Monday, May 3, 2010

Yankee Player & Pitcher Of The Month For April

Yankee Player of The Month- Robinson Cano

 (Photo used courtesy of The AP)

Pretty much a no-brainer here. Cano put up an incredible .400/.436/.765 line in April complete with 5 2Bs, 8 HRs, 18 RBIs, and 21 runs scored, basically shouldering the load for the Yankee offense that had its 2 primary horses (Teix and The A-Horse) bringing up the rear of the field (you like that Derby metaphor? Yeah you do). For all the questions about whether or not Cano was the right guy to step into the 5-spot in the lineup this year, the questions should have been directed more towards just how astronomical Cano's numbers would be, even as much of his supporting cast (minus Jeter, Jorge, and Gardner) struggled for much of the month.

Cano's play in the field has been equally on par with his scorching bat. His range to both sides of the field seems better than in years past and his cannon of an arm has already lead to more than one "Holy Shit!!" play this season. The general opinion on Cano's defense now seems to finally be shifting from "lazy" to "smooth" and his laser rocket arm is now getting its just due from the mainstream media as being a legitimate weapon in his defensive arsenal rather than something used to mask his deficiencies in fielding his position.

Most importantly, and almost certainly the cause for the statistical results, is the change in Cano's mental approach to the game this year. There was concern that Robbie losing his buddy, Melky Cabrera, could be a problem. Instead Cano has thrived in his new role. I would not be so simple as to suggest it's because his wingman is gone; I think this season came down to Cano finally deciding to grow up and dedicate himself to the game and take the next step towards becoming the player everybody has said he's capable of being as he heads into his prime. He is more patient and cerebral in his approach at the plate and his focus and reaction time in the field is as good as it's ever been.

While it's unlikely Cano will keep these numbers up over the long haul, he certainly can be expected to maintain the overall All Star-level of play he has shown so far. Cano has established himself as a legit MVP candidate, has bypasses Dustin Pedroia as the best 2B in the AL, and with Teix and A-Rod hopefully turning the corner this month, he will continue to have opportunities to put up huge numbers moving forward.

Yankee Pitcher of The Month- Andy Pettitte

(Photo used courtesy of The AP)

In a month where every Yankee pitcher not named Javier Candyass Bitch Vazquez pitched like an ace to the tune of a 12-1 combined record with a 2.48 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 91 Ks in 120 IP, it should have been a tough choice, but when you factor in age the winner has to be Andy Pettitte.

The old goat can still get it done, huh? He may have come into the season expecting this to be his last, but it's clear that he still has plenty of good baseball in him.

In 5 April starts, Pettitte was 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 34 IP. His stuff has been sharper than expected and at this stage in his career he has mastered the art of pitching mentally over physically. Pettitte has used repertoire of pitches like a Crayola 64 box of crayons, dialing up anything at any time and throwing it anywhere in or out of the zone to keep hitters off balance and dictate the pace of the game, despite no longer having what most baseball analysts would call great "stuff." In 4 starts against teams with above-average offenses (at least on paper), Andy was 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA, and his 8-inning, 1-run, 8-K performance against the Angels on 4/24 was just a thing of sheer beauty. Shit, even his one "bad" start this past Friday (6 IP, 7 H , 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 k, ND) was something that most pitchers would be OK with, especially when it ended in his team getting the W.

Now like Cano, it would be insane to expect Pettitte to keep this pace up over the long haul this year. He is old, by any professional sports standards, and still remains an injury risk. But he has re-established himself as a premiere pitcher in baseball and continues to develop more of that Maddux/Glavine-ish-ness to his game that makes him difficult for teams to prepare for. He can change his approach game to game, inning to inning, or batter to batter, and that constantly-changing, amorphous approach, combined with what has been biting off-speed stuff and a sneaky fastball has him back at the top of the AL pitching food chain.

