Bizarro Yankees Surviving Early Slate With Hitting, Not Pitching

travis-hafner

Heading into 2013, the Yankees most glaring weakness figured to be their offense. They led the major leagues in home runs in 2012 with 245, and coming into this season 200 of them were gone from the lineup.

The major names missing? Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones.

Replacing them would be a “past-his-prime” former mortal enemy in Kevin Youkilis, a designated hitter who literally makes jokes about potentially playing the field in Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells, whose contract rivaled Jason Bay’s in its historic awfulness. Swisher’s 24 dingers is being replaced full-time by Ichiro, who didn’t hit that many home runs in the last three seasons, and Martin is being replaced by a combo of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, neither of whom have hit a lick in the big leagues.

Luckily, the starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova would carry the team until the thunder returned to the lineup. Right?

Nope.

So far the Yankees have posted a 4.89 ERA, and a collective 1.714 WHIP. Some of that can be attributed to a bullpen that’s been knocked around some, but Kuroda, Nova and Hughes are sporting a combined 7.07 ERA.

Yet, the Yankees are doing exactly what they need to be doing—treading water. And a funny thing is happening. Despite the injuries and overwhelming presence of retreads in the batting order, the Yankees are once again socking more homers than everyone else.

That’s right, the Bronx Bombers are still cranking balls over the fence—they are tied with the Oakland Athletics for the AL lead with 15 home runs.

Robinson Cano is predictably leading the charge with three, but the entire roster is chipping in. Youkilis, Hafner, and Wells all have two, and six other Yanks have one. They have covered for the spotty rotation work and even shoddier relief pitching.

The Yankees are also tops in the AL in .OPS (.856), runs (49) and total bases (142), while clocking in at fifth in average (.281). Their early season performance has been a bizarro version of what we all expected from them when the season began. This is weirder than Brother Mouzone and Stringer Bell getting together for Finding Nemo 2.

Is it sustainable? Kind of, yeah. A quick look at the roster reveals that it’s full of obvious platoon guys, and Joe Girardi is playing his cards right. Hafner is hitting .333 with both of his homers and all six of his RBI coming against right-handed pitching. Ditto for Wells, who is batting .350 with two home runs and four RBI against righties.

Oh and one other thing…the Yankees are getting real production from Cervelli, who clearly didn’t appreciate getting bumped to the minors by Chris Stewart last season. Cervelli’s swinging a hot stick, hitting .353/.476/.588 with one home run, six RBI and a 1.046 OPS. He almost definitely won’t keep it up to such an extent–historically he’s not a good hitter. But that’s not what’s important.

The key is that he’s hitting right now, which is what the Yankees banked on with Cervelli and the rest of these fringe veterans fighting to keep their careers alive. They bet that they could survive with Hafner and Lyle Overbay raking right-handed pitching. They gambled they could get lucky early with either Cervelli or Stewart.

So far they have, and they’re staying afloat while the stars digest their Senzu beans. They are .500 and crushing weak pitching. They are old, creaky, and scoring runs.

What else is new?

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12 Responses to Bizarro Yankees Surviving Early Slate With Hitting, Not Pitching

  1. Bill says:

    Might want to check cervelli's major league stats…270 lifetime with 70 rbis in 500 major league at bats…I really felt it was his defense they were worried about…russell martin 1 for 23 hitting and base stealer s have been successful 8 of 9 attempts already..cervelli hasn't had a stolen base vs him yet?….no comparison in hitting with 2 outs and risp either….yanks may have gotten an upgrade….martin is a name from 7 or 8 years ago…cervelli is still young and seems to have found himself…

    • Batting average and RBI's are not the best way to compare players offensively as you've left out patience at the plate (very important) and power while relying on a stat, RBI's, that has more to do with the situation a player is in than the impact the player has had.

      Citing Martin as being 1-for-23 or 9 stolen base attempts are also small sample sizes which hardly tell the real story.

      The bottom line is that, in time, you may be right. Martin made a name for himself a long time ago and has been getting a bit worse each year, but you are going about your argument the wrong way.

    • gcorcoran says:

      Definitely too early to say that Cervelli is better than Martin this season. I sure hope it does end up that way. I'll say this, I agree with Rob that the .270 average career doesn't tell the whole story, however if he can hit 50 points higher than Martin this season AND have a higher OBP, I would have to say I'd rather have Cervelli than Martin even if Martin hits 30 homeruns this season provided that Cervelli continues the improved defense. Let me go on record saying though that I don't believe Cervelli will finish the season with a significantly higher OBP though.

      The Yankees have plenty of guys who can hit homeruns, especially when Grandy and Tex come back. These same players lack the ability to hit for average. Martin truly is just another one of those guys.

  2. gcorcoran says:

    It's great to see the Yankees doing exactly what they need to until May. It will be interesting to see what happens when Grandy gets back with the playing time distribution. Gettin Jeter and Tex back will be a huge boost. When that happens this lineup will be as dangerous if not more dangerous than it was last season. This lineup looks pretty good…

    Jeter
    Grandy
    Robby
    Tex
    Youk
    Pronk
    Ichiro
    Cervelli
    Gardy

    If they can keep treading water till they get these three back there's no reason they shouldn't be able to get back to where they were last season.

  3. I expect that Cervelli will end up hitting around .270/.340/.350 and if he can actually play defense losing Martin is not such a big deal. Especially if Martin hits .200 again. My fear is that Cervelli ends up hitting what he did in Triple-A last year – .240/.340/.315. If he does that and plays average or below average defense then he's probably a downgrade compared to Martin.

  4. Mike Baker says:

    who gets sent down and released when the big guys come back?

    • Probably the same guys that were put on the roster to replace them. Teixeira will replace Overbay. Granderson will replace Ben Francisco. Jeter will be a little interesting because they still may want Nix on the roster because of the nature of his injury. So it could be either Boesch or Nix.

  5. Michael R. says:

    Though I was a proponent of starting Stewart before the season began, Cervelli is pretty hot and should be catching all of the time. When he cools off then Stewart can play. This is just one of many reasons why I have never been a huge fan of Joe's managing.

    • So you wanted Stewart to start, Girardi went the other way and it's working and that's part of the reason you're not a fan of Girardi? Cervelli isn't starting everyday, but he's played in 6 of 8 games. Catchers don't usually start every day unless you have Jorge Posada or Buster Posey back there.

  6. Michael R. says:

    Not a fan of Girardi because he manages mostly from a binder and not his head or gut. I know he knows the game, and would be much better if he used his instincts and the vast reservoir of knowledge he has accumulated while in the game. Stats are well and good but they do not tell the entire story. No, playing in 6 of 8 is not enough when you're on a roll. For some players, especially those who may lack confidence, it is not in their best interests to sit them until it's absolutely necessary.