Midseason Review: Incomplete Grades

Poll: The Best Moment of the First Half
Second Half Needs

During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It takes a total team effort to finish the first half with the best record in baseball, and the Yankees have already used 35 different players this season. Not all of them have made a significant contributions though, mostly because they simply haven’t had a chance to play all that much. I’m talking up-and-down relievers, miscellaneous fill-ins, and those who got injured.

Andy Pettitte
Blame Casey Kotchman. He hit the one-hop ground ball that fractured Pettitte’s left ankle on June 27th and will cause the left-hander to miss no fewer than two months. Prior to the injury, Andy’s return from retirement was a smashing success. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 58.2 innings with ungodly peripherals: 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. The strikeout and ground ball numbers are career bests by not small margins and the walk rate is more than half-a-walk better than his career average.

Obviously there are sample size issues with that, but what’s done is done. Pettitte pitched that well in his nine starts and the Yankees will miss him immensely in the second half. It’s unclear if he’ll come back with that kind of effectiveness — the injury was to his push-off leg — or if he’ll even come back period. Andy could decide that the rehab and getting back into playing shape is just too much. I wouldn’t bet on it, but you never know. It was a fluke injury, it happens, but it still put a major damper on the best story of the season.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Brett Gardner
The Yankees have gotten exactly nine games out of Gardner this year. He didn’t even start two of them, he came off the bench to play defense for exactly one inning each time. Those nine games include 34 plate appearances (.321/.424/.393 with two steals) and 14 defensive chances. That’s it, that’s all they’ve gotten out of Gardner in 2012.

An elbow injury suffered while making a sliding catch against the Twins is the culprit. It was diagnosed as a bone bruise and an elbow strain, and twice Gardner has suffered setbacks after working his way back in minor league rehab games. He’s not expected back until the end of this month at the earliest, over 100 games into the season. The Yankees have done just fine without Gardner in the lineup and in left field, but they sorely lack team speed and the defense can always use an upgrade. His absence has been notable.

D.J. Mitchell & Adam Warren
We figured we would see these two — and David Phelps as well — at some point this season, and it didn’t take all that long. Mitchell made his debut in relief in early-May and has thrown a total of 3.2 innings across two stints and three appearances with the big league club. He’s allowed one run, five hits, and one walk in that time. The Yankees are carrying him as a long reliever right now due to the Pettitte and CC Sabathia injuries, so he has a chance to stick around by simply pitching well and soaking up innings.

Warren’s introduction to the big leagues wasn’t nearly as kind. The White Sox tattooed him for six runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings late last month, his only appearance for the team. The Yankees called him up as an emergency replacement for Sabathia and sent him back to Triple-A the next day. You only get one debut and it wasn’t a good one for Warren, but he’ll surely get another chance to help the team at some point.

Chad Qualls, Darnell McDonald & Ryota Igarashi
All three midseason additions, all three having minimum impact thus far. Qualls was acquired from the Phillies in a minor trade less than two weeks ago and has allowed one run in his three appearances so far. He’ll stick around as a sixth or seventh inning matchup guy for the time being. McDonald was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox last week and went hitless in four plate appearances against his former team last weekend. He’ll most likely be remembered for causing Curtis Granderson to drop a routine pop-up on Saturday night. Igarashi has made all of one appearance for the Yankees since being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this year, allowing one run in one inning against the Mets. He’ll ride the Triple-A shuttle a few more times in the second half.

Poll: The Best Moment of the First Half
Second Half Needs
  • CountryClub

    Sherman called Gardner a 2 day a week type player in his column today. Insane.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, a 2 game player on All-Star week maybe…

      • jjyank

        Or if the other 5 starters that week are lefties, and even that’s probably not even true.

      • rogue

        Ted, I replied in the older Midseason Review thread when you asked me to elaborate on Swish.

        As for Gardner, I wonder if he has trade value. Before his injury I’ve been disappointed his is weak power numbers. Eventually pitchers will come around to reason and just throw him strikes. It’s folly to walk him. He’s a great base stealer and has a good eye at the plate. His D is stellar and he’s cheap. However, I’ve been saying for 2 years that the Yankees offense is overrated. I don’t think the current lineup is good enough to make a deep postseason run.

        • rogue

          OTOH, moving Granderson to LF and playing Gardner in CF would be a nice move.

