New York Yankees: Grading the Lineup
Posted by Andrew Zercie on July 6, 2009
The New York Yankees have reached the halfway point of the season at 48-33, four games better than last season at this time (44-37), and have won 10 of their last 11 games entering their Monday afternoon tilt against the Toronto Blue Jays.
With the team at the exact midpoint of the season, now is a great time to assess how the players are performing this year. As a teacher, it is my sworn duty to hand out grades where I see fit, so players will receive letter grades on this “Yankees Mid-Season Report Card.”
This column will focus on the lineup, defined as the top 9 Yankees in at-bats, since a few players have split time at their respective positions. For a team with the most runs scored in baseball, expect a few high grades.
Derek Jeter: A
It is only fitting to start with the Yankees’ leadoff hitter. His numbers this season (.316-10-34, 52 R, 17 SB) have him on pace for 20 HR, 100 runs scored, and over 30 SB. The 35-year old was considered in the decline phase of his career. However, the hitters’ haven that is the New Yankee Stadium has boosted his numbers.
Additionally, Jeter has been healthy all season and, as a result, he has run more on the basepaths and shown renewed range in the field as well.
Johnny Damon: A-
The lineup flip-flop of Jeter and Damon has worked out beautifully for the Yankees. Jeter is seeing more pitches than ever. Meanwhile, Damon is taking advantage of the short porch in rightfield at the New Yankee Stadium (12 HR in 152 AB at home).
The batting average has dipped slightly, and Damon isn’t stealing bases like he used to (just 8 so far), but he is on pace for a career-high in HR, RBI and OPS. It is hard to argue with results like that.
Mark Teixiera: B
Teixiera’s season so far has been like a yo-yo. He started off cold, got hot, and has since cooled off again. His power numbers (20 HR, 61 RBI, .555 slug) are good, and he’s getting on base and playing good defense at 1B. However, his .278 batting average would represent a career-low over a full season, and his home-road splits are pretty dramatic.
Teixiera hasn’t been a disappointment, but he hasn’t overwhelmed either.
Alex Rodriguez: B
A-Rod’s presence in the Yankees lineup has stabilized the team: they are 35-18 since his return from the disabled list. And, while the batting average is down compared to his career norms, the power numbers (14 HR, 43 RBI) are pretty good considering the man missed the first five weeks of the season and is playing with a hip that probably needs another surgical procedure at season’s end.
Jorge Posada: B+
Jorge missed the bulk of the 2008 season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery. The biggest concern the Yankees had about Posada this year was how his shoulder would hold up over the course of the 2009 season.
So far, so good. Posada has thrown out 31% of base-runners this year, compared to throwing out just 17% last year. Jorge’s offense has returned as well: he’s hitting a solid .284 with 11 HR and 38 RBI, despite missing three weeks in May with a leg injury.
For a 37-year old catcher to put up numbers like this, and hold his own following surgery the way he has, is remarkable.
Robinson Cano: B-
It is clear that, at this stage of his career, Robbie Cano “is what he is.”
He won’t draw walks. He will frustrate with nonchalant play in the field at times. He will tantalize with hot stretches at the plate.
If anything, Cano is hitting with slightly more power than in years past and, barring injury, is a safe bet to top 20 HR for the first time in his career.
At this point, he’s not exceeding expectations, and he’s not playing beneath the level of play the Yankees have grown accustomed to.
Nick Swisher: B-
Swish was all the rage in April (.312-7-19). Between his hitting and his clubhouse chemistry work, he received wide praise and became a fan favorite nearly overnight.
Since then, Swisher has cooled considerably, and his overall numbers (.234-14-41) are more in line with his career norms. Chances are, his average will go up a bit, but probably not much above .250. He’s been a great addition to the team and will have value the rest of the season.
Hideki Matsui: C+
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Matsui this year. He has played through knee problems to hit 13 HR and drive in 36 runs, while hitting .264. Hideki has practically been a full-time player, mostly at DH.
While the power numbers resemble what the Yankees have grown accustomed to receiving from him, Matsui hasn’t been as consistent as in years past. In fact, he went the entire months of May and June mired in a slump.
Assuming Matsui remains healthy and able to play as the full-time DH the rest of the season, he will likely top 20 HR and drive in 70 or so runs. Considering how limited he is at this stage of his career, to provide the Yankees with this much offense is a testament to his pride and his desire to contribute as much as he can.
Melky Cabrera: B-
I give Melky Cabrera a lot of credit. When he learned he lost the starting CF job to Brett Gardner in spring training, he took the demotion in stride and, when he did play, made the most of those opportunities.
Through the end of May, Cabrera was hitting in the .320s and had delivered a few wins via walk-off hits for the Yankees.
Since June 1st however, Cabrera has slumped badly, reminding the Yankees and their fans how maddeningly inconsistent Melky can be.
Still just 24 years old, growth can be seen in Melky’s offensive game. He drawn nearly as many walks this year (22) as he did all of last year (29). He has already equalled his career best in HR. Perhaps the slump he is in now is just a blip, and not a harbinger of more bad play.