If I May: A Month in Review
May was kind to the New York Yankees. Here are the 10 best things about the Yankees’ May, plus a tangent or two:
1. The Yankees went 17-11 in May, but more importantly, they’ve gone 16-6 since…
2. The Return of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod is only batting .260, but he has 7 home runs and getting on base at a .412 clip, so he’s seeing the ball well. The doctors told A-Rod that his hip will get stronger every day, and his numbers should improve with his health (and when he can cycle back on). I don’t know if we’ll see an MVP season from A-Rod, but his presence alone is enough to affect the outcome of games. Just ask…
3. Mark Teixeira. Since May 8th, or as Yankees fans should refer to it, The Day A-Rod Came Back, Big Tex is batting .371 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI. That’s 11 HR and 29 RBI in 22 games! Teixeira raised his average from .198 to .281 over that span. Opposing pitchers now have a difficult decision to make; pitch to a red hot Teixeira and hope he doesn’t put it in the seats, or avoid him and go after a man with over 500 career home runs. I don’t want to make Mantle-Maris comparisions here, but I will compare this Yankees pair to Mauer and Morneau, the other terrifying 3-4 combo in the AL. (Quick note to YES and Michael Kay: stop calling them the M&M boys. That drove me nuts during the Twins series. M&M boys? It makes them sound like the red and green M&Ms from the commercials.) Not to mention what Teixeira has meant to the Yankees in the field, which has directly contributed to the Yankees…
4. 17 game errorless streak. The Yankees have been playing solid D around the horn and in the outfield, but no one has been more responsible for this streak than Tex. I haven’t watched every play of every game during this streak, but in the last 10 games I’ve seen I’ve witnessed at least three throwing errors saved by Teixeira. Giambi ain’t makin those plays, that’s for sure. Tex has an amazing ability to pick errant throws out of the dirt and to streeeeetch to his right or left to glove wide tosses, especially across his body.
The Yankees don’t have an amazing defensive club, but they are third in league in errors committed and aren’t committing any right now. Let’s go around the horn (here’s the tangent):
C: Posada is a below average defensive catcher and struggles to throw runners out, but if he continues to bat over .300, that’s fine by me.
1B: Tex is a gold glove first baseman who has the ability to turn hits and errors into outs. He’ll hit 30+ homers and drive in 120, which is nice.
2B: Cano doesn’t have great range, and he’s so smooth he can look lackadaisical, but he has a strong arm and only has 2 errors in 50 games.
3B: A-Rod is a good defensive third baseman. He was a better shortstop, but A-Rod has a strong, accurate arm and has decent range and good reflexes.
SS: Certain metrics say Jeter is the worst defensive shortstop in the majors. I don’t know if he’s that bad, but he’s average at best, and that may be generous. I know it’s blasphemous to criticize the captain, but his range is shrinking. There’s no way to get around it. He can still make the play to his right, but anything hit more than three steps to his left and it’s probably headed into center field. Jeter still has a good arm, and while I hesitate to call him a liability at short, he’s going to have to move to the outfield in the next few years.
LF: Damon isn’t the fielder he used to be, and we all know about his arm, but he can still hold his own out there. Give him the occasional off day and a regular spot in the Yankees DH rotation, and he’ll be fine.
CF: Cabrera and Gardner are both good center fielders. They have speed, range, and arms. Not much to complain about here.
RF: So, Nick Swisher. Yankees fans knew what we were getting with Swisher: a high on base, low average, middling power bench player who could give Teixeira an off day at first base and spell Nady in right. Well, Nady is on the DL and Swisher has been the full time guy in right. He’s not going to win any gold gloves out there, but at least he’s not allergic to the wall.
Here’s the short version: The Yankees are playing well and not committing errors, but they don’t have a lot of “rangy” guys. If they make the plays on the balls they can get to, fine with me.
5. Derek Jeter’s 14 game hit streak. He’s batting .397 (25 for 63) in those games, and on the season he’s 8-16 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. Even though his defensive skills may be slipping, and the days of .349 batting averages with 24 home runs are behind him, Jeter still gets it done at the plate. And he’s running this year, which is a sign he’s healthy. Good things.
6. Pitching! How bout it? The Yankees staff has an ERA of 4.28 in May, and that includes two 2-game sweeps by the Sox and Rays early in the month. I say it all the time, but when you have good pitching games become easy to win. Pitching is like money; when you have a lot of it, you can pretty much do whatever you want and come out on top.
7. Walk offs. The Yankees had 5 walk off wins in May, and you can look at that one of two ways. Yankee haters will say they could have easily lost all of those games, which is true. I choose to look at these close wins as a sign of a team with character, determination, and confidence. We all saw what happened last year when the Yankees stopped believing they could win. This year, the Yankees know they can come back from late inning deficits, and it shows. Besides, a win is a win is a win, and come September when they’re adding up all the W’s, a 10-1 victory counts just as much a 3-2 win in extras. I don’t like the extra stress extra innings add, but it’s worth the payoff and…
8. Cream pies! Shaving cream, whipped cream, non dairy creamer, whatever. It’s great to see the no-facial-hair, button down, all-business-all-the-time Yankees whacking each other in the face with a towel of whipped cream and carrying around championship belts. Hell, it beats a gold thong getting passed around the clubhouse.
9. Posada’s back too. I don’t know where this average came from the last couple of years (and I don’t want to-don’t ask, don’t tell), but like I said before, anytime you can get a guy who can hit .300 with over 20 dingers, you take it. Especially if it’s from a backstop. Posada’s bat extends the lineup and makes the Yankees 1 through 6 so tough to get through. Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, A-Rod, Cano, and now Posada all have a legitimate chance to bat .300 or better. Throw in Matsui and Melky and a Swisher/Nady combo and that’s a scary lineup.
10. 1st place! It’s been a while, but the Yanks are finally back in the driver’s seat. They’re going to be battling it out with the Red Sox all season, and it may come down to a war of attrition, but I expect the Yankees to finish 1 or 2 in the AL East, and that should be plenty good enough to make it to October.