2013 Midseason Review: Grade B’s

DotF: An A-Bomb from A-Rod
Sanchez: Yankees have interest in Cuban right-hander Dalier Hinojosa

No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. Yesterday we tackled the A’s, today we continue with the B’s.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees remain just three games out of a playoff spot despite their plethora of injuries, and the reason they remain so relatively close is a number of unexpectedly strong performances. Some new faces — I mean really new faces, as in guys acquired during Spring Training — have stepped up and assumed larger than expected roles, taking pressure off stalwarts like Robinson Cano in the lineup and David Robertson in the bullpen.

The Grade B’s are not the team’s elite players. They are the guys who have performed well, better than average really, and served as consistent complimentary pieces. One of these guys is actually a disappointment relative to his typical production, but his standard is so high that a disappointing year is actually pretty good. Without further ado, here are the Grade B’s.

Brett Gardner
Outside of Cano, Gardner has been the team’s only other consistently above-average offensive player. He missed basically all of last season with an elbow injury and has emerged as a legitimate leadoff hitter, putting up a .272/.338/422 (107 wRC+) line with a career-high tying seven homers. Gardner has only stolen 13 bases (in 19 attempts), which is surprising and a letdown, but he has made up for the lack of speed by hitting for power. He has also continued to play his typically elite defense while replacing Curtis Granderson in center field — Gardner was slated to play center even before Granderson’s injury. He can be streaky, but Gardner has been very good for the Yankees this year.

Shawn Kelley
Acquired from the Mariners early in Spring Training, Kelley shook off a horrid April to emerge as Joe Girardi‘s trusted seventh inning guy. His 3.67 ERA and 3.12 FIP are built on a dynamite strikeout rate (13.37 K/9 and 36.2 K%), which has allowed him to strand 21 of 22 inherited runners. Kelley has essentially been a second Robertson with the way he can come out of the bullpen and snuff out rallies without the ball being put in play. What looked like a depth pickup in camp has turned into something much more. Kelley is a key part of the bullpen.

Boone Logan
The theme of New York’s bullpen is strikeouts, and none of their relievers — not even Mariano Rivera — can match Logan’s ability to miss bats (12.60 K/9 and 34.7 K%) and limit walks (1.80 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%). His 7.00 K/BB is the eighth best in baseball among relievers who have thrown at least 20 innings. Logan has excellent strikeout (42.4%) and walk (3.4%) rates against lefties, but he’s run into a little bad luck (.429 BABIP) and they’ve put up a decent .246/.271/.404 line against him. That’s not good for a primary lefty specialist, but it has improved of late and Logan remains an effective cog in Girardi’s bullpen. He’s been the team’s best left-handed reliever since Mike Stanton way back in the day and it’s not all that close either.

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Lyle Overbay
The Yankees signed Overbay with just three days left in camp and he was only supposed to hang around until Mark Teixeira returned, but Teixeira’s season-ending wrist surgery has made him the everyday first baseman. Overbay has responded by hitting an ever-so-slightly above-average .252/.308/.437 (101 wRC+) with more than a few clutch, late-inning hits, plus he plays very good defense at first. He’s a platoon bat — 121 wRC+ vs. RHP but only 46 vs. LHP — but the Yankees have had to play him everyday, so the fact that his overall season line is a bit better than average is a testament to how productive he’s been against righties. Overbay has exceeded even the highest of expectations and has probably been the team’s third best everyday position player. No, really.

CC Sabathia
Sunday’s disaster start makes this seem silly, but even the diminished version of CC Sabathia is a reliable innings eating workhorse. As I’ve been saying the last five years now, even bad Sabathia is still pretty good. He’s got a 4.07 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 137 innings, the fifth most in all of baseball. His biggest problem this season has been the long ball — CC has already surrendered 21 homers, just one fewer than his career-high set last year. Learning to live with reduced fastball velocity is not an easy thing to do, but Sabathia has worked through it and typically gives the team a chance to win. Well, at least gives a team with an average offense to win. He’s not an ace right now and he may never be again, but the sheer volume of innings he provides makes him a better than average hurler despite the an ERA and FIP that are worse than his career norms.

