Yankees' midseason report card
Breaking down the good, the bad and the Cervelli at the All-Star break
With the All-Star Game just around the corner, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews grades every New York Yankees player's first-half performance.
Curtis Granderson, center field
Where do you begin to describe the change in this player from last season to this one? Last year at this time, was hitting .240 with 10 HRs and 32 RBIs; now, the numbers are .278, 25 and 62. Has become an excellent, even feared hitter and, while once considered an automatic out against lefties, now pounds them nearly as hard as he does right-handers. In his second season as a Yankee, has worked hard to improve all aspects of his game. Also an excellent defender. Haven't heard the name Austin Jackson all season.
Robinson Cano, second base
Statistically having a good season but a disappointment compared with his bust-out 2010 year. The numbers are better than acceptable -- .295-14-55 -- but nowhere near what was expected of a player thought ready to take his game to the next level. Much less selective at the plate than he was last year and seems strangely distracted on defense at times. Has made some inexplicable errors that can only come from a lack of concentration or focus. Still an excellent player but was supposed to be on the cusp of greatness.
Brett Gardner, left field
Has rebounded from a terrible start to look like the kind of leadoff hitter the Yankees envisioned this spring. Very patient, sometimes too patient, at the plate, which leads to a lot of looking strikeouts. And for a guy this fast, gets thrown out stealing way too much. Must improve bunting, which could be a devastating weapon in his arsenal. Still, his OBP is creeping up to where it needs to be, and his superior range in left field and excellent arm make him one of the premier defenders in the league.
Alex Rodriguez, third base
The MVP-type season he appeared to be headed for in spring training has not developed; A-Rod's numbers are about the same as they were last year at this time, although his average is up (.296 as opposed to .270) and his RBIs are down (52 this year, 70 last year). No one seems to have an explanation why the home run numbers are down again, except that at 35, and slowed by numerous injuries, this is now the player he is: 25-30 HRs, 100 RBIs. No longer a feared hitter but still a productive one, and a superior third baseman.
Russell Martin, catcher
Overall has been everything the Yankees could have asked for in a new catcher, although his batting average has taken a dip over the past month or so. Really, his value has been in his handling of a new pitching staff, a remarkable accomplishment considering he had spent his entire career in the NL and didn't do much catching in spring training while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Could do a better job throwing out baserunners, but no one is better at blocking pitches behind the plate. A.J. Burnett loves throwing to him. What better testimonial can there be than that?
Mark Teixeira, first base
Having a strange season, to say the least. Has been among the league leaders in HRs and RBIs all season, but his batting average has run about 40 points below his career average of .283 and seems to go through long stretches where he does absolutely nothing before having a huge game or two. To his credit, never seems to get down about hitting slumps and never takes them out to the field, where his defense remains uniformly excellent.
Nick Swisher, right field
Struggled throughout April and May, didn't hit his first home run until April 28 (75 at-bats), but had an excellent June (7 HRs, .326 BA) and appears to be on the rebound in this, his contract year with the Yankees. Despite low batting average (.252), his on-base percentage is a more-than-respectable .370. Sometimes seems as if his mood fluctuates with how well he's hitting rather than how well the team is playing, but for the most part is still an upbeat clubhouse presence. Can be erratic in the outfield but goes hard after everything.
Derek Jeter, shortstop
Without the two-home run game in Texas back on May 8, and the excitement (distraction?) of the chase for 3,000 hits, what would we be saying about Jeter's 2011 season? That it is even worse than his 2010 season, which had been statistically the worst of his Hall of Fame career. Despite an intensive offseason and spring training program to reduce the number of ground balls he hits and put some pop back into his bat, his batting average and on-base percentage are down from last year, and his slugging percentage (.327) ranks him 143rd among all major leaguers. Rarely hits the ball hard anymore, and when he does, it's usually on the ground. Keeps a positive outlook. Say what you will about his range, but he still handles everything hit to him.
