All-Star Break #2 – Where do we go from here?

I averaged out predictions I made before the season began with those made by the Bill James Handbook 2008 and compared them with the stats actually produced up to the All-Star Break.

Here’s how the Yankee hitters are doing compared to those pre-season expectations:

Hideki Matsui

Projected: Games – 79, Average –  .293, Home Runs- 15.
Actual: Games – 69, Average – .323, Home Runs – 7.

Two factors here – the first is the inability to hit for power (markedly less home runs), the second is the inability to play the field on a regular basis. Both of these point up the significance of his problems with his legs which may have finished him for the rest of the season. By contrast, his batting average is up as much as his slugging is down. A future as a successful singles hitter and DH (an unusual combination) or early retirement. Time will tell.

Johnny Damon

Projected: Games – 89, Average – .278, Home Runs – 9
Actual: Games – 82, Average –  .319, Home Runs – 6

Similar story for Damon. His decline began in the second half of 2006 and is also associated with aging legs. His average has rebounded to 2005 (Boston) heights but power is down and he has his first period on the disabled list. The twist in this is that his injury is a damaged shoulder and nothing to do with his legs. This suggests that there is more hope in him continuing as an outfielder than Matsui but he is another reason for the dramatic reduction in the Yankees’ power production.

Alex Rodriguez

Projected: Games – 93, Average – .300, Home Runs – 28
Actual: Games – 75, Average –  .312, Home Runs – 19

Rodriguez’s stint on the disabled list has hampered his home run total but not his slugging pct. (I had him at .586, he is actually 581 – a very minimal difference. Not many people expected A-Rod to still be a Yankee right now. Given the shenanigans of the close season and the off-field rumours as well as the injury, he is doing remarkably well.

Derek Jeter

Projected: Games – 93, Average – .312, Home Runs – 9
Actual: Games – 88, Average – .284, Home Runs – 5

Jeter is just not quite himself at the moment. His figures are still good but he has set a remarkable standard for himself which he is not matching. Difficult to know if this is just a blip or whether it is a sign of a slight downturn.

Bobby Abreu

Projected: Games – 94, Average – .285, Home Runs – 12
Actual: Games – 92, Average – .274, Home Runs – 10

Again, a slight downturn but it is made more significant because there is a trend like this across the team. 10 points off average and only 2 home runs down but we need him to step up as one of the few injury-free players in the squad.

Jorge Posada

Projected: Games – 84, Average – .281, Home Runs – 12
Actual: Games – 49, Average – .272, Home Runs – 3

Posada had a BIG year in 2007. So far, injury and lack of managerial confidence have spiked his year in 2008. He spent a long time out (35 games down on prediction) but despite the fact that Molina didn’t carry the responsibility of being first choice during the actual injury time, part of this is because Girardi has continued to favour Molina since Posada’s return; citing arm strength as his reason. During this period of uncertainty, Posada’s batting average has dropped off markedly but his home run production and slugging has never got out of the doldrums.

Jason Giambi

Projected: Games – 72, Average – .249, Home Runs – 15
Actual: Games – 83, Average – .253, Home Runs – 19

Going into the season, Giambi was going to share DH with Matsui and 1B with a whole range of possible candidates. Not many of those candidates reached expectations and with Mientkiewicz already gone to other pastures and Shelley Duncan failing miserably, Giambi became the most prominent first baseman due primarily to his huge contract – if we’re going to have to pay him, he might as well play somewhere. The remarkable thing is that this undue perseverance actually paid dividends. First, he began to hit for power and then his average perked up as well. Things are a little quieter right now and whilst no-one is going to make this guy a sporting hero (stache or no stache), he is so much more valuable than I expected.

Robinson Cano

Projected: Games – 88, Average – .322, Home Runs – 11
Actual: Games – 93, Average – .246, Home Runs – 6

Robinson is stranded in a season-long funk (so far) and his fall off in every offensive category is more marked than anyone else on the team. The only positive is that his batting average in July (but not his slugging) has taken a marked upturn to .273 on the month. This is still nowhere near what we expect but it is a step in the right direction.

Wilson Betemit

Projected: Games – 77, Average – .263, Home Runs – 10
Actual: Games – 47, Average – .243, Home Runs – 4

It’s hard to be positive about that second line but I’m going to be. Simply put, prior to his time on the disabled list, Betemit was awful. Since that time, he has become our most important bench and utility player. Offensive figures don’t show everything (particularly not the meagre selection presented here) and he has done very well defensively as well as putting up .267 BA in June. So far, July has seen him back in the doldrums with the bat but the mere fact he is still here is quite something after the opening to the season he had.

Melky Cabrera

Projected: Games – 90, Average – .283, Home Runs – 6
Actual: Games – 92, Average – .241, Home Runs – 8

With Cabrera I’m looking for a good day in the field and a clutch of singles. Perversely, his home run hitting is up! Defensively, he has been fine but that 40 point drop in average is part of the general trend but is worrying all by itself. You begin to wonder about the coaching staff when the malaise is this wide spread.

So that it’s for the hitters:

Pluses: Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon,
Minuses: Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera
Surprises: Jason Giambi, Wilson Betemit

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