Man, what a weird month July was in Yankeeland. In the beginning of the month, we all reveled in the Bombers pounding the Red Sox, taking three out of four going into the All Star Break. Immediately after that embarrassment of a Midsummer Classic, the Yankees took a hard fought series from the Angels and then swept Toronto, outscoring the Blue Jays 18-4. New York was riding high, taking ten of 14 games through July 18th, and then the wheels fell off.
The Yankees embarked on the West Coast Trip of Doom, being swept in Oakland in a series filled with blown leads, RISP fail, an injury to Nick Swisher, and walk off losses, before losing Alex Rodriguez to a fractured finger in Seattle. Four straight tough defeats at the hands of the Red Sox and the Orioles, as well as yet another injury to a key player (Mark Teixeira) closed an up and down July, with the Yanks going 13-13 for the month. Needless to say, there were bright spots and dull moments abound. Now that we’ve passed into August, let’s hand out some grades for July, shall we?
Russell Martin: I would say I won’t let my extreme anti-Martin bias get in the way here, but at the end of the day, my bias is accurate, right? Russell Martin is awful. He’s thrown out a career low 25 percent of base runners. He hit a downright disgusting .183 for the month with on base percentage of just .290. A far cry from the .350 mark that Martin supporters used earlier in the year to defend his poor play. He had ONE double all month. One! I had trouble giving him a failing grade, so I asked my brother if I should give Martin an F. “Russell? Yeah! He sucks!” he said. Fair enough. Grade: F
Mark Teixeira: Little suspense here about what grade Tex is going to get for July. 7 home runs, a league leading 27 RBI’s (including 15 in a seven game span), and a .298/.386/.631 slash line highlight a stellar month. And as always, Teixeira has contributed greatly with the glove. The valedictorian of the Yankees July class. Grade: A
Robinson Cano: He continued to prove his dominance over American League pitching with a .314/.357/.486 slash line and an .843 OPS last month. He had ten extra base hits, including four home runs, and failed to register a hit in all but four games in July. But his 23 game hitting streak (spanning June and July) aside, Cano’s plate discipline was nowhere to be found. While he found some success with hitting early in the count, he worked just five walks all month. It’s becoming obvious that’s slightly fallen back into his “swing at anything and everything” attitude that has plagued him over the years, but hopefully he and Kevin Long get him back on track. That, and the fact that Cano only drove in four runs since July 14th, knocks him down a peg. Grade: B+
Derek Jeter: Many thought that, when Jeter’s average fell 40 points in June, his post disabled list resurgence had finally ended. Wrong. The Captain hit a torrid .346 in July and got on base at a .375 clip (which is low for an average near .350). On the year, he leads the AL and is third in the majors with 137 hits, with 37 of them coming in July. Jeter compiled 11 multi hit games; including recording a three hit game four different times, and scored 18 runs. One of the few knocks on Jeter is that he no longer works walks, just three all month, but it’s hard to complain when Jeter is smashing two singles up the middle on a nightly basis. Grade: A-
Alex Rodriguez: While no longer the home run hitter he once was just a few years ago, A-Rod can still produce solid numbers, and he showed that in his injury shortened July. He compiled a slash line of .315/.367.493 and recorded eight extra base hits, including two long balls. More of a single hitters today, he had two or more hits in a game eight times in just 17 starts. But on a negative note, Rodriguez only walked five times (one intentionally) as opposed to 14 strikeouts, and he only drove in nine runs, not nearly enough for someone who hits third or fourth in the lineup each night. At least he stole five bases. Regardless, losing A-Rod until mid-September hurts, as it shortens the lineup, the bench, and reduces the amount of right handed power on the team. Get well soon. Grade: B-
Curtis Granderson: I both love and dislike Granderson. He’s got a great personality, plays a solid centerfield, and hits home runs into the second deck like there ain’t nothing to it but to do it (5 in July). Love the guy. But while my girlfriend would say I dislike Granderson because I think she loves him more than she loves me (which is true), it’s actually because he’s an all-or-nothing guy. He showed that in July, as he struck out an astounding 36 times to go right along with his 129 K’s on the year, good for third in baseball. He even struck out in 17 of 19 games from July 7th to the end of the month, with 11 of those games being multi-strikeout games including 12 whiffs in the last 4 July games. Additionally, he only hit .245 in July and got on base at a .321 clip, which isn’t terrible but not near enough for a two hitter batting in front of Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. That, and butchering the ninth inning fly ball on July 28th against the Red Sox, gives me enough reason to knock Granderson down a few grades. Grade: C+
