Jul
09

Midseason Review: Meeting Expectations

By

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?

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

The Yankees head into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball at 52-33 despite having only played 14 games against teams with a losing record. I guess that’s what happens when all but three AL teams have a .500+ record, including every club in the AL East. Despite that win-loss record, the Yankees don’t seem to have clicked on all cylinders yet. The bullpen carried them in April, the rotation carried them in May and June, and the offense has shown flashes of being dominant but hasn’t really 100% clicked yet. That means there is still room for improvement. Here are the players who have been performing in line with preseason expectations…

Derek Jeter
At this time last year, the Cap’n was really just starting to get going. He hit a weak .270/.340/.370 in 2010 and was sitting on a .260/.324/.324 batting line when a calf injury forced him to the disabled list last June. The injury proved to be a blessing in disguise for Jeter, who worked with hitting coordinator Gary Denbo at staying back on the ball. He hit .331/.384/.447 after returning on Independence Day and he’s carried that success over into 2012.

Now, obviously the 38-year-old shortstop wasn’t going to hit that well all season, but Jeter has posted a rock solid .308/.354/.411 batting line in the first half this year. He had a huge April, a so-so May, and a poor June before picking things back up in early-July. Derek has already hit more homers this season (seven) than he did last season (six), and he’s on a similar stolen base pace (seven in nine chances so far). As you’d expect, most of his damage is coming against lefties (.381/.405/.552) but at least he’s putting up more of a fight against righties (.278/.333/.353) than he did in 2010 and the first half of 2011.

(AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Curtis Granderson & Robinson Cano
The Yankees two best offensive players last year have continued to be just that in 2012. Cano is right in the mix for the AL MVP award at this point thanks to his .313/.378/.578 line and 20 homers, exactly what we’ve come to expect from Robbie over the last few years. He’s unquestionably the best player on the best team in baseball and is in the middle of a career year, both at the plate and in the field. Despite a slow start in April, Cano continues to be brilliant.

Granderson has shown that last season’s power spike was no fluke, carrying a team leading 23 dingers into the break. He ranks fourth in the AL in long balls and is just a touch behind last season’s pace, when he went deep 25 times in the team’s first 85 games. Granderson’s .248/.352/.502 batting line is second only to Cano in its gaudiness, and he’s currently walking in a career best 13.1% of his plate appearances, the eighth best walk rate in the league. His strikeout rate (25.9%, eighth in the AL) is also a career high, but you take the bad with the good. When Curtis stops hitting the ball out of the park and getting on-base, the whiffs will become more of an issue.

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda & Ivan Nova
Given the uncertainty surrounding Phil Hughes, these three came into the season as the guys Joe Girardi would rely on for quality outings once every five days. Sabathia has battled his fastball command all season long but he still carries a 3.45 ERA and 3.21 FIP into the All-Star break. His strikeout (8.83 K/9 and 23.1 K%), walk (2.44 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%), and ground ball (49.8%) rates are right in line with last season, his best in New York. A minor groin strain landed Sabathia on the DL for the first time in pinstripes but he’s expected back right after the break.

Kuroda got tagged with the inconsistent label early on but has been a rock since late-April, allowing no more than two earned runs in ten of his last 14 starts. His 3.50 ERA is the 13th best in the junior circuit and the peripherals are solid as well: 4.07 FIP, 6.92 K/9 (18.4 K%), 2.67 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), and 47.4% grounders. Kuroda’s given the team exactly the kind of stability they expected when they signed him to that one-year, $10M pact last offseason.

Following last night’s grind-it-out win, Nova has already struck out more batters this season (100) than he did a year ago (98) in 55.1 fewer innings (232 fewer batters faced). An early-season bout of homeritis — 12 homers in his first nine starts but just five in his last eight — has his ERA at 3.92 (4.32 FIP), but that has been coming down steadily over the last two months. Nova is missing bats (8.16 K/9 and ), limiting walks (2.69 BB/9 ), getting ground balls (48.3%), and soaking up innings (110.1 IP, 11th in the AL). He’s taken a nice big step forward in his second full season.