Thoughts From The Weekend

(Photo courtesy of Anthony J. Causi, The NY Post)

- I guess I should have stuck to my guns about Javy Vazquez back when the trade for him was made last year. I wasn't a fan at the time, but the guy lured me back in with pretty good Spring Training performances and talks of being injured in 2004 and how he had changed since then. I still think it's early and I still think he can figure it out and be a good pitcher for the staff this year, but with the way he's throwing right now (and yes, I mean throwing because what he's doing is not pitching), you can't put him out there and expect to have any chance to win.

- On the other hand, Phil Hughes has been absolutely brilliant so far this year, finally starting to show why he has been the crown jewel of the organization for so long. He's attacking hitters, using both sides of the plate, working all of his pitches (minus the change), and has shown the grit and testicular fortitude to bear down and work out of trouble when he gets runners on, something that had plagued him so far in his career. I know it's still early for Hughes too, and he will hit some bumps in the road, but right now he has to be considered the 4th starter with the 5th spot once again up for grabs.

- The A-Horse has a knee injury? Come on now! He's still got 3 good legs.

- Hey everybody! It's Mark Teixeira! He's alive!! Thank God! After his annual pathetic start in April, Teix finished the week with 6 hits in his first 2 May games, including a 4-5 job yesterday. He still hasn't broken north of the Mendoza Line but he does seem to have his balance back in his swing and all that "solid contact" he's been making is finally turning into hits and RBIs. Teix's inability to hit in April may very well go down as one of the greatest mysteries ever, right up there with the Bermuda Triangle and Area 51, but if the guy is coming out of already and is going to rake for the rest of the year, I guess I'll live with it.

- If Teix is truly back on track and Jorge is going to be OK after his HBP scare, than the Yankees might not be as devastated by the C-Grand injury as it first seemed. It's a bad injury, don't get me wrong, but Granderson hadn't been doing anything at the plate since Opening Week and Brett Gardner is just as good as Grand in centerfield. Sure Marcus Thames is a ridiculously awful outfielder in left now, but with Randy Winn as a late-game replacement and the increased production coming from Teix heating up and Jorge being fine, the Yankees should be fine for the next 6 weeks.

- It's strange to even read this as I write it, but I think Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano have switched hitting approaches this year. Cano is now the one taking pitches, setting up good hitters' counts, and killing the ball with 2 strikes on him while Jeet is jumping at everything, seeing fewer pitches than ever, and just plain not walking at all. It's a little nit-picky considering Jeter is hitting .333 with 20 RBIs so far this year, but as a leadoff hitter you'd still like to see him walk a bit more instead of having every at-bat that's not a hit end up being a groundout to SS.

- Speaking of Cano, he's an animal this year, bottom line. Looking at his stats on is almost enough to make me light some candles and put on Barry White.

- Still don't know what to make of the bullpen. Robertson doesn't have the same command he showed last year, Marte is apparently only capable of performing his lefty stopper duties in the playoffs, and nobody knows when Park is coming back. Boone Logan and Mark Melancon have had mixed results in their early limited appearances and Joe still micro-manages these guys at the worst possible time. Joba and Mo are set in their spots, but the rest of 'pen is up in the air right now when it comes to the 6th and 7th innings.

- How underrated is Brett Gardner? The dude has done everything the Yankees wanted him to do so far this year and then some. He's one of the best outfielders in baseball, causes havoc on the base paths, creates runs with his speed, and he's hitting .342 right now with 18 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, and 9 RBIs primarily from the 9-spot in the lineup. And to top it all off, he jacked one into the bleachers yesterday for his first HR of the year. He's been a great clutch hitter so far and it really isn't that far-fetched to consider him an All-Star candidate after the first month of the season.

- Just a note on the content of the site. Some of you may have noticed there was a glaring lack of Linkapalooza again yesterday. Quite frankly, between my 2 jobs and my aggressive drinking schedule, I just don't have the time or the drive on Sunday morning to gather all the great stuff together in one day. But I do owe it to the better blogs out there to get their shit in front of the readers' eyes so starting this week I'm going to try to break the links down into bite-size chunks and feed them to you a couple times a week. That way you all get the information and entertainment you deserve and I don't have to worry about dragging my hungover carcass out of bed on Sunday and slaving away for 2 hours catching up on everything. Good? Good.