Jun
01

2013 One-Third Point Season Review

By

Last night’s victory was the 54th game of the season for the Yankees, otherwise known as the one-third point. The Bombers are on pace to go 93-69, which I think exceeds expectations coming into the year. For a while the mantra was just tread water until the injured guys come back, but instead New York is tied for first place in the AL East with the Red Sox. Of course, they’re also just two games out of fourth place in the loss column. The division is as tight as anticipated so far.

The old saying is that the first third of the season is for evaluating, the second third is for making changes, and the final third is for riding those changes out. So, with that in mind, lets take a look at what happened over the last two months to see where the Yankees need to improve and where they can stand pat.

(Rob Carr/Getty)

(Rob Carr/Getty)

Rock Solid: The Starting Rotation
The Yankees have already used seven different starters in 2013, and collectively they’ve pitched to a 3.79 ERA (3.88 FIP) in 318.1 innings. Hiroki Kuroda (2.39 ERA/3.37 FIP) has emerged as the ace with CC Sabathia (3.71/3.75) running into some early troubles, which are almost certainly related to his overall loss in velocity. He’s getting up there in age and there are a lot of miles on that arm, it happens. Sabathia showed last night that it’s a little too early to pen that career obituary — the ability to be an ace is still in there.

As expected, Phil Hughes (4.97/4.70) and David Phelps (4.32/3.42) have had some ups and downs. Ivan Nova (6.48/3.66) lost his rotation spot to Phelps thanks in part to a triceps injury that landed him on the DL for close to a month, but he was on his way to losing the job based on his performance anyway. Andy Pettitte (3.83/4.16) has been his typically reliable self when he’s actually been on the mound — back and trap issues have limited him to just eight starts so far. Those nagging issues have given Vidal Nuno (2.12/4.24) a shot, and he’s done well in three spots starts.

With two aces (potentially), a rock solid number three (when healthy), and a collection of four back-end guys, the Yankees do have some rotation depth and appear to be in good shape going forward. Obviously that can change in an instant, but the rotation is not a pressing need right now. I don’t think they have enough depth to trade away a starter, but it shouldn’t be completely off the table under the right circumstances. The rotation was going to have to carry this club early on, and it has.

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

Needs Work: The Offense
It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees fielded an everyday lineup this bad. They average just 4.1 runs per game — they’ve scored the fewest runs in the division by 19 (!) — with a team 89 wRC+, their worst offensive attack since the early-1990s. Yeah, it’s been a while. Obviously losing Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Alex Rodriguez (hip), Derek Jeter (ankle), and Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand) for extended periods of time hasn’t helped matters.

Robinson Cano (133 wRC+) has been the rock in the middle of the lineup even though he’s run a little cold of late. Vernon Wells (100 wRC+) and Travis Hafner (126 wRC+) were outstanding in April before hitting the skids in May, but they’ve been Cano’s primary running mates in the middle of the order. Brett Gardner (103 wRC+) has done a good job of setting the table all season, and Frankie Cervelli (138 wRC+) was a big contributor before a foul tip broke his hand and sent him to the DL. Lyle Overbay (98 wRC+) chipped in some big hits during Teixeira’s absence.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Shortstop and right field have been big problem areas this year, ditto catcher since Cervelli’s injury. A collection of replacement level types — Eduardo Nunez, Reid Brignac, Jayson Nix, and Alberto Gonzalez — have mustered a 53 wRC+ filling in for Jeter while Ichiro Suzuki (65 wRC+) has done most of the damage himself in right. Chris Stewart (80 wRC+) and Austin Romine (-35 wRC+) have been just awful since Cervelli got hurt. Brennan Boesch (120 wRC+) and David Adams (78 wRC+) have been alright in part-time roles, Ben Francisco (12 wRC+) and Chris Nelson (36 wRC+) … not so much. Those last two guys have already been dropped from the roster.

Teixeira and Youkilis returned to the lineup just last night, and while they will be a nice boost, the Yankees still need more offensively. Granderson, Jeter, and Cervelli aren’t returning anytime soon, so the club should probably explore trade scenarios for right, short, and behind the plate. Shortstop is the big one to me; Jeter has already had one setback and it shouldn’t be a surprise if his rehab continues to progress slowly. There aren’t many quality shortstops out there to be had, but I do think the Yankees should look hard for one, even if they have to overpay a bit. It’s been a major weakness.

