As we hit the (just over) half-way mark of the season and head into the All Star Game Celebrations, it’s worth taking a look back at what the Yankees have accomplished over the first half of the season. With the myriad of injuries that have plagued the team, it is something of a minor miracle that Joe Girardi has his squad still in the hunt for the postseason, and seven games over .500 (55-44). With the return of Derek Jeter, and with Curtis Granderson getting close, the Yankees will hopefully start to get back in the swing of things in the second half. Here’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on the first half:
As the farewell tour continues, Rivera is just as good in 2013 as he was in 1996- maybe even better. In 34 IP, he has a miniscule 1.85 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, having allowed only eight runs and seven walks on the entire season. Through the first half, he has already accumulated 30 saves through this point in the season. With 32 Ks and a BAA of 2.65, Rivera also has a 1.77 ERA in the Bronx. As baseball says goodbye, with every team paying homage to the closer for his last appearance (personal favorite: a broken bat chair courtesy of the Kansas City Royals), it is increasingly clear that there will never be another closer whose talents can be on display for such an amount of time. Watching him in the second half will be bittersweet as we all admire the greatest of all time.
For all the problems that the Yankees have had in the first half, one of them is surprisingly not the pitching staff. In 557 IP, the starter (Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte) have a collective 3.96 ERA with a 1.24 ERA, very respectable considering the dimensions of Yankee Stadium and the offensive power houses of the American League, specifically the East. Though the starters have surrendered 65 homers, about 2/3 of those belong to Hughes (not surprising for a fly-ball pitcher in a small park) and, surprisingly, Sabathia. However, in 91 GS, the starters have gone 35-34, which is probably due in part to the inability of the offense to score. On the season, the batters have a slash line of .243/.307/.376 against the starters; if those sorts of numbers hold in the second half, and if the Yankees could score some runs, they will continue to hang in the race for the AL East and the playoffs.
The Manager and the Front Office
Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman will never get the credit that they deserve for having gotten this team as far as they are with close to $120 million out of a $230 million dollar on the DL or out of action this season, they deserve it- and then some. Cashman has been one of the ablest GMs in the game with his ability to seek out low-cost, high-yield talent for either stopgaps or long-term solutions. His flyer on Ichiro Suzuki last year turned out to be incredibly prescient, and the constant, never-ending stream of minor league talent- though not a long-term solution- has been able to help this club tread water and still be in the thick of things halfway through the season. As for Girardi, he has been able to maximize that talent that he has had, which is admittedly not much this year. While the knock on him may have been his lack of juggling the lineup- but with whom, exactly? He has gotten as much production out of the likes of David Adams, Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart and Preston Claiborne as possible, and his moves haven’t backfired. Though they may miss the playoffs, it would certainly not be the manager or the front office’s faults.
It’s hard to fathom that it was a mere six years ago that Joba Chamberlain was as big an up-and-comer in baseball as Matt Harvey, with electric stuff. Now… he can throw hard. That’s about it. Joba has much been terrible this first-half of the season. In June, Joba was horrid: 9.35 ERA, surrendering 14 hits in 8.1 IP. These figures include four homers, three walks and a BAA of .350. On the season, in under 25 IP, he has a ghastly ERA of 5.40 with a WHIP of 1.80 in about 23 IP. He has surrendered as many hits as innings, and batters have hit .278 or better in all but one month of the season (.278 in April, .350 in June), and showing no signs of stopping. In fact, Joba only pitched 1.1 innings in the entire month of May. With the trade deadline approaching, Joba can really only go up from here- although, it may be for another team as the deadline looms.
Ask any Yankee fan- or starter- and they will point to the offensive struggles as the biggest impediment for the Yankees.
Without question, one of the worst things that has happened to the Yankees all season has been the injury plague that followed the injury plague. To this point, the Yankees have played significant portions of the season without: Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, Mark Teixeria, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and David Phelps. Adding insult to injury, when Youkilis came back from a “minor” back injury, it turned out that he was likely lost for the season with a back injury; when Granderson came back from a broken hand, he was lost for another few months with a broken pink; when Jeter came back after nine months and a broken ankle, he pulled a quad muscle that could land him back on the DL following the break… and that was before the back-ups (Youk, Nunez) to the originally injured players went down. The Yankees absolutely could not catch a break this first half as it pertained to injuries. While it remains to be seen whether or not they will have enough offense to get to the playoffs, it will certainly help to get the production and bench of at least some of these guys- and pray every single day that no one else gets hurt.
First, I begged Brian Cashman not to trade for Wells. Then I admitted I was wrong after he had a torrid April. And now, I am back to say, “I told you so, I was right the first time!” Since the first two months of the season, Wells has been dreadful- and is signed through 2014. While the Angels are picking up most of the tab on this one, the problem is that he is becoming dead offensive weight and taking up a roster spot on a team that lacks offensively. He has hit .238/.276/.371 on the first-half, with 10 homers and 36 RBI. While on the whole that isn’t bad, he has fell off the planet since April (.300, 6 homers, 13 RBI), barely hitting about .130 in June with no homers and seven RBI. Wells has had a hot July, hitting around .364 with five RBI 12 hits- two more than he had in the entire month of June (?!). Wells has got to turn it around heading into the second half.
Hafner has the same problem as Wells- scorching April, and then fell out of the sky. After hitting .318/.438/.667 with six homers and 17 RBI in April, he has not hit out of the .170s in every month since, with only 12 hits in each of June and May. On the season, he is .218/.314/.407. In fact, Hafner’s OPS has dropped by almost half since April. With another injury being a possibility after fouling a ball off himself last week in the cage, it appears that even being a full-time DH couldn’t save Hafner from the injury bug he has suffered from over the last few years. Unlike Wells, who will not embarrass himself in the outfield, Hafner can play no position and will only contribute as a bat- but unless he turns it around, he will also be useless to a club that is struggling offensively.