Have yourself a weekend, Andruw. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Andruw Jones, Jayson Nix & Chris Stewart
The Yankees aren’t usually known for their bench players, but this season they’ve gotten some fantastic work out of their reserves. No one is having a truly awful year off the bench, especially after Andruw Jones clubbed four homers in the two-day span this weekend. He’s hitting .244/.326/.535 with 11 homers overall, including .253/.305/.529 with seven homers against lefties.

Nix took over once Eduardo Nunez‘s defense landed him back in Triple-A, and although his .221/.284/.412 line is nothing to write home about, he’s done most of his damage against lefties .256/.293/.436 in sort of a platoon/rest the regulars role. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by his defense, particularly at short. He’s not great, but he’s not an embarrassment. Offensive expectations for Stewart were so low that his empty .256/.276/.293 batting line feels like a win. His defense hasn’t been as great as advertised but overall, he’s a solid backup that has probably gotten a little too much playing time in the first half (has started 30% of the team’s games).

David Robertson, Boone Logan & Clay Rapada
The bullpen has continued to be a strength for the Yankees, just as it has been for the last three or four years now. They’ve pitched to a 3.20 ERA (3.37 FIP) as a unit, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that Mariano Rivera threw only 8.1 innings before blowing out his knee shagging fly balls in May. Robertson missed a month with an oblique strain but his strikeout (14.59 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and walk (4.38 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%) rates have actually been better than his breakout campaign a year ago. He’s run into more trouble than usual lately, but he wasn’t going to sustain what he did last year anyway. Robertson remains highly effective and one of the game’s most dominant late-inning relievers.

Logan stepped up in a huge way when Robertson hit the DL and the workload has been catching up to him of late; he’s pitched in 43 of the team’s 85 games, the most appearances in baseball. His 3.77 ERA (3.55 FIP) is backed up by a sky-high strikeout rate (11.90 K/9 and 30.6 K%) and he’s held left-handed hitters to a .235/.293/.397 batting line. His lefty specialist counterpart has been effective since being plucked off the scrap heap, as Rapada has held same-side hitters to a .150/.246/.217 line that is essentially identical to his .152/.250/.219 career performance. If anything, you can probably make a strong argument that he’s exceeded expectations, same with Nova, Cano, and Kuroda (considering the league switch).

Categories : Players

59 Comments»

  1. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    All I have to say is it really sucks having no meaningful baseball till Friday, though I’m looking forward to seeing Robbie defend his home run derby crown tonight.

    • BK2ATL says:

      Selfishly I’m not.

      I think he could use some rest to recharge the batteries for the 2nd half. I hope he’s just one and done, then maybe 2-3 innings on Tuesday.

      Proud of him for being chosen, but he’s our best player right now. We’ll need him to be his normal productive self in the 2nd half.

  2. Anthony says:

    Jete’s going to be on the Letterman Show tonight! He’s doing the Top Ten list, specifically.

    • RetroRob says:

      I’m guessing he’s doing it from KC. I’m pretty sure all players are required to be at the All-Star Game location today, even if they’re not part of the HR Derby. It’s a full three days for all the players.

  3. jjyank says:

    I love that Cano being in the MVP conversation is him “meeting expectations”. It’s true, but just awesome to think about.

  4. Dela G says:

    I thought Eppeley and soriano also have exceeded expectations. Who thought that after the quasi disaster last year, soriano would turn it around and be this dominant? Eppeley i was praying just would tread water until joba would come back, but he’s been super effective. He was god awful in texas, but has been amazing in ny

  5. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    I expected much more of a decline in the older players, which is nice since they seem to be progressing still(except A-Rod).

    Also, R.A. Dickey got robbed. LaRussa must be too busy writing love notes to Glen Beck and drinking to watch any baseball this year.

    • Anthony says:

      Heh. Word has it Dickey’s knuckleball would have given Posey problems, and that’s why he isn’t starting.

  6. Frank says:

    Chavez deserves props as well. Nice first half of the season. Hope he holds up physically.

