So the Yankees had made it into August still in the mix for a possible place in the playoffs albeit by a wildcard slot. By the trading deadline, they had brought in Chase Headley, Martin Prado and Stephen Drew to try and fix their anaemic batting line-up. Now Stephen Drew wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of how to fix a low batting average and so to nearly no-one’s surprise August proved to be one of the 2014 Yankees worst months at the plate.
|New York Yankees – Batting – Month – August|
Brian McCann spent several days on the disabled list (August 9 to August 16) with concussion and Austin Romine was chosen over John Ryan Murphy to be Francisco Cervelli’s back-up. However, Romine was only given very limited time at the plate or behind the plate as the Yankees chose to use Cervelli for every start during that period. Cervelli batted .262 with some power during the month and continues to out-perform McCann offensively as McCann has returned to the sort of form he was displaying prior to the All-Star break.
Defensively, the Yankees have strengthened their hand but this hasn’t brought any relief to the beleaguered performance of their infield at the plate. New signing, Martin Prado has been one of the few encouragements. Initially when he joined the club, he continued in the same funk that he had fallen into at Arizona and being pressed into learning new defensive positions in the outfield probably didn’t help matters. However, as the month progressed and he began to hit, he was favoured more and more over Stephen Drew for the 2b slot and this has led to a real resurgence with the bat. In August, he was second only to Ellsbury in slugging percentage and also tied with Ellsbury for the lead in extra base hits. He appeared in the line-up during every game of the month and produced a .282 average which when we consider his initial struggles, bodes very well indeed.
Brendan Ryan had probably his best month at the plate, batting .300 and continuing to show very capable defensive work in limited playing time. Chase Headley’s average began to creep up slightly but it is in the first base and shortstop positions where the Yankees are looking weakest with the lumber. Mark Teixeira managed only two home runs and a very disappointing .193 batting average during the month and Derek Jeter delivered only .207 with a smattering of doubles. This is Jeter’s weakest month in what has proved a very desultory final season. The Yankees have been inclined to pick him because of the sense of occasion that seeing him in the line-up brings about but it has been nothing like the occasion that Mariano Rivera’s farewell season was. In August, he saw more games at designated hitter than in all the previous months of 2014 put together and all the signs are that this is a trend that will continue.
And that brings us to Stephen Drew. No-one thought that Stephen Drew could bat worse than he was doing at Boston. In fact, most thought that a change of scenery would do him good and there was even talk that he was the replacement-in-waiting when Jeter’s time finally came to an end. Surely all those thoughts are gone by now. Splitting his time between 2nd base and shortstop Drew has batted .153 which is markedly lower than the .176 he was managing at Boston. Come in number 33 your time is nearly up!
Finally, we have Zelous Wheeler who, like Prado, has split his time between outfield and infield since his late in the month recall from Scranton. Wheeler was a career minor leaguer prior to his time on the Yankees big league roster this season and there is nothing to suggest that trend will not be resumed in 2015. At best, he has been a make-weight on the club, seldom embarrassing himself but never likely to set the world alight.
The arrival of Martin Prado, the recall of Zelous Wheeler and the recuperating arm of Carlos Beltran has taken the pressure off Ichiro Suzuki and meant that he doesn’t have to play every day and this has once more led to a huge resurgence in his batting performance. He played in 26 of the 28 games in August but in many he was purely a late innings defensive substitution or pinch runner and this pushed his average up to a team-leading .352 and saw him second in stolen bases on the month with 5. As he reaches the end of his career this is obviously a role that suits him much better and produces desired results.
Brett Gardner, who has been hugely important to the Yankees in 2014, hit a slump in August. He was less of a pest on the base-paths and his average, on the month, went right down to .213. This somewhat took the shine off the improvement that Ichiro was showing and whilst Carlos Beltran delivered a solid month, the Yankees depended hugely on Jacoby Ellsbury to maintain even the meagre run levels they have been attaining. The team averaged only 3 1/2 runs per game and Ellsbury was the only player to achieve more than 30 hits across the 28 games of August. He was made American League player of the week for the final week of the month during which his average exceeded .520 and his contribution to the Yankees at this moment is immeasurably valuable.
Beltran was finally able to take some time in rightfield and acquitted himself reasonably well but on the whole must be hoping that 2015 will give him a fresh start on the New York club after the false dawn that 2014 has proved for him.
The DH role in August was divided between Beltran, Jeter (5 games, 9 on the season), Ichiro and McCann with Beltran once again taking the lion’s share. It has to be said that, on the whole, the designated hitter role has been a desolate one for the Yankees this season – a home for the slumping, the beat-up and the ageing. There has been very little production from this spot in the line-up.