2013 Midseason Review: Grade D’s

Mariano Rivera gets the hold (?!?) in final All-Star Game as AL wins 3-0
A-Rod will join Triple-A Scranton tomorrow to continue rehab

We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s. Notice he left me with the scrubs – the D’s!* Well, at least the D’s aren’t the F’s. Am I right?

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

David Phelps
I know some of you might protest our decision to give Phelps a “D” grade. Whether you’re lobbying to give him a “C” doesn’t make much of a difference though — it doesn’t change reality. He’s not been great overall despite some solid starts. It’s also funny, in a peculiar kind of way, how quickly the shine wears off of a guy.

Anyway, Phelps has pitched to a 5.01 ERA (3.85 FIP) and has been worth 1.1 fWAR thus far. He’s struck guys out at a decent rate (8.17 K/9) and hasn’t given up too many long balls (0.87 HR/9). Phelps has allowed a few too many free passes though (3.48 BB/9) and gives up more hits throughout his starts than one would ideally prefer.

Consistency has been the issue here. Despite several quality starts, Phelps has seen his numbers balloon thanks to some really awful games (particularly of late). He allowed four earned runs in 6.1 innings against Minnesota, nine runs against Baltimore (in 2.1 innings!), and four runs to the Mets in a third of an inning. On one hand you can look at Phelps a bit less critically when you consider that he is and always was expected to be a back of the rotation type of arm. One other hand, results are results. Sorry, David.

Phil Hughes
Getting tired of reading about Phil Hughes yet? Well, we all know the story here – frustrating inconsistency topped off by too many home runs surrendered (1.58 HR/9, here’s the list of pitchers with the most HR surrendered — good to know the Yankees have two guys cracking the top 15). Through 102.1 innings, Hughes has pitched to a 4.57 ERA (4.48 FIP), and has been valued at 0.9 fWAR. In terms of peripherals, he’s striking out 7.74 batters per nine and has limited the walks (2.29 BB/9).

Despite very legitimate concerns over next year’s rotation, it seems pretty clear the Yankees are willing to part ways with the once-heralded Hughes. If they don’t trade him for a bat by the deadline, they’ll give him the qualifying offer after the season, which he probably won’t accept. The funny thing is, as maddening as Hughes has been, he’s still capable of throwing the occasional gem and should he string together some solid starts through the remainder of the season, you know some team will decide he’s worth committing a lot of dollars and several years too. It’s a shame it hasn’t really worked out in New York but that’s how it goes sometimes.

Chris Stewart
This is a tough break for Chris. He’s basically producing at a reasonable level, I argue … for a backup catcher. The problem is he isn’t a backup catcher. After the Yankees elected to forego Russell Martin for Francisco Cervelli, the most obvious predicament in the world occurred. Cervelli was injured and the team had to figure out where to go from there. That’s when Chris Stewart stepped in as the every day guy.

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

So what happens to a guy like Chris Stewart when he’s forced to play day in and day out? Well over 197 plate appearances he’ll hit .241/.316/.306 (.282 wOBA, 77 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR). He’ll take a decent number of walks (9.1 BB%) and will put the ball in play frequently (14.2 K%). He’ll also hit for no power whatsoever (three home runs, 0.65 ISO). Defensively, I think he’s generally regarded favorably. Again, I would argue that none of these stats are necessarily bad, they’re just not good.

To put it in perspective, the Yankees catchers collectively rank twentieth in all of baseball in terms of fWAR (1.1), twenty-fourth in wRC+ (68), and twenty-fifth in wOBA (.275). Obviously, not all of this production is Stewart’s doing, though he’s logged far and away the most innings behind the plate. Basically, the production the Yankees have received from their catchers ranks in the bottom third of all of baseball in just about every meaningful category.

Vernon Wells
Remember when Wells hit .300 with six home runs through April? Remember when folks were wondering whether Cashman was actually a genius for taking on one of the worst contracts in all of baseball? Yep, that didn’t last long. In completely predictable fashion, Wells turned back into the pumpkin he’s been for years — that is to say a grossly overpriced fourth outfielder.

