First Half Review: 7 who fell short

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On Monday night Ben reviewed seven Yankees who performed better than we could have expected heading into the season. Those players have helped keep the team moving as various players slumped. Some of those slumps lasted longer than others, and that resulted in a number of players falling short of the expectations we had for them early in the season.

Nick Johnson

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Was an injury to Nick Johnson expected? To some extent it had to be. Even last year, when he was mostly healthy while playing for the Nationals and Marlins, Johnson still hit the disabled list for two weeks. But a season-ending injury in May? While it was a certain possibility I’m not sure any but the most cynical of fans had that in mind. It pays to be a cynical fan in that way — if you’re right you get to gloat and call everyone else an idiot, if you’re wrong you’re pleasantly surprised. It works well in a sport where the failures far outweigh the successes.

Even while Johnson was in the lineup he didn’t perform to expectations. As normal his OBP was high, on the strength of his superhuman 24.5 percent walk rate, but Johnson didn’t exactly hit to expectations. In fact, he had just 12 base hits in his 98 PA, while he walked twice as many times. Half of his hits did go for extra bases, a huge plus in a larger sample but mostly useless in Johnson’s case. He has been the big disappointment this season.

Chances are his season is done, even though the Yankees could use someone exactly like him right now. That’s a shame. There was so much potential there, and the Yanks realized none of it. They had to choose among injury risks for their DH spot, and they picked the one guy who didn’t stay healthy. Such is life.

Mark Teixeira

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/Canadian Press

It hurts me just a little to put Teixeira on this list. Sure, he was the source of mass frustration in April, and then again in May, and then for a little of June. His slumps have put him in a tough spot, a .254/.360/.465 line headed into the break. In terms of his career that’s off the mark, but a .361 wOBA looks pretty nice all considered.

Teixeira produced the worst April of his career, a mere .136/.300/.259, .271 wOBA. We were used to Tex getting off to slow starts, but this was much worse than last year when he hit .200/.367/.371, .330 wOBA. May started off well but then he slumped again and finished the month with a .280/.366/.475 triple slash, .366 wOBA. In June he stumbled again, a .353 wOBA, but he has recovered in July with a .545 wOBA through 50 PA. That makes his May 1 through the break numbers look a bit better: .291/.380/.529. I don’t think anyone will complain if he maintains that pace for the rest of the season.

Derek Jeter

Photo credit: Ben Margot/AP

At the beginning Derek Jeter was an equal opportunity first-pitch swinger. It seemed like he was swinging at all of them and, for the most part, grounding them all to shortstop. Yet through his first 23 games he was hitting .333/.367/.510. The lack of walks was a bit concerning, but as long as Jeter was hitting all was well. Unfortunately, his torrid start ceased right there.

In the course of just a few weeks Jeter saw his average tumble to .266, a span during which he was 12 for 71. He then climbed back over the .300 mark for a bit, but has steadily declined since. He peaked on June 1, when he was hitting .307 after a 2 for 3 day. Since then he’s hitting .221/.319/.321.

Why are we citing Jeter’s batting average above all else? Because his game seems so dependent on it this year. Or, at least, it was. Since the April in which he walked in just 3 percent of his plate appearances, Jeter has steadily improved, walking 6.4 percent of the time in May before walking in nearly 13 percent of his PA in June and July. His BABIP has fallen off in these months, so if he can just put it all together I think he can have a fine second half. It won’t look like last year, but it should look a bit better than 2008 if all goes well.

Alex Rodriguez

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

Again, this is not a guy I wanted to put on the list, but with his subpar first half numbers I couldn’t leave him off. A-Rod has had some shining moments for sure, including three grand slams and a few game-changing hits. Still, on the whole he’s been something of a disappointment, probably in part because of his hip issues.

Everything is down for Alex this year, even his strikeout rate. His defense has been fine, but suffered a bit when his hip hurt him the most (just before he sat out against Philly and Houston). Since June 1 he is hitting .232/.298/.464, which is nice from an isolated power perspective, but even then it’s sub-par for A-Rod. Hopefully his proclamation at the Home Run Derby, that he felt stronger, holds true in the second half. The Yanks will need his production.

Curtis Granderson

Photo credit: Rob Carr/AP

One thing we knew when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson is that he’d need to work with Kevin Long in order to correct the problems that plagued him last year. They went beyond mere bad luck on balls in play; Granderson was putting the ball in the air more often, and had been especially pull-happy. While lefties pulling the ball at the Stadium can produce quality results, it doesn’t usually make for a well-rounded player.

