In a new feature, the Yanks Go Yard staff will be posed a question and each will provide their answer(s) in a round table discussion. This week I asked who the most surprising and most disappointing players were for the New York Yankees in the season’s first-half. Answers were varied for the most surprising player and unfortunately for one player, he was a virtual landslide selection in the most disappointing category.
Surprising: Raul Ibanez
Nobody expected much from the then-soon-to-be 40-year-old when he signed in late February, but he has been a useful role player. As of games completed on 7/6, he’s sixth on the team in homers (11) and RBI (35), and fifth in doubles (13). His slash line is nothing to write home about (.241/.299/.459) and he hasn’t exactly set the baseball world on fire, though his stats are legit for a part-time player and he’s still been the most pleasant surprise for the 2012 Yanks.
Disappointing: Russell Martin
He’s mired in an awful 0-for-30 slump and has reached base just once over that span. (editor’s note: the hitless streak was snapped in last night’s game) Through 67 games last year, he was at .223/.327/.389/.716 with 10 home runs and 36 RBI, 32 walks, 41 strikeouts, 7 steals and 1 caught stealing. Through 67 games this season (again, through games completed on 7/6), he’s at .176/.296/.341/.637 with eight homers and 21 RBI, 29 walks, 41 strikeouts, 1 stolen base and no caught stealing attempts. Some of his numbers aren’t THAT far off from last year’s, but I just expected more from a guy in a contract year. I know he still has time to turn it around but the Yanks are lucky he didn’t take their three-year offer this past offseason.
Surprising: Derek Jeter
At 38 years-old the captain has shown the entire league that he still has something left in the tank. Jeter came out of the gates red hot and hit .389 with a 1.012 OPS in the months of March/April. Since then he has cooled off but has picked it up over the last 5 games by hitting .364 with a .864 OPS. He has also been an ace of a leadoff hitter this year with a .385 BA and 1.015 OPS leading off games and a .321 BA with a .810 OPS leading off innings. Jeter’s total .304 BA and .764 OPS are good for 2nd and 5th respectively among all MLB shortstops. His advanced defensive metrics, mainly his range, are not good but this is nothing new and a flaw I have come to accept; especially at his advanced age. Still, Jeter’s offensive numbers are a huge surprise and I hope it can continue into September/October.
The most disappointing Yankee for me in 2012 has been Russell Martin. His 2011 numbers, .237 BA and .737 OPS, did not suggest big things in 2012 but I expected a lot more than his .176 BA and .637 OPS. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of his game has been his run production. He has only managed to knock in 21 runs in 240 PA and has a .140 BA with runners in scoring position. With no other viable options the Yankees have little choice but to hope Martin rebounds to respectability in the 2nd half.
Surprising: Robinson Cano
It’s not surprising that Cano has been the most valuable player on the Yankees. It’s also not surprising that he is hitting for average and power, and is one of the best 2nd basemen in the game. What IS surprising is that at 29, he has brought his game to a whole new level. He’s hitting for more power than ever before, taking more walks, and playing better defense, all while maintaining a high batting average.
This isn’t a daring pick at all, since by all traditional metrics, Martin has been downright AWFUL. While I’ve been defending him all season because of his high walk rate and okay power at a scarce position, his batting average has now gotten too low to merit any sort of defense. I still have faith that he can turn the season around and get some hits, but right now, he’s barely above replacement level, even if that’s Chris Stewart.
Basically, I am surprised with Ibanez in terms of his ability to hit in the clutch earlier in the season. When everyone else was struggling, he stepped up to the plate through that tough April.
He just looks lost at the plate. The defense has gone down to the point where everyone wants to use Chris Stewart as their personal catcher. Not exactly going to earn that long term deal he wants at the end of the year.
Surprising: Phil Hughes
I haven’t tried to hide my bias for Hughes, I like him…I like him a lot. After a strong spring, I thought he righted the ship and was well on his way to the 2010 first half edition of himself. However, he looked horrible in April and I had my doubts. However, he’s turned things around and gaining confidence with each start. He’ll have hiccups along the way but he’s dealin’ now.
Not much to say here other than he’s been terrible with the stick this season. Not sure how much his sore back is contributing to his ineptitude at the dish, but he’s looked absolutely lost. I believe he’s an above average defensive catcher, but he’s a below average hitter. Maybe we were spoiled with Jorge Posada all these years, but Martin needs to turn it around and fast.
Nobody expected him to do what he’s been able to do lately, which includes that complete game. Jimmy pointed out that Hughes is maturing as a pitcher and his starts have been clearly evident of that.
Disappointing: Cory Wade
Last year, Wade was nearly unbeatable when he came out of the pen, but this year it’s a different story. He’s struggled tremendously and does not look like the same guy from last year. That’s probably why he’s now in Triple-A.
As for my votes, I continued to split the tallies for most surprising player and as much as I tried to search for a bigger disappointment than Martin, I couldn’t.
Surprising: Rafael Soriano
Thrust into the role of closer, after being cast aside by David Robertson when Mariano Rivera was lost to a season-ending injury, Soriano remained vigilant in his work. He’s had a spectacular season thus far especially once he took over for Robertson when he went down with an injury. While Soriano was an accomplished closer prior to arriving with the Yankees last season, he didn’t exactly show he was worth the three-year/$35 million investment the Steinbrenner’s laid at his feet. The contract has paid back dividends this season, as Soriano has notched 20 saves in 21 chances with an ERA of 1.65. He allows a few too many base-runners, but he’s shown the ability to not get ruffled to the point of implosion. Without Soriano stepping up, the Yankees would be hard pressed to be in first-place at this time. Let’s hope the “untuck” continues for the rest of the season.
Is there anything really to add to what the others have already said? I’m on the side of sticking by Martin in the hopes that he’ll turn things around, but only because I don’t think there is another option available to the Yankees. They are heavily invested financially with the backstop and there is no one in the organization ready to take over the role. Unfortunately, I have no confidence in a turn around, since nothing points to a change, but hope I’m wrong.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a different choice for the most surprising Yankee? Is Martin going to turn his season around? Let us know in the comments.