The Yankees are in the middle of a west coast road trip, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that one item forgot to make it into the suitcases: the offense. While most of us on the east coast were sleeping, the Yankees have been struggling to score runs against the A’s, Angels and the Mariners. However, while some guys are mired in offense slumps, others are upping the ante as we head into the middle of June. Let’s take a closer look at who is hot and who is not:
A slow start was exacerbated by hitting in the leadoff spot, but Brett Gardner has found his footing as the weather has heated up. His average has climbed each month of the season, and his June numbers are scorching: .385/.429/.600, 1.019 OPS over the month of June. Gardner has also hit .440/.481/.600, with an OPS of 1.081 over the last 7 days. He is also contributing in the extra-base hit department; thus far in June, Gardner has logged 4 doubles, while hitting only 5 for the entire month of May. One drop off from his earlier stats would be the RBI numbers after driving in 12 runs in April, though this could be attributed to a dismal Yankee offense that has left the bases mostly empty for every batter. Interestingly for the Yankees, Gardner is having prett equal success against lefties and righties, despite Joe Girardi’s history of sitting his center fielder against lefties. Against lefties, Gardner is hitting .288/.356/..513, .869 OPs; against righties, those numbers are .280/.344/.415, .759 OPS, giving the stellar defender lots of extra chances. One criticism would be to let Gardner run more, if only because the Yankees are going to need to generate runs with an offense that is clearly scuffling.
So far, the only downside to upgrading this former back-up catcher to full-time has been his propensity to get banged up, but on the whole, he has been an offensive contributor for the Yanks. He has hit .288/.336/.369, with a .705 OPS over the course of the 2013 season. Though he hits decidedly better (by almost 40 points) against righties as opposed to lefties, Stewart is also way surpassing his career numbers this season. In the last week, he is hitting .333/,333/.333 alone. Given that Girardi is a defensive-minded manager, he will likely lean towards defense over offense when it pertains to his catcher. However, Stewart is certainly aiding the cause, though it isn’t hard to get an improvement on Russell Martin’s big down year in 2012, or Austin Romine’s sub-par offensive production. The caveat with Stewart will be hoping that the career back-up backstop will remain healthy, as he has missed time with both dehydration and groin issues. On the whole however, he and Gardner have been pushing the team along offensively, and are really the only two players doing so as the Yankees slog through their current offensive quagmire.
After a torrid April, May and June have been decidedly less kind to the second baseman. He has hit a combined .223.325/.387, .713 OPS in the combined months of May and June. Cano’s one saving grace from being a gaping hole in the lineup over the last 6 weeks has been his power numbers after cranking 7 (too-many-damn) homers over the month of May (though he has only hit1 through June 13). He has had just 2 extra base hits (!!!) against through June 13th, not a good number for a doubles-machine. Also not good for Cano: he has been absolutely dreadful offensively against the Red Sox and Tigers and Orioles, with the first two likely to be playoff teams, and the latter being a historically offensive boon for the lefty. While these slumps are somewhat mitigated by the fact that he is hitting very well against the remaining divisional teams, the Rays and the Jays (not to mention the small sample sizes), these two teams are decidedly less in contention that the Tigers, BoSox or Orioles. As an aside, while Cano is prone to these sorts of slumps, it is worth wondering, if you are Brian Cashman & Co., if these droughts will be more frequent in nature over the next few years, and are certainly worth looking at as they prepare to sign Cano to what will likely be a long-term, high-money deal.
What looked like a ridiculous two-year signing in the off-season looks even more ridiculous now as the 39-year old lefty continues to struggle at the plate. Last year’s second-half resurgence has not held for the veteran, and his numbers are pretty consistently awful over the course of the season, never topping the .268 mark. Over the last week, he has been horrid, going .190/.261/.190. Ichiro is not a home run hitter even if he runs into a pitch by accident, so if he is not slapping hits, his offensive contribution is nil. He isn’t known for being a pitch-eater, either, so with a low walk number (12 on the year), he isn’t even getting on base to run and add another dimension to the offense. Ichiro’s struggles are more akin to what the Mariners saw last year before the surprising trade to New York- and he’s signed for one more year. It’s unlikely that he will be sitting any time in the near future- Curtis Granderson is still on the mend with a broken finger; Vernon Wells is not an everyday option in the field; and Lyle Overbay has been getting action playing right, but that could be a ticking time bomb with his lack of experience. Ichiro will likely remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
Other nominees: Mark Teixeira, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner
On the whole, most of the team is struggling. As we’ve seen with the Yankees, the boon of offense comes as a group, as does the downward spiral of slumping. While the team has gotten away with more wins than experts anticipated over the fist few months of the season as their key pieces were rehabbing, the magic is starting to dwindle just a bit. Cano and Teixeria will have to start getting hot, and Hafner and Wells will need to get a little more traction, even if they cannot maintain their hot starts. On the whole, it appears to be just another Yankees slump, but as we saw last season, the winner of the division can come down to the very last day, and with a play-in wild card, no one wants to take any chances. They need to step up offensively and get it going, or else these close losses may come back to haunt them in the future.