Since the Yankees have reached the 81-game mark, achieving a 44-37 record despite significant injuries and some positively mediocre play especially in the first two months, it is a good time to perform some mid-year evaluations for the team. Below are my grades with brief summations, based not only on their body of work but also on what one can reasonably expect from such players.
Catcher: Jorge–A-. It’s hard for me to give him a lesser grade simply because the one big flaw in his first half, his difficulty in throwing out runners (25 of 31 stolen bases off Posada) has been the direct result of a serious shoulder injury. Otherwise, if one were to extrapolate (and yes, I will do that despite what a couple/one stupid knucklehead at Bombers Beat thinks) his numbers thus far after 118 at-bats to roughly 500 for a full year for Jorge, he’d have fewer homers, but would have over 80 RBIs, over 40 doubles, and his .297 AVG and .378 OBP are very good in their own right. I’m also not evaluating him based only on his 2007, but his career, in which 2007 clearly stands out. Molina–B+. While his bat has been more down than up (.230), this grade is primarily because of his stellar defense, nabbing 18 of 43 trying to steal (42%). Moeller–B+. Moeller filled in and contributed some timely RBIs and a .258 AVG, while also throwing out 7 of 19 runners. Who expected anything from Moeller, or that the Yankees and we as fans would actually be hoping this guy cleared waivers when both Jorge and Molina were hurt?
1B: Giambi–A-. Despite a terrible start, Giambi has picked it up dramatically, upping his average 113 points since May 4, banging the huge pinch-hit, game-winning homer off BJ Ryan June 5, leading the team with 17 homers, and steadily maintaining a high OBP (.398 now) even when his average was in the gutter. It’s only not an A because of the early woes, and Giambi’s inability to use all fields, reflecting his devolving into a one-trick low average pony. Ensberg–F. Batting .203 in limited duty, he never contributed and wasn’t a great glove either. We hardly knew ye, Morgan. Duncan–F. Also in limited duty, Duncan in essence revealed why he’s been a career minor-leaguer–too few hits, low average, 3 errors at first in 16 games. We rooted for the kid, but he didn’t cut it.
2B: Cano–C+. Cano’s defense saves him, only 6 errors and a .985% fielding all while struggling badly at the plate for nearly the entire first half, and after such a great Spring Training. Too few walks, poor plate approaches, haste, lunging and being out on his front foot, chasing low pitches, weak ground outs, .244 average, .282 OBP from only 14 walks. Pick it up, Robbie.
3B: A-Rod–A. One concern I had was whether or not A-Rod would follow the every other year pattern he had in the first four years–good not great, great, good with struggles, great. This year, around his injury, he’s been great again (.327 AVG, .410 OBP, 15 HRs, 43 RBIs, .602 SLG, 10 SBs only 6 errors at third) and returned from his injury hot.
SS: Jeter–B-. By the barest of margins, Jeter avoids the C range for a couple reasons. His recently ended 15-game hitting streak raised his average 14 points, he’s playing a solid short (lost range, sure, but he’s only committed 6 errors and has one of his better fielding percentages at .979), and not to be overlooked, Jeter started the year very well and probably would have better numbers if others ahead of him, such as JD, hadn’t had miserable starts. But that only goes so far when his walks are way down, his average is 36 points below his career average, he’s only stolen five bases, he only has four homers and 22 XBH out of 84 hits, and he leads the team having grounded into 10 DPs. He needs a big second half for the team, but also to quell some chatter about to what degree he’s declining.
IF: Betemit–B-. Nice productivity at times, still way too many Ks, iffy defense but thrust into playing some first. Decent bench productivity, but at what point will he be judged as unrealized potential? Not far away, I suspect. AG–B-. The disgraced former attorney general hardly plays, so I’m willing to give his low average somewhat a pass simply because he’s up for his excellent defense, which he’s contributed (one E while playing third). He needs more work and plate appearances to be properly evaluated.
OF: JD–A. After a wretched start, he’s picked it up and helped carry the team in June. From May 18, JD has raised his average 67 points, piling up hits in the last month. His OBP is high (.387), he leads the team with 20 doubles, and his setting the table has done much to rejuvenate the offense of late. Melky–B-. Also verging on a C grade, Melky is saved a bit by his excellent arm and defense, and that his career numbers somewhat mitigate how high we as fans can evaluate him. But batting .249 is batting .249. He should be running more (6 stolen bases). He doesn’t walk nearly enough and is woefully impatient at all the worst times. He still slides head-first. Abreu–A-. He’s been a bit streaky, his K’s are up a bit, his walks are down, and the average is down a bit. But Abreu has been very good, leading the team with 53 RBIs, his 10 homers have been important, he’s taking the ball the other way, he’s stolen 11 bases, and he still has a terrific arm despite showing some patented wall shyness this season. The Yankees should strongly consider a brief two-year additional stint with Abreu, especially considering how well he fits into their offensive approach. Matsui–A-. Though limited in the outfield even before his knees have acted up, Matsui’s bat has been really big the first half before the knee injury. Though his homers have been down (7), his high OBP of .404 attests to his patience. In somewhat diminished duty through splitting time with JD and Giambi, Matsui has fanned less and maintained a great average, .323. He’ll be missed.
