The 2010 Yankees had a spectacular month of July, tying the Tampa Bay Rays for the best record in the Majors with 19 wins and only 7 losses. They actually gained a game on Tampa during the course of the month (before having the lead shrunk back to one yesterday afternoon). The fact that the team played .731 ball in July and still only managed to gain one extra game in the standings on Tampa Bay tells you a lot about both the Yankees and the Rays. The more I think about it, the more I see these two on a collision course for the ALCS. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
(Please click on all of the tables to enlarge them)
The offense came back in a big way in July, with the team's wOBA jumping nearly .030 points from June's mediocre .326. July also represented the team's best month of slugging on the season.
The pitching staff also improved last month, with a sterling 3.46 ERA (though incredibly this was only good for 4th-best in the AL). At the end of July 2009, the Yankees were 62-41 and had a 1.5-game lead over Boston for first. While the division lead is currently roughly the same, it's rather insane that this year's team is four games better than last year's.
Here are the individual numbers for the eight regulars with the most plate appearances in the starting lineup:
The offensive story of the month was one we've been waiting for all season long: the resurgence of Mark Teixeira, offensive beast. Tex not only led the Yankees in wOBA on the month with an obscene .488, but had the fourth-best wOBA in the American League in July. Nick Swisher, who just continues to have a phenomenal season, wasn't far behind, posting his second .400-plus wOBA month of the year with a .434 mark. Robinson Cano continued his torrid hitting, though his .375 July wOBA -- still a great number -- was actually his lowest month of the year. Still, Cano ranks 5th in the AL on the season with a .405 wOBA, which is unbelievable.
Brett Gardner fell off a bit in July (.344) from his molten-hot .455 wOBA in June, but has still continued to exceed expectations with a .370 wOBA on the year. Jorge Posada contributed what felt like a fairly quiet .356 wOBA in July.
I know I've beaten this story to death, but it may finally be time to accept the Alex Rodriguez is no longer going to be the elite, .390-plus wOBA hitter we've been spoiled by these last six years. Prior to looking at the numbers I'd assumed that Alex had had a fairly decent month in July, and then I saw that he posted a .331 wOBA, his worst month in a season full of disappointing months. Did you know that Alex's OBP in June was .308 and in July it was .305? Ouch.
I also figured Curtis Granderson had posted better than a roughly league-average .331 wOBA in July, although to his credit he's at a .392 wOBA over his last 14 days.
And the offense's worst performer in July? None other than Derek Sanderson Jeter, who I've been riding pretty hard of late. Jeter turned in a pathetic .282 wOBA in July, which I'd have to figure is one of the worst months of his career. It's rather amazing that the Yankees were able to win 19 games in July with a .310 OBP out of the leadoff slot. I know it's already been suggested and Joe Girardi actually tried it with relatively middling results, but it may be time to think about giving Brett Gardner another shot at leadoff and slot Jeter back down to the two-hole.
However, if a move like that were to work, one of a handful of areas of Gardner's game that could use improving is aggressiveness on the basepaths. I'd love to see Gardner start swiping bases earlier in counts; something he seems highly reluctant to do. Given Jeter's refusal to work counts, a Gardner-Jeter 1-2 could result in way too many double plays, so both players would have to commit to revising their game plans in this scenario.
Here's the bench and the guys who left the team:
Nothing much to see here. Marcus Thames has done pretty much everything one could have expected of him given his limited playing time. The rest of the bench has been fairly nightmarish, though to his credit Colin Curtis has come up with a handful of timely hits. Francisco Cervelli has plummeted back to earth after a hot start to the season and Ramiro Pena is the third-base version of Wil Nieves.
As for the castoffs, Austin Jackson has continued to defy the naysayers who expected that his numbers would start dropping once he experienced a correction in BABIP. Somehow that BABIP remains seemingly unsustainably high at .422, which has fueled Jackson's impressively above-average .350 wOBA on the season. ZiPS' Rest-of-Season projection has him wOBAing .310 the rest of the way and ending the year at .334, but given how Jackson's continued to defy the projection systems who knows where he'll end the year. Regardless, no one in their right mind would've expected Jackson to produce a .350 wOBA through the first four months of the season, and given that I'm convinced we have yet to see the real Curtis Granderson on the Yankees, I think it's still too early to make a judgment on that trade.
Jose Tabata's hit reasonably well since being called up by the Pirates in June, while Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera have mostly floundered since leaving the Yankees, Melky in particular.
Here's what the starting pitchers did in July:
CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett paced the rotation in July, followed by another solid month from Javier Vazquez. Andy Pettitte injured himself in his first outing after the All-Star break, and saw one of his starts butchered by Sergio Mitre and the other handled quite well by Dustin Moseley. Phil Hughes had the roughest go of it in July -- not to mention the worst FIP of the entire staff, including the bullpen -- and a look at that monthly chart tells an unfortunate story of his numbers trending downward as the season wears on. It will be interesting to see (a) how the Yankees handle Hughes and his innings limits during the last two months of the season and (b) how Hughes performs as he continues to throw more innings than he ever has at any point in his career. It seems safe to say at this point that, barring another April-like collapse for Vazquez, Home Run Javy will likely be the fourth starter in the playoff rotation with Hughes shifted to the bullpen.
Here's the bullpen and retreads:
Outside of Mariano Rivera, who just continues to be outrageous (0.96 ERA!), David Robertson (3.09) and Boone Logan (1.80) of all people get gold stars for stellar bullpen work in July. As we all know Joba Chamberlain was a mess despite solid peripherals, while Chan Ho Park finally pitched his way off the team.
Scranton closer Jonathan Albaladejo, in the midst of a stellar year at AAA, finally got called up but only got to throw 2.2 innings before being sent down again. Phil Coke is somehow having an excellent year in Detroit, although he can post the most absurd numbers in the world and I still won't regret trading him away; I just could never trust Coke in any situation last season.
One other interesting point worth noting about this past month is that in bringing Lance Berkman in to DH, Austin Kearns as a fourth outfielder and Kerry Wood to help the bullpen, Brian Cashman basically addressed each of the Yankees' Areas of Weakness we highlighted during the All-Star Break, so props to Cash for that.
Mike and I have basically been saying all season that we can't wait for this team to be firing on all cylinders, although at this point I think we need to accept that this is what the 2010 Yankees are. Just because Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter are having down years (for them) doesn't take away from the fact that Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner and (more recently) Mark Teixeira have been carrying the offense for the most part. As much as we'd love for the entire starting nine to get hot at the exact same time, it seldom works that way in baseball. Unless you're the 2009 Yankees, who wOBA'd .368 as a team last July, .375 last August and .370 last September.
This year's incarnation has also benefited from exceptional starting pitching for the most part, which has helped mitigate the drop-off in offense to some degree. The Yankees addressed their offensive shortcomings with the Lance Berkman acquisition, and I imagine we'll start to see the offense heat up even more as we move into the hottest month of the year.