Exceeding Expectations: The Bullpen
We’ve gotten used to the Bombers having strong bullpens over the years, and this season is no different. Joe Girardi‘s relief corps owns a stellar 3.28 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 164.2 innings, and they have the fifth highest strikeout rate (9.73 K/9 and 26.0 K%) in all the land. Unsurprisingly, Mariano Rivera (1.77 ERA/2.47 FIP) and David Robertson (2.78/3.20) have been rocks in the late-innings.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Joba Chamberlain (3.38/2.88) missed a month with an oblique injury, allowing both Shawn Kelley (5.57/3.59) and call-up Preston Claiborne (0.61/2.45) to emerge as middle inning weapons. Kelley has been a strikeout machine of late, whiffing 21 of the last 39 men he’s faced (53.8%). Boone Logan (1.80/2.86) has been fine overall as Girardi’s only southpaw. Adam Warren (2.10/3.34) has proven to be as reliable a long man as you’ll find. Nova spent a few days in long relief as well, but as since been sent to Triple-A. Others like Cody Eppley, Brett Marshall, and David Huff have come and gone with little or no impact. That collection of non-Rivera/Robertson relievers have really done an excellent job.

Outside of maybe adding a second left-hander — Clay Rapada is in Triple-A and Cesar Cabral is working his way back up the rehab ladder — the Yankees are pretty well set in the bullpen. Again, that could change in a hurry, but right now there are more than enough bodies for each role: long relief, middle relief, and late-innings. It’s been speculated that Joba could be made available in a trade given the emergence of Claiborne and Kelley, but I don’t see it happening at this point in time. Maybe in a few weeks.

* * *

The Yankees have exceeded expectations so far thanks mostly to the pitching staff. A handful of position players chipped in a few big weeks, but overall the offense remains a concern going forward. For an AL East team in a small ballpark, a little more than four runs a game just isn’t good enough. The injured guys will be back at some point, but I don’t think the team should just sit around and wait. If there’s an upgrade available, they need to pounce and worry about the roster logjam later. New York has more obvious needs right now than at any other one-third point in recent memory.

65 Comments»

  1. Dalek Jeter says:

    Wow, Vernon has slumped more than I realized if he’s down to a league average wRC+. Dude has to pick it up, and soon. As for Pronk, who also hit the skids in May, I think that was because he went from getting what felt like very normal ABs in April to much more sporadic ones in May. That along with the shoulder injury probably hasn’t helped. As for upgrades going forward for catchers I think the Yankees need to look into the cost of McCann down in Atlanta, with the breakout of Gattis, maybe they’re willing to move him for a few prospects. As for RF, the most interesting name for me is Morse, who is scheduled to become a free agent after this year and is on a team that’s going nowhere in Seattle. Both guys are in the last years of their deal, but I don’t know how available either are. As for Short Stop…who, anywhere in the majors, has multiple ML caliber SS’s on their roster…except for like The Rangers, and I doubt we have enough to deal for Profar.

    • jjyank says:

      I kind of forgot about Morse after he got traded in the offseason. He’s hitting pretty well, and as long as the Yankees can banish Ichiro to 4th OF defensive replacement for Morese territory, his defense could be manageable.

  2. Rory says:

    Defense not worth evaluating?

  3. Evan3457 says:

    Yanks won’t trade for a shortstop until Jeter shows he can’t go. What’s the point of trading for a good shortstop for 6-7 weeks when he’s just going to be benched for Jeter. If the Yanks intend to make Jeter the DH, full-time, instead, then Hafner has to go, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

    On the surface, it seems to me that trying to trade for a good shortstop, if you can even find one, is a waste of resources, unless they know for sure Jeter will leave at the end of this season.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      IF Jeter plays at all this season (which at this point is a bigger if for me than A-Rod) I doubt he’d be able to play more than 2 or 3 days a week at SS. Meanwhile he can DH the other 2 or 3 and get a day or two off, because I really think he’d need anyway for at least the first few weeks. And with some fancy line up writing and scheduling it’s very possible to make it so Jeter’s DH days come against lefties that Pronk would more than likely sit for. So the break down would be:
      2/3 days a week: Jeter at SS, Pronk at DH
      2/3 days a week: Hypothetical new SS, Jeter at DH
      1/2 days a week: Hypothetical new SS, Pronk at DH

      • trr says:

        We need to be on the lookout for an upgrade at SS. IMO Jeter (if he returns) will be a DH. I don’t want to waste resources on some one like Jimmy Rollins, someone yesterday mentioned Alexi Amarista of SD; I have no idea if he’s even available, but he’s the type of guy we need to look at. C upgrade is badly needed; McCann would be perfect, but even a guy like Nick Hundley might suffice. And yes, another RHB for the OF would be nice. Maybe I’m dreaming a little, but we still need help over the long haul….

