In keeping with the tradition I started on Yankeeist last season, I’m pleased to present The Yankee Analysts’ first-ever monthly wrap-up.
April 2011 was obviously a big month for the Yankees, as they went 15-9, finishing the first month of the season with a winning record for a third straight year (they went 15-7 last April) and winding up in first place, up 1.5 games on the resurgent Tampa Bay Rays.
Let’s get to the numbers, shall we? Here’s how the offense performed in April 2011 (sorted by fWAR):
Five(!) Yankee regulars produced at above a .400 wOBA clip in April — Alex Rodriguez, Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira — compared with only two in April 2010 (Jorge Posada and Cano).
A-Rod of course began the season like a house on fire before falling into an almost comically bad slump during the past week. Still, his .425 mark was his best month since September 2009, when he put up a .432 wOBA.
Russell Martin kicked his Yankee career off with a bang, putting up the best month of all catchers in MLB and showing that he’s fully recovered from the variety of ailments that derailed his playing career the last few seasons.
Curtis Granderson essentially continued his torrid hitting from the end of the 2010 season, pumping 7 home runs — several of the tie-breaking variety — and seems to have overcome his severe platoon slump. I won’t go so far as to say he’s completely cured against lefties, as it’s pretty easy for players to fall back into bad habits, but we’ve amassed a decent enough sample at this point going back to August 2010, and it’s pretty hard to ignore the numbers. Oh, and Austin Jackson? He’s off to a robust .194/.269/.269 start to the season, with a BABIP over 100 points lower than last year. Luck sure can be a cruel mistress. I’d love to hear from all of the people who commented over at Yankeeist all winter long about how much they hated Granderson and how the Yankees should never have traded Jackson.
Robinson Cano had his second straight excellent April, although unlike last year, the Yankees didn’t need him to carry the offense this go-round. Cano ended the month on a monster power tear, and the crazy thing is, he should get even better once he gets that unsustainably low walk rate up.
And how about Mark Teixeira? After the worst April of his career last season, he put up his best April since 2004 (in which he recorded a .422 wOBA across 37 plate appearances). I not only had Mark garnering the most MVP votes among the Yankees in our pre-season predictions but was the only member of the staff to do so, and while either Cano or A-Rod could just as easily do so as well, I’m very excited to see if Tex can finally keep up his torrid hitting for a full season.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the Yankee offense. For as strong as these five were, the other four starters were nearly replacement-level bad. Nick Swisher put together his second-worst month as a Yankee (the worst being May 2009, when he stumbled to a paltry .278 wOBA), though he still managed to get his walks. Fortunately it’s difficult to envision Swish playing much worse than he did in April, and I suspect his bat will come around soon enough.
Brett Gardner got off to a rather wretched start before starting to pick things up near the end of the month, and his defense ensured he at least managed to contribute something positive. Jorge Posada, despite clubbing six home runs, managed to be worth -0.3 fWAR on the month, although if anyone were ever due for a rebound, it’d have to be Jorge and his insane .065 BABIP. Of course, a BABIP can only rebound so much when you’re striking out in 28% of your at-bats, but hopefully Posada still has something left in the tank.
Which brings me to my favorite whipping boy, Derek Jeter. I don’t know whether to be insulted or laugh that Joe Girardi continues to bat the Captain leadoff despite a painful .311 OBP and the complete inability to hit anything in the air or out of the infield (Major League-leading 4.13 GB/FB ratio and 6th-highest-in-the-AL 11.3% IFH%, to go along with a whopping two extra base hits). While power has never been a major part of his game, Derek has also not hit a ball over any wall since August 2010, and quite simply, looks totally finished at the plate. His bat speed and pitch recognition skills are seriously deteriorated, and his range at short has somehow gotten even worse. But the good news is, even though he’s only been worth $100,000 this season, the Yankees didn’t insult him too badly by finally agreeing to pay him $15 million for this season and also signing him for three more years after this one. Oh wait.
Brian Cashman’s veteran bench adds — Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones — have acquitted themselves nicely thus far. It’s quite comforting to be able to plug in a bench player and feel like the lineup barely misses a beat, and that’s exactly what Chavez (whose swing and break out of the box remind me quite a bit of Don Mattingly) and Jones have been able to do.
On to the pitching staff:
There are really no words to describe CC Sabathia, who just continues to awe. Thus far he’s improved on both his K/9 and BB/9 from 2010, and while he may have been the beneficiary of some home run luck (only 0.45 HR/9), he’s also allowed a BABIP .016 points higher than his career, and there’s no reason to expect anything but continued greatness from the Yankees’ best pitcher.
Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have, of course, been the surprises of the season thus far. A.J. Burnett‘s off to a nice start, and has hopefully regained his confidence and can maintain the progress he’s made, while Ivan Nova‘s posted two strong outings in his last go-round, although he’s still something of a wild card in my book, unless his curveball truly is for real.
Phil Hughes has been the great disappointment of the season so far, and we should be finding out what’s wrong with The Man Formerly Known as Franchise at some point today.
The bullpen, despite a few hiccups here and there — primarily from setup man Rafael Soriano — has really been quite excellent, tossing to the best FIP in the American League during the month of April. David Robertson continues to be an incredibly valuable weapon out of the ‘pen, and Joba Chamberlain seems to be back on the right track as well. It’s almost as if they didn’t even need to bestow $12 million a year on an eighth-inning guy.
Here’s the team as a whole:
Hard to quibble with much in this stat ledger. Tied for top offensive unit in the league, with above-average run-yielding (ERA- of 94) and peripherals (FIP- of 89). All in all it was an excellent month for the New York Yankees, and it might’ve been even better had the bullpen not vultured the win in four of the team’s nine losses.
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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