Jul
15

2013 Midseason Review: The Grade A’s

By

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. We start today with the A’s.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Let’s not kid ourselves here — not a whole lot has gone right for the Yankees this season. Not only have they dealt with a ton injuries, but they’ve also dealt with a ton of re-injuries as well. Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), and Derek Jeter (ankle, quad) all got hurt against almost immediately after coming off the DL. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Despite all that, the Bombers sit seven games over .500 and just three games back of a playoff spot. They’re probably further back than they would like, but they are definitely still in the hunt despite all those injuries and re-injuries. The performance of the guys in this post is a big reason why. Here are the Grade A’s.

Robinson Cano
All of the injuries mean Cano has to be The Man, and that is exactly what he has been overall. Robbie is hitting .302/.386/.531 (143 wRC+) with 21 homers while starting every single game this year (91 of 95 at second base). He’s played 807.1 of 849.1 possible defensive innings (95.1%), which is nuts. Dude is an iron man. That offensive performance is right in line with what he’s done the last three years, and in fact his OBP is a career-high because he’s started taking walks when pitched around. Cano went through a stretch where he was flailing at pitcher’s pitches for a while. Thankfully that has ended. Robbie has been an absolute rock for the Yankees this season and deserves to be in the MVP conversation at this point.

Hiroki Kuroda
Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes? That seems silly now. Kuroda has pitched like a legitimate ace this year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 3.62 ERA FIP in 118.2 innings. Among qualified AL starters, he ranks second in ERA behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53). That’s pretty remarkable considering his home ballpark. Kuroda was a huge All-Star snub — seriously, they took Chris Tillman (!) before him — but I’m totally fine with him getting four days to recharge the batteries for the second half. The Yankees are going to need him. Kuroda has been brilliant since coming to New York and especially this year. What a stud.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Mariano Rivera
Forty-three years old? Missed almost all of last season with a knee injury? No big deal. Rivera has been as good as ever in 2013, going 30-for-32 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 34.1 innings. He’s actually giving up more hits than usual, but it seems like most have been weakly hit bloopers that just find some outfield grass. Hopefully his .333 BABIP returns to his .264 career average in the second half. The Yankees have relied on their pitching staff heavily this year, and Rivera has been there to shut the door and preserve every lead time after time. I can’t believe he’s retiring after this season; it looks like he could pitch forever.

David Robertson
Rivera can’t do it all himself, of course. Robertson continues to be elite as his setup man, pitching to a 2.11 ERA and 2.51 FIP in 38.1 innings. The control-challenged right-hander cut down on his walks in the second half last season and that has carried over to this year — his 2.82 BB/9 (8.0 BB%) is far better than his 4.10 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) career average. Robertson and Rivera are arguably the best setup-closer combination in baseball, and the Yankees are lucky to have such an elite end-game duo. They’ve leaned on these guys a ton this year and they continue to get the job done.

Joe Girardi
Yes, every manager makes questionable pitching changes and calls for weird double-steals from time to time. It comes with the territory. But think about the job Girardi has done controlling what could have been a very chaotic situation. Players are getting hurt seemingly non-stop and the Yankees have played just about .500 ball since the calendar flipped to May, but things around the team remain relatively calm and orderly. This season could have very easily spiraled out of control, but Girardi has prevented that from happening. He deserves a lot of credit and should get Manager of the Year consideration in a few months.

Categories : Players

51 Comments»

  1. Darren says:

    I don’t see how Robbie gets a straight A.
    A minus, sure, but not just a regular A.

    First, he had that stretch of just sucking.
    Second, his baserunning is atrocious.

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      True. He was pretty bad for over a month.

    • Crime Dog says:

      Second Basemen who has a .917 OPS and plays excellent defense and plays everyday… Yea that’s an A.

      • jjyank says:

        And really, arguing an A versus an A-? Semantics. Robbie slumped for awhile. So does every player at one point.

        • Jim Is Bored says:

          “So does every player at one point.”

          But according to a lot of folks, that’s inexcusable.

          My favorite idea from his slump was that it was longer, worse, or indicative of a fading Robby; in a way that past year’s slumps was not.

          Yeah, ok.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          92.444444445

          Stop being a fucking Pollyanna. Embrace a nice cool glass of realism for once, you Cashman ass-sniffing monkey. Or something like that.