DotF: An A-Bomb from A-Rod
Sanchez: Yankees have interest in Cuban right-hander Dalier Hinojosa
  • Bo Knows

    I’d honestly give CC a C at best. Yes his overall numbers aren’t bad for most pitchers but for an individual who is our team’s ace and has been one of the top ten, probably top 5 pitcher in the game for the better part of a decade, he’s been mediocre by the standards he’s set up. Hopefully he can improve in the second half.

    • Mike HC

      I don’t think Mike is grading relative to the players expectations going into the season. He is just grading based on this seasons production. Even based on that though, I would have no problem giving CC a C, but a B is fine too.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        CC was right on the B/C fence, for sure.

        • The Bastard

          C would have been more appropriate. He’s below expectations and costs a bunch. They’re not paying him $23M for 2 WAR. In fact, in that light, I have a hard time seeing how he isn’t a C/D.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Perhaps my your set of metrics. Since this is all subjective, feel free to draw up your own “Bastardized” list.

  • Bill

    Seriously? No Ichiro. I know you hate Ichiro but he has been the third best hitter on the team. He has a higher average then Gardner (283 to 272) and is not far behind in OBP and has the same amount of stolen bases.

    • trr

      Agree ; if Overbay is a “B” then Ichiro is a “B”

      • I’m One

        Tough call. Overbay is at 101wRC+, Ichiro 94, Gardner 108. I don’t have any heartburn rating Ichiro as a C+.

        • trr

          is 100wRC the dividing line then?

          • I’m One

            That’s where I would put it, with a bit of wiggle room for intangibles, I guess. Not sure where Mike would put it.

    • LK

      Gardner’s been a better hitter than Ichiro, and it’s not even close. 18 points of OBP, 29 points of SLG – that’s the difference between a hitter who’s 8% better than average and one who’s 8% worse.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Above-average hitter/elite defender in CF vs. below-average hitter/above-average defender in RF.

      • Frank

        Gardner, above average hitter? His speed accounts for a lot of his infield hits. But, as you said, he’s steaky as hell and K’s a lot. Heck, this last homestand, he hit maybe 10 balls out of the infield. And he’s way’s over-rated as a base stealer. Not agressive at all, doesn’t make things happen. Seems very gun shy or he’s just not good at reading pitchers. Overall, IMO he’s a player who, once he loses a step or two, is nothing special.

        • MannyGeee Failed Starter

          “His speed accounts for a lot of his infield hits”

          Same can be said about Ichiro, as well as anyone who gets infield hits more than once a year.

          “Overall, IMO he’s a player who, once he loses a step or two, is nothing special”

          Which may very well be true. but you cannot deny he’s done the job, and damn well, this season.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          “Overall, IMO he’s a player who, once he loses a step or two, is nothing special.”

          That applies to every player in baseball.

          As we all know, though, once you hit 39, you should just die and get it over with.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

          108 wRC+ this year. That’s above average.

      • Justin

        So Ichiro has a higher BA than Gardner, but he is still a below average hitter? Everyone has their own opinion on things, but you really seem to have something against Ichiro.

        • MannyGeee Failed Starter

          Ichiro is a failed starter.

          /Phil Hughes Thread’d

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

          He is a below average hitter. It’s not all about average.
          Ichiro has made outs at a higher rate than Gardner, and produced less power in the process.
          Gardner 108 wRC+
          Ichiro 92 wRC+
          100 is average. 108 is above average. 92 is below average.

    • hogsmog

      Yeah I just recently looked, and was surprised to see Ichiro coming in at ~2 BWAR. As long as he can keep his OBP up over .320 or so, he’s a solid contributor though defense and baserunning skill if nothing else.