        • Laz says:

          I would take on Rollins, but Phillies probably want decent prospects back. I don’t think he is worth $11M aav + prospects.

      • Evan3457 says:

        If Jeter comes back this year, it’ll be because he can still play regularly. If the Yanks trade for a decent shortstop, assuming one is out there, it’ll be too costly, and if they trade for something less, then what’s the point?

    • Tuttle says:

      For once, your reasoning appears to be sound, and reasoning any mathematician or logician would let you get away with. Jeter will play at least one more year, and at the shortstop position. Travis Hafner has played his last game as a D.H. in The House Not Built By Ruth.

  4. Evan3457 says:

    Oh, same thing with Cervelli. Until he comes back and shows he can’t hit, trading for a good catcher, if one can be found who’s worth anything, is a waste of resources, too.

    • jjyank says:

      Eh. As good as Cervelli was early this season, I resent putting him in the same category as Jeter. Before 2013, Cervelli has never posted a league average or above average wRC+ in the major leagues, not counting the 3 game sample he played in 2012. There is very little evidence to suggest that Cervelli can maintain his production from early this season. If the Yankees have a chance to acquire McCann or another upgrade at catcher for a reasonable or semi-reasonable price, they better not Cervelli be the guy that stands in their way. They’d be better off making that trade and making Cervelli the BUC.

      • Dalek Jeter says:

        But…but…but…then what about MIRACLE CATCHER Chris Stewart?!?!?! TEH PITCH FRAMEZ!!!!!

        • jjyank says:

          Heh. I don’t really care what happens to Stewart in that scenario. McCann/other upgrade and Cervelli as the BUC, with Romine getting regular ABs in SWB sounds good to me.

        • trr says:

          Chris “Crazy Legs” Stewart….my wife watched him play and said “What a douche bag!”, her comment perhaps making up in clarity for what it lacked in substance

      • Evan3457 says:

        Why would McCann be availble, and for what? Gattis looks great so far, but he’s a 26 year old rookie, and they’re using him in multiple spots anyway, and his K/BB data makes what he’s done so far suspect.

        My point was not comparing Cervelli, the player, to Jeter, the Hall of Fame career, but the relative catching and shortstop situations. Cervelli might be as far above Stewart and Romine, collectively, as whatever Jeter has left is above Nix and Brignac. By the way, Cervelli’s framing numbers from earlier this season look pretty good so far.

        I just think it’s a waste of resources until Cervelli proves he can’t do a good job.

  5. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Excellent job, Mike, although I really wish you’d have done letter grades so that we could have witnessed you giving Chris Stewart a G-.

    Very good assessment as well. Not too far off from what I would say. Maybe you’re not as ready to join the bridge-jumpers as some claim.

  6. Cuso says:

    Yanks are one game back

    • jjyank says:

      Yeah. I think Mike was looking at the loss column, in which the Yankees and Sox have the same amount of losses. But the Sox have 2 more wins, so yes, we are one game back.

      • Laz says:

        I think he wrote it a few days ago. A few of the player’s wrc+ is off, and a few other mentions are wrong.

  7. pc says:

    where the nyy are now and where they were projected is a + no matter how you look at it.

  8. Laz says:

    Biggest problem is that they are currently punting 2 corner outfield spots. They way overpaid Ichiro because of who he is. There were tons of other mediocre outfielders available, and Ichiro is the only one stuck with a stupid contract that makes it hard to just dump him.

    Also why are some people so concerned with Gardner’s K’s? Nobody is getting on base in front of him, so he doesn’t need to move people over, just get on base. I would be much more concerned with the 2 spots behind him limiting strikouts, because he is a fast runner and if they can make contact they move him over.

    • jjyank says:

      I’m not really that concerned with Gardner’s K’s. He’s always taken a fair amount of pitches, which will lead to more K’s, but he also has been batting leadoff. Meaning, he’s been getting the most amount of plate appearances. As Mike pointed out the other day, he’s leading the team in overall K’s, but he’s middle of the pack by K%.

  9. brian says:

    Yeh, upgrading at catcher and shortstop for the time being sounds great… but where exactly can they do that? What team that has someone at one of those two positions is gonna trade him to the yankees without expecting a lot in return…

    Cervelli will be back and Jeter isn’t going anywhere… they will be the yankees primary catcher and shortstop NEXT year… might have to ride it out for awhile without them this year but they’ll be back for the late august and september stretch run, and probly before then

    • Laz says:

      I’d rather see an upgrade at one of the corner outfield spots.
      Currently Nix’s wrc+ is 66, exactly the same as Ichiro’s. Finding a 30 point upgrade offensively will be much easier to come by in RF, and thus means they would have to give up fewer prospects.

