I would be the first to admit that I didn’t expect to see the Yankees have their best month of the season in August. With the departure of Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran it seemed so unlikely. Just as unlikely as Ronald Torreyes leading the team in batting average. Who could guess?
|New York Yankees – Batting – Month – August|
Well, to be fair Torreyes didn’t have sufficient bats in the whole month to qualify but when he was used every day in the last days of the month was just the time he got his at bats and his hits — and when his struggles hitting as a bench utility player fell away. . But he wasn’t the most noticeable improvement. That award – as well as couple of AL Player of the Week awards – fell to Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez had previously been called up in 2015 (September roster expansion) and earlier in 2016 (with A-Rod deep in a funk). He had, then, got hitless and so his call up at the time of Carlos Beltran’s departure was a seeming risk – especially as it meant the Yankees would be carrying three catchers. It seemed likely that Sanchez would see time at DH in the hope that he could get in the groove with a view to assessing him for next season. That wasn’t the way it worked out. Instead, he was used as the first choice catcher as the management saw him go on a rip with the bat and decide to give him his head and fully view his potential. He became the quickest batter in Major League history to 11 homers and almost single-handedly kept the team in the playoff chase as he hit .389 with an amazing 20 extra base hits. He proved also to be a tidy defensive player.
All of this meant that Brian McCann was relegated in his role on the roster, especially in the later weeks of the month and his offensive frustrations continued hitting .238 in august with just one home run. Austin Romine became more of a spot player and he had probably his worst month at the plate. There was talk of McCann leaving for Atlanta but this didn’t materialise – presumably because of his reluctance to relinquish his no-trade clause.
Mark Teixeira announced early in the month that he is to retire at the end of the season and this speeded up the Yankees search for a replacement but not an answer to that conundrum. The obvious choices are Tyler Austin, Greg Bird (who is injured, but will probably play in the Arizona Fall League), Rob Refsnyder (who is weak defensively) or, alternatively, a new face from outside the organisation. The last choice is by far the worst and would go in the opposite direction to the Yankees stated intention of stockpiling their farm system as it would cost them prospects so they need to find solutions from within.
Refsnyder has recently been sent back to Scranton, after seeing a little time at first base, second base and right-field earlier in the month. This leaves Austin has the big hope. His 36 at-bats saw him deliver only .167 with 1 home run and it leaves the Yankees hoping that there are no wrinkles in Bird’s return from injury between now and Spring Training.
Starlin Castro has been steady all season long and saw some playing time at second base in each of the 28 games of August. His .313 with 13 extra base hits saw him having an exemplary month but he could use a little more patience at the plate to draw more walks.
Didi Gregorius is the other half of a centre infield partnership which has been solid all season long. Gregorius was somewhat quieter at the plate this month than Starlin but he’s doing just fine.
We have already mentioned Ronald Torreyes and the way that he suddenly came much more into the reckoning in August. In July, he had 13 at-bats and 3 hits. In August, it was 32 at-bats and 14 hits. Now, that’s some contrast. During the last days of the month, he was the everyday third base man, nudging out Chase Headley whose .247 looked weak by comparison.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a solid month with his .275 providing one half of the continuing 2/3 of the Yankees’ outfield. The other half, Brett Gardner, was only a little behind that figure. The new face in right field was Aaron Judge who started brightly and faded quickly – ending the month on a mere .189 but his 5 extra base hits look promising for the future. Aaron Hicks has seen much benefit from increased playing time with his offensive figures much improved to add to a defense that is always solid.
And so it came to pass that on the 12th of August, Alex Rodriguez finally retired from the New York Yankees. There were those who said that the Yankees were keeping him out of the line-up to stop him achieving the next milestone in his career but the truth was that A-Rod had become a millstone, batting .100 thus far in August.
This meant that DH duties passed mainly to Brian McCann but also that Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira saw time there. It was a big improvement and allowed the Yankees to rotate players who were doing well and who they didn’t really want to leave out of the team.
Goodbye, A-Rod. This writer, for one, won’t miss you.