The Yankees got off to a strong start in April – stronger than most had anticipated. They tussled for the lead in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles.
In May, even more surprisingly, they maintained that trajectory whilst Baltimore faded slightly and the Boston Red Sox came into the picture. But by the end of the month, there was a couple of games clear lead that the Yankees had carved out ahead of their two rivals. Impressive.
|New York Yankees 2017 – Batting – Month – May|
Coming back from injury, Gary Sanchez hit well but lacked the power he had shown in the second half of last season. His .293 batting average was fine but he achieved only 5 extra base hits (3 home runs) which the Yankees will be hoping he improves on as he loosens up after returning to fitness. Meanwhile, Austin Romine struggled upon returning to the back-up slot. He hit only .125 with 1 double and a third of his at-bats concluded in strikeouts. May probably saw the end of Kyle Higashioka‘s time in the major leagues. He went through the whole of April without a hit and continued that trend in May with a further two games behind the plate which were fine defensively but merely produced a further four hitless at-bats before Higashioka was returning to Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre (AAA) to make room for Sanchez.
The mystery of Greg Bird‘s struggles continued until the first day of May. Joe Girardi had assured the media he wouldn’t be demoted to try to get his mechanics sorted, only then for an announcement to be made that he was to go on the 10-day disabled list with a “right ankle bruise”. He had gone 0 for 4 on the 1st of the month and his disablement started on the second and saw him through to the end of the month with a rehabilitation to begin at Tampa at the start of June. This left the Yankees with an issue. The first base position was beginning to look like a problem. Chris Carter had only batted .211 in April. Matt Holliday had not really worked out there during Spring Training and the Yankees were still not exactly warm on Rob Refsnyder‘s defensive skills. It was Refsnyder who was called up from the Railriders to cover for Bird but he was going to keep the seats of that shuttle warm with several journeys back-and-forth during the month. Holliday would see more time at 1b than Refsnyder but Carter took the bulk of all the games with Headley and Romine also taking a little time at the corner.
Carter was great defensively and seems a bright and cheerful part of the team but his batting figures continued to skid going well below .200 on the month. Refsnyder also saw some time at second base and designated hitter but his batting figures also hovered around the Mendoza line without Carter’s power.
Starlin Castro continues to be the main man both in terms of his role at second base and his excellent batting average. For the second consecutive month, he was above .300 and added 9 extra base hits whilst leading the team May stats in doubles.
Castro’s centre-infield partner, Didi Gregorius has continued to do well on his return from injury; hitting .283 in May and ensuring that Ronald Torreyes who has been reduced to a bench role was looking to third base rather than shortstop to get his innings in. Chase Headley is proving a huge question mark. In 2016, he struggled in April but broke out in May. This year, he was one of the team’s greatest assets in April but his bat went to sleep in May which created the time that Torreyes spent at the plate. Torreyes, with a few games also at 2b and ss, managed a .235 batting average but delivered it all in singles. Headley batted a miserable, paltry .165 but that included some doubles and a triple. However, some weak defensive play didn’t help his cause.
If the Yankees are having a few wobbles in the infield, there are no such issues in the outfield. The only difficulty they have is Jacoby Ellsbury‘s presence on the 7-day disabled list (concussion) after an argument with the outfield wall negotiating a difficult catch left him with headaches and neck pain. That meant he was unavailable from the 25th onwards, a particular shame as he was having his strongest times in the pinstripes since joining the Yankees from Boston.
His .288 with 6 extra base hits was part of a group of 4 outfielders who were all contributing massively to the team’s success. Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and rookie, Aaron Judge were all proving to be formidable assets defensively and offensively but it was Gardner who was the surprisingly hot ticket. He led the regular members of the team in runs, RBIs, homers, and slugging average on the month.
Judge contributed 7 home runs and led the team in batting average in May. Meanwhile, Hicks was solid in every category.
Matt Holliday continues to be the main DH and continues to impress. I wasn’t convinced that he could carry the weight in this role but he has proved to be much more than an aging first baseman. This month he was .260 with 7 home runs (out of a personal total of 11 extra base hits). As previously mentioned he also gave the Yankees an extra option at first base which they previously didn’t seem to be expecting from him.
Ellsbury, Judge and Refsnyder played odd games at DH but this is very much Holliday’s job and deservedly so.