  10. trr says:

    One reason people mention McCann is that he is a FA at the end of this year, so perhaps getting him as a half-season rental might cost less. This presumes that the Braves don’t have the intention of re-signing him in light of the development of their young catchers.

  11. Cuso says:

    I hear a lot about Jeter playing only 2-3 games per week at SS “if” he comes back.

    All due respect, we all know Jeter’s mantra. Jeter won’t come back UNTIL he’s ready to play 5 out of every 6 games at SS. You all know how he is.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

      Jeter thinking he could/should play 5 of 6 games at SS and the Yankees thinking he can play 5 of 6 games at SS may be 2 very different things.

      • Cuso says:

        That speaks directly to my point, though. Jeter will not come back sooner to allow the Yanks to make that decision to have him half-DH and half-SS.

        Make no mistake, Jeter is not a young arm. Jeter makes the decision about the circumstances in which he comes back. And if he comes back, no one is going to talk him into being a part-time DH without him having an off-season to prepare for the role-change

        • jjyank says:

          “Jeter makes the decision about the circumstances in which he comes back.”

          Does he, though? I know Jeter is an icon and all, but if the front office activates him from the DL, what is he gonna do, refuse to leave Tampa? I would really like to think that Jeter would want to contribute to the team as soon as possible, even if that means getting worked back into SS slowly. It wouldn’t be very captain-like to refuse to be activated from the DL because they want you to split time at SS and DH, as opposed to SS full time.

          Of course, I don’t know Jeter personally, so I don’t know what his thought process is. But I really hope he wouldn’t throw a fit if the team wants him to DH a few days a week. And again, I don’t think the decision is really his to make, future hall of famer or not.

          • Cuso says:

            See my comment below. I don’t know what he thinks either, but I’m taking a crack at it in my below comment. Its my opinion, obviously. But that’s my guess.

        • emac2 says:

          Give me a break.

          What kind of panty waste drama queen needs an off season to prepare for a role that rests him at DH every other day?

          You think Jeter is such a loser he would skip the whole season so he could mentally prepare for the limited role or until he was ready to play every day?

          lame

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      Then I don’t see him coming back this season at all, and I will look at him in an entirely different light. If he is really “all about the team” like he’s said he is his entire career and he can come back and help the team by being a part time SS but doesn’t want to because of his ego or whatever, then in my opinion he’s more selfish than A-Rod is (who knowing he was a better defensive shortstop and all around player accepted a position change to come play for us a decade ago.)

      • Cuso says:

        I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think Jeter looks at it that way. Its not him being selfish. Its him not wanting to embarrass himself OR the organization by coming back and take up a roster Spot and being important just because “Jeter is here” in whatever capacity.

        Its actually selfless, not selfish. Him coming back being a DH forces the Yanks to Jimmy the roster to accommodate another rotating DH. Its only seems selfish because we look at it like “aw man, I want the comfortable feeling of seeing Jeter there.”

        But Jeter wants to be USEFUL not fan-inspirational.

        • jjyank says:

          Okay, fair enough. I can see where you’re coming from there. Still, I feel that Jeter would be of the mindset of getting back on the field to help in some way as soon as possible, especially if the offense is still struggling. I just can’t imagine he’d want to prolong his stint on the DL.

          • Cuso says:

            Yes. I’m admittedly in-between here at this very point. My “opinion” again is that Jeter needs to get to the point where he actually believes he’d be valuable AS a DH. I don’t think he believes that yet…..or he needs a full offseason to prepare or accept that is the point he’s at in his career.

            Personally, I want to see Jeter back too. But I don’t feel that he’d have that value coming back as a DH this year. If he took an offseason to prepare his workout so it tailored his conditioning that offense was even more important, I think he’d be excellent at it. I think he’s actually focus more on upper body than the ridiculous extreme lower body fast-twitch training he does in the offseason.

            • jjyank says:

              Just from a platoon standpoint, I think Jeter could be fine as a DH. It’s not like he’s never done it before. The Yankees clearly don’t want to play Hafner every day, lest they risk him getting hurt, and they’ve been sitting him against lefties. Jeter crushes lefties, and would make a great DH on those days. If Jeter can play SS against most RHP, sit against a couple of them for a rest day, and DH against LHP, I think that’d be fine.

              For what it’s worth, Jeter has a career 129 wRC+ as a DH. And more recently in 2012, he had a 166 wRC+ as a DH in 25 games. Granted, not a large sample, but I think it’s enough to show that he can contribute as a part time DH/part time SS without an offseason to prepare.

