May 2012 Monthly Wrap-Up

Welcome back, Robbie. (photo c/o Reuters Pictures)

For last month’s wrap-up, please click here. I went a little overboard collecting data this month, so I’ll try to make this as brief as possible.

The Yankees played a decidedly mediocre month of baseball in May, going 14-14 and splitting both their home and road contests. They’re probably lucky to have managed a .500 record considering they gave up slightly more runs than they scored, but all things considered one can’t complain too much about the mostly uninspired ball the team played seeing as how they didn’t lose any games in the standings. Although that 4.0 runs per game mark is pretty sad considering they never even dipped below 4.5 runs per game during any one calendar month over the last two seasons.

The Offense

Despite one of the most wretched stretches of futility in recent Yankee history midmonth, the team still wound up with an above-average attack in May (107 wRC+), although in reality the team’s primary issue wasn’t putting runners on but actually taking advantage of their opportunities and scoring those runners. Unfortunately I can’t split RISP down by month — I can’t imagine how gross the team’s numbers would’ve been in May — but on the season the Yankees have a .309 wOBA/90 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, which is just unacceptable for a team with this much firepower. I still expect things will even out in due course, but it doesn’t make the futility any less frustrating to watch.

On an individual level, Robinson Cano finally remembered he was Robinson Cano, putting up a .399 wOBA/152 wRC+, and the much-maligned Mark Teixeira (137 wRC+) and the slightly lesser-maligned Alex Rodriguez (131 wRC+) also provided output closer to their career norms, though the latter’s line remains rather punchless (.431 SLG in May; .424 overall). Raul Ibanez also continued to do work, with a big-time .397 wOBA/151 wRC+. On the flip side, Russell Martin‘s hitting woes continued, with a below-average (though fairly well above-average for a catcher) .313 wOBA/93 wRC+; while Derek Jeter‘s hot hitting cooled off as he turned in a .315 wOBA/94 wRC+ month.

However, most surprising was Nick Swisher, who went from red-hot in April to completely useless in May, with a .242 wOBA/44 wRC+ showing. This was Swish’s second consecutive sub-par May (last year .293/78); hopefully he can get back to where he’s supposed to be in June.

Starting Pitching

After a horrific start to the season, the starting rotation got somewhat back on track on May, although the staff’s most glaring weakness — susceptibility to the longball — actually got even worse. I keep waiting for the HR/9 to regress, and while it seems unlikely that the Bombers’ starters will go an entire year giving up home runs at  an absurd 1.63 per nine clip — only five teams in the last decade featured rotations that even posted 1.5 HR/9 rates for a full season, and the highest of those five was 1.59 by the 2003 Rangers — they are going to have to cut the longball crap out if they intend to both make and make a deep run in the playoffs. Of the bottom 30 rotations by HR/9 in that link, only three made the postseason — the 2006 Twins (1.37 HR/9), the 2007 Phillies (1.35) and 2009 Phillies (1.34).

As usual, CC Sabathia led the way with another badass month of May, although even he wasn’t immune to the home run (1.14 per nine); Hiroki Kuroda continued to outpitch underwhelming peripherals (3.96 ERA/5.01 FIP); Andy Pettitte returned to the team for the first time since October 2010 and didn’t skip a beat, helping lend some stability to the rotation; while Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova continued to play which-young-Yankee-righthander-will-get-demoted-first, as Hughes’ season line sits at 5.64 ERA/5.04 FIP despite a stretch of four better-than-expected starts, while Nova continued to give up rockets all over the field en route to a 5.60 ERA/5.02 FIP on the year. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Hughes’ and Nova’s struggles is that they continue to strike a lot of hitters out and mostly limit the walks, but they are making far too many mistakes and when they do, those mistakes are getting crushed. Incredibly, Hughes’ 1.7 HR/9 was actually an improvement from April’s 2.9 rate.

The Bullpen

For the second straight month, the bullpen was the team’s most consistent component — not to mention remained one of the most effective units in the AL — which is pretty amazing considering Mariano Rivera didn’t pitch and David Robertson threw 3.1 innings. Boone Logan wins the award for most ridiculous line of the month, with a 15.4 K/9, 1.0 BB/9, zero home runs, .538 BABIP, 4.82 ERA and -0.08 FIP. Yes, negative.

Platoon and Home/Road Splits

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I also compiled the team’s platoon and home/road splits for the first time ever in a monthly wrap-up, to see what, if any, trends have emerged.

As you can see, the offense has turned in nearly identical performances against both righthanders and lefthanders. I was probably most surprised to see that the offense has performed slightly better on the road than at home — in particular, the team somewhat surprisingly leads the AL in road ISO, although they did come in 2nd in the AL in that category last year, so I suppose it’s not that bizarre.

The pitching staff has been getting absolutely brutalized by righthanded hitters, giving up a league-worst 1.44 home runs per nine to righties and league-worst .465 slugging. Lefties have been kept at bay slightly more effectively, although they’re still doing their share of damage. And it may surprise some of you that the staff has pitched better at home thus far this season despite Yankee Stadium‘s friendly offensive confines, though they are still giving up way too many extra-base hits.