Jorge Posada, designated hitter
Bat is finally coming around after a horrific start to the season, caused in part by age and in part, you suspect, by his lingering disenchantment with being a DH. Finally seems to be accepting his role, but his walk-out on the team in May when Joe Girardi dropped him to ninth in the batting order was an embarrassment and a stain on his legacy. It lost him some friends in the clubhouse. Has shown some of his old pop lately.
Bartolo Colon, RHP
Bartolomania lives! The comeback story of the year and a legitimate folk hero. Who would have believed a 37-year-old guy with a history of injury, obesity and personal problems, who hadn't pitched at all in 2010, could come in and perform as well as he has? Colon, not Burnett, has pitched like the real No. 2 starter on this staff and, if not for the hamstring tweak that cost him two weeks, might have nine wins by now. All through spring training and for the first month of the season, the Yankees held their collective breath wondering if he was for real; now they've exhaled.
CC Sabathia, LHP
Consistently excellent. Rarely flashy, although his back-to-back double-digit strikeout games (13 against the Milwaukee Brewers, 11 against the Cleveland Indians) just before the All-Star break remind you how devastating his stuff can be when he's on. One of the few truly low-maintenance players of his caliber and status in any pro sport. The epitome of an ace.
Freddy Garcia, RHP
In a world without Bartolo, Freddy would be the Comeback Kid of 2011. Had his usual lackluster spring but has outpitched everyone's expectations with his mirrors-and-no-smoke routine. Every start, leaves opposing hitters -- and observers -- shaking their heads, but he keeps getting away with it. Has nerves of steel and knows how to pitch with an extremely limited repertoire. Great pickup.
A.J. Burnett, RHP
Some starts he's been Good A.J., some starts he's been Bad A.J., but overall, he's been Better A.J. Right now, he's one win better than last year (8-7 versus 7-7), and his ERA is more than a half-run lower (4.12 versus 4.75). Still capable of the mid-game implosion but seems to be handling adversity more maturely than last year. (Remember the clubhouse door incident?) Seems to trust Russell Martin behind the plate, which helps tremendously.
Ivan Nova, RHP
The unfortunate loser in a numbers game when, suddenly, inexplicably, the Yankees had too many starters, Nova has shown steady signs of growth from his promising 2010 debut. Occasionally slipped back to his previous tendency to lose stuff and intensity in the latter stages of a game, but ironically was doing his best pitching of the season when Phil Hughes came off the disabled list. Still needs to develop a swing-and-miss pitch among his secondary pitches and now has time to work on one in Triple-A. Yankees believe he will be back, and better.
Phil Hughes, RHP
The Case of the Disappearing Fastball remains a mystery, and his first start back after a nearly three-month stint on the DL was far from convincing. The Yankees seem to be looking at his 18-win 2010 season as evidence that he will be a top-flight starter, rather than his current stuff, which says something else. Has a lot to prove over the second half of the season, and not much time to prove it. Otherwise, expect to see him and Nova switch places.
Mariano Rivera, RHP
Aside from his balding head, The Incomparable One shows little sign of being 41 years old and is still the best one-pitch pitcher in the history of baseball. Triceps soreness in July may be a red flag, or it may be, as he insists, just one of those things that happens occasionally to anyone who throws a baseball for a living. As always, Mo's track record affords him every benefit of every doubt.
David Robertson, RHP
Right now, a sturdy Bridge to Mariano and perhaps in two years the successor to Mariano. Live fastball, swing-and-miss stuff, and shows guts every time out. Gets himself into trouble sometimes, nearly always gets out of it. Off-field dedication to charitable causes is an indication of the character he shows on the mound, as well.
Luis Ayala, RHP
A retread who made the team by default in spring training after the injury to Pedro Feliciano, Ayala has performed well in his middle-relief role.
Hector Noesi, RHP
Has shown flashes in long relief but needs more seasoning.