Overall, Big Vern has batted .238/.276/.371 (.282 wOBA, 73 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR). On the plus side, he’s been generally pretty good in the outfield defensively despite a few questionable plays of late. On the down side, he’s managed to hit only four home runs since April. He’s also hit in the heart of order basically all season, even during his putrid May slump.

Given the amount of exposure he’s seen thus far, it’s not surprising he’s shown noticeable splits either (batting .207 against righties). Back in late May, I wrote about Vernon and what we could expect moving forward. Long story short, the conclusion was that he most certainly wasn’t the player we saw in April, and hopefully also not the guy we saw in May. I think this still holds true. Unfortunately, what we can expect is a “D grade” player who was brought to the team out of necessity. Hopefully, he’ll be used more sparingly going forward when and if Curtis returns.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Travis Hafner
First, let me start by saying that I for one am shocked that Hafner has made it to this point. I was expecting Pronk to pull a Kevin Youkilis and suffer some season-ending injury after the first month or so. Surprisingly, he has generally kept himself in the lineup despite some nagging injuries here and there (most recently a foot contusion that happened during batting practice). Unfortunately (and much like Wells), Hafner has been lousy since May and he too, has shown noticeable splits as to be expected.

Overall, Pronk’s batting .218/.314/.407 (.317 wOBA, 97 wRC+) and has been worth exactly 0.0 fWAR through 277 plate appearances. He has knocked 12 balls out of the park though, which is second on the team to only Robinson Cano (though Lyle Overbay and Wells are right behind him with 11). Hafner continues to take his fair share of walks (11.2 BB%) while striking out at a fair pace (26.0 K%).

Pronk was brought on board for one thing: his job is to mash. The thinking was simple. As long as he’s healthy (or at least relatively healthy), he’ll hit the ball. This hasn’t really been the case though. He’s struggled a lot. He’ll need to turn it around for the rest of the season as the Yankees need some much needed depth in the batting the order.

*Mike did not stick me with the D’s. It just worked out that way because of timing. Actually, I claimed the F’s too.

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Mariano Rivera gets the hold (?!?) in final All-Star Game as AL wins 3-0
A-Rod will join Triple-A Scranton tomorrow to continue rehab
  • Theonewhoknocks

    Phelps is closer to a B than a D for me.
    Way too harsh.

    • trr

      +1

      • The Bastard

        Agreed. His FIP says it all. Moreover, all you need to do is compare his peripherals against his 2012 peripherals. They are pretty close but in fact he’s giving up less homers even as he’s giving up more hits. If anything, it looks like he’s just been unlucky in the BABIP Department.

    • Jacob the OG

      Probably for me too but I can see why Mike gave a D. Overall as a team they have really been a D because while some think we are over achieving I feel a lot of guys are under achieving.

    • OldYanksFan

      I know it’s not really fair to say If you just eliminate this game… or this month… or this week, this guy would be good. That said, if you eliminate that crazy 9 Run 2 IP against the O’s, Phelps ERA would be around 4.1. Considering he is a rookie, and that he has thrown some great games, I would give him a C.

      I think Hafner gets an F. The guy has not been injured, which was his real downside. Considering he has managed many ABs, to post a Zero WAR is simply a total failure.

      Since the AL ERA is 4.08, I guess a D for Hughes is fair. Hard to believe he is actually BELOW average. I would love to see an analysis on the HRs Phil gives up. The batter, the count and the pitch thrown. Is there a pattern? Too many high FBs? My gut tells me he throws too many high FBs, but I don’t know if that’s what’s getting him in so much trouble.

    • nick

      in your dreams.

