Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grading the 2008 Yankees

I do eventually want to be a teacher, so, uh, I guess I better get my practice in? I know this is more or less completely arbitrary, so feel free to offer your own suggestions in a comment.

List is in alphabetical order by position.


Alfredo Aceves--Only question is why he wasn't called in to replace Rasner or Ponson sooner. Did everything the Yankees could have asked from him and more, being the only pitcher to beat the Angels in Anaheim since Andy Pettitte in 2007. A

Chris Britton--Cursed to ride the Scranton shuttle all season, he perhaps took his frustration out with lousy pitching when he did, in fact, pitch. C-

Brian Bruney--After an awful year last year, came into this year with a new look and a new attitude and was cruising until a foot injury made him miss most of the season. Worked hard to come back, and in his relief appearances since his return, was dominating. B+

Joba Chamberlain--Would have been that much more effective if his position as a starter or reliever had been firmly decided from the beginning. Still, he's the only one of the "big three" to immediately live up to excpectations. Month missed with a shoulder injury killed the Yankees postseason hopes and his injury history, which let the Yankees take him in the draft, could become a concern. B+

Phil Coke--After nearly getting cut in Spring Training, roared back to become this year's version of Joba. All he did was allow one run in 14.2 innings, and all this after nearly being traded to Pittsburgh. Guess the Yankees are glad that the Pirates chose the other option. A

Dan Giese--Was at his greatest value while Joba was transitioning from reliever to starter, piggy-backing on Joba's starts, pitching effectively, and sometimes even picking up the win. Pitched well in two of his three starts, but a lack of offense in one and a bad bullpen in the other doomed him. B.

Phil Hughes--Lost most of the season, again, to injury. Looked awful in the beginning of the season, but better after the injury return. Problem is, Yankees are counting on him to be effective all year, and not just a September surprise. Has had only one healthy year in 2006, and despite his age, his injuries have to be cause for concern. B-

Damaso Marte--Came over in the Nady deal from Pittsburgh and many thought he would be the jewel of the heist. Pitched poorly when used for entire innings and battled an arm injury without most people knowing, but became more effective when used just for match ups. B-

Mike Mussina--Whatever the Yankees expected out of him in April, a 20-9 record at the end of the season and position as the team's ace probably wasn't it. Struggled in April, made adjustments and took off. The Yankees don't finish above .500 without his efforts. A+

Carl Pavano--Things would have to have gone really bad for Pavano to pitch, and, alas, they did. Pavano, however, was not awful when he did pitch. Still, it's impossible to grade a guy objectively when his attendance record is so poor. Inc.

Andy Pettitte--Did what most of the fans wanted and came back, but struggled. Likely tried to pitch through an arm injury and ended up with a 1-7 mark through August and had to battle just to finish 14-14. He did, however, make every start, and if he can do a Mussina and figure out how to pitch when his cutter isn't working, the Yankees would do well to sign him next year--especially if Mussina retires. C+

Sidney Ponson--His last go around in pinstripes did not go so well, so, understandably, there was an audible gasp of "Oh good lord" when the Yankees re-signed him after Wang's injury. However, the Yankees did end up 9-6 in his starts, and one of those losses occurred after he pitched the Yankees to a 0-0 tie with the Angels in the ninth. He was lucky more than good, but the 2008 Yankees will take that. C+

Edwar Ramirez--Settled into a role for a while as a sixth inning man and was effective as such, but struggled in the eighth inning, especially when coming on while runners were on base. Wicked change up, but when the hitters guess right, some fan will get a free souvenir. B-

Darrell Rasner--Alas, he of the AAAA doom! Unhittable in AAA ball, he earned a call up back in May and pitched effectively for his first few starts. Got burned by a bad offense in a couple other starts, but by and large the other MLB teams simply figured him out, and while one can't knock him for trying, if he remains with the Yankees he's likely better suited for long relief than a starting position. Would be a good candidate to include in a package deal to an NL team, where he could likely continue to start at the ML level. C