        • Dalek Jeter says:

          I think you miss my point. I don’t want Jeter back just because of his name value. If he’s healthy enough to swing the bat at even 80% of what he’s capable of doing but the ankle is still limiting what little agility he had at SS, preventing him from being able to play out there everyday, he makes the team better and should be put into the lineup. Let’s not pretend Jeet’s Ozzie Smith out there, he’s below average defensively and the only people that don’t know that are him, John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman, and Michael Kay. His value is his bat, and like I said if there comes a point in July or August where he’s healthy enough to be Derek Jeter in the batters box he’s doing a disservice to the team by not coming back “because he’s not ready to play SS everyday.”

          • Cuso says:

            No, I honestly get what you mean, I do. My comment just above yours kind of addresses what I mean in relation to this particular post.

      • jjyank says:

        Agreed. We all know Jeter is stubborn about playing through injuries, but his demeanor in the past in that regard makes me think he wants to play as soon as possible, even if that means DHing. I really hope I’m not wrong, or I’d lose a lot of respect for Jeter.

        And good point about A-Rod. For all the hate he gets, he rarely gets credit for moving off his position, in his prime no less, and not uttering the slightest of complaints about it.

        • vicki says:

          i’ve been hollering it from the mountaintops since 2004. nice to see it gain a little currency.

          • trr says:

            Speaking of currency, don’t forget the “currency” he was paid to change positions. Altruism had nothing to do with it.

            • vicki says:

              the same money he was getting no matter where he went. the best ss in the game, by far, waived his no-trade and left his position to play in pinstripes next to a guy half his value.

    • Laz says:

      If everyone comes back it still might be nice to just run him out there regularly. If arod/youk/cano/teix/jeter are all healthy I think they can survive any defensive problems just fine. I also have a hard time seeing them wanting to bench one of Arod/Youk regularly just for a defensive upgrade. Can always bring in Nix once they have a few run lead.

  12. Jersey Joe says:

    We’ve been talking about how we’ve been doing much better than we needed without reinforcements, and now that the reinforcements are in, everything seems to coming in fruition.

    I’m kind of bummed about the pile-up at the corner infield. I’d like to see David Adams still get consistent starts at third without sacrificing playing time. I’d like to see Boesch more often in right field over Ichiro, but that is thus far my only complaint.

    • Laz says:

      Adams is great, but if Youk/Teix/Hafner are healthy I want them all playing everyday.

      • Dalek Jeter says:

        +1 I love what I’ve seen from Adamns, but I know the potential production I can get out of those 3 far outstrips 2 of them plus Adams.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Even if healthy, knowing that he quickly could become not healthy, I don’t know if I want Travis Hafner playing every day. The others? Absolutely….except if Alex Rodriguez is also healthy. :)

      • Rolling Doughnut says:

        Pronk probably can’t play every day and stay healthy though

  13. Andrew Brotherton says:

    I think our targets should be Alfonso Soriano with the Cubs paying most of his salary, and Brian Mccann. SS I don’t really think there is anything we can do.

  14. Pat D says:

    I really kind of wish that everyone would get off the McCann thing. There is no way that the Braves, in the middle of the pennant race, are going to trade him. Gattis had never played above AA before this year, and the guy can’t take a walk, so he’s very likely to crash down as anything else. The Braves just aren’t trading McCann.

  15. Tim B says:

    If Joba is traded than I expect them to add either Rapada or Cabral. Once Cabral is done with rehab, he needs to be on the 25 man roster for 90 days per Rule 5 draft rules right? His stats haven’t impressed me especially yesterdays performance. In my opinion, he won’t be on the 25 man roster very long (or if at all. Also what about September call ups? even though it’s not a 25 man roster, could they keep Cabral up in September or would that violate any Rule 5 rules?

  16. vicki says:

    i really don’t want to sound like one of those ‘move cano to short’ people. but let’s say rod does come back earlier than jeter. what if – spitballing here – he starts a few games at short; so you get him, youk, teix and pronk in the lineup. the proposal’s nixlessness resists all range arguments. so crazy, it just might work.

  17. Tom says:

    I absolutely hate the idea of adding a 2nd lefty specialist for the sake of having two. (For the postseason I get it)

    If there was an ineffective arm in the pen that needed to be replaced, I’d understand. But right now the Yankees have a bunch of guys who can get both lefties and righties out. There is no need for Girardi to have his two lefty crutch just so he can devolve to brain dead left-right-left-right managing in the 6th and 7th innings.

    Cabral might be worth a look eventually as he is a Rule V guy AND he has a good changeup which means he shouldn’t be simply a specialist (it also might mean he might not be an especially tough on lefties)

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