Sanchez homers twice in big Charleston win

Triple-A Empire State (3-0 loss to Toledo)
CF Kevin Russo: 2-4, 2 K, 1 CS
2B Matt Antonelli: 1-4, 2 K
1B Steve Pearce & DH Jack Cust: both 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
LF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 CS, 1 HBP — stuck in a little 8-for-39 rut (.205)
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K — 13 hits in his last 35 at-bats (.371)
3B Brandon Laird: 2-3, 1 BB, 1 K — had two hits in his previous 27 at-bats (.074)
RF Colin Curtis: 0-4, 1 K
SS Ramiro Pena: 0-3, 1 K
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 70 of 115 pitches were strikes (60.9%) … 46 strikeouts in 53 IP this year (7.8 K/9), up a full strikeout from his career rate coming into the season (6.9 K/9)
RHP Jason Bulger: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 22 of 33 pitches were strikes
LHP Justin Thomas: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K — 18 pitches, 12 strikes

[Read more…]

2012 Draft: Christian Jones

The 2012 amateur draft is only five days away, so between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.

Christian Jones | LHP

Background
A potential first round pick coming into the spring, Jones grew up in the Bay Area before headed to the University of Oregon. His draft stock took a huge hit when he blew out his elbow in February and needed Tommy John surgery.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs., Jones throws three pitches from a low arm slot when healthy. His sinking fastball sits in the low-90s and his slider sweeps across the plate, as you’d expect given his arm slot. A changeup serves as his third offering. Jones repeats his classic drop-and-drive delivery well, but he can still suffer through bouts of wildness on occasion. His makeup and work ethic are considered major pluses and his rehab is going well by all indications.

Miscellany
The new spending restrictions really screw over a kid like Jones, who went from a potential top pick to someone who might not be drafted at all. Baseball America ranked him as the 315th best prospect in the draft following the elbow injury, so way down the list. With teams unable to pay him say, third or fourth round money without incurring harsh penalties, there’s a very good chance Jones will return to school and come out as a potential top pick in next year’s draft. I really like him as a late-round upside play, but the system really doesn’t allow for those kind of picks anymore.

Thursday Night Open Thread

(Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Today is second of three off-days the Yankees will have in a 12-day span. Two are needed for travel to and from the West Coast, but I’m not quite sure what Monday’s day off is about. I’m not complaining though, that’s Day One of the draft and for the first time in RAB history I’ll be able to focus on it without having to check the score between picks. I remember a few years ago, I think 2008, the Yankees were playing the Red Sox the same night. It’ll be nice to have that break. We’ll hold a live chat during all three days as usual, so get excited.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. There are only three baseball games being played today and MLB Network will air two of team: Red Sox-Tigers (Beckett vs. Scherzer, 7pm ET) and Brewers-Dodgers (Greinke vs. Billinglsey, 10pm ET)). The Astros and Rockies are the non-nationally broadcast game, and … ewww. There’s also some NBA playoff action going on later tonight. Talk about whatever here, go nuts.

2012 Draft: MLB.com’s Latest Mock Draft

In his latest mock draft for MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo has the Astros taking Stanford RHP Mark Appel with the first overall pick. It sure seems like their choice is down to either Appel or prep OF Byron Buxton at this point. I’d take Buxton, but no one asked me.

Anyway, Mayo has the Yankees taking Texas A&M OF Tyler Naquin with their first round pick (#30 overall). He has arguably the best outfield arm and the best hit tool in the college crop, making an absurd amount of hard contact to all fields from the left side. The concerns are that he doesn’t run/play defense well and may not hit for much power, so there is ‘tweener potential. Naquin can hit and isn’t a disaster in the field though, so he should through the system quickly. Mayo also reiterates that the Yankees have some interest in various unnamed high school arms, which we’ve heard before.

Injury Updates: Eduardo Nunez & Austin Romine

Got a pair of injury updates from the minor leagues…

  • Eduardo Nunez (thumb) has started taking ground balls in Tampa and should return to Triple-A Empire State soon. He was placed on the DL a week or two ago after essentially jamming his thumb. [Andrew Marchand]
  • Austin Romine (back) has been cleared for baseball activities, something he’s been unable to do since Spring Training. Last week we heard that he was going to be out until July with an inflamed disc in his back, which fits with today’s news assuming they’re going to be conservative with his workouts over the next few weeks. [Romine on Twitter]

Curtis Granderson and the opposite field

Before plating five runs in the third and Nick Swisher‘s go-ahead sacrifice fly in the sixth, Curtis Granderson set the Yankees up for a quick strike last night by doubling with one out in the first inning. There’s nothing unusual about that on the surface, but this double was different that most of Granderson’s doubles. It was an opposite field double, landing perfectly in left-center between the ball-hawking Mike Trout-Peter Bourjos combination.

Granderson isn’t exactly an all-fields type of hitter. He pulls the ball for big-time power and is tremendously successful doing so. One opposite field double doesn’t mean much of anything, but take a quick look at his spray chart for the six-game West Coast road trip (via Texas Leaguers)…

Of his seven hits in the six games, four were to the opposite field and two were yanked to right for homers. The one hit that hugged the left field line was a total bloop, but the other three hits to left were solid line drives. All three came on pitches on the outer third of the plate from right-handers (Tyson Ross and Ervin Santana), so Granderson just flipped them to the opposite field. It’s pretty neat. A nice piece of hitting, as the pundits say.

The four opposite field hits on the road trip give Curtis nine such hits this season, one fewer than he had all of last year. His .378 wOBA to left is a top-20 mark among all left-handed hitters and far better than his .304 career mark. We haven’t heard anything about a conscious effort on Granderson’s part to hit more to the opposite field and it could all just be a fluke this early in the season, but it’s definitely something worth keeping an eye on. Anything that diversifies his offensive impact without taking away from that huge power is a major plus.