  • I’m One

    Largely agree with this, however CC is a tough one to grade. When you’re paying and expecting a pitcher to be your ace and he puts up a 4.07 ERA and a 4.05 FIP, that doesn’t quite make you a grade B pitcher, even with the high number of innings. Guess I’m splitting hairs here, as I’d probably rate him as a C+, so since he’s last on this list, maybe Mike’s saying he’s a B-. Either way, it’s disappointing. I hope he adjusts and returns back to a strong B in the second half and figures things out for next season and beyond.

    • LK

      Depends on if we’re grading objectively or against expectations. Mike seems to be using a pretty objective scale, in which case I’ve got no issue with CC as a B. If we’re going against expectations, he’d clearly be worse, but then guys like Cano and Mo wouldn’t be A’s because we expect them to be awesome.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        you haven’t looked at Cano’s stats lately, huh?

        • LK

          Cano has a lower wRC+ than 2012 and almost identical to 2010. So yeah, not that far off from expectations…which is exactly what I said.

      • nyyankfan_7

        Would love to hear how MO or Cano have not lived up to expectations this year…

        • LK

          They have, which is the entire point. If you’re grading against expectations, then you can’t give an A for meeting expections; otherwise, what would you get for exceeding them? An A triple plus?

          • RetroRob

            If you’re grading Mo on expectations, he has more than lived up to it. He’s 43 and missed almost all of last year with an injury. I expected him to still be good, and I have a hard time ever saying he’s “exceeded my expectations” because he is Mo, but no one should have been expecting “more” from him. He is in the A camp, as he has been just about every single year.

      • trr

        I took this as being strictly objective, based on performance for the first 95 games using league average as a guideline.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    no B for Ichiro? It’s weird when both CC and Loverbay get a B.

    • Big Jim Walewander

      I agree. Ichiro has 1.9 bWAR and 1.4 fWAR. An added bonus in terms of this season, he’s been durable. If he keeps playing every day at this level, he finishes at 3.0 bWAR, his most since 2010.

      Actually he’s close to having more bWAR than his last two seasons combined.

      What’s the latest dollar value of a WAR? I’d say Ichiro has already outplayed his salary, and expectations. So I’d say “B”, for sure.

      In fact, let’s take a train to crazy town and compare Ichiro to Nick Swisher. Nick has 2.4 bWAR and 1.3 fWAR this year, versus 1.9 and 1.4. Granted, Nick has played 10 fewer games than Ichiro, but I would not have expected those to be close at all this year.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Very well put.

      • MannyGeee – Failed Starter

        That shit cray. Great stuff dude.

        • Big Jim Walewander

          Thanks, Manny and Robinson. I was a little surprised myself, but the defensive metrics are really appreciating Ichiro this year.

          He might not be one of the top right-fielders overall, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be high on that list anyway. In an ideal season, everyone would be healthy, and Ichiro would be batting in the lower third of the order, where he’d probably shine more.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

            Wonder what his defense would look like in LF…

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        I’m a little bit skeptical of Ichiro’s +8 DRS already, so I think his fWAR is probably closer to his real value.
        That said, after a rather brutal start, he’s been pretty solid.
        Not the offense you’d want from a corner OF on an offense starved team, but overall he’s been solid.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      Yeah, if Overbay gets a B. Ichiro should definitely get a B or better.
      But at the same time, Gardner has definitely been better than Ichiro, so either Ichiro should be a C or Gardner should be an A.

  • entonces

    Warren, I would think, gets at least a B. Very consistent. Claiborne also a B. Excellent before recent down stretch. ERA still very good. Nice to see some love for Logan — has been under-rated for some time IMO.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Agreed on all counts. I’d even have considered A’s for them.

    • I’m One

      Yup, forgot about those 2. I’d include them as B’s as well. Claiborne may not be quite as important as Kelley, but Warren has exceeded expectations (IMHO) and both have certainly provided excellent value to the team.

      Maybe these ratings should be based on value (production compared to cost).

