Monday, September 5, 2011

Four Yankees Deserving Props

Yanks have picked up 4 games on Boston in the last 7 days, extending their lead in the division out to 3 in the loss column. That's a pretty big swing for one week, and they need to continue to take advantage. With 23 games to play it's not a big lead at all, but it is substantial considering where things were at this time last week. I mention this before getting to the post because, as many have commented here, I do think winning the division and having homefield matters, and so it's worth really monitoring down this final stretch run of the regular season.

Moving on to the actual post, I want to give four Yankees who deserve a lot of credit...a lot of credit. This really probably was four four separate posts that because of time constraints, and because of other post-worthy things coming up, have been condensed into four paragraphs.

Prior to today's game - where he was 1-5 with a double - Derek Jeter had played 50 games since coming off the DL, or roughly 1/3 of the season. During that time he has hit .346/.396/.471 with 34 RBI and 32 runs scored. I'm not sure how a player who struggles like he did for the last 1.5 years doesn't just turn it around, but goes back to playing at as elite a level as he ever had, at the age of 37, but I can't say I'm surprised. Without question, Jeter's play was very frustrating for the 1.5 years prior to this resurgence. The same way it's frustrating when any player isn't really contributing. But this is a yet another reminder of why I have said, ever since the 2009 bounceback after his relatively down 2008, that no matter how poor Jeter is playing I will never count him out until he retires. No matter how bad it looks, and no matter how frustrating it is, he's done this type of stuff too many times for too long now not to be extended that treatment. You just can't count this guy out.

We've spent a lot of time talking about Jacoby Ellsbury in this space this year. And there are a lot of good reasons for that, especially between his good play the long-running debate we've had about this player for most of this site's history. What we haven't talked about is a guy whose play has been even more worthy of conversation, Curtis Granderson. As good as Ellsbury has been, Granderson has been that much better, truly one of the best players in the entire game. His 109 RBI and 126 runs are the most in baseball (the latter by 28, nobody else is even at 100!), and he is second in home runs at 38. All while playing one of the most premium positions in baseball. What's more, as Jeter and A-Rod have had extended absences, when Cano slowed in the second 4th of the season, as Teixeira has been streaky, as Swisher and Gardner got off to very slow starts, and as Posada has been up and down, Granderson has been the constant. He's been so consistent, you can barely find a week in the season where he was in a funk. It sounds a little much to say about a team with the most runs in the game, with the talent they have, and with mostly the whole lineup contributing the way it is now. But there was a time when those things were necessarily the case and Granderson was the main catalyst offensively, by far. These numbers would be elite at season's end, and he's still got a ways to go. Amazing season.

Russell Martin isn't the flashiest player on the Yankees. Not even close. And that's one of many things I love about him. He just goes out and competes and wants to win. He is a tremendous defender behind the plate, has good pop for a catcher, and has gotten big hit after big hit for the Yankees this year. The last two Thursdays alone he hit a go-ahead grand slam against the A's and a go-ahead double against the Sox in major spots. He has a role-player work ethic and mentality with talent and tools that are better than that of a role-player, very much in the model of so many players on those late 90's Yankees teams. He's been an absolute pleasure, has been a huge part of this team's success so far this year, and the Yankees need him to continue to be so moving forward.

You can't tell much about a player in his first four starts. But there are two things we do know after Jesus Montero's first four games. First, even if it doesn't ultimately mean much, it's better to get off to a good start than not, obviously. And Montero is off to a blistering start. He's hitting .385/.467/.846, scored the winning run in his first game (in Fenway against the Sox with first place on the line no less), and hit two homers today, the last of which was the difference in the game, getting two curtain calls in the process. For a player that could really help the Yankees the rest of this season, this has to be a tremendous confidence boost. Second, he looks the part. He hasn't at all looked overmatched at the plate, even against some really tough pitching. Further, there aren't many players in the game who can hit the ball over the fence to the opposite field the way he did today. Especially the first one, that reached the bleachers. The fact that he's doing it at age 21, in his 4th ever start, twice in that game, off of two different right-handed pitchers, is really impressive. One of the things that always got people excited about Montero was his power to all fields, and he showed a little bit of why today. Really, he's been showing a little bit of why he has been so highly touted almost every chance he gets. He may not be able to continue it at this rate, but he's showing himself to be someone who can help the Yankees' win baseball games right now, this year. That's always a great type of addition to be able to make to the roster, in-house, this late in the season. I would not be surprised if he wins the primary DH job within the next few weeks.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The last two posts here have been very good- It's too bad I wasn't able to comment on DV's excellent post on Friday but I totally agree with what he had to say.

PF- As far as the 4 guys you mentioned below, I think their numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Jeter looks very good at the plate right now. Granderson's numbers are just outrageous.

Russell Martin annoys the crap out of me- he looks like a meathead stooge with no neck (I'm sure he's a good guy in real life). He hits for no average. Yet you have to be pumped about the HR and RBI numbers he's giving you from the catcher position.

Lastly, I'm glad we might have another really good young position player coming up for the Yankees (sarcastic). They haven't really had one since Cano and that could be a big shot in the arm.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

It's easy to gain four games when the team you're battling decides to turn the switch off for a week. As I've said for a few months now, the Yankees don't have that switch, while the Red Sox play when they wanna play.

Didn't know about the Jeter stats over the last fifty. Good insight. Not sarcastic. It's actually somewhat of a relief to see that he has ceased performing to a point where he (and the Yankees' organization) caught a lot of ridicule for the contract - a contract he deserved. I'm also not surprised that he has more gas in the tank.

Granderson is the MVP, no doubt. In a year with injuries and relative mediocrity coming from a lot of the guys the Yankees were supposed to be relying on offensively, he's the one (however unlikely) who has been responsible for making sure the offense is producing at the level where the switch is always on.

Martin's Canadian. He's the grittiest Canadian I've seen in recent months, as most that I've seen have called 911 lines to complain about a hockey play and/or have burned down cities because their hockey team lost.

You texted me last night about whether Montero would finish the season with more home runs than JD Drew. Obviously he will.

Ross Kaplan said...

Pat, while I love Montero as much as you do and really hope he'll turn out to be a great major league hitter, I'm not so sure that he'll be ready to be a full time DH come playoff time. I'm assuming that if you're including Montero on the playoff roster than you're cutting Posada and even though he's had less than a stellar season I don't think his play justifies such an ignominious end to his playing career.