With a fine mist blanketing Yankee Stadium, April ended for the Yankees last night with a lazy ground-out to Mariano Rivera. For the 12th time last month, the Yankees gathered behind the pitchers mound to congratulate themselves on a job well done.
While the Yankees find themselves over .500 in April for the first time since 2006, it was a rather uneven month. Still, without A-Rod and without Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees are just two games back of the Blue Jays/Red Sox tandem and seem primed for a solid May.
For April, two numbers really leap out at me. On the month, the Bombers scored 128 runs without any help from A-Rod and with little production from the third base spot in their lineup. On the other side of that equation though is the pitching. The Yankees’ pitchers have given up 136 runs, more than 28 other teams in baseball. Only the Orioles have worse pitching.
We can, however, whittle that number away. Thanks to Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks found themselves saddled with a few ugly games last month. They allowed 22 runs to the Indians and 15 to the Rays in back-to-back outings. Wang’s first start left the Yankees with just seven earned runs — and a loss. If we are to remove Wang’s games from the season, the Yankees are 12-7. In those 19 games, the Yanks have scored 114 runs while giving up 92. Much better.
Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher were the dueling players of the month, and it’s hard to pick one above the other. Cano has a hit in every game but one, and Swisher has been on base in all but one of his games. After a terrible April last year, Cano roared out of the gate with a .366/.400/.581 line. Swisher, after an unlucky 2008, is hitting .312/.430/.714. Nick leads the team with seven home runs, 19 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
Outside of the Robbie and Nick Show, Melky Cabrera deserves recognition for his April. After putting up a woeful 2008 campaign that saw him lose his starting job to Brett Gardner in August, Melky bore down over the winter and went to work. He had a great Spring Training, but the center field job was Gardner’s to lose. Lose it he did by hitting .220/.254/.271.
Melky, still young, had a better attitude than many benched players and made the most of his newfound opportunity. He’s hitting .327/.400/.571 in the early going, and Yankee fans are hoping that his near-repeat of April 2008 doesn’t turn into a rerun of last summer as well.
Otherwise, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are doing what they do. The only really disappointing performer so far has been Mark Teixeira. He’s hitting just .200/.367/.371 with 3 home runs and only 10 RBI. Clearly, Teixeira, with his team-leading 17 walks, will benefit greatly from A-Rod, but right now, his numbers are not where they will be. Teixeira’s at-bats look good, but the ball just isn’t falling for Teixeira.
Considering the black hole of Cody Ransom and Brett Gardner, now removed from the bottom of the lineup, the Yankees offense has shown us why, come A-Rod’s return, this will be a feared team indeed. We’ll tackle the pitchers in a bit.