Mariano Rivera--Bone spurs? What Bone Spurs? The 38-year-old closer had arguably his best season ever, putting up gaudy stats that would have him, and not Francisco Rodriguez, in Cy Young contention if not for one Indian (see: Lee, Cliff). Certainly got his due pitching the ninth inning of the All Star game and the Final Game, but you can tell he's crushed by not pitching in October. Struggled in tie games. Something about closers and non-save situations. It's his only blemish--otherwise he saved 38 of 39 save opportunities and, in his first year of his new contract, more than lived up to the billing--which is more than can be said for certain other re-signed 2007 free agents. A

David Robertson--For a while, came up and threw nothing but strikes. However, seemed to come undone after a couple of bad appearances. Could be an effective reliever next year if he figures how to get back to the 'throw strikes only' approach. B-

Humberto Sanchez--Not enough appearances to judge. In danger of being supplanted by Mark Melancon--but the increased competition should encourage all the relievers to be better. Inc

Jose Veras--Effective for most of the year but seemed to tire at the end of it. Occasionally prone to the long ball--not quite Farnsworth-esque, but prone enough that he's better suited to be the 7th inning guy than, say, the 8th inning in a tie game. Very violent delivery could potentially be an injury concern. B-


Chad Moeller--Third string back up at the beginning of the year, he proved to be an effective back up for Jose Molina, working especially well with Darrell Rasner. A decent arm behind the plate and not an automatic out while at bat, the Yankees would do well to re-sign him as long as Jorge Posada's shoulder is not 100% B

Jose Molina--There was no way to replicate Posada's bat as a hitter or what he brings to the clubhouse in terms of being a vocal leader, so it's unfair to judge Molina on this basis alone. Molina is one of the best defensive backstops in the game, and proved it, while also working exceptionally well with Mike Mussina and the rest of the pitching staff. Hands down the best trade the Yankees made in 2007. B

Jorge Posada--Missed nearly the entire season with a shoulder injury and wasn't right when he wasn't playing. He can't be blamed for getting hurt, it happens, but his delay in surgery, while trying to rehab the shoulder, meant that the Yankees wavered on trying to acquire a catcher to spell Molina and were ultimately left with an ineffective Pudge Rodriguez. C

Ivan Rodriguez--You can't blame the Yankees for trying. Catching a full season for Jose Molina was likely an injury waiting to happen. However, the trade failed in a number of ways. Pudge was almost as ineffective at the plate as Jose Molina (in fact, Molina's walk rate was probably higher), and ended up not being a starter, but more of a platoon partner with Molina. The cost of the trade was superficially only Kyle Farnsworth, but the bullpen seemed to collapse after Farnsworth was gone and it took another month--which the Yankees could ill afford--to figure out how to restructure it. Pudge is going to Cooperstown, but it won't be because of his pinstripe tenure. D


Wilson Betemit--Was an effective pinch hitter from the left side, and happened to prevent a Seattle starter, Morrow, from pitching a no hitter in his first major league start, but other than that, prone to strike out and not very good defensively. The occasional pop from his bat was a luxury the depleted Yankees could not afford. C

Robinson Canò--Probably the biggest disappointment of the year. Expected to contend for a batting title, he got off to a horrendous start, and with the exception of the week right after the All Star break, didn't recover from it until his benching in September. The question "what if he'd be benched back in May" will taunt the Yankees all the way until 2009...and possibly beyond. C-

Jason Giambi--No one expected him to play the entire year at first base without getting hurt, but except for a couple games in April, that's exactly what he did. Has the bizarre position of having most of his home runs either tying the game or giving the Yankees the lead, while, at the same time, having a horrible BA with runners in scoring position. The mustache carried him for a couple months, but the Yankees couldn't afford to bat him fifth all year--though they did, anyway. C+

