May
25

Time for the stars to step up

By

They honeymoon, it appears, has come to an end. The Yankees saw tremendous production from Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner at the start of the season, which extended well into May. In the past few weeks, though, we’ve seen a correction of sorts. Both have excellent numbers still, a .392 wOBA for Cervelli and a .356 mark for Gardner. In the past week or so, however, both have seen slumps that weren’t exactly unforeseen. While I’m sure they’ll pick it back up, I doubt it will be to their previously lofty levels. That could mean trouble for the Yanks’ offense.

If the Yankees want to keep up their current pace, which would mean a 96-win season, they’ll need their biggest names to step up. This is true of all teams, of course, but it holds a bit more significance for the 2010 Yankees. Their best players have been particularly streaky during the first 46 games of the year, and for many of them the lows have outweighed the highs. In particular, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez have fallen far enough below their career norms that it has become an issue.

More of this, please | Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

By this point last year, Teixeira was already on his road to recovery. Through 46 games he had accumulated 199 PA and was hitting .271/.382/.584. This year he has 202 PA and has hit .209/.327/.378. That represents not just a drop in batting average, but an even starker drop in power. Last year through 199 PA he had a .313 ISO, while this year he’s at just .169. His discipline hasn’t waned, as his walk percentage is right where it was last year at this point. His strikeout rate, too, is right in line with the first 46 games from last year. Overall, though, something just isn’t right.

“I live off my hot streaks,” Teixeira said after Saturday’s game, in which he went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He bounced back with a 2 for 5, one strikeout performance on Sunday, though that last hit was the definition of a cheapie. Tex has a long way to go to a recovery. Even if he goes 4 for 4 with a homer, a double, and a walk in each of the three Twins games, he’ll be at .261/.373/.484. Realistically, it will take him quite a few more games to get to even that level.

Photo credit: Henry Ray Abrams/AP

Derek Jeter has been the focus of much conversation this season. This is partly because of his impending contract negotiations, but also because of his recent slump. Even before that, many of us were alarmed at his first-pitch swinging and frequent groundballs to short. Through the team’s first 24 games, though, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem. Jeter was hitting .333/.367/.510 during that span. He then proceeded to slump terribly, hitting .169/.234/.211 in his next 77 PA. Were the captain’s free swinging ways coming back to hurt him?

In a way, his first pitch swings and grounders to short are a concern. In another, Jeter, like all players, will slump during the course of a season. It’s unfortunate that Jeter’s came at a time when a number of starters have been missing, but that’s just the way baseball works sometimes. He seems to be coming out of it, too, going 7 for 19 from Thursday through Sunday. He walked only once, a bit of a disappointment, but he also looked sharper at the plate. He swung at the first pitch from Santana in his first three plate appearances, but given how well he hit the ball it’s difficult to blame him for that.

Photo credit: Henry Ray Abrams/AP

Thankfully for the Yanks, their No. 4 hitter is on the upswing. Alex Rodriguez currently sports a wOBA, .372, that ranks far below his career average of .411. That, however, was mostly due to an early season power drought, in which he posted an ISO of .162 through 126 PA (28 games). In his most recent 66 PA, though, he’s been hitting not only for average, .317, but also for power, a .250 ISO. That’s right around the level he finished last season.

What I think illustrates Alex’s season is how his strikeout rate relates to his contact rate on pitches out of the zone. The latter is at career high levels while the former is at a career low. This might be an anomaly, or it might be a change in approach. Either way, it backs up the story I tell myself: Alex is just missing a ton of pitches. His 14 percent infield fly ball rate would serve as further evidence of this claim. Something’s just slightly off, and once it clicks we might see an Alex outburst. It might have already clicked, but just hasn’t shown in the numbers yet. In any case, I think we’ll see quite a run by Alex, which is always an enjoyable span of games.