          • Ted Nelson

            It might improve your defense (or might not), but it would make exactly zero difference offensively what positions they play defensively.

        • gc

          You don’t get the post-season do you? If a lineup like the 2010 Giants can win a world series, a lineup like the 2012 Yankees can win one. With this team, as with most teams in the post-season, it will be about getting hot at the right time. One pitcher can get hot and carry a team. One hitter can get hot and carry a team. And then weird stuff happens all the time on top of that, like Luis Sojo getting a game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game.

          • Rick in Philly

            Jose Vizcaino, Game 1, 2000 World Series.

          • rogue

            The 2010 Giants…

            # 1 in MLB in UZR/150
            # 1 in team ERA

            The Yankees D just plain sucks. They play their home games in a bandbox. CC was the goat in the 2011 ALDS. AJ out pitched him! Kuroda fares poorly against lefties. Despite his current resurgence, I still don’t trust Hughes. The only pitcher I feel good about right now is Nova.

            The offense was the culprit in the following playoff exits:
            2001 WS Yankees averaged 2 runs/g
            2003 WS Yankees held to 3 runs or less in 4/6 games (blanked at YS in Game 6)
            2004 ALCS Last 4 games Jeter/ARod/Sheff: 7/53 (.132) and these guys were in their prime!
            2006 ALDS Yankees went 17 straight innings without scoring a blessed run.
            2010 ALCS Team BA .201 OPS .670 (13 consecutive scoreless innings – 10/13 at YS).
            2011 ALDS Yankees lose Game 5 at YS 3-2. Beat by not Verlander, but the immortal Doug Fister.

            Yeah, I don’t get the postseason.

            This lineup needs help or the team will hit another October wall in 2012.

            • gc

              Yeah, I would definitely say that you still don’t get the post-season. Your arguments are so incoherent. You go on and on about the lineups and I bring up a recent example of a WORSE offensive lineup that won the World Series and you start talking about team ERA and UZR??? Make up your freaking mind! Wanna know why the Giants won the World Series in 2010? They got hot at the right time and outscored the Rangers 29-12, beating the seemingly invincible Cliff Lee twice. Yet they were an inferior offense in nearly every measurable way during the regular season to the Rangers (and the Yankees for that matter). And you arrogantly believe that there is absolutely no way this Yankees offense could do something similar?? You’re delusional if you think so. And I’m in no way saying that it’s guaranteed they will, only that you have to get to the post-season to win in the post-season. Once you get there, you take your shot, but a lot of it simply boils down to who gets hot at the right time. History had proven this time and time and time again in these short series. So YES I think you still don’t get the post-season.

        • jjyank

          Gardner’s never been a power guy. Not everyone can be a 5 tool player, but he’s still very valuable. Trading him would be a mistake, unless you want to keep running Ibanez out there. Sure, pitchers can throw him strikes, but a lack of power doesn’t mean he can’t get hits. And of course the current line up is good enough for a deep post season run. It’s one of the best in the league.

        • Dan

          Pitchers have always thrown Gardner strikes, he doesn’t get his walks because pitchers try to nibble because they are afraid of his non-existent power. Gardner’s greatest strength besides his speed is his ability to continually foul off pitches and drive up the pitchers pitch count. He works count better than just about anyone on the Yankee lineup and eventually pitchers try to get him to chase and he can work a walk.

    • JU

      Joel Sherman is a little weasel who writes things just to tweak his readers. There’s 29 teams that would want that 2 day per wk player on their team. And they’d probably be smart enough to play him in CF.

  • Eddard

    Andy doesn’t deserve an incomplete grade, he deserves an A+ for what he did to stabilize the pitching staff. It’s no surprise that Andy’s arrival led to our turnaround from a .500 club to a 1st place powerhouse. Andy mentored Phil and got him back on track. Freddy went to the pen and has flourished ever since. We need Andy to win the WS and he’ll be our #2 starter. I wouldn’t bet against him coming back better than ever.

    • Ted Nelson

      I would say that a veteran presence and being better than early season Garcia were part of expectations, though. These grades have been relative to expectations.

    • jjyank

      On that last sentence, that’s pretty much the silver lining I’ve been holding on to. With a 40 year old, there’s always concerns over fatigue. But Andy should be plenty fresh when he comes back. Just gotta hope he didn’t lose his groove with the time off.

