May in the Bronx – Part 1, the Batters

The New York Yankees had a poor start to May but by the halfway point of the month they had really hit their stride. During the second half of the month they began the move towards setting a new record for games without  a fielding error and began the long haul towards first place in the American League East after occupying third for most of the season to that point. Since May turned to June, an error by Jorge Posada on a throw to second base and a loss to the American League West-leading Texas Rangers has seen the errorless run come to an end and the Boston Red Sox tie the Yankees for first place in the East but May sure was a month in which the Yankees got hot. Who was repsonsible?

New York Yankees – Batting – Month – May
 
Name G AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR BB SO SH SF SB BA SLG OBP
Posada, Jorge 6 18 4 8 7 1 0 3 3 3 0 0 0 .444 1.000 .524
Teixeira, Mark 28 115 25 38 35 9 0 13 10 24 0 1 0 .330 .748 .391
Gardner, Brett 22 52 13 17 4 1 2 2 7 6 2 0 4 .327 .538 .417
Jeter, Derek 26 112 17 36 13 8 0 3 12 15 1 0 6 .321 .473 .397
Cabrera, Melky 24 84 9 27 10 6 0 1 4 11 2 1 2 .321 .429 .348
Damon, Johnny 27 115 25 35 21 10 1 6 9 22 1 0 2 .304 .565 .355
Cervelli, Francisco 15 42 4 12 4 1 0 0 1 6 3 0 0 .286 .310 .302
Cano, Robinson 28 114 17 31 15 8 1 4 4 6 0 0 1 .272 .465 .297
Molina, Jose 5 15 3 4 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 .267 .400 .313
Rodriguez, Alex 22 77 11 20 17 4 0 7 18 12 0 0 0 .260 .584 .412
Matsui, Hideki 25 87 8 21 10 6 0 5 5 18 0 1 0 .241 .483 .295
Pena, Ramiro 19 39 7 9 2 1 1 0 1 8 0 0 2 .231 .308 .250
Cash, Kevin 10 26 1 6 3 2 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 .231 .308 .250
Swisher, Nick 27 80 9 12 10 1 0 3 19 29 2 3 0 .150 .275 .311
Berroa, Angel 9 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
    980 155 276 152 60 5 47 94 170 11 7 17 .282 .497 .349
 

Positives

Mark Teixeira. In April, Teixeira batted .200 with 3 homers. His average was so outstripped by the hot-hitting Nick Swisher, it began to look like we could have saved an awful lot of money in filling the first-base hole left by the not overly missed Jason Giambi. In May, whilst Swisher cooled right down, Teixeira found his swing and looked like the best first baseman since Tino Martinez. In May, he hit .330 with (count ’em) 13 home runs and a mammoth .748 slugging percentage. This raised him to .279 on the season which shows not only how much he has improved but just how bad that first month in pinstripes was.

Derek Jeter put together a good long hitting streak in May. He didn’t match Ichiro but there was no-one else to match him for second place in hitting safely in consecutive games. His .321 in May is solid form and he deserves his first place ranking in the American League All-Star voting for shortstop. 

Melky Cabrera missed the last few months of the month after slamming into the outfield wall as he attempted a catch but those absent days aside he matched his April performance, hit-for-hit. He has proved an amazingly successful clutch hitter and he has put his 2008 form well behind him.

Johnny Damon. Damon is not great in the field and his throw from the outfield leaves a lot to be desired. However, his hitting in April returned to a level of form that he hasn’t been able to consistently produce since he joined the Yankees.

Negatives

Angel Berroa. Berroa is really just making up the numbers on the roster. Since A-Rod’s return, he has no hope of being an everyday player. In the field, he is adequate. With the bat he is simply horrible. He didn’t manage to get to base safely once in May and it becomes more and more apparent that Pena is a much better option as infield backup.

Kevin Cash. It’s never easy being an ex-Red Sox in pinstripes but Cash really didn’t take best advantage of his opportunity. With Posada and Molina injured and Cervelli having so little Major League experience, Cash should have been the obvious choice to be the team’s first choice catcher during May. Instead, he showed himself to be no more than adequate behind the plate whilst Cervelli excelled beyond expectation. By the time that Cash began to hit, towards the end of the month, the battle was already lost and with Posada fit again, he was the obvious demotee.

Hideki Matsui. Matsui is the everyday DH but he is doing his best to lose that position. He is really not achieving the kind of batting average we expect from him. He strikes out too much and doesn’t gain enough walks. He needs to improve.

Nick Swisher. Last year when I saw Swisher playing for the White Sox, he looked extremely poor. When the Yankees signed him in the close season I couldn’t understand it. I wondered why they hadn’t waited for Teixeira and made an effort to re-sign Abreu. Then when they also signed Teixeira, it made even less sense. However, in April, I became a believer. Swisher was magic and his hitting in the clutch was examplary. And then in May, the guy I saw for the White Sox last year showed up. At this moment, he may be a great clubhouse presence but he is streakiest hitter anywhere and when his head goes down, he really, really struggles.

Surprises

Brett Gardner. The speedy Gardner is another conundrum. Last season whilst the Yankees brass sounded optimistic, the fanbase wondered when he was going to hitting safely often enough to make that speed a real threat on the bases. In April, chosen over Melky Cabrera, he quickly lost the ascendancy with a very ordinary month. But like Teixeira he bounced back to the kind of form he showed in Spring Training during May. The difference is that for Teixeira that is a return to usual form. For Gardner, this month may prove to be a fluke.

Francisco Cervelli. There was a day or two in May when Cervelli led the team in batting average. He was always going to do reasonably well with the "tools of ignorance" but he also showed he can bat at this level which was far from a given. He ended the month on .286. He needs to work on his patience at the plate and he’s not going to be a power hitter but this guy has a future.

Alex Rodriguez. I’m not sure whether this is a positive or negative surprise. For most of May, A-Rod either swung for the fences or got out. His ability as a singles hitter seemed to have deserted him. But he kept going and the home runs kept coming and then on the 25th against Texas, he went 5 for 5 with 3 singles and 2 doubles. Go figure!

Jorge Posada. Posada’s injury seemed to come from nowhere but his damaged hamstring put him out for most of the month. However, either side of his time on the DL, he has still managed to produce with the bat and for that he earns my commendation.

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