          • Darren says:

            You guys sure are extrapolating a lot from a comment which is true. Robbie had a great first half, deserving of an A-. The only thing that kept him from an A was a slump that may or may not be indicative of anything. And the fact that he he doesn’t run to first. You want to call it nitpicking, fine. Just don’t argue that IF Mike was giving out grades of + or _, that Robbie deserves an A, and not an A-.

            I will leave Cashman’s butt sniffing to the experts.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              Nah. I was just making fun of you and jj. Nothing to see here, as usual.

            • jjyank says:

              Am I the only one who doesn’t care if he busts it down the line on a ground out so that me may reach base 2 more times a season? Again, semantics. If you wanna knock down every player that has had a slump, it’s gonna be a long list. Miggy slumped a few weeks ago. It happens to everyone. And his numbers are still absolutely baller for an up the middle player despite it. So that’s an A.

              • WhittakerWalt says:

                It’s maybe splitting hairs, but whatevs. We always say the whole year counts, not just the part we like (or don’t like). I’m just averaging the whole thing together, and the month where Cano stunk has brought his out-of-this-world A-plus season to a still-pretty-freaking-great A-minus.
                That’s all. I don’t think that’s an unfair assessment.

    • Lukaszek says:

      But he learned something during his slump. In May and early July he was swinging at everything as pitchers pounded him outside and he would strikeout or roll over to second. However, on June 11th, something clicked inside him, and he started avoiding those outside pitches. He has 26 walks since then, which is almost a walk per game! And this month he has a grand total of three strikeouts. He’s not Josh Hamilton.

    • Laz says:

      I see it as, are these players around where we expected them best case scenario. Cano is doing right up there with his best seasons.

  2. I was surprised that Gardner didn’t make this list, but I won’t argue that much with it. I am sure he will be included with the B grades.

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      Gardner’s cooled off quite a bit.

      • I'm One says:

        And his base stealing is not exactly where it was expected to be.

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

          Right. I’d say his power and overall hitting have probably been a bit better than expected, his defense has been good, but his BB%, K%, and basestealing have all been disappointing to various degrees.
          I’d say he’s a B+. He’s been good overall, not great.

    • GT Yankee says:

      Agreed….No love for Gardie. I think he deserves an A. Imagine where they’d be without him atop the order and in the field. :(

      • trr says:

        No ‘A’ for Gardner due to his inconsistant offense and disappointing baserunning. We need him, yes; but he’s had too many weak at bats, has not hit well situationally speaking.

        I pretty much agree with Mike’s assessments; D-Rob does make me a little nervous with runners on base; but he and Mo have been a terrific tandem all year….where might we be without them! Cano our best hitter, Kuroda our best starter…Girardi is a little harder to grade for me especially mid-season. Basically I like Joe, but I may not be ready to give him an “A:…at least not yet.

  3. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    How are we going to handle all of the Incompletes this year???

  4. jjyank says:

    I get the feeling that a lot of fans aren’t appreciating Cano this year. Maybe because he’ll be a FA, and contract concerns are coloring things. Maybe because he “doesn’t hustle”. I don’t know. It seems like he’s hitting the quietest 143 wRC+ I’ve ever seen.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      We’re not appreciating him because he hasn’t had the same # of people on ahead of him, or driving him in. At least that’s my anecdotal opinion. His rep has suffered with that of the team around him.

    • hogsmog says:

      Maybe it’s hard to look flashy in the same league as 2013 Miggy, Machedo, and Trout.

      • Jim Is Bored says:

        Machado has been very average for about a month now. His lack of plate discipline is hurting him. Obviously he’s young, fantastic defensively, and can learn to take a walk; but until he does he’s going to struggle a bit.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      They don’t appreciate him, period. His demeanor and coolness make it so that we want to project onto him so many things that aren’t there. He’s like a baggage-less Alex at times.

      • Kiko Jones says:

        This.

        They’ll have to learn to appreciate him, ’cause if he re-signs it’s gonna be Robbie’s team, very very soon.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        If he gets traded or signs with another team, those idiots will be singing a different tune in a hurry. Who’s looking forward to Luis Cruz and Jayson Nix at 2nd base next year?

    • Lukaszek says:

      I don’t know why he’s not appreciated. He is carrying the lineup right now (demonstrated by that 11 game stretch where he was the only Yankee with a homerun). His defense is really good too

  5. yanks says:

    gardner???