Granderson’s first half results can be rated as nothing but a disappointment. He has produced even less than he did last year, a .319 wOBA. His walk rate and power are down, which doesn’t go well with his .280 BABIP. The good news is that he’s putting the ball on the ground and hitting it on a line more often, so maybe he’s working out of it.

Unlike the others on the list I don’t have as high expectations for Granderson in the second half. It took Long a year to transform Swisher, just like it took him time to get Robinson Cano into a good spot. I imagine that we might see some improvement from Granderson in the second half — he can’t really do much worse at this point — but I don’t expect it to be revelatory. I will still maintain faith, however, that we’ll see a different Granderson in 2011.

A.J. Burnett

Photo Credit: Elise Amendola, AP

In April and May Burnett killed opponents, a 3.28 ERA and 3.37 FIP. He had a few bad games in there, notably a nine-run performance against Boston, but for the most part he was pitching very well despite a curveball that wasn’t working like normal. So his strikeouts were down, but he made up for that by keeping the ball on the ground more often than last year. But then June came and ruined everything.

Burnett’s June totals: 23 IP, 35 H, 29 R, 29 ER, 17 BB, 19 K, 9 HR. He had allowed four home runs in his previous 77.1 IP. That’s the entire reason he comes in below expectations. Even with his two excellent starts in July he still has a 4.75 ERA and 4.73 FIP. That’s not what the Yankees are paying $17.5 million for. Burnett will have to hold up his end of the deal in the second half. Thankfully, everyone surrounding him is picking up the slack.

The non-Mo bullpen

Photo credit: John Froschauer/AP

The list could go on forever if we listed all of these guys individually, so it’s best to just lump them together. In terms of peripherals the unit has been adequate. They rank 4th in the AL in OBP against, 5th in SLG against, and 4th in WHIP. The strikeouts could be better, 7.43 per nine, 7th in the AL. But as a unit they’re simply giving up too many runs, a 4.14 ERA that’s good for 9th in the league.

Here’s a quick rundown of the individuals in the pen and their deficiencies:

Joba: Too many hits allowed. Not sure if this is luck or him just trying to not walk guys. He has walked only 14 in 37.1 IP, a decent rate, but one he’s going to have to eventually bring down if he’s going to be a success in the setup role.

Robertson: Still trying to work off that Abreu grand slam. He walks way, way too many guys, though his strikeout numbers are again impressive, 32 in 29.2 IP.

Park: Hits, homers, and a lack of velocity. He’s dialed it up recently, but with few positive results to show for it. His time is running short.

Marte: Again, too many walks. Lefties are hitting just .146 against him and he has allowed just one extra base hit to the 31 righties he’s faced, but those walks — eight to righties — will hurt plenty. Especially with no one else in the pen to pick up for him.

Gaudin: Again with the walks. I see little reason to keep him around. He won’t once the next guy returns.

Mitre: Very good all considered. His WHIP is 1.00, fueled by a low hit rate, but maybe that’s something he can capitalize on in the pen. Once he returns from his batting practice injury I think he’ll get a shot in one-inning stints.

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Lyerly helps Charleston walk-off with a win
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  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

    Before the season had started, if someone had asked you if the Yankees could be in first place in the AL East with significant struggles from Jeter, A-Rod, Teix, Burnett, Granderson and Nick Johnson, you’d have unequivocally said no.

    At least I would have. A great thanks goes out to Gardner, Swisher, Cano, Hughes, Pettitte as guys who have really exceeded all expectations. Especially Gardner, and I get chills just typing that out considering how bearish I was on him.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      I’ve said this to you on twitter I believe….

      Gardner was supposed to be a good bench player. A 3.4 WAR at the All-Star break?

      Now this was unexpected….

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUvg7Empjfg Captain Jack

      Asshole Alert:

      Does that mean when some of the five that have exceeded expectations inevitably come back to earth that there’s cause for concern? Teixeira looks like he’s turned it around though, hopefully he has a monster second half.

  • ultimate913

    All of these not producing at the level we expect and yet they still have the best record.

    Be careful, rest of MLB.

    • Esteban

      Devil’s Advocate: What if A-Rod and Jeter don’t significantly improve? Cano’s already not playing as well as he was. Though Teixeira seems to be mashing now, so maybe the Yankees can deal with sub par seasons from A-Rod and the Captain.

  • Cecala

    Since all these guys are still on the team, can Randy Winn be considered the worst disappointment?