Brian Gordon, RHP
On paper, a great story: converted outfielder steps into Yankees' starting rotation in emergency role. On field, something less. Good, earnest guy, but not ready for that kind of responsibility.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP
Again, impressively talented and maddeningly inconsistent, Joba was doing his best pitching of the season when he was diagnosed with a torn elbow tendon and underwent Tommy John surgery. A setback for him and the Yankees, who may never again see the pitcher Joba was in his spectacular but brief 2007 season. Partial Incomplete
Cory Wade, RHP
Has performed acceptably in a small sample of work. Yankees like his stuff but we need to see more to make a responsible judgment. Partial Incomplete
Lance Pendleton, RHP
Seen enough. Given low-pressure, low-responsibility mop-up assignments, hasn't done much to impress.
Rafael Soriano, RHP
Has been MIA, but hardly missed. A bad idea from the get-go, Soriano never really accepted his role as a setup man, and his erratic performances reflected it. Supposed to return soon after the All-Star break, and with Joba Chamberlain lost for the year, Yankees are hoping he can make a fresh start and contribute over the second half. We'll see. Partial Incomplete
Boone Logan, LHP
A lefty specialist who can't get lefties out. Enough said.
Pedro Feliciano, LHP
The biggest disappointment of the spring, Feliciano looked like a great pickup and would have been a great improvement over Logan as the situational lefty out of the 'pen. Rotator-cuff injury blindsided the Yankees, but in hindsight, his workload with the Mets should have raised red flags. Instead, it got him a two-year, $8 million deal.
Eduardo Nunez, infielder
Yankees have high hopes for his future, but his present still has some rough edges. Live bat, good legs but his fielding is a thrill ride that doesn't always have a happy ending and he has had some lapses on the bases that defy explanation. Hit well in Jeter's absence but not ready for everyday duty.
Francisco Cervelli, catcher
An adequate backup -- no more, no less. Came into spring training in great shape and hit well before breaking his foot. Hasn't really approached that level of performance since coming back. Still plays with enthusiasm and fire, but by now, the toothpaste is out of the tube. Cervy can't hit, throw or catch all that well.
Andruw Jones, outfielder
In his prime, was a nice guy with a big smile and a big bat. Now, just a nice guy with a big smile. Yankees thought he would be an upgrade over Marcus Thames off the bench but has actually turned out to be a step down. Take away his two-home run game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 25 and there isn't much else there. Seemed like a bargain at $2 million for the season; now looks like one of Scott Boras' greatest con jobs.
Ramiro Pena, infielder
A no-hit, decent glove utility man whose errors helped the Yankees lose a game to the New York Mets on July Fourth weekend. Hard to see El Nino as anything more than a bench player anywhere in the league.
Eric Chavez, third base
Looked like the find of the year in spring training and for the first month of the season. Now looks like Nick Johnson Part II. Too bad, because Chavy worked hard to make this team and seemed to have put extensive injury history behind him. Suspected sports hernia just the latest in a series of woes since May that make it unlikely Chavez will make any real contribution to this team.
Watching Girardi manage the late stages of a game or listening to him evade question in a news conference can leave you either scratching your head or shaking it. But there's no denying he's done a remarkable job of winning with a team that has been decimated in both the starting rotation and the bullpen, and has at least four starters in his lineup underachieving. He mishandled the Posada situation and botched the decision of whether to rest or play Jeter as he approached 3,000 hits, but you know what? The Yankees have won 53 games at the All-Star break and have been atop the AL East or close to it all season. Any way you look at it, that's a good managing job.
- Rex Prepared For The Worst
- Rex Ryan expects to be fired Monday and even has begun cleaning out his office.
- The Last Dance
- Enjoy one more look at Odell Beckham Jr. when the Giants play the Eagles.
- Wanna Get Away?
- The Knicks put up another too-little, too-late effort after rallying to force overtime.
- Nets Fall Off Pace
- Kevin Garnett made David West lose his cool, but the Pacers had the last laugh.