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Yes, there’s certainly value in what CC could be moving forward, if he can’t progress past this spot, and it certainly falls within one of the scenarios of what the back-end of his contract would look like. The flip end of that is that, without that “stopper” type starter that can shut down any losing streak every five days (or what those needlessly obsessed with the term like to call a “true ace” when they conveniently forget that, yes Virgnia, Justin Verlander gets bombed every now and then too), it does add to my uneasiness as to this pitching staff moving forward these next few seasons. We may take CC almost as for granted as we do Mo.

    I’d have him in the C+/B- range as well.

    All hail the great Shawn Kelley. I’m so glad I was wrong about you.

    • SDB

      “All hail the great Shawn Kelley. I’m so glad I was wrong about you.”

      This. So many times over, this.

      Especially in a season where Joba the Rut has turned into such a liability that the FO would be lucky to get anything in exchange for him.

  • Steve (different one)

    Overbay: .6 WAR in 86 games
    Stewart: .8 WAR in 62 games

    Yeah, yeah, I know….

  • knigslayer

    Mike has to be smoking some strong stuff to give CC a B???

    • Robinson Tilapia

      So what’s your counterargument, then?

      • MannyGeee – Failed Starter

        HE’s fat….

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        I’d rate by role, personally.
        He’s supposed to be the #1 starter.
        Graded as a #1 starter, he’s a C (at best).
        Graded just compared to all starters, B is probably fair. Maybe B-. He’s still been above average for a starter overall.

  • JLC 776

    I really enjoy this exercise – it’s really, really tough making some of these calls as you kind of want to promote/punish players who have exceeded/not-met certain expectations; thus introducing some subjectivity that gives us plenty of room for debate.

    I’m surprised that Claiborne and Warren aren’t on the “B” list. I really thought our entire bullpen was B or above. Both Claiborne and Warren meet both metrics – they have great numbers and they’ve wildly exceeded (okay, rather low) expectations.

    • JLC 776

      *Let me clarify, not the entire bullpen is a B or higher…

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Agreed. Warren’s done everything anyone could have asked from him. It’s not his fault Girardi hides him in the clubhouse during games.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I thought you were grumpy.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

          Grumpy and bored are not mutually exclusive. In fact, frequently they pair up!

  • Vern Sneaker

    Agree with the comments about Ichiro, Claiborne, and Warren. All Bs (not killer Bs).

    • The Bastard


  • mt

    CC at a B feels wrong – innings are great but that HR rate is very troubling.

    Also hard to see Warren and to some extent Ichiro with a C.

    Overbay at B also seems like a stretch although if it was against expectations maybe a B is warranted.

    I thought I saw a stat or a tweet around a week ago that except for Gardner and Cano, all Yankees that had more than 100 Plate appearances (Overbays, Nunez, Nix, etc.) were either 13th, 14th or 15th (including Overbay) at their position in AL – I think the stat of comparsion was OPS+ (but it could have been wOBA) – don’t think it was wRC+. Did anyone else see that?

  • Poconos Adam

    Posted this earlier, but it didnt’ take.

    I think Nix is a ‘B’. Sure, he stinks with a bat in his hands (.3 fWAR and 26% K rate), but if we’re giving out passes on CC’s FIP — then I give Nix a pass on his stats. He’s the epitome of replacement level, but given that the Yankees have had numerous replacement-level players come in and hit .150 …. I think Nix has been critical.

    Okay, Okay….he’s a ‘C’ — just saying.

    New narrative for the year: It’s the all-star break and Jayson Nix has 268 ABs….what the heck happened! :)

    • Poconos Adam

      Glad no one commented — Nix is a D. ;)

  • Kronk

    I have to disagree with Boone. He has allowed 34% of inherited runners to score, which would be his worst % as a Yankee and second worst % of his career. I know there’s been situations where Joe left him in to face random righties for whatever reason, but still. I’d give him a C, a B is pushing it.