April in the Bronx (part one)

A new baseball season wouldn’t be quite the same without some interesting stories surrounding the Yankees. And 2009 has provided a plethora! We went into the season with the cloud of misdemeanours hanging over Alex Rodriguez, a drunk-driving charge for Joba Chamberlain, a new Stadium and an even more expensive roster than usual waiting to persuade the fans that they really had the goods. The month has been mostly successful but when the Yankees lost, they really lost. The lowlight was a 14 run innings given up for the first time in their history. Here’s how the batter’s shaped up in that first month:

New York Yankees – Batting – Month – April
 
Name G AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR BB SO SH SF SB BA SLG OBP
Cano, Robinson 22 93 18 34 16 5 0 5 6 9 0 1 1 .366 .581 .400
Cabrera, Melky 20 49 11 16 9 0 0 4 6 8 0 0 2 .327 .571 .400
Swisher, Nick 22 77 21 24 19 8 1 7 15 19 0 0 0 .312 .714 .430
Damon, Johnny 20 78 15 23 10 2 1 4 11 11 0 1 3 .295 .500 .385
Matsui, Hideki 19 65 8 19 9 5 1 2 12 9 0 0 0 .292 .492 .410
Jeter, Derek 22 94 14 27 12 4 0 4 9 13 0 0 4 .287 .457 .350
Nady, Xavier 7 28 4 8 2 4 0 0 1 6 0 0 0 .286 .429 .310
Molina, Jose 11 29 2 8 5 0 0 1 3 4 1 0 0 .276 .379 .344
Posada, Jorge 20 69 7 19 14 6 0 3 10 18 0 2 1 .275 .493 .366
Pena, Ramiro 16 26 2 7 2 1 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 .269 .308 .345
Berroa, Angel 4 8 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250
Gardner, Brett 21 59 9 13 4 3 0 0 3 11 2 1 5 .220 .271 .254
Teixeira, Mark 19 70 11 14 10 3 0 3 17 12 0 1 0 .200 .371 .367
Ransom, Cody 15 50 4 9 6 5 1 0 3 15 1 0 0 .180 .320 .226
    795 128 223 118 46 4 33 99 139 5 6 17 .281 .473 .362
 

Positives

Robinson Cano is not the indifferent player he was a year ago. Then his mind seemed to be elsewhere and his stroke had disappeared. Now he leads the team in batting average, he has 5 doubles and 5 homers. He has looked strong in the field.

Hideki Matsui has overcome some early days of discomfort and water on the knee following on from surgery to see his batting average climbing the list and with some work on his stance he is starting to see some power too.

Derek Jeter has answered some of his critics with some solid performances at shortstop. He’s never going to be the best shortstop in the league but he’s way better than some voices were suggesting. His performance with the bat has been solid and he’s settling into that role at the top of the line-up.

Jorge Posada. Mostly solid behind the plate and producing numbers that are a step-up on last year. The Posada – Molina tandem will serve us well for another year.

Negatives

Mark Teixeira. We need much more from Teixeira. At the moment, he is not giving us more from the position than Giambi did last year. Giambi was supposed to be at the end of his usefulness (he was). Teixeira is supposed to be the future (at the moment he isn’t). .200 with 3 home runs simply isn’t good enough.

Cody Ransom. Ransom was never going to fill A-Rod’s shoes but he was meant to be an adequate replacement without the baggage. Prior to his stint on the DL, he simply didn’t deliver. This wasn’t the young man who delivered two home runs in his first two at bats as a Yankee. Hey, he didn’t manage one in fifty! Can anybody say "Shane Spencer", "Shelley Duncan"?

Brett Gardner. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Gardner’s substandard April doesn’t qualify as a surprise. He’s a little down on what I expected but he was always going to be a .240 hitter with speed, a useful arm in the field but no power. He doesn’t walk much so once his singles production had dropped with his confidence, he was never going to survive as the everyday centrefielder.

Xavier Nady. This injury to Nady and the very non-specific way in which the Yankees detailed it in press reports is worrying. Behind the scenes issues aside, Bobby Abreu was the obvious player for the Yankees to re-sign for 2009. Damon is not the player he once was and is legs are always going to cause him problems. Nady has one bout of serious arm trouble behind him. When we didn’t chase Abreu, there was always the caution that trouble could come back. The team just has to hope it hasn’t

Surprises

Melky Cabrera. The hope was that Cabrera would bounce back strong enough to challenge Gardner and maybe platoon if Brett didn’t work out. So far, Cabrera is the guy from 2007 that we thought we’d never see again. 4 home runs, .327 batting average, good in the field, some speed. Hey, what’s not to like!

Nick Swisher. During the torrid first weeks of the season, Swisher was our best hope. Things have settled down a little now – for him and for the team but, for someone I would have traded away before the season began, he has been simply great. He looks twice the player I saw playing for the White Sox last year. He has energy, power and enthusiasm.

Jose Molina. Last year when Posada was injured and Molina was bearing the whole weight (let’s not talk about Ivan Rodriguez), he was pretty horrible at the plate and had some substandard games behind the plate. As much as I am sure that he would like to be the everyday player, I think it all got on top of him. This year, he has been his usual self behind the plate but his ability to hit for average has returned.

Ramiro Pena. Pena was going to be the scrappy, little, throwback of a player, who would provide back-up for Ransom until A-Rod was fit and then return to the minors to continue to learn the game. For three weeks that is exactly what he was and then he began to hit and look confident at the plate. Well, I’m surprised.

It will be some months before I get to New York but those horrible glitch days aside I can feel reasonably comfortable that the Yankees can remain in contention until I get there. Looks like another fascinating season ahead. I’m enjoying it. Next, we look at the pitchers in April.

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