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      People weren’t expecting much from him to begin with. I expected more from him, but not much anyway. He was a bench guy.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUvg7Empjfg Captain Jack

        I even went so far as selling my season tickets.

        • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

          Haha, I remember someone doing this. Hilarious!

  • Carlosologist

    This may seem like a dumb question, but can someone tell me the how many PAs is equal to a full season?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

      Around 600 or more.

      • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

        I thought it was like 540-550?

        In 2006, Cano was in the race for the batting title, and he was injured for a month, but he still could’ve won.

        I believe he finished with around 540 PA’s.

        Stupid Joe Mauer won it! (grr)

        • forensicnucchem

          You need 502 PA according to MLB to qualify for batting titles and stuff.

          Generally though, you’d like your players to get at least 600 over a season, for 4 per game for 150 games.

          Guess it depends on exactly what Carlosologist wanted it based on.

          • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

            Ah okay, I was close enough. I was thinking of what MLB considers a season.

      • Carlosologist

        Thank you.

  • forensicnucchem

    Honorable Mention: Jorge Posada?

    He doesn’t seem to be able to stay healthy more than a couple days in a row, his defense has fallen off the cliff, and for a catcher with that defense, he’s not hitting to his normal levels since a hot start. .203/.337/.351 in June, .242/.375/.303 in July, 4 homers since late April and 3 of those came in a 4 game span in mid-May. He’s also been pretty terrible with men on base or in scoring position.

    I think Javy could also sneak in there considering he was so bad they had to skip a start with him. It’s just unfortunate that they got him for an even-numbered year. His odd years are better.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      It’s just unfortunate that they got him for an even-numbered year. His odd years are better.

      I chuckled when I read this. Funny enough, a baseball site wrote about how Derek Jeter was due for a great year in 2009 because every year that ended with a “9” was a great year for Jeter. I found it amusing, but it was actually true.

      Going down to his years in high school etc.

      • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

        They wrote this post before the 2009 season, which amused me even more.

      • forensicnucchem

        Nice, that’s even more of a stretch than mine.

        Here’s some more ‘flawed’ analysis for you:

        ERA+ in even years: 96.6
        ERA+ in odd years: 121.5

        Kind of a stark difference over a 13 year career.

  • http://www.secsports.com Eric SanInocencio

    Is it fair to put Brian Cashman on this list? I’m not sure, just asking.

    Several of the acquisitions listed above (Johnson, Granderson, Park) were part of Cashman’s offseason plan. Granted, the Yankees are in first place, but it might be fair to rate Cashman’s offseason a disappointment at this juncture. It can all change of course.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      Granderson is a bit more long term, so I don’t know if we could consider that a bad move.

      He can still have a good tenure in pinstripes. Park came at around 1.2 mil, so he was just a bargain piece.

      I don’t think Cashman made bad moves because looking at them from a logical standpoint you would expect those players to perform well. Hasn’t really worked out that way thus far. I understand your reasoning I guess.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

      He’s also constructed the team with the best record in baseball. Are there problems? Sure. There are with any time. Seriously, look at other teams. Show me their issues. I can pretty much guarantee you they’ll be worse than those of the Yankees or at least very negligible in difference. He has absolutely not been a disappointment.

      You could make a strong argument Nick Johnson was a mistake. It hasn’t panned out. But bear in mind that there is no crystal ball. The NJ signing certainly had some very strong justifications. A guy getting on base 40 + percent of the time in the 2-hole on a short contract? If that works out, he’s a genius. I loved the signing at the time and under those circumstances, I’d pull the trigger on that 100 out of 100 times. It didn’t work out; such is life.

      Park was a low-risk, medium-reward reliever they could easily cut bait with if it didn’t work out. I wasn’t a fan of the signing in the first place and I think they’ve stuck with him for too long to the detriment of the team, but that’s a fairly small quibble.

      The Granderson trade is something I’m also a bit ambivalent over. I didn’t have tremendous expectations in the first place (though I did think he’d outperform what he’s thrown up thus far) and parting with Austin Jackson and starting pitching depth was a bit difficult to swallow.

      Still, with Gardner in left field, Granderson in center and Swisher in right, the Yankees have one of the top defensive outfields in baseball. That itself offsets some of the lost offensive production, particularly from last year’s group (Gardner has equaled Damon’s production from 2009, Granderson is about ten wOBA points below Melky, and Swisher has outperformed…Swisher).

