I’ve done three of these already, one for April, May, and June. I missed July, but I was busy and the Yankees were very bad so just assume I said some negative things. Anyway, things have turned around nicely to the point where the Yankees are actually in the Wild Card race. Let’s take a look at how they did offensively, position by position, in August.
CATCHER (.293 wOBA, 19th in MLB)
Austin Romine‘s bat finally arrived from Scranton last month as he hit .303/.400/.455, but unfortunately Chris Stewart, and his .193/.258/.263 slash, got the bulk of the playing time 18 games to 12. If Joe Girardi can resist going to Stewart most nights the Yankees might actually get decent production from their catcher. Luckily, Romine has already played three out of the last four games in September.
FIRST BASE (.324 w/OBA, 19th in MLB)
Lyle Overbay was getting pretty stale there, but the addition of Mark Reynolds has helped out as Girardi can platoon them to get the most out of both. Reynolds hit .300/.378/.525 in 13 games for the Yankees in August and Overbay hit .286/.344/.357 in 12 games the same month after they got Reynolds. Honestly, the two of them combined are just about as good as Mark Teixeira was last year at a fraction of the cost (without the solid defense though).
SECOND BASE (.436 wOBA, 1st in MLB)
Robinson Cano absolutely crushed the ball in August. It was incredible. Overall, he hit .370/.442/.570. I don’t even have to write anymore.
SHORTSTOP (.314 wOBA, 13th in MLB)
Believe it or not, Jayson Nix was the hero at this position last month and Derek Jeter the anchor. Nix hit .304/.429/.478 in 12 games and Jeter hit .174/.240/.217. Nix is out, but Eduardo Nunez hasn’t been a zero lately with a .286/.337/.381. If only he could play some defense he would actually be a league average shortstop (He has a -17.8 UZR this season).
THIRD BASE (.346 wOBA, 8th in MLB)
Yes, the single biggest weakness of the team has now become a strength. Third base has been consistently the most awful position for the Yankees all season long. I’m talking consistently 29th or 30th in the game. Every month. But Alex Rodriguez has returned and hit .280/.359/.451 last month. Throw in Nix’s .304/.429/.478 (Nix really had a great month until he got hurt) and the Yankees had one of the most productive months out of the position in the game. Complete zeroes from David Adams and Brent Lillibridge pulled the position down slightly overall though.
LEFT FIELD (.372 wOBA, 4th in MLB)
Another position where the Yankees have been at the bottom of the league and turned it into a strength. The arrival of Alfonso Soriano has been huge for the Yankees as he’s currently playing better than he has in about eight years. I didn’t like the trade at first, but there was no possible way of knowing he’d be this rejuvenated. He hit .257/.314/.578 overall which isn’t great patience-wise, but that slugging percentage makes up for it and more. You look at this position, and third base, and these are the reasons why the Yankees are back in a playoff race.
CENTER FIELD (.301 wOBA, 18th in MLB)
Brett Gardner didn’t have a great month at the plate, but he played strong defense, as usual, and stole five bases so it wasn’t bad. It’s just that we’ve come to expect more out of Gardner than a .238/.319/.356 line that he displayed in 28 games. Perhaps after missing nearly a full season he’s slowing down as the Yankees have needed him to play nearly every single game.
RIGHT FIELD (.308 wOBA, 24th in MLB)
Granderson is back and he’s been tearing the cover off the ball with a .278/.394/.444 line in 27 games. He’s even stealing bases again with six swipes last month. However, Ichiro Suzuki is also getting plenty of playing time out there and is dragging the Yankees down big time as he hit just .228/.253/.283 in 95 plate appearances. That’s awful and even with solid baserunning and defense, he had a -0.1 WAR for the month.
DESIGNATED HITTER (.369 wOBA, 3rd in the AL)
Here is another position that has been a major turn around for the Yankees. Girardi had done a great job juggling it too with Granderson, Soriano, A-Rod, Jeter, and Vernon Wells all sharing time here. Aside from Jeter, all are hitting pretty well too. Even Wells hit .300/.349/.475 during the month. So throw in improved DH, along with left field and third base, as the main factors in the Yankees turn around.
STARTING ROTATION (4.37 ERA, 22nd in MLB, 11th in the AL)
It’s a good thing the offense has turned around because this starting rotation wouldn’t be able to get anybody into the playoffs on its own. Obviously the biggest story is that Ivan Nova was awesome (2.08 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9) and CC Sabathia was terrible (5.94 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9), but Hiroki Kuroda also had his worst month of the season (5.12 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.1 BB/9). Phil Hughes is rightly out of the rotation after a 6.46 ERA (and a 7.99 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9). His groundball percentage, 34.2 percent, was also a team low. At least Andy Pettitte might have turned things around (3.04 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9).
BULLPEN (3.43 ERA, 10th in MLB, 6th in the AL)
Mariano Rivera struggled (4.22 ERA, 5.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9) and so did Preston Claiborne (5.23 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9). Joba Chamberlain‘s 2.45 ERA wasn’t terrible, but he’s still not striking out batters, walking too many, and allowing too many homers. Shawn Kelley struggled too with a 3.72 ERA, and an un-Kelley-like 6.5 K/9 and a 6.5 BB/9. Then 21.1 nearly shutout innings out of David Huff and David Robertson salvaged the month.
DEFENSE (13.4 UZR, 13th in MLB)
Over the course of the season, the Yankees have gotten slightly better than average, and for the most part consistent, defense. The biggest contributor has been the outfield with Ichiro and his 11.3 UZR, Vernon Wells with his 3.8 contribution in left and Granderson’s 2.8 in right. Soriano hasn’t even been half bad since the Yankees got him so no matter who they run out there they are getting a solid option.
For the infield, Mark Reynolds, and his terrible defensive reputation, hasn’t been bad at first or third. A-Rod hasn’t been bad either even with a bum hip. The biggest thing dragging the team down is Eduardo Nunez and Derek Jeter, who are among the worst two, if not the worst two, shortstops in all of baseball.
AUGUST MVP - Robinson Cano (Cano won back in April, Kuroda in May, Gardner in June)
This was an easy choice as Cano absolutely crushed the ball last month. Ivan Nova, Alfonso Soriano, and Alex Rodriguez would be the runners up. I’m not even trying to troll A-Rod haters. He has really been a big part of turning this team around. He’s not even DH’ing all that often either. He’s playing the field, well I might add, and has even stolen three bases. Still, Cano though. I mean, when a guy hits .370/.442/.570, he’s easily the team’s MVP that month.
• Don’t forget to go see Mariano Rivera one more time. This is his last month so buy your Yankees tickets.
(September 3, 2013 - Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America).