The Yanks simply could not rely on Gardner and Cervelli to carry them throughout the season. They got lucky that both of them got hot at a time when their better players were either hurt or slumping. Now that their luck is starting to even out, it’s time for the superstars to step into their places. I have no doubt that Cervelli and Gardner will continue to hit capably, but they’re not going to keep up their previously torrid pace. If the team’s best players step up and hit the way they’re capable, though, it will represent one of the greater strokes of luck in recent memory. Two good but not great players hitting like great players while the superstars slump. Then, just as the unheralded players simmer down, the superstars step up and start carrying the team.

I’m not sure if that’s how the story will play out, but it’s certainly feasible at this point. As it should, the Yanks’ season will turn on the ability of its best players to hit to their capabilities. It needs to start tonight in Minnesota.

Categories : Offense

45 Comments»

  1. Rose says:

    Time for the stars to step up

    “What do you mean step up! Are you implying that they were never trying in the first place???”

    /Jamal G’d

    • Jamal G. says:

      I think you should go back and read our conversation, for it was you who introduced effort into the discussion. My point dealt solely with the issues of expecting a team to step up with lesser available talent due to injuries to “key players.”

      For example, expecting the Yankees to continue their torrid pace or exceed it even though Francisco Cervelli, Juan Miranda, Marcus Thames and Randy Winn are all getting significant playing time in place of guys who could reasonably be expected to collectively produce anywhere from 7 to 9 WAR over the course of the 2010 season.

  2. Chris says:

    It’s amazing that with this lineup, it’s been the bottom of the order that has carried the load. It will be nice to see the top of the lineup join in.

    Split OPS
    Batting 1st 0.731
    Batting 2nd 0.681
    Batting 3rd 0.705
    Batting 4th 0.885
    Batting 5th 0.957
    Batting 6th 0.936
    Batting 7th 0.884
    Batting 8th 0.869
    Batting 9th 0.639

    • Rose says:

      What’s even more sad is that Derek Jeter (lead off hitter) was leading the league in RBI at the end of April. May came around and it’s pretty much a grab bag for who provides (any) production.

      The pitchers are starting to feel the pressure of all the injuries and slumping big hitters…and it’s probably one of the big factor’s why they all collectively started to fall apart after strong starts (Vazquez not included).

      • Chris says:

        The pitchers are starting to feel the pressure of all the injuries and slumping big hitters…and it’s probably one of the big factor’s why they all collectively started to fall apart after strong starts (Vazquez not included).

        Really? You’ve talked to them to understand what they’re feeling? Perhaps this is more a matter of just a typical correction after they overachieved as a group at the start of the year.

        What evidence do you have to support this other than the fact that the pitchers started to struggle a couple weeks after the injuries started?

        • mike c says:

          they all can’t be 6-0!

        • Rose says:

          I’m not a big fan of wild strange coincidences. I usually try to attribute strange weird phenomena to something regardless. Something always causes something else. The weird scenery that surrounds it only increases the probability that it’s something else.

          Good pitchers on teams with no offense feel immense pressure. It’s been documented constantly. The Yankees offense has taken a significant hit with injuries which force pinch hitters and bench players to play 9 innings of a baseball game. These are players who don’t exactly endear your confidence when you go see them in the ballpark…and a pitcher who is pitching is a human being just like you and I and I can assume he’d much rather have Granderson, Swisher, Posada, Johnson, etc. playing the field or hitting for his team than Cervelli, Golson, Russo, Thames, Winn, Pena, etc.

          Then you take into perspective that every pitcher who was pitching extremely well…all collectively pitched stinkers immediately at the same time…coincidentally after all of this down-pour began to happen.

          There is using logic and reasoning…provided by factual information, past conversations, and various circumstances – and then there is you…who claims that things just happen coincidentally for no reason at all…and there’s no explanation for anything at all in life…the ebb and flow of society is unco9ntrollable and caused by absolutely nothing.

          • ” I usually try to attribute strange weird phenomena to something regardless.”

            And this is why you often sound the fool.

            • Rose says:

              “Your hypocrisy knows no bounds” – Doc Holliday

              You guys dissect games and/or players over and over again and attempt to pinpoint reasons for why certain things happen. This is just as arbitrary as what I do…

              This isn’t a science blog is it? And even scientists create hypotheses using similar surrounding context clues.