      His splits are still a huge concern, but frankly, if he hits righties well and provides excellent defense in center, he’s worth his salary and the most likely the loss of Jackson. Anything he can do with lefties is just gravy.

      • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

        This.

      • forensicnucchem

        “Granderson is about ten wOBA points below Melky”

        That line is and makes me sad…

        • JGS in sunburn-inducing Jerusalem

          Granderson (.319) is twelve points behind 2009 Melky (.331). 2010 Melky is wOBAing .297, 10th worst among 86 qualified NL hitters, and even that is vastly improved over where he was a month or two ago.

  • forensicnucchem

    You’re too kind to the bullpen, Joe. Considering everyone outside of Mo, you should look at their numbers with Mo removed (I’m sure you already spent a ton of time on this article, so that may have been too much) Here are some numbers without Mo:

    4.70 ERA (would be 12th in the league, 0.01 ahead of 13th)
    1.41 WHIP (would be 9th in the league)
    .258 BAA (would be 9th in the league, sorry, didn’t feel like working out the walks and HBP for OBP, but considering Mo’s numbers, it’s probably a similar jump)
    1.88 K/BB (would be 8th in the league)
    7.21 K/9 (doesn’t drop them in the rankings)

    They’ve also allowed 20 of 21 basestealers successfully (though we know how all the pitchers and catchers have been).

    It’s not a pretty sight.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      Okay, well then that’s still an unfair judgement of the bullpen.

      You would have to then eliminate the closer (or best reliever) of every team and see how they all stack up against the Yankees if you want to eliminate Mo from the equation.

      Your judgement process is extremely flawed because of this.

      • forensicnucchem

        I understand that (though extremely flawed might be a stretch :-)), but it gives you an overall look at the numbers since the bullpen without Mo is what’s being discussed, not the bullpen as a whole. Also:

        1. I’m not going to go through all the other teams to make the calculations

        2. Looking through reliever stats leads to only about one other player (Joaquin Benoit, who knew???) whose numbers are overall better than Mo (Valverde is close/arguable) and would tilt their teams rankings approximately as much as Mo. Since the Rays bullpen numbers are already so much better than the Yankees, they wouldn’t flip-flop with the Yankees in the rankings, so I stuck with it.

        • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

          It’s fine. I was just saying that taking a great reliever out of the equation would make any team look worse. That’s all.

          Yeah, extremely flawed was a stretch, but flawed isn’t.

          And I wasn’t telling you to eliminate every team’s best reliever to make calculations, I was just letting you know that the results aren’t telling the full truth because of this. In order to get accurate results you would have to take the more difficult approach (eliminating every team’s best reliever.)

          Either way the numbers do not look good, I just wouldn’t compare them to the rest of the league because of the aforementioned. Regardless if the difference is miniscule.

          • forensicnucchem

            Though you have now gotten me curious. Maybe I’ll try to run the numbers later or tomorrow.

            • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

              It would make for a good post I suppose. I don’t know if you have a website though.

              • forensicnucchem

                No way I have a website. I don’t have nearly enough interesting things to write (and don’t like writing anyway) to keep people interested. I’m just a numbers guy, but that would put people to sleep with nothing else around them. :-)

    • Rose

      Well this wasn’t anything new. Last year the Yankees benefited from circumstance with their bullpen…plus they had Phil Hughes in the 8th. David Robertson repeating what he did last year would put him in elite company almost immediately out of the gate and Aceves was pretty great himself. Phil Coke was off an on. This year, the bad bullpen arms remain bad…and the good/decent arms from last year either are hurt, have gotten significantly worse, or are no longer with the team.

      Joba and Robertson are pretty much the same guy and neither make anybody comfortable. And Park is just entirely unnecessary. Paying him to do what literally anybody else in baseball can do for league minimum is insanity at its best. But hindsight is 20/20 in that aspect.

  • http://www.paiva28.tumblr.com Chris

    I don’t agree with some of the things said on this list. A-Rod was not a dissapointment. Yes he didn’t do his best ever but he did better thatn anyone else would have with the injury he had and still has and you can tell within the last couple weeks his pain level went from almost unbearable to bearable and his average, defense, and home-runs have been rising but through it all he played and put as much on the field as he could. most people with his injury wouldn’t even be playing but A-Rod went out their and said I can risk it and play through the pain have a down year but my down year is better than a year Ramira Pena is going to give the team.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      It’s still a dissapointment from the norm.

      People set a different standard for A-Rod. No, he’s not having a bad season, but he’s definitely not having an A-Rod type of season.

