April has not been kind to the Yankees recently. They were 14-16 last season, 10-14 in 2007, and 10-15 in 2005. They only managed to break .500 in 2006, when they were 13-11. The Yankees finally were able to come out of the gate without digging a hole to spend the season trying to climb out of.
Speaking of holes, all of this has been despite losing Alex Rodriguez to injury. Yankee third basemen have hit .192/.241/.295 this season. The team probably would have been happy to start just below .500 without their best hitter.You all know the statistics, but how have the Yankees managed to pull off their strong start?
Overall, team pitching has been absolutely terrible, but you don’t need me to tell you that. The team’s ERA is 5.79. Yankee relievers have been even worse, posting a collective ERA of 6.46. Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain have been strong, but Sabathia and Burnett have not. Chien-Ming Wang was historically bad, but Phil Hughes replaced him and tossed 6 shutout innings.
The Yankees have not been carried to a +.500 record by their pitching. So how did they do it?
Robinson Cano has never had a good start to the season. He is a career .270/.313/.392 hitter in April, and an even worse .271/.297/.402. I don’t think that anyone had high expectations for Cano this season. A lot of people discussed the merits of trading him while he still had value and picking up Orlando Hudson to play second.
Well, Cano has been the second best second baseman in the American League (the top honor belongs to Aaron Hill of the blue Jays). His defense has been solid, and he’s finally taking pitches like a professional baseball player. Maturity has always been the knock against Cano. Baseball is as much mental as it is physical, and a Robinson Cano with his head in the game may prove to be MVP caliber. He has hit .366/.400/.581 on the month.
Melky lost the spring training battle against Brett Gardner. Gardner struggles to hit in the majors, and lost his job to Melky. Cabrera has so far repeated his sparkling 2008 April hitting, with a .327/.400/.571 line in 55 at bats. Oddly enough, Melky has hit 4 home runs, but no doubles.
I hate to be the pessimist, but I have trouble seeing Cabrera as a productive, long term member of the team. He was inept at the plate for a very long time last year. Hopefully, I’ll be wrong. As long as the Yankees get league average production from the center field position this year, I’ll be happy.
The Tampa Bay Rays
This was supposed to be the most difficult AL East for the Yankees to compete in since before Joe Torre came to the team. The Rays only added to their World Series Finalist roster, and the Red Sox started the season as strong as ever. Well, the Rays have started off at 9-14, thanks to poor starting pitching from the back end of their rotation and worse luck. The Rays have scored 110 runs and allowed 103 runs. All things being equal, they should have about the same record as the Yankees.
I would expect the Rays to rebound. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria are mashing the ball in the middle of the lineup, and David Price is still lurking on the sidelines. Still, the poor start gives the Yankees a good cushion against the rising Rays, and forces Tampa Bay to do what the Yankees have struggled against lately.
On a side note, the Blue Jays have started off strong, but I don’t trust a lot of teams where Marco Scutaro is an important part of their starting lineup. Somehow, Scutaro has been walked 22 times in 24 games.
The Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees
I’m sure that about four other people care about this in addition to Eric and I, but another Yankee team has been making history this April. The Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees have started off 17-3, thanks to a long list of great performances by a group of former major leaguers and future Yankee rookies.
Shelley Duncan has carried the team more than anyone else. He has hit .372/.437/.756 with 9 home runs, as have prospects Austin Jackson, Juan Miranda, and Kevin Russo. If the Yankees need the help, there is certainly depth to draw upon down at Triple-A.
Yankee Hitter of the Month: Robinson Cano (.366/.400/.581)
Yankee Pitcher of the Month: Andy Petttitte (2-1, 2.96 ERA in 27 1/3 innings)
Minor League Player of the Month: Jesus Montero (.338/.493/.558)
Disaster of the Month: Chien-Ming Wang (0-3, 34.50 ERA in 6 innings)
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees