At The Halfway Point

July 5, 2010 – 1:49 pm

So now that we are officially at the halfway mark for the season, how have the 2010 Yankees, the defending World Series champions, done? Looking back it seems like it’s been a frustrating 81 games with more low lights than high lights — Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriquez are clearly not performing up to the back of their cards, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez have both been very inconsistent, and outside of Mariano Rivera the bullpen has been pretty much a continual disappointment. But in spite of all that, the Yankees are still 19 games over .500 and in first place with a 1.5 game lead. So what, really are we complaining about? Heck, this time last year, the team was only 15 games over .500 and were in second place, one game out. They are actually doing a bit better than last year, and we all know how last year turned out. Of course, last year they went on a 55-26 tear in the second half of the season. And that’s probably where the “disappointment” in the first half comes from — if they are going to come anywhere close to replicating what they did last year, they are indeed going to have to play better ball. And if that’s the case, where are the improvements going to come from?

Here’s a look at how the offense has done so far this year, using OPS+ to compare 2010 performance with career stats:

2010 OPS+ vs. Career OPS+
Pos Player 2010 Career Diff
C Francisco Cervelli 91 84 7
1B Mark Teixeira 114 135 -21
2B Robinson Cano 162 118 44
SS Derek Jeter 106 121 -15
3B Alex Rodriguez 127 147 -20
LF Brett Gardner 130 100 30
CF Curtis Granderson 92 112 -20
RF Nick Swisher 139 117 22
DH Jorge Posada 133 124 9

What I find interesting here is (1) some of those deviations appear to be rather large, and (2) they also pretty much confirm what “my lying eyes” have been telling me (which is always comforting, I suppose). A-Rod and Tex are both performing way below their career numbers, and interestingly by about the same amount. I guess Tex’s recent surge is responsible for that, as I would have thought his difference would have been larger than A-Rod’s. But then there’s Cano’s incredible year so far, which completely offsets the off-years of Tex and A-Rod. Where would we be without Cano this year? Yikes. Also not to be overlooked is the year that Brett Gardner is having. With Nick Swisher’s +22 offsetting the poor year Curtis Granderson is having, Gardner’s difference makes for an overall positive contribution from the outfield.

So how does this bode for the second half? Most likely we’ll see a lot of regressing towards career numbers which in the case of Tex and A-Rod would be a big positive. But what about Cano and Gardner? Can they keep up their so-far record years? I have to believe that if the Yankees are going to finish 2010 like they did last year, that has to happen.

And what about the pitching so far? Using a similar stat, ERA+, here’s how those numbers match up:

2010 ERA+ vs. Career ERA+
Pos Player 2010 Career Diff
SP CC Sabathia 122 121 1
SP Andy Pettitte 143 117 26
SP A.J. Burnett 83 108 -25
SP Phil Hughes 106 105 1
SP Javier Vazquez 79 106 -27
CL Mariano Rivera 366 205 161
RP Joba Chamberlain 78 115 -37
RP David Robertson 69 93 -24
RP Chan Ho Park 64 97 -33
RP Damaso Marte 95 130 -35

Again, no real surprises here — CC having his usual great year, Pettitte performing far better than anyone could have anticipated, and A.J. and Vazquez big disappointments so far. And in the bullpen, Mario is The Greatest Ever, not much more you can say about him — and everyone else in the pen sucks. As far as the starters go, Vazquez seems to have gotten back on track over the last month, and there’s no reason to think he won’t have a good second half. A.J., though, is the big question mark. Again, if the Yankees are to repeat what they did last year, a lot will be riding on how A.J. rebounds from a very poor first half. As for the bullpen, I don’t have much hope there. That’s going to be up to Brian Cashman to bring in some reliable arms. I trust that is the number one, two, and three priorities going in to the trade season.

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