Recently I ran a post demonstrating that the best teams in baseball the past few seasons have separated themselves from the pack after the All-Star break. I ran that post because I quietly feel that the 2011 Yankees may be poised to out run their competition in July and August. With that in mind, I wanted to zero in on the players who would have to step up to make a strong second half run possible.
Robbie is in the middle of an excellent season. He’s batting .296/.342/.521 entering the All-Star break, which translates to a .373 wOBA. This is down a bit from his career best performance in 2010, when his wOBA was .389, but it remains an excellent performance. What is lost amid this excellent performance is that Cano has typically been a better hitter in the second half of the season. ESPN reports that from 2008-2010 Robbie hit .297/.339/.468 before the break, but .314/.358/.517 after the break. Oddly enough, he actually hit worse after the break in 2010, but for his career his numbers have been better in the second half in every other season he’s played. If that pattern holds true this season then Cano may be in a position to carry the team in the warmer months.
Most analysts are enamored of Tex’s impressive counting stats, and with good reason. The dude has 25 home runs. However, his wOBA is only .378, compared to .387 for his career. This is entirely because his OBP is just .352, which would be the lowest OBP Tex has posted since he was a rookie. Those numbers are fine for ordinary players, but Tex has the potential to be one of the best switch hitters of all time and is expected to do better.
Fortunately for Yankee fans, he too is a second half performer. In fact, from 2008-2010 Tex has been a completely different player after the All-Star break. During that time he has hit a good but not great .267/.370/.494 before the break, but a phenomenal .310/.406/.584 after the break. If Tex can do that again in 2011 the Yankees will score a lot of runs.
Since the beginning of the season the common wisdom has been that the Yankees would be in the market to trade for a starter. Analysts felt this way because it was assumed that at least one of Ivan Nova, Freddy Garciaand Bartolo Colon would fail as a starter (or a long reliever, which is how Colon started the season). Instead, so far on the season the Yankees have hit the inside straight. All three have succeeded to varying degrees. None has been more successful than Colon, who has flirted with being the Yankees’ best starter on a rate basis at times this season.
The real measure of success for Colon will be his durability down the stretch. At 39 years of age, the Yankees have no incentive to limit Colon all that much. Who knows if he will ever be as good as he was in the first half again. But, if he can continue to be as dominant as he has been as the trade deadline approaches then the Yankees may not need to part ways with prospects to get a starter from a thin market. Instead, the potential one-two punch of CC Sabathia and Colon is potentially as good as any in baseball, and would be stronger than the front line the Yankees took into the 2009 post season. All that rests on Bartolo’s surgically repaired right shoulder. Despite that, he’s still not as important as this guy …
2. CC Sabathia
What can I say about the beast that I haven’t said already? As it stands, my man crush on CC is approaching the legendary proportions of my man crush on Alex Rodriguez. Still, let’s wax poetic about how awesome he’s been. He’s on pace to give the Yankees about 267 innings. His FIP of 2.50 would be the lowest of his career if he continues at this pace through the rest of the season. He’s been worth 4.8 fWAR on the season, which trails only Roy Halladay in all of baseball (take THAT Jered Weaver)! Did I mention that he was worth 5.1 fWAR in ALL of 2010? That’s how good CC has been in 2011. He’s almost matched his entire output from his excellent 2010 campaign BEFORE THE ALL-STAR BREAK!
Now that I’ve regained my breath, I’ll share the best part. CC has also been a second half performer from 2008 to 2010. Over that period his ERA was 3.54 before the break, and 2.50 after the break. His WHIP was 1.18 before the break during that stretch and 1.12 after the break. In order for CC to have the best year of his career (and consider this a contract year, because that’s exactly what it is) he just has to continue his post All-Star break pace from his past three seasons. His second half ERA and WHIP during that stretch are both better than what he’s already posted during this monster season. If CC can do that he’ll position himself to carry the Yankee pitching staff into the post season, and earn himself an additional fifty or sixty million dollars in the process. Win-win!
1. Alex Rodriguez
He’s not on the field and he’s still the most important player! I’m serious, by the way. A-Rod has a .374 wOBA on the season. Even an offense as strong as the Yankees’ will miss that production for four to six weeks. In order to succeed after the All-Star break the Yankees will have to survive not only without one of their best hitters, but without a player who without question is still capable of turning it on and carrying the team for a month or two. That won’t just require Eduardo Nunez to continue the hot-hitting he showed after Derek Jeter went on the DL. It will also require Tex and Cano to do what they’ve typically done in the second half, while Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher avoid turning back into automatic outs. That’s a lot to ask of any team, but the Bombers will have to respond to compete in the AL East.
The most interesting twist in all this is that Alex is due to come back in mid August or so, at full strength. By all accounts he’s having a necessary but otherwise minor surgery. If he can burst out of the gate when he returns to the team the way he did at the start of the season, he may provide precisely the spark the team needs to compete with the Red Sox down the stretch, particularly if the rest of the squad was holding its own in his absence.
For my part, I’m feeling optimistic. The 2011 Yankees have gotten off to a stronger start than I thought they would. Why begin doubting them now?
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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