|ESPN.com: ESPNNewYork||[Print without images]|
With the second half set to start, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews grades every New York Yankees player's first-half performance.
Robinson Cano, second base
After a slow start, Cano is back to being what he is: quite simply, the best all-around player on the team. His defense has been a bit sloppy at times but no one is smoother at the plate or in the field.
Eric Chavez, third base
Chavez has had some big hits, provided more than capable play at third base, allowed A-Rod to play in nearly every game, and most importantly, has stayed healthy for more than half a season, more than justifying the club's decision to bring him back.
Brett Gardner, left field
It's impossible to grade a guy who has played just nine games all season, but the one thing you can say for Gardner is that his absence has reminded the Yankees of how much he adds to them on the basepaths and in the field in terms of run production and run prevention.
Curtis Granderson, center field
More than ever, Granderson is an all-or-nothing hitter, with a team-leading 23 homers and a team-leading 99 strikeouts. He has regressed somewhat against left-handed pitching this season, but he's still better than he had been. Grandy has great speed and range in center field, but playing shallow sometimes gets him burned.
Raul Ibanez, designated hitter/outfield
With the injury to Gardner, Ibanez has been asked to do much more than the Yankees expected him to when they signed him as the left-handed DH. And although his batting average is nothing to be proud of -- .240 -- he still swings a dangerous power bat and has played a serviceable left field.
Derek Jeter, shortstop
OK, so he wasn't going to hit .400 all season, but how many 38-year-olds have hit .300 while playing a sure-handed shortstop virtually every day? Jeter looks like a different player since going on the DL last June and has reminded everyone of what was so great about him all these years.
Andruw Jones, designated hitter/outfield
Jones hasn't played all that much or hit very well when he has, but with 11 home runs in 127 at-bats, he's still dangerous enough to make the opposing manager think twice before bringing in a lefty late in the game.
Russell Martin, catcher
Russ is suffering through a woeful year at the plate, but has maintained his intensity behind it. But no matter what the manager says, there's got to be a reason why Chris Stewart always catches CC Sabathia. His recurring back woes are not helping.
Jayson Nix, infield/outfield
A useful backup if for no other reason than if he wasn't here, Ramiro Pena would be. Or Eduardo Nunez, if he weren't on the DL with a lingering thumb injury.
Alex Rodriguez, third base
He's not nearly the offensive force or fearsome presence in a lineup that he once was, but A-Rod has devolved into a good hitter with occasional power. And with Jeter becoming less talkative in the clubhouse, he has taken on more of a leadership-slash-spokesman role. Even with diminished range at age 37, he's still a sure-handed third baseman.
Chris Stewart, catcher
He has been better with the bat than expected although not quite the defensive wizard we were led to believe he would be when the Yankees sacrificed Francisco Cervelli to bring him along in spring training. But the pitchers, especially Sabathia, seem to like throwing to him.
Nick Swisher, right field
His right-field play remains an adventure -- he is capable of making spectacularly difficult plays and spectacularly screwing up easy ones -- but his bat has been potent nearly all season long, and he has proved wrong all those who thought the pressure of his walk year would cause him to play the entire season like one long October.
Mark Teixeira, first base
His typically slow start has lingered to the All-Star break and now that his lingering cough has finally subsided, no one seems to be able to explain why. He still plays a superior first base, and 15 HRs and 54 RBIs are OK, but his .250 BA and .473 SLG are not acceptable.
Dewayne Wise, outfield
Wise is another guy, like Ibanez, who has been asked to do more than expected and when given the chance, has mostly delivered. He gets extra points for overachieving, and for keeping a positive attitude while languishing on the bench. Wise adds some of the speed on the basepaths the Yankees lost when Gardner went down.
Freddy Garcia, RHP
At this point in his career, Freddy is what he is -- a guy who gets by on deception with a collection of slop occasionally livened up by an 85 mph fastball. He has plenty of guts, though, and accepted his demotion to the bullpen like a pro.
Phil Hughes, RHP
Like Nova, Hughes is still something of a puzzle at a time when he should be well-established as a big league pitcher. Still essentially a two-pitch pitcher -- three years later, his changeup remains a work in progress -- and can be counted on to throw one clinker a month, but when he's on he is as effective as anyone on the staff.