Nick Swisher: Swisher missed a little more than a week with a mild hip flexor strain and has yet to play right field since returning to action full time on July 29th, but he still produced in limited time. His July average of .222 is pretty bad, but his on base percentage of .367 is fantastic, thanks in part to 14 walks and 14 hits in 79 plate appearances. His 26 strikeouts are a little high for my liking, especially in just 19 starts, and it’s hard to give Swish a better than average grade. Grade: C
Raul Ibanez: It was a tale of two months for the Ibanez/Jones platoon. On one hand, Ibanez had a fantastic month of July. He hit .279/.333/.492 with three home runs (one being that dramatic go-ahead grand slam against Toronto on July 16th) and ten runs batted in. His BABIP is a solid .341 and he’s been pretty consistent all month. His 17 strikeouts in 66 plate appearances is a bit high, but that’s really been his only downfall last month. Grade: B+
Andruw Jones: On the other hand, Jones was horrible. His west coast trip was arguably the worst stretch of baseball I’ve seen any Yankee play all season, as he struck out ten times in just 14 at-bats, including eight straight at one point and that four strikeout game in Oakland. He single handedly brutalized Boston before the All Star Break, blasting four home runs and driving in six runs during that series, but besides that, it’s been all bad. That three game stretch saves him from getting a failing grade, but 13 strikeouts in 33 plate appearances and a .161/.212/.323 line since the Red Sox series? Yuck. Grade: D-
Ichiro Suzuki: He’s got a nice nine game hitting streak since being traded to the Yankees, but one hit a day just isn’t going to cut it. The Ichiro of old is long gone, but hopefully he finds his swing during the dog days of August. He hasn’t struck out yet, which is nice, and he’s played pretty well in the corner outfield spots, which was expected. Grade: C
Bench: Eric Chavez was really good. Chris Stewart was really bad. Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise were somewhere in the middle. No surprise there. Chavez popped four home runs while posting a .264/.355/.491 slash line, and that’s more than any of us could have wished for. Thank God for him, because Chavez just became a key ingredient to our success the rest of the way. As far as Nix, Stewart, and, now former Yankee, Wise as concerned, they did their job just fine off the bench. Good luck with your future endeavors, Dewayne. Grade: B-
Rotation: To me, there was little doubt that Phil Hughes was the Yankees best pitcher in July. His game lines may not be sexy, but his 3.09 ERA, 26/8 strikeout to walk ratio, and 1.05 WHIP definitely are. He also pitched seven innings or more in four of his five starts, giving the Yankees much needed innings. Hughes was fantastic, unlike Ivan Nova, who struggled mightily, pitching to a 5.97 ERA and an awful 1.67 WHIP. Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda, and CC Sabathia (3 starts) weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they were pretty average. Garcia seemed to battle through jam after jam in all five of his starts, while Kuroda was hit or miss. At the end of the day, the rotation was hardly the reason why the Yankees finished July with a .500 record, and they pitched better than their numbers may indicate. Grade: B
Bullpen: For as good as the Yankees bullpen was earlier in the season, they’ve fallen back to Earth, especially former no-name scrubs like Cody Eppley and Chad Qualls. The Oakland trip was the most telling to me, especially Rafael Soriano giving up a game tying home run to former Colorado Rockies fourth outfielder Seth Smith of all people and Eppley giving up walk off hits to light hitting, should be bench players in Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss. In summary, Boone Logan gave up runs in 5 July appearances and finished the month with a 9.95 ERA. David Robertson clearly isn’t the pitcher he was before his oblique injury. Eppley, the righty specialist, can’t get righties out. Rapada, the lefty specialist, is having trouble get lefties out. And Chad Qualls was the bullpen version of Russell Martin. How Brian Cashman was able to trade him for a player of any worth is a miracle and we should all fall at his feet for it. The only bright spot was Rafael Soriano, who opponents hit just .167 with 17 strikeouts in just 12 innings. The #Untuck phenomenon is still going strong with no signs of letting up. It’s not enough to save the bullpen from a less than desirable grade though. Grade: D+
Coaching/Front Office: Joe Girardi has his moments, for sure. But he’s done a relatively decent job this month considering the junk in the bullpen he’s had to work with recently. His highlight for me is pinch hitting with Jayson Nix back on July 25th, resulting in a late inning go-ahead, bases loaded double in Seattle. I can’t remember a time where I screamed in anger at my television, so Joe was fine by me. Cashman, though, secretly traded for Ichiro and Casey McGehee, two additions that should really help the team going forward, without giving up much of anything in return. We’ll see if those two actually pan out as assets, but on paper, both trades should prove to be a modest improvement for the Yankees moving forward. Grade: A-
Overall, I’d have to give the Yankees a B- grade for the month of July. Yes, they only went 13-13, but they were able to maintain their daunting division lead while Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and even Cashman are hitting their stride at the right time. Let’s just hope that August treats us a little better in the win column.