Jeter, Chavez, Swisher leading offensive surgeBy
When Derek Jeter took Fransisco Liriano’s first pitch over the wall in left field, it was not only his fourth leadoff homer of the year, but also his fourth home run since the All-Star break. That’s no small accomplishment, considering the 162 PA sample. In fact, Jeter’s second half as a whole had led the way for the Yankees offense.
Even though they’ve slowed the pace a bit since coming back from the break, going 20-18 against a 52-33 first-half record, little blame lies with the offense. They’ve improved a bit in terms of sheer numbers, a 120 sOPS+ vs. a 118 sOPS+ in the first half, and they’ve scored a few more runs, too: 5.16 vs. 4.85 per game. Much of that production comes from Jeter.
His .366 batting average leads the team by almost 50 points; the next closest is Alex Rodriguez, who got just 50 PA before Felix Hernandez hit him in the hand. He’s five OBP points behind Nick Swisher and 54 SLG points behind Eric Chavez, both of whom lead the team in those categories. But at 162 PA he has nearly double the number of Chavez, and has 33 more than Swisher (while having better numbers overall).
That isn’t to knock on either Chavez or Swisher. They’ve worked alongside Jeter to create a significant portion of the second half offense. Swisher in particular has been an enormous help. He got off to an awfully slow start, hitting .262/.336/.477 in the first half. Since the four-day vacation he’s hit .294/.403/.495, good for the third-highest OPS on the team. That turn around, and his placement behind Jeter in the order, has given the middle of the order plenty of opportunities to score runs.
Chavez has done his part to drive in those runners, producing a .949 second-half OPS, including six homers, after producing a totally respectable .839 OPS in the first half. The wrinkle is that he’s started only 21 games, so his impact has been limited. Despite those six homers and generally torrid production, along with his ascension in the batting order, he has driven in just 13 runs in the second half. For comparison, that’s as many runs as Ichiro has driven in for the Yankees during that very same span.
(While it’s not remarkable compared to expectations, Mark Teixeira has hit .282/.348/.530 in the second half. He’s not back to where the Yankees need him to be, but it does seem that he’s been rounding into form even with the wrist issue. Since his breather weekend against the Reds he’s hitting .277/.366/.546.)
If Robinson Cano weren’t mired in such a slump perhaps the Yankees would have scored even more runs in the past few weeks. He’s at just .285/.355/.438 since the break — not bad, but his recent 5 for 32 stretch, with no extra base hits, has hurt a bit. (Or has it? The Yankees are 6-4 in that span.) With Jeter and Swisher getting on base frequently, a streaking Cano can make a huge difference. With those top four hitting, and with Chavez often hitting fifth, that’s a pretty potent top of the order.
As it did at points in the first half, it seems the Yankees are playing well but having trouble firing on all cylinders. Once they get that going, the offense should continue rolling along. Now, if they can only find some consistence in the pitching.