  7. BK2ATL says:

    Where’s Soriano on this list??? All he’s done is solidify the closer role with Mariano going down. This cannot be understated nor ignored. Probably the most overlooked and underappreciated piece in the 1st half success.

    • jjyank says:

      This is the meeting expectations list. Some of the guys who are getting props will be on the exceeding expectations list in the next day or two.

    • Fin says:

      I agree. It drives me nuts when people say “hope he opts out after this year” after every close. The Yankees had a closer entering his 40s last year, and a pretty bad pitching staff on paper going into the season so they over paid a closer to accept the setup role to create a dominate bullpen and have insurance for Mo. The Yankees used their financial might to do something no other team can do.

      Mo getting hurt was a freak accident, but it can be no suprise that a 41yr old pitcher is on the DL, he could just as easily fallen off a cliff performance wise as many others have done. Soriano is turning out to be a smart signing, and I for one certainly hope he doesnt opt out as a 42yr old Mo missing a full season is no sure thing next year. Unfortunately, with the year he is having its very possible he opts out for a lesser AAV contract but more years.

      • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing with Balls and/or RI$P FTW) says:

        people on this site are OBSESSED with draft picks. thats the reason people were upset. mike has provided phenomenal coverage and insight into the minor leagues and prospects on here, but the downside is that hes created a monster.

  8. yooboo says:

    Finally to see Nova’s ERA under 4. Now he needs to have well pitching and good game at the same time more often in this 2nd half.

    Stewart’s struggling is due to with unfamiliarity since he was traded to Yanks right before the season began. Since he has seemingly settled down defensively, thus more playing time.

    Hopefully, Martin has a good rest break but he is a typical player who split a season almost equally. Yanks need to watch out on that part and keep searching for a viable catching upgrade just in case.

    I am pretty sure that Yanks have most expensive off bench players in MLB. lol. Anyways, it is nice to see Ibanez and Jones pick up a slack as a starter in place of speedy Gardner.

    Wise may be a reason I don’t mind parting Gardner to upgrade another position. Wise is much stronger and healthier than Gardner whose body fat is minimal. Actually, I think Gardner will be out of season, anyway.

    I am very curious about how will Girardi set or shape up the bullpen with Chamberlain, Aarsdma?, Thomas and Feliciano coming off DL. Those DL with potential coming off DL in second half may be a reason Girardi went ahead and abused bullpen. Cruel but it is business.

    • BK2ATL says:

      Stewart looked pretty bad yesterday. I’ll chalk it up to fatigue, but something to keep a close eye on. Not that either Romine or Cervelli at this stage deserve to take over that role. We need Martin to step it up, point blank.

      I’m leaning towards not counting on Gardner much this season either. The combo of Jones, Wise, and Ibanez are doing a pretty good job. Plus Skeets Rodriguez is winding the clock back on the basepaths. LOL!!!

      No news on Aardsma, but sounded like a complete regression in rehab. Joba’s ahead of schedule. Feliciano might earn some part of that contract this season.

      I’m thinking only Joba will make it back before Sept. Aardsma (maybe), and Feliciano in Sept. IF all goes well.

  9. Rich in NJ says:

    Is there a way to find to statistical basis to support or refute the idea that Stewart calls a better game than Martin?

    • BK2ATL says:

      I don’t think there’s statistical, visual or pull-out-of-the-ass-tical basis for that.

      LOL!!!

    • Tom says:

      Not a meaningful one.

      It’s all subjective as there are too many variables
      - opposing lineup
      - pitcher on the mound
      - score/count/runners onbase vs empty,
      - ability of the pitcher to execute the pitch that is called
      - adjusting to account for what the pitcher has working or not working that day
      - pitcher shaking signs off

      You have to think that a guy like Girardi (or any manager that was a former catcher) has a better idea than most, but it is all just mainly opinion.

  10. Rey22 says:

    I think Boone Logan deserves a spot in the exceeded expectations. It was barely a year ago even RAB had a picture of him with a huge red X on his face calling him the LNOGY, I remember the feeling of dread every time he walked on to the field to pitch. Instead, this year, prior to being gassed recently, he’s been a perfectly serviceable setup man. I certainly didn’t have that in my expectations for him.

