifth among all left fielders. Once a part time player, Gardner has emerged as an integral part of the lineup.

Fellow outfielder Nick Swisher checks in right behind Gardner as the third most valuable position player in the first half. His OPS+ of 139 and wOBA of .383 are right in line with Gardner, but the latter’s base running and defense give him the edge. That’s not to say Swisher has been a defensive liability. Most metrics have him as anywhere from average to a shade above, so his glove has not detracted from the value provided by his bat. Along with Gardner, Swisher has helped turn what was thought to be one of the team’s weaknesses, into a strength, even with the disappointing start by Curtis Granderson.

Top-10 AL Outfielders, By wOBA

Name Team OBP SLG wRAA wOBA
Josh Hamilton Rangers 0.385 0.617 28.7 0.430
Carl Crawford Rays 0.376 0.488 16.7 0.386
Brett Gardner Yankees 0.401 0.434 14.2 0.385
Magglio Ordonez Tigers 0.383 0.489 14.4 0.384
Jose Bautista Blue Jays 0.36 0.532 16.2 0.383
Nick Swisher Yankees 0.373 0.505 15.5 0.383
Shin-Soo Choo Indians 0.39 0.475 16.5 0.383
Torii Hunter Angels 0.376 0.522 15 0.380
Alex Rios White Sox 0.358 0.509 13.9 0.380
David DeJesus Royals 0.393 0.467 14.6 0.377

 

The Bad

While Gardner and Swisher have buoyed the outfield, Curtis Granderson has been an anchor. Ironically, Granderson’s defense, which seemed to be an emerging concern for the Tigers, has been stellar.  His UZR/150 of 17.0 currently ranks first in the American League and second in the majors to only Tony Gwynn Jr.’s amazing rate of 49.8. Unfortunately, Granderson’s relative lack of power and speed has made the center fielder a major disappointment with the bat (although he has managed his fair share of late inning heroics). His subpar batting line of .226/.302/.402 has been the product of struggles from both sides of the plate. Against lefties, Granderson has hit an anemic .192/.232/.282, a troubling trend that seems to suggest he is no more than a platoon player. Of course, Granderson hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the ball against righties. With an OPS of .822 against right handed pitchers, Granderson hasn’t been awful, but still well below his career mark of .890. By not producing more against righties, Granderson’s weaknesses against lefties have been further exposed. Considering the team’s long-term commitment to Granderson, a resurgent second half is of tantamount importance.

Although not “bad”, Mark Teixeira has also been a disappointment relative to his standard performances. Teixeira’s extended early season struggles created a hole in the middle of the Yankees lineup that was further exacerbated by the nagging injuries that have hampered Alex Rodriguez’ performance. Although he has started to round into form of late, Teixeira’s failure to match his baseball card for much of the first half proved to be very costly to the team. The Yankees will need Teixeira to continue improving on his meager .428 slugging percentage in the second half to help compensate for the relative decline in power that has beset the team.

Derek Jeter’s season has not only been a disappointment, but also the most curious. The Yankees’ short stop has alternated between hot streaks and cold spells, a level of inconsistency not usually associated with the Captain. Jeter has also struggled against right handers and failed to produce outside of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Of most concern, however, have been a few underlying splits. In particular, Jeter has been swinging at more pitches out of the zone, which has likely resulted in a decrease in his line drive percentage. Fewer walks and more groundballs have combined to create a lag on Jeter’s SLG and OBP, which have fallen well off his career standards.  What’s more, after having one of his better seasons in the field, Jeter has also regressed with the glove. Although his UZR/150 of -1.7 is perfectly adequate, Jeter’s range has fallen off even to the naked eye. A strong second half by Jeter would be a major boost to the Yankees’ idling offense, but it would also make the Captain’s pending off season contract negotiations much less sticky.

Derek Jeter’s 2010 Splits vs. Career

  2010   Career
Home 0.870   0.867
Away 0.646   0.820
       
vs. Left 0.913   0.910
vs. Right 0.672   0.822
       
LD% 17.6%   20.5%
GB% 66.5%   56.5%
O-Sw% 28.6%   20.0%

The Ugly

Because of several key injuries, the Yankees’ bench has been pressed into duty on many an occasion, but mostly come up lacking. Aside from Marcus Thames, whose poor defense has weighed against his offensive contributions, the Yankees’ reserves have all been negative contributors, ranging from Juan Miranda’s -0.2 runs above average to Ramiro Pena’s -6.9. Francisco Cervelli, who has actually caught more games than Posada, had been a welcomed surprise with a strong April and May, but after posting an OPS of .521 in June, even that element of the bench has weighed down the team.

2010 Performance of Yankees Bench

Name Pos AVG OBP SLG wRAA
wOBA 
Colin Curtis OF 0.300 0.364 0.500 0.500 0.377
Marcus Thames DH/OF 0.286 0.400 0.416 3.300 0.368
Juan Miranda 1B/DH 0.217 0.294 0.435 -0.200 0.319
Francisco Cervelli C 0.271 0.347 0.343 -1.600 0.314
Curtis Granderson OF 0.226 0.302 0.402 -2.100 0.313
Randy Winn OF 0.213 0.300 0.295 -2.700 0.278
Chad Moeller C 0.182 0.250 0.364 -0.500 0.270
Greg Golson OF 0.400 0.400 0.400 -0.300 0.258
Kevin Russo 3B/OF 0.191 0.255 0.234 -3.800 0.234
Chad Huffman OF 0.167 0.286 0.167 -1.600 0.230
Ramiro Pena 3B/SS 0.192 0.241 0.205 -6.900 0.218

The Rest

Despite slumping since returning from a broken foot earlier in June, Jorge Posada has still posted a wOBA of .375 and maintained a level of performance that has actually been above his career norms. However, Posada’s defense has continued to decline along with his health, making him a significant liability behind the plate. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez has suffered from a relative power outage, but has just now started to hit the long ball of late. Even without an early power surge, Arod has managed a respectable wOBA of .360 and still ranks third in the league in RBIs. If Posada and Arod can stay relatively healthy, then the Yankees should be able to look forward to increased production from these two very important members of the lineup.

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