It's been ages since we ran one of these. This feature was common in the beginning of the season when the Yankees and Rays were both on pace to win 110 games, and always right on each other's heels. Neither team is on pace to win as many games anymore, but I have a feeling the AL East will be a tight race right up until October. Without further ado...
Mark Teixeira - Coming into Wednesday night's game, Tex had completely vanished after missing the two games in Texas. In those six games his line was .125/.185/.167. As of this writing he is 2-2 tonight, with a home run and a ground rule double (granted a double that was lost in the lights and should have been caught, but them's the breaks). Hopefully Tex is in the process of putting his most recent slump behind him. With Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte on the shelf the Yankees urgently need their other stars to step up down the stretch.
Robinson Cano - After Robbie caught volcano hot fire in April I wrote, "Last season Robbie shot out of the gate as well. But he couldn't keep up the pace. In May and June he played to the league average, and his overall numbers deflated somewhat." This season Robbie has managed to stay hot, until now. We all know his April was superhuman, but he managed to perform well in almost each month since. Until August, his lowest OPS in any calendar month was .890, which he put up in May. In August his line coming into Wednesday's game was .232/.338/.339. Robbie finds himself in the same boat as Tex. As of this writing he's homered in two consecutive games. Hopefully he's pulling out of his dog-days-of-summer funk.
Nick Swisher - Nick is streaky. His OPS in April was .779. In May it was 1.111. In June it was .742. In July it was 1.011. In August he's checking in at .685. Looking at the first three players on this list it suddenly becomes clear why the Yankees are playing sub-.500 baseball in August. The good news is that if trends continue Nick will OPS 1.021 in September. The bad news is then he'll be due to vanish in October.
Curtis Granderson - Larry put it best yesterday: "In the admittedly super-small six-game sample since Curtis retooled his mechanics with Kevin Long he's hitting .400/.478/.800 with 2 home runs." Larry and I are collecting money to buy Kevin Long a fruit basket. Please e-mail Yankeeist if you'd like to contribute.
Derek Jeter - 2008 was Derek's worst season prior to this one. Through 119 games that year Jeter was batting .281 with a .738 OPS. He finished the 2008 season with a line of .300/.363/.408, after catching fire in the last month and a half of the season. Coming into Wednesday night's game (the 119th this year) Derek was batting .279 with a .728 OPS, or, essentially the exact same numbers he'd put up at the same point in the 2008 season. On the one hand, the Captain has shown us recently that he can put together a tolerable season (by his standards) this late in the year. On the other hand Derek was battling injuries most of 2008, while he is listed as healthy this year.
CC Sabathia - CC has been incredibly consistent this year. With the exception of May, when he posted a 5.15 ERA, his worst month was April, when he went 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA. That's good, and important. The two most important players in October last season were Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. I'm not sure A-Rod will be 100% in the postseason, so all eyes rest firmly on CC.
Mariano Rivera - Mo was pretty crucial in the postseason last year as well, but I think he fell to number three on the team's MVP list. This year, he's throwing out of his mind. He's quietly having the best season of his career, which only happens in your age 40 season if you are also nicknamed God. Mariano is posting career bests in ERA and ERA+, at 1.04 and 386 respectively. He's given up only one home run on the season. His WHIP of 0.715 is the second best of his career to 2008 when he posted a 0.665. 'Nuff said.
Phil Hughes - Phil has been pitching better of late, but he doesn't find himself on the books for inventory because of his performance, just his presence. 175 innings are looming, ominously. With Andy Pettitte out indefinitely, it becomes natural to wonder if the big lefty will be back this season. That may be a pessimistic concern, but Andy isn't a young man anymore. If Pettitte can't return, or doesn't return at full strength, the Yankees are looking at A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez to play big roles in the playoffs if Hughes' innings limit is a hard and fast rule. For my part, I hope it's not and the team can use pitch counts as an alternative. Hughes is the Yankees second-best pitcher until Andy is back. I'm not sure the team can afford to lose him.
Miguel Cabrera - Yeah, he plays for the Tigers, but what a beast! I'm terrified every time he comes to bat. Is there a better hitter in baseball right now?