  6. NeilT says:

    5 “A” grades is pretty good, for any team, really. One SP, one everyday position player, two relievers, and the manager – seriously, find me another club with that (and the same or similar record as the Yankees).

    The trouble is, to be a legitimate contender, you most likely need 8-10 definite “B”s, possibly more, and the Yankees just don’t have that. There’s a case for Gardy, maybe Ichiro, none of the SPs, and out of the relievers, Kelley and possibly Claiborne up until the past couple of weeks. Okay Warren gets a “B” but we only see him twice a month! And Overbay. Maybe Nix. Really though they’re all “B-”. Not enough consistency.

    “C”s… CC, Hughes, Phelps, Andy, Logan, Stewart, Nova, Almonte (C+, maybe even a B-), Cervelli.

    “F”s… Joba, Shortstops not named Nix, 3rd Basemen, 1st Basemen not named Overbay, catchers not named Stewart or Cervelli, Wells, Hafner.

    Too much mediocrity, not enough consistency, not enough players even playing to their career numbers.

    • JLC 776 says:

      I think we’ll see a lot of “B”s in the bullpen, but unfortunately they don’t collectively impact the course of the team as much as, say, the left side of the infield.

      Those “F”s are going to hurt…

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I don’t see that may F’s.

        Youk
        Joba

        I mean, honestly, that’s it. I’m not really into lumping everyone from Chris Nelson to Luis Cruz into a category, and Wells/Hafner have brought something to the table. I don’t think it’s quite the bloodbath as you seem to fear.

  7. Tim says:

    I would say Nova’s last 2 starts are a grade A, arguably the best starts of any NYY starter this season, and Gardner is a high B, B, B+ in my opinion. And you could say Logan has been a B,B+ as well.

  8. JLC 776 says:

    This seems fair to me.

    I love Gardy, but his work is B+ at best – it just looks a lot better in the context of the league’s second-worst lineup.

    Happy to see Girardi on the list as well. He gets a lot of crap for putting out the lineups that he does – as though he has a lot of control over who’s on the team!

    I can’t wait to see the ‘B-list’.

  9. Get Phelps Up says:

    “Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes?”

    Also remember how he was immediately declared a “bust” and “inconsistent” when he struggled in his first couple starts?

    • Lukaszek says:

      I admit I hated the signing since we haven’t had the best history with pitchers coming out of the National League and pitchers coming out of Japan. Kuroda in a way was the worst of both worlds when he came over, so I was expecting 6.00+ ERA. Damn he proved me wrong though, he’s been pretty amazing

      • Matt says:

        You shouldn’t have been surprised. Kuroda threw in the low-mid 90′s with a good ground ball rate and an ability to strike hitters out. That translates to any ballpark or league.

        Anecdotally, the ones who seem to struggle the most seem to me to be those who are not complete pitchers, such as those who throw junk, rely too much on the fastball, give up tons of fly balls, or get most of their strikeouts against the pitcher.

        For instance, Javier Vazquez gives up tons of fly balls because he hangs a lot of breaking pitches. He can’t really blow guys away, but his control is not good enough to keep those in the ballpark.

  10. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Agreed on all of these.

    I’d give strong consideration to putting Adam Warren, Preston Claiborne, and Shawn Kelley in the B+/A- range. All three have really led to this team having a much better back-end of the bullpen than anyone could have ever imagined. If anything, with the latter two, it feels to me like growing pains and determination of role have led to some of their missteps. I’m very happy with all three.

    • NeilT says:

      Kelley is a solid B+ in my mind. Shaky start but he’s been nails for weeks now.

      Warren, well, yeah, deserves a solid B but he’s in that horrible spot of not being needed for days at a time. At least Girardi acknowledged that recently. He’s this year’s Phelps, but lower on the pole of SPs than Phelps was since there’s already Phelps and presumably Pineda ahead and possibly Nuno (when fit) ahead of him.

      Presto would’ve got a definite B+ from me two, three weeks ago, but “second go round” and the shine has worn off a little. Still a B-, but he needs to figure out what the league has figured out on him, and do something about it. Far trickier as a reliever than as a starter.

  11. LarryM Fl says:

    Mike, nice article on the first half grades but I would have like to see your grade for Cashman and ownership in their role with the first half. Also I agree as much as I thing Robbie jakes it down the line if he believes its a routine play and it annoys me. I can’t get over how the guy can field his position. So A or A- its all the same for me.