              I don’t see what the big problem is. I still strongly believe that you just side with people regardless because they disagree with me…it’s getting old.

              • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

                I don’t see what the big problem is. I still strongly believe that you just side with people regardless because they disagree with me…it’s getting old.

                dude, this is getting so old. you have a persecution complex.

              • Again, you’re off-base. We rarely try to pinpoint reasons. We make observations that might be one of the many reasons something has happened. You, however, are brash in your opinion that you are right.

                I’m making a kind suggestion here: go away for a week. You’re insufferable during slumps. It’s as if you forget every baseball season that’s ever been played.

                Why you should take my advice: the next time we ban you will be the last.

                • Rose says:

                  and it’s probably one of the big factor’s why they all collectively started to fall apart after strong starts (Vazquez not included).

                  I don’t see how I’m brash in claiming that I am right. I am ALSO offering this as one of many reasons something has happened.

                  Why you should take my advice: the next time we ban you will be the last.

                  No need for the power trip. Threatening me for following the rules again? Didn’t you do this last time only to apologize? I haven’t done anything wrong here. I cordially made an assumption based on factual information and certain circumstances. Somebody else ignored the main argument and attacked only the supporting argument for whatever reason…I respond in a professional manner explaining the supporting information he attacked. Then he apparently tags you in to the match and you start throwing insults around and finish it off with a bunch of threats.

                  Perhaps you should, at the very least, amend your “Rules & Regulations” page…because the past several things you’ve threatened to “ban” me on are not included in there. At least after that this would make a little sense…

                  • You showed no documentation for your claim. You said it’s been documented, but I’ve never seen it. I also think Messrs. Grienke and Hernandez would care to disagree with your undocumented “evidence.”

                    • Rose says:

                      Heard it several times. It’s also common sense. Recently I saw it on either Baseball Tonight or MLB Network when they were talking about the Mariners and their situation with Cliff Lee and others.

                      Several pitchers have long claimed that when facing very good opposing pitchers…it puts more pressure on them because they know any run they give up could be costly. Why would I make this up? I have absolutely nothing to gain by creativing nonsense. In fact, as you’ve unknowingly supported, I only have something to lose.

                      I never claimed it was the sole reason or I was most certainly right. As you’ve so brashly stated. I offered it as a possibility.

                      Correlation is not equal to causation; it is only a requirement for it. – Edward Tufte

                    • Since we’re going with reductive phrases:

                      The plural of anecdote is not data.

                    • Rose says:

                      The plural of anecdote is not data.

                      There are two implications of, “The plural of anecdote is not data,” that need addressing:

                      The first is that personal, remembered, and other unpublished accounts are useless in refuting published data, and entirely irrelevant to a contested assertion. That’s simply wrong; data is usually collected in the first place because anecdotal evidence flagged something as worthy of investigation. Anecdotes are not data, but they play an important role in contributing to knowledge. An anecdote is a form of information. It is a form of evidence, to be given its due weight.

                      The second implication of the phrase is that data alone can prove something as true, while anecdotes cannot. Absurd! (But specious, I admit.) The truth is that neither data nor anecdotes prove anything. Scientific theories are never, ever, ever proven. They can only be disproven. A good scientific theory is merely one which best fits, interprets and explains available scientific data. “Scientific proof” is a misnomer. Uninterpreted data, all by itself, is actually worth less than anecdotal evidence; anecdotes at least offer an explanation for a given case, while uninterpreted data, alone, is meaningless.

                    • “The second implication of the phrase is that data alone can prove something as true”

                      I wholeheartedly disagree with this inference.

                    • Rose says:

                      Either way, if somebody is gimping to the bases and is taken out of the game – collectively everybody assumes he is injured based on anecdotal evidence. No actual data has been provided by the team…but it is allowed to be spoken regardless.

                      This is just as arbitrary as my thoughts based on the same anecdotal evidence gathered. Very similar.

                      (btw, I agree with you on the second part)

          • bexarama says:

            You’re pretty amazing sometimes. That’s all I’m gonna say.