    • D$1184

      Matt said in the start of this series (the A’s) that he was trying to make these not relative to what he expect from the players. Would you give an unnamed pitcher with a 5.01 ERA, a 3.85 FIP and a 1.1 fWAR a B? To me, that’s not a B. D is probably about right. Maybe, being generous, I could give him a C- but those numbers are probably below average.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    I didn’t think Matt actually wrote this until I saw the note on the bottom. Very much improved.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’d make the argument for both Phelps and Hughes as “C’s,” as I do think each has had enough plus moments to not be just a step above failing, but I’m willing to make that argument more for Phelps than Hughes.

    I’m glad you showed some mercy on Wells and Hafner. April saves their asses from the abyss here, but it’s still warranted.

    No argument on Stewart. Just because he’s seemed better than we feared at times, it doesn’t mean he’s been good.

    He stuck you with the ass-end, Matt. Admit it. Of course, we all give Matt Warden an A+ on here.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Guess it depends on what the letter grades mean. I’d go with C for Hughes and Phelps — average performance, some good, some bad. Agree on the rest as D. Stewart can’t win — he’s a B back-up and a D regular.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Jayson Nix is probably an A+ 25th man. That’s the way it goes sometimes when you’re put in a position your level doesn’t match.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Which brings to mind that Nix hasn’t been rated yet, right? Too much time missed to rate? He’s certainly no F.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Interesting. You’re right. C/D range from me, even though I really do want to rank with a bit more context, which would raise his grade higher.

          • Jacob the OG

            Yup, while he is no star he has been he is a good utility guy getting WAY to much exposure.

            • D$1184

              Role player getting way over-exposed–that should be the motto of this season. In the ideal 2013 Yankees line-up, Hafner is probably hitting around 7th and thus, not nearly as much pressure, not nearly as much weight to carry. Maybe he’d be performing better.

              The perfect world, what-might-have-been line-up:
              CF Gardner
              SS Jeter
              2B Cano
              1B Teixeira
              LF Granderson
              3B A-Rod/Youkilis
              DH Hafner/A-Rod/Youkilis
              RF Ichiro/Wells
              C Cervelli/Stewart/Romine

              • Mac

                I don’t think Pronk’s performance has anything to do with where he’s hitting in the line-up. He’s been a middle of the line-up guy his entire career and performed his entire career when he’s been healthy.

                I do agree that the line-up could look a lot better if some bad breaks go the other way.

  • Pego

    If you got a C in school, you really fucked up. If you got a D in school, you probably don’t belong. I really think your grading scale is off. C is not average. B is average. Phelps and Hughes are C’s, not D’s. If you’re a D, you might as well not even be in the majors anymore. If you’re an F, you definitely shouldn’t be. But F’s should be very few and far between. Those two are not at the D level. Far from it.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It depends. When grading “on a curve,” you’re going by standard deviations, which really would put the majority of the classroom/team in the “C” range. There’s also, certainly, many people who feel the way you do.

      There’s a few things I’d have done differently myself if I were doing the grading. I’d take a lot more factors into account, for one. This is one of those arguable points, though, that’s going to come up when we’re dealing with subjective lists with subjective criteria.

    • Vern Sneaker

      When I went to school the meteor hadn’t yet wiped out the dinosaurs and “Gentlemen Cs” were considered average. Nowadays, at least for the brighter kids, As are commonplace, Bs are a disaster, and Cs are, like, might as well jump off a bridge. (Though a good friend who’s a tenured prof at a very well-known D1 sports school has his class taken automatically by the jocks because it’s an automatic C no matter what –an unspoken agreement with administration. So I suppose it all depends on your point of view.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Dr. Tilapia would love to hear about your friend’s class. I’m proud to say she holds her jocks to the same standards as everyone else. I wouldn’t be satisfied with C’s from my own kid, but I surely hope he doesn’t grow up feeling like they’re jumping-off-bridge territory. We save that for when the Yankees are in third place and/or Phil Hughes starts.

        I may have confused my kid with forensic’s kid on one of those.

        • Vern Sneaker

          Good for her! We need more like her, even with D1 athletics being the big business it is.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Well, she’s not exactly teaching at a sports-first school either. Doesn’t stop the students from feeling like they’re a shoe-in for whatever their sport of choice is, or for the coaches for pushing them as it they were. Huge disservice being done.