      If Albert Pujols has a 3.5 WAR season, would that be considered a bad year? No it wouldn’t, but by the standard he has set you would expect better.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

      Ok, I’ll play.

      I don’t agree with some of the things said on this list.

      Alright then. Let’s see what we have here.

      A-Rod was not a dissapointment. Yes he didn’t do his best ever but he did better thatn anyone else would have with the injury

      How can we know he’s done better than anyone else who would potentially have that injury?

      you can tell within the last couple weeks his pain level went from almost unbearable to bearable and his average, defense, and home-runs have been rising but through it all he played and put as much on the field as he could.

      How do we know his level of pain was “unbearable” and then gradually bearable? Do you have some sort of citation? I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong, but it sounds a bit hyperbolic.

      his average, defense, and home-runs have been rising but through it all he played and put as much on the field as he could.

      Agreed. There’s been an upward trend and kudos goes to him for playing hard through it all. Now, that being said, considering the expectations, has he still met them? Well the numbers say no. I’m going to agree with Joe here.

      most people with his injury wouldn’t even be playing but A-Rod went out their and said I can risk it and play through the pain have a down year but my down year is better than a year Ramira Pena is going to give the team.

      If Ramiro Pena had thrown up those numbers we’d have said he’d performed way better than we could have imagined. But a top-5 player like A-Rod? No. They are disappointing. It’s all about the expectations. If you thought he’d struggle at this level with the injury having played a part, fine, but most fans think the line is disappointing. Can’t find any fault in that either. Good for being a warrior and playing through injuries but look at it objectively. I love A-Rod and am glad he’s Yankee, but metrics tell us he’s not hit what we thought, even considering the circumstances.

      • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

        Basically A-Rod isn’t meeting his expectations. Nice points nonetheless.

  • Rose

    It pays to be a cynical fan in that way — if you’re right you get to gloat and call everyone else an idiot, if you’re wrong you’re pleasantly surprised. It works well in a sport where the failures far outweigh the successes.

    Ding! Hit the nail right on the head. A lot of people also do this to (irrationally) try some “reverse” jinx on the situation. Baseball is (and has always been) a very superstitious game…and even the fans take part in it from time to time (i.e. the announcers jinxing a no hitter from their booth, etc.) If they (the cynical fans) use this “reverse” jinx technique…it’s as if they feel they have some form of control over the game. Good or bad. If the opposite of what they said happened – it’s because they made it happen by “reverse jinxing” it. If it didn’t work then they can brag that they “told you so.” It is what it is.

  • CS Yankee

    Fact: Last year the bullpen was weak in the first half as well.

    Fact: “New Joe” is a better ‘pen manager than “Old Joe”.

    Fact: Yankees have a couple solid options baking in AAA.

    Seems like New Joe will take chances in developing his set pieces but after a while will cut them without remorse. The best example I can think of this was Farnsworth…Old Joe would let him rot (week or so) between bad performances but New Joe went out of his way to support him. Yes, the results weren’t that much different in the Farnsworth saga but at least the excuses were removed.

    I like that he will give you enough rope to pull the wagon or hang yourself. Gaudin pulled it well last year but is barely breathing this year.

    I would expect that Albie’s new approach will net him a ticket soon and Gaudin/CHoP/Drob/Joba will be made available (1st 2 DFA’d, 2nd two less used) or roles reshuffled soon.

  • A.D.

    Good thing about this is there’s a few back of the baseball card guys who should rebound nicely in the 2nd half, and sooner or later the pen should get better.

  • DSFC

    The fact that anyone is actually anxious for the return of Sucko Sergio Mitre says all you need to know

  • Mister Delaware

    If we were told, before the season, that our 8 position players would rank in order of 1st half descending OBP …

    Gardner, Cano, Swisher, Posada, Teix, Rodriguez, Jeter, Granderson

    or the reverse

    Granderson, Jeter, Rodriguez, Teix, Posada, Swisher, Cano, Gardner

    … would anyone have correctly picked the former? Even knowing that’s correct, isn’t the narrative for 2 still easier to come up with? Weird season.

    • Ghost of Scott Brosius

      The one that really throws you off is Jeter. We’ve come to expect very high quality seasons from him, particularly in the realm of OBP. It’s probably why his struggles are the ones that annoy me the most. He’s the player I’d most like to turn it around in the second half, and in some ways he’s the player I’m the most concerned about.

  • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    I had June for the Nick Johnson season ending injury. Do I win a consolation prize?

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