    I like Joe Girardi. He does a good job keeping the team together in good times and not so good. He gives some players more rope than I would at times but does make the move if necessary.

    As far as the the front office and ownership grades are concerned. I would have give them collectively a B-. IMHO they had a plan but it was weak and practically expected every injured player to return and play as if nothing occurred which has gone miserably bad. Relying on Youkilis to play in Arod’s place on paper is good but his injury history told a different story. Jeter, they rushed him way too soon. Teix. sheath injuries are notoriously full season issues. The front office had to have some forethought about getting some bats to replace competent hitters not replacement level players. If you have a plan you do not stick with it at all costs if it is going terribly wrong. We are into the 92 game. More than half of the season the team has held its own but the last weeks play is a true indicator of a plan that has no merit and needs to be changed.

    Overbay is OK. Hafner is a no. Nice moves in the bullpen. The replacements in the field have been weak but you can not replace a whole team without some discomfort.

  12. Matt DiBari says:

    I’ve really never been a fan of Joe’s managerial style at all, and last year’s near manic over managing was just brutal to watch.

    That being said, this year is just so much better. If we’re willing to accept that all managers are gonna do stupid things to fit their quirks, and that Joe’s particular favorite is pointless moves to get non existent platoon benefits(playing Ben Francisco at all, playing people out of position to get the right handed bat of Alberto Gonzalez in the lineup)he’s really done a fine enough job this year. The real key seems to be that we’ve really cut down on the pitching changes, and without a bullpen full of specialists, we’re not pulling effective pitchers for matchup pitchers against non threats, which drove me nuts last year.

    Sort of a long and rambling way of saying that I think Joe if not an “A” (I mean, Ben Francisco)is probably more of a positive than he’s been in years.

  13. Andrew Brotherton says:

    Although it won’t happen I’d love to see the Yankees take over the trading deadline this year. They would easily have the 4 best pieces- Best player- Cano, best reliever- Robertson, best lefty reliever- Logan, best outfielder- Gardner. They could probably land 7 to 8 top 100 prospects 4 of them top 50.

    • Jigga says:

      Why would you wanna trade Robertson?

    • LarryM Fl says:

      If we trade away our best players and we get 7 or 8 top 100 prospects. We start from point zero next year and improve hopefully for the next 5 or 6 years and maybe make the playoffs.

      The Yankees do not have to start from point zero. To me blowing up the team just weakens us when we trade away four solid ML players for 7/8 potential players. It will be a rough 5 or 6 years. The Yankees if they get down to $189 budget. They can acquire young players similar to the 7 or 8 prospects that you desire without blowing up the team. As you can see as crummy as this team is. They are 7 games above .500 and three games out a playoff spot. So we do have some work to do to improve but its not a mountain to high to climb.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        Plus you never know if prospects are going to pan out. This is baseball, and there are very few true “can’t miss” prospects.

  14. Nathan says:

    I agree with all except Robbie. He’s been very good but I wouldn’t give him an “A”. Mo, Robertson and especially Kuroda have been excellent.

    Kuroda has stepped up as Sabathia has taken a step back. I can’t imagine where the Yankees would be without him in the rotation right now.

  15. Andrew Brotherton says:

    He is a free agent in 2015 and we could get some valuable pieces for someone that will be really pricey to keep. Gardner is also a free agent in 2015.

  16. forensic says:

    But Tillman has 11 wins before the ASB. How can you leave someone like that off the team???

    Of course, we’ll ignore that Kuroda would have 10 wins if Mo hadn’t blown both of his saves in games Kuroda was lined up to win. Plus, that he’s doing it with a much worse offense behind him.

    • forensic says:

      I would actually have a tough time giving Robbie a full A too. And Girardi as well, though that one is very subjective, of course.

  17. Poconos Adam says:

    I am not a Cano fan — but seriously….you guys think he’s not been an ‘A’? He has ZERO protection in the lineup — worse than ZERO.

    Yet he keeps hitting and made the adjustment when teams began throwing him nothing but junk.

    This team would be in horrific shape and well under .500 without him.

    I’d be fine with trading him for a huge prospect take — or you re-sign him (please, no ARod 10 year deal). You do not let him leave as a free agent and get a single compensation pick in return. No — that’s stupid.

    Cashman (and ownership) better figure it out fast and make their move.

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