      • Get Phelps Up

        Agree with this. Hopefully he’ll be able to take his time rehabbing and have 2-3 tune up starts in September before the playoffs, similar to what he did in 2010.

    • Hoss

      Agreed. Andy has been phenomenal. No one expected him to come back so he has been, as they say in New Orleans, “lagnappe” or bonus, with more to come.

      In terms of Warren, I very much doubt that you will see him make another start for the Yankees this year unless they have sewn up the AL East, are resting their starters, and Warren has surpassed Phelps, Mitchell and others on the depth chart. His debut was so bad that he has placed himself in the Mark Melancon, Jonathan Albaladejo doghouse after a single start.
      McDonald: Can we have an over/under on how long until he’s DFA’ed? He offers so much less than Wise. Sorry he had to cut the dreads, but they’re going to a good cause.

    • gc

      Not to discount Andy’s contributions here, but he pitched his first game for them on May 13th. They were 19-14 at the time. They lost that game and lost seven of the next nine games as well. They really didn’t take off until they hit the interleague part of the schedule on June 8th. Obviously, Andy did contribute to this, but it’s not like he did this single-handedly as you make it sound.

      As for his “mentoring,” while I’m sure Hughes has benefitted from veteran input such as Pettitte or Sabathia (or Rivera when he was in the bullpen), the biggest reason to me why Hughes has started to turn things around is because he’s finally HEALTHY. There are lots of reasons why the team has surged in the standings. Pettitte has been part of that, for sure, but lets not go overboard here. No single player has carried this team during their run, aside from MAYBE Cano. I love #46 as much as the next fan, but this team was too good not to start piling up some wins sooner or later.

      In regards to the incomplete grade, I think it’s valid. If Andy doesn’t come back from this injury, then a grade could be given, and I’m sure it would be very good. If he does come back but is a shadow of what he was before he went down, that would affect the grade as well. Hopefully he comes back and performs well and we’ll all be celebrate him and his contributions to another world championship. At that point, who really cares about grades?? :)

      • Ted Nelson

        Good points

  • Jersey Joe

    I think Nunez should be on this list as well. Entering the season, he was supposed to get about 200-300 PA with time at SS/3B. Despite his fielding issues, his batting line was great for a utility infielder and had he not been injured, he might be back up in the Bigs with his fielding issues resolved. I think that’s an “incomplete”.

    • CountryClub

      I’m not sure his fielding issues will ever be resolved. He was awful in the minors too, except for 1 yr. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s probably just who he is.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Despite his fielding issues, Nunez still put up a 0.4 fWAR in 20 games.

  • BK2ATL

    I don’t necessarily agree with including Pettitte in the incomplete grade list. While he’s only started 9 games, his impact on the rotation goes well past stats. It’s been stated that since he came back, both Hughes and Nova fell under his tutelage and they’ve been very good pitchers since. His own stats exceeded expectations. I can’t agree with calling this incomplete, due to his injury. His impact was significant.

    Now Gardner, I agree on. I’m not sure how notable his absence has been. I don’t particularly think that the Yankees couldn’t win without him. I mean, truth is, they have, and with Jones, Ibanez, and Wise holding down LF.

    His speed and defense haven’t been missed as much as it’s being made out. On defense, yeah, to some degree. Offensively, while he had a pretty good OBP and steal total, it’s not like he really causes havoc on pitchers in the same vein as a Mike Trout, who just came up, and has similar speed. Not comparing the two overall, just the speed aspect. Crawford was similar when he got on base. Gardner, for all of his speed, is pretty hesitant.

    If I were Cashman, after the season, if Gardner and Joba make it back to full health, I would look into trying to package them along with a Phelps/Mitchell, and Nunez to go after a real corner OF (Upton/CarGo) to absorb the Swisher move. It wouldn’t be too difficult to fill LF short-term, as LF is the easiest OF position. Within 2-3 years, Sanchez, Williams and Austin will be close to MLB ready, if all goes well. Phelps, Nunez and Romine would have legit value from other clubs. They would each benefit from playing consistently, something not probable in the Bronx.

    The organization could absorb Joba’s departure, since he’s been on and off over the past 3 years. Not much to miss there. Gardner is replaceable. Phelps and Mitchell don’t really figure into the long range plans in the Bronx, as Pineda is due back early next year and Banuelos will be in line, along with Betances. I could see Cashman doing something like this.