Wang–A-. He had a very good first half, with only a brief rocky patch bringing up his ERA over 4. His homers allowed is low (4), his walks were up a bit, but at 8-2 the staff ace. The Yanks will miss him tremendously, and hopefully he can return in September with a fairly fresh–and not too rusty–arm.
Pettite–A-. An ERA below 4, 9-5, he’s been great in four straight after getting shellacked by KC, had the rough patch in late April and early May. Yet he’s given about what we hoped while keeping his walks down.
Mussina–A. Believers like Jimmy and j-Boogie are to be credited for keeping it all crossed for a guy giving a 10-5, 3.93 ERA first half thus far–all from someone deemed by me and others as over the hill. He’s re-invented himself very well and creatively, throwing more slowly. I’m proud to say I saw his April 23 game against the White Sox, when his turnaround began this year. The Yanks would be sunk without him.
Rasner–B. 4-5, 4.50 ERA is about what I would have expected, give or take a decision here and a bit off the ERA there. Beaten up of late, he’s been mostly solid and helped make up for poor work from Hughes and Kennedy. Unless he falls apart or trades bring proven better starters, he stays in the rotation.
Hughes and Kennedy–Both F. No one expected such poor work from either–or both–of them, and that was with lots of patience from the team, me, and others. Not a win between them (0-7 combined), 7.41 ERA for Kennedy, 9.00 for Hughes, 25 BBs in 37 2/3 IP and two starts going six full innings in eight starts for Kennedy, 13 BBs in 22 IP and two starts our of six into the sixth inning for Hughes. I know they’re kids, but their stints thus far were horrible.
Joba–A. Great in the bullpen, great as a starter, and moved into the rotation fortuitously as Wang got hurt. A stud.
Giese–B+. 1-3, 3.50 ERA, and needs more work to be properly evaluated. Yet Giese has given the Yanks fairly steady if brief work, at least as good as what I expected.
Ponson–Incomplete. So far, so very good. But I won’t and can’t give a realistic grade based on one start for a second-stinter.
Igawa–F. Trade him and cut bait. Igawa sucks, especially for the $46 million in posting fee and salary.
Mariano–A+. The greatest relief pitcher in the history of the game has actually been even greater than usual. 2-2, 0.74 ERA, 22 saves/22 chances, 17 hits and 3 BBs in 36 1/3 IP (0.55 WHIP), 42 Ks (1.16 K/9 IP). C’MON!
Nuke–B. If I expected more, his grade would be lower. Thankfully I don’t, and he’s been pretty par for the Nuke course. More often than not, he provides scoreless if somewhat adventurous innings. 10 homers is an eye-opener even for Nuke. Some holds, but do we really trust him as the eight-inning guy?
Ohlendorf–D. Poor numbers, but not helped by being shuffled between short and long-man roles. Should get another chance somewhere down the road.
Hawkins–D. Nice guy, nice teammate, but poor 2008 for the Yanks. He wasn’t a high-profile, big-money signing. But he’s been better in recent years than 1-1, 6.03 ERA with lots of walks and getting pounded.
Edwar–B+. Rough lately after initial good work. Too many walks (12) in 25 innings, but no worse than Nuke.
Bruney–A. He was cruising until he got hurt, and his return would give the bullpen a big lift. 1-0, 1.59 ERA, 12 Ks in 11 2/3 IP.
Veras–A-. Still has Nuke-like hiccups, but is 2-0, 2.96 ERA, 22 K’s in 24 1/3 IP, and has given the Yanks a fairly good option for middle relief. Still needs more time to develop, but better than I expected.
Traber–F. Was the only lefty reliever in the pen and couldn’t stick.
Britton–A-/Incomplete. He deserved a fuller look, 0-0, 1.29 ERA in 4 appearances. Why he didn’t get one remains a mystery.
Albaladejo–B/Incomplete. This is basically an incomplete, but based on his limited work, he was pretty good and showed promise, as well as the ability to do short and long work.
Patterson–Incomplete. I can’t give a reasonable assessment on one appearance.