    • thenamestsam says:

      Yup. Logan has definitely been an exceeded expectations for me. He’s gone from being a much maligned LOOGY to a critical part of the bullpen capable of doing it against lefties or righties. His number of appearances is a testament to how important he has become to Girardi’s bullpen. Definitely exceeding expectations.

  11. Darren says:

    Cano’s defense is otherworldly. The old second baseman that came close is Alomar, and Cano is better.

    • Chris in Maine says:

      I laughed so hard that my Coca-Cola shot out of my nose. Cano better than Alomar defensively? LOL

      • Darren says:

        It must be easy to make you laugh.

        Cano is better at the double play. Better at balls up the middle. Better at the relay throw. Alomar probably did have more range but Cano makes everything look so easy it’s tough to tell.

        In any case, it’s a reasonable argument to make.

    • Fin says:

      I doubt that Cano is a better defender than Alomar. If you were around to watch Alomar in his prime he was as good as it gets.

    • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing with Balls and/or RI$P FTW) says:

      alomar had incredible range. cano has a better arm and turns a better double play, but alomar was an out machine back in the day.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      Cano is underrated defensively but Alomar was the Ozzie Smith of 2nd basemen except he had a better arm than Ozzie.

  12. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Cano is simply not meeting expectations. People were considering letting Cano walk and keeping Swisher.

    He exceeded expectations greatly. He’s a legit top 5 player in the MLB.

    • CountryClub says:

      I’d still rather they let him walk than give him a 7 or 8 yr deal at 20+ mil per. Terrific player, but history says he only has a couple of prime years left. I’d rather they not pay a premium for his decline.

      • Randi B says:

        Great point. The Yanks will be paying premium dollars for declining players for the next 3-5 years. **sigh**

        • Fin says:

          THe Yankees will always be paying players in their declining years. ITs the cost of winning every year. Cano should be no different than those that came before him. I think a 7 year deal around 120-140 is what we are looking at for Cano. I’m fine with that. Hell they gave Jeter a 4 year deal at the age of 37 for 16mil per. Its a risk but a smaller risk than signing some other big name FA to the same deal. It seems that these days, great players dont typically become FA until sometime around age 30. They certainly cant just let him walk and not replace his production somewhere with another big name, similarly priced FA. All I see is people wanting to let every FA the Yankee have walk with half assed replacements. Swisher walk and use some platoon, Grandy walk and use Gardner and an unkown left fielder, Cano walk and Cojo/adams.

          I dont really know the answer with Grandy and Swish, but I’m all for signing Cano for 7yrs if thats what it takes. THey have to sign somone and in my opinion Cano should, without a doubt be that someone.

      • toad says:

        You can’t let Cano walk.

        True, he likely won’t be as good at age 36 as he is now, but so what? It’s a fallacy to think that if he signs for $140/7 say, that you’re going to be paying him $20 million for his age 36 season. You can think of it as something like $100/4 and $40/3 or whatever. The point is the size of the entire package – pay and performance over the contract term – not the timing of the payments.

        Here’s an idea that might be more applicable to an older player but could work for Cano. Give him $165/10 and pay him $20 for the first seven and $8.33 for the last three at ages 37-39. (Adjust the numbers to suit yourself.) That drops the AAV to $16.5 from $20. You carry the AAV for longer, true, but who knows what the limits will be after 2016.

  13. j says:

    So lame to hear the ESPN feed last night talk about how no Yankee hitter was having a great season.

    • Rocky Road Redemption says:

      With Cano on the team that’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

      On the other hand, ESPN is the network that had all 42 of its analysts pick the Red Sox to win the division last year, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at this.

      • Fin says:

        Cant kill ESPN analysts picking the Sox to win the division last year. GOing into the year, on paper, the Sox were easily the best team in the AL east. The Yankees looked like the rotation would be a disaster with Colon, Garcia, Nova and AJ coming off a bad season. No one could have predicted how well Garcia, Colon and Nova would pitch. I thought the Sox would win the division and thought with the pitching staff the Yankees had on paper that they would be in a fight for the wild card spot with the Rays.