    • gc

      Pettitte’s impact may indeed have been significant, but unfortunately, that impact is really unquantifiable. Perhaps other players or coaches contributed to the mentoring process as well, perhaps both Hughes and Nova sorted some of their issues out on their own, and perhaps (as I stated earlier for Hughes especially) it was just a matter of finally being healthy. I won’t totally discount that Andy probably did have some sort of impact in this regard, I just don’t think we should fall into the easy narrative trap of saying it was all because of him that the season turned around as some are implying.

    • jjyank

      Totally disagree about missing Gardner’s speed. It seems like he might be too hesitant sometimes, but he stole 49 bases last year, and 47 in 2010. Also 26 in 2009 in roughly half a season’s plate appearances. That has a huge impact on the opposing team’s defense and pitching. Just because he’s not Mike Trout doesn’t mean his speed isn’t sorely missed and doesn’t have a big impact.

      • gc

        Agreed! Plus that speed most definitely does have an impact in the outfield.

      • BK2ATL

        Again, I was only comparing “speed” and how each used it. Not comparing their overall games.

        That Trout could come up and within a couple of months already have 26 of 29 SBs in 64 games, should shed light on how underwhelming the 47 and 49 SB numbers were over the course of the 162 game season. Sounds like a lot to a Yankees’ fan, but in reality it really isn’t. For example, Coco Crisp had 49 SBs in 136 games. Just saying.

        Trout already knows how to read pitchers and will force the issue on the basepaths, becoming a nuisance to any pitcher. I can’t call it reckless abandon as much as using his gift to be in better position to score. He runs with Pujols at the plate, and Pujols will actually take pitches to let him get in scoring position.

        Crawford, prior to being injured, when he got on base, it was almost a given that he was stealing. He was a game-changing menace on the bases, similar to how Trout is already.

        You would expect that Gardner would be in the same game-changing category, based on his 80 speed and experience, but I just don’t think that the case. For all of the hype and grit and everything, we’re been waiting….

        • jjyank

          Gardner’s 49 steals led the league last year. That’s still a lot of steals, I don’t care what 1 or 2 other players does. It’s significant.

    • jjyank

      Also…you think Gardner and Joba (coming off injuries), Phelps/Mitchell, and Nunez gets Upton or CargGo? Cashman would get hung up on before he could even finish the sentence.

      • BK2ATL

        And that’s all we got as far as current legitimate MLB-ready trade pieces going forward into 2013. Seems kinda sad to me, too.

        But then again, Kevin Towers is more than familiar with the Yankees’ farm system and took Ian Kennedy coming off of an arm aneurysm. Didn’t turn out that badly, did it?

        Joba was rated a better pitcher than Kennedy at the time, and if he comes back healthy, could be slotted as the Arizona closer in 2013.

        Nunez, for some reason, has a lot of value outside of the Bronx. If they stick him at SS or 2B for the remainder of the season, that value comes right back. Jerking him around from position to position, before he mastered SS this year, couldn’t have helped. Kid didn’t know where he was playing (SS, 2B, SS, OF) or when. Jayson Nix has been moved from position to position all of his career to date.

        Phelps has done nothing but increase his value this year. He could be a back-end starter for a number of teams, including our own, this year. While Arizona has higher-end SP prospects on the verge of MLB, Phelps could have a lot of value at the end of the year, if he continues to pitch well the rest of the year out.

        Mitchell needs more game experience and warrants an incomplete grade.

        • jjyank

          That package still doesn’t get you either of those guys.

          • jjyank

            To clarify: you want to trade two guys coming off significant injuries, a back end type starter, and an infielder with a fielding problem for a top tier corner outfielder under team control for well beyond this season. I’m sorry, that’s not happening. Where’s the high upside top prospect (or two)?

            • BK2ATL

              To turn it around, why is Upton even available? And apparently he is. CarGo probably not.

          • BK2ATL

            Yeah I know. That’s all we got.

            Gonna be an interesting off-season trying to backfill for Swisher, if they let him go.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Isn’t everyone an “incomplete” halfway through the season? :)

    Agree on all of these. I’d even add Robertson to this list. I honestly am not sure what I am looking at with him right now and whether he’s still not fully back.

    Pettitte belongs as an incomplete. It’s sweet to give him the A+ and all that, but his story will truly be told when he comes back.