Yankees’ Midseason Grades

Derek Jeter, right, is one of two hitters we gave an A.
JIM MCISAAC/GETTY IMAGES

At 52-33, the Yankees take the best record in baseball into the All-Star break.

Bad news has surrounded the Yankees all season in the form of a season-ending injury to newly acquired starting pitcher Michael Pineda, the constant setbacks from an injured elbow to outfielder Brett Gardner, the month reliever David Robertson missed and of course absence of the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, to a knee injury.

Nonetheless, the Yankees have resided in first place since June 12. Despite constant struggles hitting with runners in scoring position, the Yankees are first in the majors home runs and slugging percentage. Metro breaks down the team:

C — Russell Martin
Grade: D+
Stats: .179, 8 HR, 21 RBI
Reason: Martin remains highly regarded defensively, but his batting average is the worst among regular AL catchers. Other than a two-week stretch in early-June that included two home runs against the Mets, Martin has yet to get into a sustained groove. Approaching his .237 batting average from last year could be a major challenge.

1B — Mark Teixeira
Grade: B
Stats: .250, 15 HR, 54 RBI  
Reason: A bronchial ailment limited Teixeira’s production through the first six weeks and even briefly dropped him to seventh in the lineup. Teixeira is hitting .320 over his last seven games and also heated up in late May. Teixeira has 10 fewer home runs than at last year’s break, but still saves runs with his glove.

2B — Robinson Cano
Grade: A
Stats: .313, 20 HR, 51 RBI
Reason: It’s pretty easy to see how Cano won the Home Run Derby last year. He has been putting on a home run clinic in games since the end of May. Sixteen of Cano’s home runs have been since May 22, including 11 in June when the Yankees had a 10-game winning streak. You’d like Cano’s RBI total to be higher and his batting average to be above .200 with runners in scoring position, but even with those numbers, Cano has been the Yankees’ best hitter.

SS — Derek Jeter
Grade: A
Stats: .308, 7 HR, 25 RBI
Reason: A year ago at the break, Jeter was a .270 hitter. But he hit .327 after the break and has been over .300 for all but four days this season. His average is its highest at the break since 2009 when he finished at .334. For a while it looked like Jeter might head into the break on a down note, but he recovered from a .232 June and went 14-for-37 (.378) in team’s last eight games. It’s hard to nitpick when Jeter is one of two regular shortstops in baseball hitting above .300 to go along with over 100 hits.

3B — Alex Rodriguez
Grade: C
Stats: .269, 13 HR, 39 RBI
Reason: Two years ago, Rodriguez had the same batting average at the break and one more home run. A year ago at the break, he announced he was having knee surgery and since returning, he has played 100 games and has 28 extra-base hits in 373 at-bats. Rodriguez will turn 37 on July 27 and has yet to really crush the ball like he vowed in late-May. Manager Joe Girardi has often stated Rodriguez is due, but so far, he has left fans wondering when the due date is coming.

RF — Nick Swisher
Grade: B
Stats: .262, 13 HR, 51 RBI
Reason: Swisher is a free agent after this season and has alternated months in terms of production, going from .284 in April to .207 in May to .321 in June and .185 this month. One noticeable decrease though is on-base percentage, which currently is .336. If he finished at that number, it would be his worst as a Yankee and nearly 40 points than last season.

CF — Curtis Granderson
Grade: B
Stats: .248, 23 HR, 48 RBI
Reason: Granderson often insists he’s not a power hitter, but the stats show otherwise. His 23 home runs are tied with Edwin Encarnacion for third in the AL. On the downside, Granderson has struck out 99 times, putting him on pace for a career-high 189, which is 20 more than last year.

LF — Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones
Grade: B
.241, 22 HR, 58 RBI
Reason:  This was supposed to be a platoon, but more involving the designated hitter role. Brett Gardner’s wrist injury changed that and both players have been pressed into more action than anticipated. Ibanez is hitting .240 in 70 games and has 11 home runs all against right-handed pitching. Jones is batting .244 in 49 games and also has 11 home runs. The grade gets raised because of Ibanez’s quick start and Jones’ four home run weekend in Boston.

Pitchers  

SP — CC Sabathia
Grade: A-
Stats: 9-3, 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 105 Ks
Reason: Sabathia has been everything the Yankees could have asked for when they re-signed him after last season. He had won four of his five starts before suffering a strained left groin, but also has allowed a hit per inning and won seven games when allowing at least seven hits. Still he has been a steady presence and you can count on that continuing when Sabathia gets activated.

SP — Hiroki Kuroda
Grade: B
Stats: 8-7, 3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Reason: Kuroda has endured a lot to reach this level as detailed recently in The New York Times. He was inconsistent in April and May, but put it together in June by going 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in six starts. That included an 11-strikeout performance against the White Sox and seven innings of one-hit ball against the Mets. Also working in Kuroda’s favor are his performances against the four other playoff teams in the American League. In four starts against the Orioles, White Sox, Angels and Rangers, he is 3-1 with a 0.94 ERA.

SP — Ivan Nova
Grade: B+
Stats:  10-3, 3.92 ERA
Reason: Strong run support has helped Nova immensely and likely the reason why he finished second in the rookie of the year voting last year. By the end of May, Nova had six victories aided with run support but also had a 5.60 ERA. Since then he has lowered his ERA by nearly two runs and in June won three straight starts in games that the Yankees scored four runs or fewer.

SP — Phil Hughes
Grade: B
Stats 9-7, 4.33, 1.30 WHIP, 92 Ks
Reason: Compared to last year when his velocity was diminished by a mysterious injury, this year will not be a lost one for Hughes. It looked that way early when he was 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in four April starts. But over his last 13, he is 8-4 with a 3.66 ERA. He was especially sharp in June when he was 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA and held hitters to a .226 average. Considering how he started, the Yankees will take a similar second half. Though they’d like him to not allow as many home runs (19) as the first half.

SP — Andy Pettitte
Grade: Incomplete
Stats: 3-3, 3.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 59 K
Reason: The Yankees won’t know what they get from Pettitte until he returns from the fractured left ankle he suffered June 27. It is hard to judge anyone on just six starts, but for the most part Pettitte looked sharp. Perhaps the number that stood out the most was the strikeouts. He had seven in four innings when he was hurt and seven of his nine starts saw him strikeout seven or more.

RP — Rafael Soriano
Grade: A
Stats: 2-0, 1.60 ERA, 20 Saves
Reason: Before Rivera’s injury, Soriano was quietly pitching well as a setup reliever. He was not initially named closer, but has taken command of the role after Robertson blew his second save opportunity and went on the DL. So far, he has converted 20-of-21 saves while posting a 1.52 ERA and striking out 26 in save situations. Also impressive is his .162 batting average against with runners on, which helps since he has allowed one hit in 12 of his save chances.


Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter
@LarryFleisher.



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