Derek Jeter--Picked it up at the end, but for most of the year was having his worst offensive season of his career. How much of this was because of playing through an injury is unknown to all except him, but next year will be telling--if his numbers improve, no worries, but if they're similar, it might be time to recognize that more of Derek's playing time is in the past than is in the future. The speech he gave after the Final Game will go down in Yankees lore--certainly not Gehrig's, but in a year he eclipsed Gehrig's hit total at the Stadium, the Iron Horse would have been proud.B-

Cody Ransom--Not a young prospect, but certainly played like one, doing his best Shane Spencer impression at first. Settled down to a more regular stat line, one commiserate with being a bench player, but had a two home-run game at Boston at the end. Adequate defensively--at the very least, better than Betemit. Should get a long look in Spring Training. B

Alex Rodriguez--Coming off of what would be a career year for anyone else (but, because this is A-Rod, 2007 was likely just a really good year for him), there was almost no way for him to live up to expectations this year. An injury to his quad in April and his first DL stint likely reminded some why signing players to 10-year contracts is generally a bad idea (though I would guess there are a few number of Americans that currently envy his job security), and, once again, problems to come through in the clutch along with back page headlines re: Madonna, made this a season he probably wants to forget. B-


Bobby Abreu--As in 2007, got off to a slow start, but still recovered enough to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. The problem was, in 2008, the Yankees needed him to be productive in the early goings. Though he doesn't make a lot of errors in the field, he has trouble getting to the ball and a case of wall-o-phobia, making him more of a liability than an asset in the field. The Yankees would not do horribly to bring him back for one year as a DH and perhaps a back up outfielder, but Abreu likely wants a multi-year deal, which a team that wants to get younger can't afford. B-

Melky Cabrera--If G-d is kind, 2008 will be Melky's rock bottom. He looked like he was going to have a breakout season in April, but regressed so totally that he ended up getting sent to the minors. Also had an embarrassing moment at one game I was at, where he tried to acknowledge the "Roll Call" and ended up misplaying the ball. Am rooting for him to recover in 2009, but now that the Yankees have gotten an extended look at Brett Gardner, he may find himself relegated to trade bait. D

Johnny Damon--One of the few that walks the walk. Not the most talented player on the Yankees, but he plays his heart out, and while he's not got much of an arm, he can still hit. His 6-6 game against the Royals will likely be considered one of the best Yankee wins of 2008. His greatest value, however, is as a clubhouse leader, and his work with the Wounded Warrior Project is something that needs more attention. B+

Brett Gardner--When he came up the first time, he was an adequate fielder with a weak bat that found a way to get to Jonathan Papelbon. The second time around, he looked as good in the field as Melky Cabrera on a good day and was much better at the plate, using his speed to stretch singles into doubles. Has no power of yet, but if he walks more and strikes out less, will make a great lead off hitter once Damon leaves. Would do well to teach the rest of the Yankees how to hit Roy Halladay. B

Xavier Nady--Came over in the big blockbuster deal of the year. Struggled at the plate in the beginning, but given an 11-day-old son at the moment of the trade and adjusting to a new league, it's no wonder he took off once he got his bearings. Came back to earth towards the end, but he will likely make a more than adequate right field replacement if Abreu leaves. By some accounts, he strikes out too much, but on the whole, in 2008, he gave the Yankees just what they needed--a solid, right-handed bat. B+

Designated Hitter

Hideki Matsui--Tried to come back from knee surgery only to find he needed surgery on his other knee. The Yankees could ill-afford the loss of his bat on top of that of Jorge Posada, and if the right deal is proposed, might find himself traded to the West Coast in the offseason. C

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff - you're a kind grader... but your analysis shows that some changes need to be made for this team to improve moving forward, for sure...

    For me, most of the grades were about what I would issue - looks like u took each guy based on what was expected of him (A for Aceves, Coke, B- for A-Rod).

    And I think Mr. Gardner will be happy with his B after .228/.283/ .299... :)