    • Jon in CUO says:

      Actually, I believe what they said was that the Yankees will be so tough to catch down the stretch because they don’t have any players that are having obvious career years. Since none of the performances we’ve seen so far are obviously unsustainable, the Yankees won’t come crashing back down to earth like some other teams would.

      That’s a lot different than the spin you put on it.

    • LiterallyFigurative says:

      Cano isn’t on pace for a super year, by his standards anyway. Homers aside, he’s behind his RBI pace from the past two seasons. And his RISP issues are well documented.

      • Need Pitching (and maybe hitting too) says:

        Currently on pace for career high AB/HR, BB%, ISO, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, OPS, OPS+, and WAR. The RISP and Bases Loaded issues have been big, but have been much improved lately. He had only 4 RBI as of May 5, so he’s definitely picked up the RBI pace.

        That said, he’s in the midst of an extended hot streak and may well fall off his current pace.

    • RI$P FTW says:

      What ESPN were you watching????????

  14. Mike HC says:

    Nice write up. Looking forward to the rest of the first half review.

  15. I personally think that Rappada deserves to be in the “exceeding expectations” and that Raul Ibanez belongs here in the “meeting expectations” besides that, spot on write up as always.

    • Fin says:

      I think the fact that Ibanez helped carry the offense to start the season, and is a big reason why the Yankees didnt find themselves in a huge hole after April is why he should be in exceeded expectations. Since his hot start he has been meeting expectations. Overall, Ibanez has been much better and more valuable than I, and I think, many others around here thought he would be. He has also played a much bigger role than imagined, and done and admirable job in the field.

    • BK2ATL says:

      Both deserve to be in the exceeding expectations group.

      Rapada was a pure scrap-heap pick-up, that Cashman and co. identified for lefty-only status. He not only had a great spring, but he’s produced when called upon throughout the year. This was certainly unexpected, and considering that Cesar Cabral was the popular choice coming out of ST until he injured his arm his arm.

      Ibanez wasn’t supposed to be in the field this often. He was supposed to be our DH/5th OF. He’s done a credible job out there, but I think spending so much time in the field is probably affecting him at the plate. He is 40 yo after all. I’d still rather Ibanez over Damon or Matsui at this stage. He’s been productive and I think he’ll rip off another hot streak in the 2nd half.

  16. Kered Retej says:

    Sorta OT, but that picture at the top of the article is pretty “epic” (as my 9-year old is find of saying).

  17. Robinson Tilapia says:

    This seems about right, except for Logan and Rapada exceeding expectations for me. Most were expecting Logan to be standard LOOGY fare and Rapada to be DFAed by May. Neither came close to happening.

    Honestly, I’d say Alex has met my personal expectations. I was never expecting the moon and the stars.

    Ibanez? Exceeded.

    • Fin says:

      Yep, a 37 year old with that hip issue, is playing at least up to what reasonable expectations could be. Its still not easy to watch though. In my heart I still beleive he could have a monster second half and tear the cover off the ball, but my mind tells me different.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        If 15-20 HRs, 75 RBIs, and hitting around .270 is what we get from him the next 3-4 seasons, I’ll take it as long as still plays a good 3B. There’s nothing you can do about how much he earns to do that. What’s done is done.

    • BK2ATL says:

      I’m not so sure I agree with you about Alex. I was hoping for better power numbers and higher averages, although not moon and stars. In our lineup, this shouldn’t be that difficult as he will see good pitches to hit.

      Arbitrarily, maybe around .290/.370/.480/.850 ish type of line with maybe 20 doubles, 16-18 HRs, 50 RBIs.

      If he picks it up in the 2nd half, if may still be in line for what I was expecting out of him for the year (28-30 HR, 95-105 rbis, 35-40 doubles, 10 SB, .285/.375/.480/.850 ish).

  18. forensic says:

    I’m kind of pessimistic by nature, so I would have Jeter, Nova, Kuroda, and Logan above expectations. Cano is kind of in between, but even he’s a little above too.

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