      • JGS says:

        Why is it sad that Jeter was leading the league in RBIs–with that kind of production from the bottom of lineup, it would be sad if he didn’t

    • Riddering says:

      God bless Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Although it says quite a bit about the top of the order that in the past week Cano has been killing the ball again and has 1 RBI to show for it. (The last five games his BA is .409 and his OBP .409. Oh, Robbie.)

  3. YankFan says:

    I find it funny that a lot of people are complaining about the bottom half of the order. That it looks like a NL club. Doesn’t jive with the reality that if the stars were just avg. the team would have a few more wins.

  4. Andrew says:

    While Teixeira’s walk & strikeout rates may not be off from his career norms, I would say that his plate discipline has looked worse so far this year and has contributed a lot to his struggles. During this slump he has seemed determined to “hit his way out” of being terrible and has ended up chasing pitcher’s pitches and making weak outs, i.e. infield rollers, pop-ups, etc. I will feel better about him when he truly works at-bats and doesn’t give in to soft stuff and makes a pitcher come to him, which I don’t think he’s done at all the last few weeks.

    • Rose says:

      With your lead off hitter and #3 hitter having .320 and .327 OBP’s respectively…it’s amazing that they’re leading the majors in on-base percentage.

      Some of that is skewed with Johnson, Posada, etc. who are no longer with us though…

    • mike c says:

      he’s not seeing the ball well. when he is really seeing the pitches, he can actually hit those balls outside of the zone that he’s been whiffing on lately

  5. mike c says:

    having CG back will be a relief

  6. Riddering says:

    My biggest concern right now is Teixeira. A-Rod is improving and Jeter possibly could be maybe perhaps hopefully also getting better at the plate. But Mark won’t be moved unless this lasts much longer and the team needs his typical bat in order to be as competitive as they are capable of being. (And as competitive as they need to be this season.) There just aren’t as many positive signs with him. Patience is the hardest part. With each new game I want to see Big Tex start desecrating baseball with his bat. More three home run games please.

    (Crass as it may be, I also feel that Jeter can have a bad year and it won’t hurt the Yanks as much for the future. But Teixeira has got to bounce back.)

    • The only thing I’d add to this – and I agree that the team desperately needs his bat to bounce back – is that there are positive signs with Teixeira. He’s going bad right now, but all of his peripherals would point to a bounceback.

    • Chris says:

      My biggest concern right now is Teixeira.

      What exactly are you concerned about? I’m not necessarily asking you specifically, but in general what are people concerned about with Tex. He’s 30 years old and has posted an OBP of .370 or higher and a SLG of .500 or higher every season since 2004. His season numbers may not look good at the end of this year because he’s been so bad early in the season. At some point, though, he’s going to return to his normal level of production.

      The only players that I would specifically worry about are young players who haven’t proven that they can succeed in the majors, old players that are potentially facing their decline years, and players that are injured or may be hiding an injury (mostly this applies to pitchers). Thirty year old hitters that have been one of the best hitters in the game for the last 6 years generally don’t just fall off a cliff.

      • Riddering says:

        I’m not concerned about Tex in the long term–that being his contract years. But sometimes baseball players have bad seasons, even guys who are solid and have proven themselves as stars with the bat.

        That’s obviously a worst case scenario and there’s little reason to assume it will happen this early in the season. Tex just needs to start hitting, hitting for power, and hitting RHP and all will be well! Easy as pie.

  7. SamVa says:

    I just can’t wait until the week where all of them come out of a slump at the same time and we end up with Tex and A-Rod going back to back multiple times in a few games..
    (unrealistic expectation-yes possible- absolutely)

    In all seriousness though… imagine if all of the offense was running on all cylinders at the same time..
    that would be.. epic, to say the least.

  8. Ghost of Mark Fidrych says:

    That Rose chick is loonier than I was…

  9. Jeff Karstens, Male Model says:

    Maybe the off day will help some of the big stars remember that there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking!

  10. Captain Jack says:

    We should add to this list: Javier Vazquez, CC Sabathia, and Joba Chamberlain. The pitching’s sucked pretty hard lately too. Sabathia hasn’t been bad but with injuries plaguing the team he’s gotta step up.

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