April 2012 Monthly Wrap-Up

On the Yankees and developing pitchers
Gardner still feeling pain in elbow, will be shut down for a few days

With one month officially in the books it’s time for this year’s inaugural edition of the Yankees Monthly Wrap-Up series. For those unfamiliar with my monthly rundowns, feel free to check previous editions out here.

At 13-9 (1.5 games out of first), April 2012 was a solid month overall for the Yanks despite some of the worst starting pitching any of us have seen from the team in quite some time. By comparison, a year ago the Yanks finished out April 15-9 and were 1.5 games up in first.

The Offense

The Yankee offense — and bullpen — were the reasons the team was able to compile a winning record in April. Not much to complain about here, as the Bombers had the second-highest wOBA in the AL after the Rangers, and the best offense in the game when adjusted for park and league. Interestingly, the Yankees’ .358 team wOBA in April was better than every monthly wOBA they put up in 2011 except for last August, when they annihilated the ball to the tune of a .378 wOBA. Out of the Yankees’ last 67 months’ worth of play (dating back to the beginning of the 2001 season), this was the team’s 21st-best monthly offensive performance by wOBA, and the 8th-best by wRC+.

The Yankees somewhat oddly hit a slightly-below-league average percentage of fly balls, but when they did put them in the air they cleared the fence at the best rate in the league. Less surprisingly they saw a below-league-average percentage of fastballs — I say less surprisingly because, as always, they hammered the fastball (top wFA/C in the league). They also saw the second-highest percentage of two-seamers.

On an individual basis, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher carried the day, and their significantly above-average performances helped pick up the disappointing months put up by notorious slow-starter Mark Teixeira (87 wRC+), and, more surprisingly, Robinson Cano (93 wRC+). I’m actually fairly surprised more hasn’t been made of Cano’s nonexistence at the plate thus far; he’s given the team almost nothing and it’s kind of crazy to think how good the offense could be if he were contributing. Russell Martin also had a forgettable month (88 wRC+), but he’s not expected to shoulder a significant portion of the offensive load. For those wondering, Jesus Montero hit .259/.271/.420 in April, while the Yankees have gotten .236/.304/.393 out of the players that have hit in the DH slot so far this season.

Starting Pitching

I more or less covered the Yankees’ wretched April starting pitching on Friday, but it’s worth nothing that CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were able to help keep the Yankees from registering their worst month of starting pitching in 10 years, though at 5.80 they did secure their second-worst month of collective starters’ ERAs since 2002.

At varying points during April CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova each looked very good, but each also contributed some shaky starts. Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes were flat-out terrible. If he had enough innings to qualify Hughes’ horrendous 2.9 HR/9 would be second-worst in all of baseball.

Bullpen

The bullpen was insane in April, with a 2.00 ERA that was the team’s third-lowest monthly ERA of its last 61 months. While ERA is a flawed metric — even moreso for relief pitchers — that’s still pretty ridiculous. The only months the Yankees’ relief corps have pitched to a lower ERA since 2002 were August 2002 (1.57) and August 2010 (1.82). I hope you all enjoyed the Yankee bullpen relief performance in April, because we won’t be seeing it again for a while.

Any conversation about the bullpen has to start and end with David Robertson, who continued the stretch of dominance he kicked off a year ago by allowing no earned runs over 11 innings and striking out 14.73 men per nine in April. One of these days D-Rob might give up a run, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen again for a long, long time. David Phelps was the only member of the ‘pen who really registered a “poor” performance by the numbers, although his ability to mop up multiple innings while mostly still keeping the team close was certainly useful, and his ledger is partially skewed by a presumably unsustainable propensity for giving up the long ball (2.04 HR/9). If Phelps can throw to an ERA anywhere near what xFIP thinks he can (4.11), he’ll be a more-than-serviceable replacement for Sweaty Freddy as the fifth starter.

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On the Yankees and developing pitchers
Gardner still feeling pain in elbow, will be shut down for a few days
  • Robinson Tilapia

    Fantastic job, Larry. What a wonderful addition this is going to be.

    • Larry Koestler

      Thanks much, Robinson; I really appreciate that.

  • JB

    “I hope you all enjoyed the Yankee bullpen relief performance in April, because we won’t be seeing it again for a while.”

    I expect lights out all year from this bullpen.

    • Larry Koestler

      I think we can certainly expect them to be very, very good and likely among the top three ‘pens for most of if not the entire year, but they’re probably not going to ring up a 2.00 ERA again.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        “but they’re probably not going to ring up a 2.00 ERA again.”

        Sure. Next you’ll be telling me that Jeter can’t possibly keep hitting .400 all season.

  • RetroRob

    As we all know, Cano can be streaky at times, and he used to have the reputation of being a slow starter. That disappeared over the last couple years, but seems to have resurfaced again.

    While A-Rod hasn’t been great, he has contributed. Tex has had a few big hits. Cano, though, has been a total zero. I think Pineda and overall pitching issues has been the storyline the media has focused on from the Yankees point of view, and the Albert Pujols situation has been the national story on slow starts. We’re into May now, so I expect the media heat to rise on Cano.

    I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of person. I can see the 3,4 & 5 hitters on the Yankees getting hot all at once and a lot of teams paying the price. They’ll need to, since Jeter is not going to be hitting .400 all year, and Nick Swisher is not going to drive in 170 RBIs.

    Jeter has “only” scored 16 runs in 23 games. That does project out to over 100, but it illustrates the failure of the middle of the lineup to drive him in more. Jeter’s been on base so much, and has been in scoring position quite frequently that he should have been plated more times. He’s scored himself four times, or 25% of his total, with HRs, and Swisher and Granderson have knocked him in too, but he should easily be leading the league in runs scored if the core of the Yankees lineup wasn’t slumping.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    what kind of impact do you think a healthy Gardner would bring to the team?

  • flamingo

    I really enjoyed reading this.

    And I’ve always been a fan of giving prospects a chance, but there’s still almost no way he’ll be worse than Freddy, even allowing for growing pains.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    As a Yankee fan, I think you can wrap up April pretty succinctly by simply stating that they should be glad it’s now May.

  • JohnC

    Apparently , Yankees have signed Cuban OF Adonis Garcia

  • Betty Lizard

    Wow! Thank you, Larry, for the delicious data!

  • jjyank

    Great right up, Larry. But you HAD to mention Montero, huh? Not sure if Larry’s been reading the comments in some of today’s other posts, but I think we’ve had enough mentioning of him.

    Anyway, it was a good read. Considering our pitching problems I think 13-9 (now 13-10) is perfectly fine. Once things click on all cylinders, the Yanks will be unstoppable.

    • jjyank

      *write up