So two months of the 2010 baseball season are officially in the books, which means it's time for Yankeeist to take a look at what the team did in May along with how they're faring year-to-date. For last month's wrap-up, click here.
May felt like a pretty bumpy ride, and even though the Yanks ended the month tied for the second-best record in baseball they only went 16-13 during the past 31 days. As you can see in the below chart, the primary culprit during the month of May was pitching -- after a beautiful April which saw the team post a collective 3.94 FIP, that number skyrocketed to 4.42, good (or, more appropriately, bad) for 11th in the American League. The Yankees also allowed 1.24 home runs per nine innings, the second-worst mark in the AL.
The good news was that the offense continued to rake in May, posting a second consecutive AL-leading wOBA of .363. Slugging was actually a bit down, but both the team batting average and on-base percentage rose in May to top the American League.
The Yankees lost a game in the standings to the Rays, but given that the team only played three games above .500 ball during what was arguably the most difficult month on their calendar all season, that's actually pretty impressive.
Here are the individual numbers for the offense (click on any of the tables to enlarge):
May 2010 was basically the Nick Swisher Show, as he carried the offense on his shoulders with a .478 wOBA -- good for the 5th-best mark in all of baseball this past month. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira began to dig out of their slumps; though Alex had a bit more success than Tex, posting a very A-Rodian .330/.408/.534 (.406 wOBA) line, which I will happily take each month for the next four months. Tex notched a .367 wOBA in May, but we're accustomed to him being about .030 points higher -- he's looked significantly better at the plate during the past week, so he should finally be getting there.
Nick Johnson only played in five games in May, but managed to put up a .448 wOBA in very limited duty -- unfortunately we can't say he'll come back from surgery and be that effective, but it's somewhat encouraging that he was perhaps starting to come out of his April funk before going down.
Robinson Cano -- despite cooling off some -- ended up catching fire again and posted a .387 wOBA in May. He's at an insane .435 for the year. Jorge Posada's been great in very limited duty, and though Granderson only played in five May games, his numbers are trending upward.
The two Yankees with the flimsiest May lines were Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, though both have shown very encouraging signs during the past week. Gardner was certainly due for a regression, although on the flip side I expect a .323 wOBA will be Jeter's low-water mark for the season. Gardner's basically providing exactly what Johnny Damon's given the Tigers thus far -- the Yankees would obviously be thrilled to get a .354 wOBA out of Grit, although the jury's still out as to whether he'll be able to sustain that level all year.
The bench has done basically what one would reasonably expect, with the defensively lauded Francisco Cervelli providing far more offense than anyone would have ever predicted. Marcus Thames has also been a valuable component off the bench and/or platooning at DH with Juan Miranda, who I'm still a bit iffy on.
And on the pitching side of the ledger:
After a stellar April, the starting rotation fell somewhat back to earth, although none quite as hard as CC Sabathia, who pitched to a 5.52 FIP in May. Of course, Sabathia will always be the least of the team's worries, as he'll kick it back into gear soon enough.
Both Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte continued delivering on their stellar 2010 campaigns, with Hughes leading the rotation in May with an astounding 2.73 FIP. Hughes' ZIPS Update projection now has him finishing the year with a 3.51 ERA and 3.40 FIP -- fantastic numbers that even the most optimistic Yankee fan never would have expected. Though he's not presently lined up to do so, Hughes has easily leapfrogged Javier Vazquez in the pecking order and is the Yankees' de facto 4th starter right now.
Speaking of Vazquez, he had a slightly less wretched May than April, but the monthly numbers are still pretty putrid even with two very good outings against Detroit and the Metropolitans. There's not much else to say about Home Run Javy other than that he has to start pitching better.
Despite a couple of clunkers, A.J. Burnett quietly had another excellent month -- even when he's not been at his best he's still managed to give the Yankees length and (mostly) keep them in games when he's dug them into a bit of a hole. I think everyone would be elated if Burnett could pitch to a 3.62 FIP for the rest of the season.
Andy Pettitte, as discussed in today's game recap, has been spectacular, and continues to post eye-popping numbers for a soon-to-be 38-year-old.
The bullpen has been a decidedly mixed bag, with far more negatives than positives. Somehow Joba Chamberlain wound up posting a staff-leading 1.44 FIP in May, despite an abysmal blow-up this past Saturday. It appears he hasn't been quite as bad as my memory thinks he has, and I suppose significantly underperforming (5.82 ERA) both his season FIP (2.33) and xFIP (2.93) is something to hang his hat on going forward.
The rest of the bullpen, non-Mariano Rivera edition, has been pretty awful, although Mariano and Joba were responsible for a bit of arson themselves. Of the Yankees' 13 May losses, four were games in which the Yankees held a lead. That's actually not quite as many as I was expecting, although two of those implosions came in contests in which the Yankees held at least a five-run lead (they also blew a third five-run lead in May but managed to come back in rather dramatic fashion), which is terrible. Yankeeist has previously given its recommendations for fixing the bullpen -- thankfully Boone Logan has already been jettisoned, and I still expect that the unit that ends the year in the 'pen will look remarkably different than the cast that kicked it off.
Overall it was another great month for the offense and a rather middling stretch for the pitching staff. There's no reason to expect the offense to slow down, especially now that Jeter and Tex are starting to get back on track, A-Rod and Tex still aren't hitting home runs with the frequency that they are supposed to be (Alex's HR/FB ratio is still at a comically low 12.3% compared to 23.3% for his career; while Tex's is an even lower 11.4%, compared to his 18.5% career rate) and Jorge Posada should be returning to the lineup soon.
Additionally, the pitching staff should be better going forward as well. If this team can rack up 16 wins in a month in which they were missing a good chunk of their lineup, received a handful of underwhelming starting performances and sorrowful relief pitching, they should be in position to do some serious damage as the mercury continues to rise, which is traditionally when the Yankees kick it into gear anyway. Should make for a fun summer.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.