          • I’m One

            This isn’t school. This is the workplace. Not everyone is a B or even a C. You do get your D’s and F’s, but they are expected and still play a role in the organization. When you have winners and losers, and especially when you have stars and others, you’ll have far fewer A’s than F’s, fewer B’s than D’s. The majority of a winning team may fall into the A, B & C category, but my expectaion for this team, as compared to other team’s starters, was that we’d see far more C’s, D’s & F’s than A’s and B’s.

            There will always be differeing opinions on whether someone is a D+ or a C-. Hughes and Phelps are definitely among ones that fit that argument well, but I generally feel the ranking is near correct. A couple of A’s, a few more B’s, but primarily a team of C’s, D’s and F’s.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              This too.

    • Mac

      Grade inflation. If you went to school in Europe you’d have a very different outlook.

      If they graded on the school curve you are referring to, we’d get almost no information from the rankings. Most of these guys are very good baseball players. Good enough to play in MLB (for the most part). You can say they all deserve higher grades, but those grades would then be pretty meaningless.

      Anyway, the scale is fairly unimportant. It’s just to differentiate groups of players in relevant terms. If they did as you suggest and merely raised A to A+ and every other grade one letter, what difference would that make besides conforming to your personal school experience?

      • I’m One

        Very much along the lines of my thinking. Also, when looking at 25 guys, the sample size is way to small for a normal bell curve.

    • 461deep

      Stewart is not a D. He has gotten a good number of key hits and provides capable defense. This board has been brutal on him. Should be a C.
      Ichiro is a B. .283 good defense, more power than expected and durable. You can easily see that he reaches and catches balls no one else except Gardner can. Good arm as well despite slow release. Team is a B. Above average starting pitching, stellar bullpen, slightly above average defense despite last game comedy,
      below average offense.

  • LarryM Fl

    Matt, I can not argue with much of your content on these players. The only one that I believe is slightly higher is Phelps. He’s really in his first full year of rotation work. But, unless he can develop another pitch to get guys to swing and miss. He looks just like St. Phil having excessive pitch counts attempting to get guys out. Thus he has a difficult time going deep in games. If Nova and Pineda are healthy Phelps has no place in the rotation in 2013.

    The Yankees should DFA Hafner for any lefty down in AAA. They would be bringing up a useful position player who could give some rest to the appropriate starter.

    Vernon to me still may be able to have a productive second half if he go to RF on some pitches.

    Adios Phil, you are a major league pitcher but your talents are needed in other venues.

    Stewart just can not drive the ball but catchers do not grow on trees. Cervelli may not be back because of the MLB probe into PEDs.

    It is the situation that we find ourselves and there are not many correction available when management is looking into a different direction then the fans. To be honest I can not blame the Yankees for heading in their general direction.

    • John C

      If Boesch was healthy its possible Hafner would be gone already

      • jsbrendog

        man he’s still hurt huh? i forgot completely about him

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Brennan Boesch has THREE groins.

          • jsbrendog

            the denver broncos have 2 balls. it is fact. look it up.

  • JLC 776

    Wow – the F list is going to be immense!

    I was wondering where Vernon would end up. I always kind of felt the hot-start endeared him a little bit in some eyes but that his numbers would push him to the F range. I guess you could always say, “I passed! I got a D-minus!”

  • entonces

    Both Phelps and Hughes have been valuable rotation contributors this year. Inconsistent, yes. But both have had numerous good starts and both have inflated ERAs because of the way they’ve been handled. Phelps should never have been left in to give up nine runs. And Hughes had his third straight excellent game marred when Girardi left him into long. I understand that he’d like to save the pen and squeeze innings out of a hot young starter. But in evaluating these two, this means their numbers need to be adjusted. Certainly, two guys who’ve been very useful don’t deserve Ds. Even on Mike’s grade-deflationary scale, I’d give both Cs. Actually, even B minus or C plus.