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
After an early period of adjustment, Kuroda has settled in to become the pitcher Brian Cashman thought he would be when the GM petitioned ownership to allow him to add a free agent this offseason. He went 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA in June, is thoroughly professional and has the widest repertoire of pitches of anyone in the rotation.
Ivan Nova, RHP
Nova remains something of an enigma in his third major league season. He has an uncanny knack for winning despite his high ERA, and like most of the starting staff, pitched outstandingly in June. He seems to have kicked his problem of going deep into games, too. But one still can't shake the feeling he can implode in any start.
Andy Pettitte, LHP
Incredibly, Pettitte has picked up where he left off two years ago. Predictably, he got hurt, as 40-year-old pitchers tend to do. Frustratingly, the injury had nothing to do with his age. Hopefully, he will return in time to make meaningful contributions in September and October.
CC Sabathia, LHP
CC has been more steady than spectacular this season, but he gives the Yankees distance nearly every time out and keeps them in the game better than any pitcher on the team. He needs to bounce back quickly from a groin injury to restore stability to the staff.
Cody Eppley, RHP
Essentially a situational righty, Eppley has been asked to do more with the injuries to the bullpen, and has responded well. A sidewinder who throws his slider harder than, say, Clay Rapada, his lefty doppelganger, Eppley has allowed just one home run all season, back on April 28.
Boone Logan, LHP
Another "specialist" who has been asked to get out all hitters due to the injuries to the relief staff, the journeyman lefty can be very, very good or very, very bad. He has swing-and-miss stuff, especially his slider, and can hit 95 mph at times, but he's prone to giving up big hits; two of the three home runs he's allowed this year have been hit by lefties.
David Phelps, RHP
Phelps has excellent stuff and loads of potential, but a lack of command so far has resulted in deep counts and high pitch counts. Subsequently, he has yet to finish the fifth inning in any of his three starts so far. He's not afraid of a challenge, though, and he should improve with experience.
Clay Rapada, LHP
The well-traveled lefty sidewinder (the Yanks are his fifth team in five seasons) has been a pleasant surprise in the role that was supposed to be Logan's, retiring left-handed batters, and has been more successful at it. Lefties are hitting just .150 against him. He has already made 41 appearances, however, and could be a candidate for overuse in the second half.
Mariano Rivera, RHP
Not much of an outfielder, but after an Opening Day meltdown in Tampa Bay seemed to be on his way to another astonishing season -- five saves in six opportunities, 2.16 ERA, .200 OBA -- when he went down with freak knee injury in Kansas City on May 3. The amazing thing is how well the Yankees have thrived without him, but let's see what happens in October.
David Robertson, RHP
D-Rob hasn't quite regained the form he showed in 2011, when he was the most difficult pitcher to hit in the Yankees' bullpen, Mariano notwithstanding. Houdini has failed to slip out of the handcuffs a couple of times this season, and the loss of two weeks in spring training with a foot sprain and a month in-season with an oblique strain hasn't helped him regain his rhythm.
Rafael Soriano, RHP
If he had a theme song, it would be "Enter Sadman," but the downcast-looking Dominican has been a new man since taking over the closer's role. Twenty-one times, he has gone out in a save situations and 20 times he's come back with the goods, a success rate that even Mariano would be satisfied with. His fastball is sharp and his slider is nasty.
Cory Wade, RHP
Wade may be the biggest mystery on the club. He had an excellent April and May but went very bad very quickly in June. In his last two outings, he gave up 10 runs in three innings, an ERA of 30.00. He has allowed six home runs to right-handed hitters, unacceptable for a right-handed pitcher. Joe Girardi says it's just location, so he was relocated to Scranton.
Girardi still makes you scratch your head sometimes with in-game decisions -- and postgame explanations -- but you must admit he has done a masterful job of keeping this club on track despite the kind of injuries other teams, and managers, use as an excuse to pack it in. He can drive you crazy with his late-inning mix-and-matches, but the fact is, he's usually right.
Knock Cashman for Michael Pineda if you like, but then you must give him props for Kuroda, Ibanez and the lesser guys like Eppley, Rapada and Wise. Seems like there was a method to the madness of all the stockpiling that went on in the offseason. You think it's easy working with a budget that's being slashed to $189 million?