  • toad

    I think you underrate Phelps.

    Averages are deceptive, especially when there are two real outliers as they are in his case. He’s performed very well in half his starts, had two disasters, and been so-so to mediocre four times. I’d call that a “C”.

  • entonces

    Another way to look at this. Here is a team with one of the worst offenses in the league. And yet they’re seven games over .500– obviously because of the pitching. And while the ace (CC) has been disappointing and the erstwhile #2 (Andy) has struggled, two other rotation mainstays are given Ds?? Not only that but two of the consistently efficient relievers (Warren, Claiborne) are marked down with Cs. These four guys are a big part of the reason Yanks have outperformed Pythagorean assumptions. With all due respect to hard-working Mike, these grades are really harsh and IMO off the mark.

    • Vern Sneaker

      Exactly. Warren and Claiborne are Bs and Phelps/Hughes Cs (Pettitte was rated C!??)

      • jsbrendog

        andy pettitte has kinda been terribe as far as Andy Pettitte goes.

        0.2 bwar, 1.7 fwar 92 era+
        his xfip gives hope for some leveling out at 3.97 but he has been below league average and compared to andy we know not very good.

    • JLC 776

      This is a very good argument.

  • JohnnyC

    To give both Phelps and Hughes a D you must think, outside of Kuroda, the Yankees have a mediocre rotation. And…you may be right.

  • TCMiller30

    “(good to know the Yankees have two guys cracking the top 15)”

    The Orioles have 2 in the top 10 and 3 in the top 25.. So at least we have that going for us.

    • I’m One

      They have a much better offense than the Yankees, which is why they can have those pitching issues, yet still be a few games ahead of them. Wish we had that offense …

      (Hoping for a good trade to help there before the deadline…)

  • Bob Buttons

    I’d argue that Stewart at least deserves a C.

    Sure, he’s utterly miserable as a starter, it’s the Yankees being morons when they had little worthy depth at catcher this season. He got us a few key hits, I’d assume calls pitches at least average, not stupid enough fishing every so often, and he doesn’t steal his teammates’ gloves.

    I mean, he’s performing on par with what we expect out of him. We all know he lives relatively clean but can’t hit .250. We all grade differently, and for me, C is for Could be Worse and D is for Disappointments. (B is for better than average and A is for Awesome) Did anyone honestly think Stewart will replace Martin?

  • Mac

    Was it really the most obvious thing in the world that Cervelli would break his hand on a foul ball?

    That said, Stewart has been a lot better than you lead on. Why are you using team stats at a position for an individual player? Stewart has not, in fact, had all that many PAs in relative terms. He’s not even qualifying. He has under 200, while there are 14 Cs with 300 (299 really). He’s 28th in PAs by a C. I don’t know that this would change your offensive evaluation much, but it’s just odd not to use individual stats.
    It’s easier to ignore defensive contribution, but it’s not accurate. It’s roughly equivalent to me arguing that we should just ignore Hughes’ and Phelps’ bad starts to give them both As. Adjusting for playing time, this guy is basically a league average starting C according to fWAR. And fWAR likely undervalues his contribution seeing as the guy is pretty universally praised for his defense by people who actually play(ed) the position at the MLB level and rates out as among the best in all the pitch framing surveys. Even without considering that stuff, though, he’s been league average as a starter.

    An analysis that awards Stewart a D is just not realistic. I know people miss Posada and PEDs era offense in general, but a league average starter is a C.

  • MannyGeee – Failed Starter

    Mike did not stick me with the D’s

    #NoHomo?

  • Larry

    Here are Wally’s grades…. Wally himself gets an D though so take them as you will…

    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-yo.....eport-card

  • Preston

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fanta.....nty-games/

    Rotographs did a write up of New York Penn league prospects. They have a blurb about Nick Rumbelow and Eric Jagielo, saying “He’s definitely the most exciting middle-of-the-order power bat in the league this year.”

  • Dick M

    You lost me when you gave Boone a B.