Sunday, August 5, 2012

AB4AR "Best Of The Month" Awards: July 2012

July was a tough month for the Yankees.  The hot streak they were on in June started to peter out a bit before the All Star break, and came to a screeching halt not too long after it.  Their last trip out to Oakland wasn't nearly as fruitful as the one in May, and since then the Yankees have played more bad baseball than good and experienced more bad luck than good.  Some of the feast-or-famine problems that hurt the offense earlier in the season came back, as did the inconsistencies of the starting rotation.  And don't even get me started on the continuing injury problems that only seem to affect the biggest names on the roster.

Despite all of that, the Yankee still found themselves comfortably in the lead in the AL East, and still find themselves comfortably out front today.  They're getting by with the guys they have, trying to establish some consistency in the lineup with some new faces and without some key missing ones, and one more strong 15-20 game stretch might be all they need to lock up the division.  It's a few days later than I planned on doing it, but let's take a look back at the best of July for the Bombers.

Player of The Month: Mark Teixeira

This would have been a pretty easy choice just because of the kind of month Teix had, but it was made even easier when Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson cooled down a bit.  Teix's .298/.386/.631 line was by far his best of the season, and the OBP and SLG both led the team in July.  Teix also led the team in HR (7), RBI (27), wOBA (.423), wRC+ (168), and fWAR (1.2), and was second in R (17) and BB (12).  During a month where the offensive as a whole reverted back to its up and down ways from earlier in the season, Teix stayed consistent and was consistently the overwhelming source of power in the middle of the lineup.

The injury scare at the end of the month could have put a damper on Texiera's July, but he's already  back and in the lineup.  It remains to be seen if the wrist will affect him at the plate for the rest of the season, but even if it doesn't it will be hard for Teix to beat his July.  He was extremely dangerous and productive from both sides of the plate, held up the rest of the lineup while other guys slumped and A-Rod got injured, and he continued to flash Gold Glove-caliber leather in the field at first base.  That's the kind of all-around performance that fans have been looking for and they got it from Teix in July.

Pitcher of The Month: Hiroki Kuroda

Kuroda goes back-to-back with this award in June and July, and with CC being on the shelf for a good portion of the month, this time it wasn't even close in picking a winner.  Kuroda wasn't as overly dominant as he was in his 1.98/2.42/3.01 month of June, but he was arguably more efficient and just as effective in July, posting a 3.60/3.25/3.36 line in 5 starts, not losing a single game, and leading the pitching staff with 0.9 fWAR.

Kuroda didn't put up the high strikeout numbers he did in June, with just a 6.94 K/9 last month, but that rate was still his 2nd best monthly rate of the season and it was strengthened by an incredibly low BB rate (1.03 BB/9).  Kuroda handed out just 4 unintentional walks in 35.0 IP and continued to use his slider/splitter combo to keep hitters guessing.  His 16.2% LD rate against was the lowest of the season, and he finally got his GB Rate up over 50% at a season-high 56.2%.  Kuroda was very good anyway you try to cut it, and he had to be with CC out and Ivan Nova still fighting his XBH demons.  Remove that bad 1st inning against Bahhston in his first start of the month and Kuroda allowed just 9 ER in 34.0 IP, bringing his ERA down to 2.38 for the month.  Outside of that 1 inning, he was lights out.

Play of The Month: Curtis Granderson's over-the-shoulder catch on a Mike Trout fly ball for the 2nd out of the 3rd against the Angels- 7/15

What made this play so great wasn't just that it was an incredible catch.  It was the fact that it was C-Grand making the type of play that he almost never makes.  The whispers about his defensive deficiencies have only gotten louder during his Yankee tenure, and more often than not we see him botch a play like that- deep drive, hit to relatively straightaway center where the fielder has to get a good job in order to cover enough ground to make the play.  Granderson got a great jump, tracked the ball all the way, and made the catch running full speed with his back to homeplate just before hitting the wall.

There have been plenty of other cringe-worthy plays made by Curtis in center field**, but this one was one of his best, and probably one of the best catches I've seen live.  The Yankees didn't end up winning the game that day, but that wasn't because of C-Grand's contributions at the plate or in the field on that amazing defensive play.

(**- If Curtis doesn't botch Ciriaco's "triple" in the top of the 9th on 7/28, Teix's 2-run HR off of Padilla would have take Play of The Month)

Game of The Month (Individual): Freddy Garcia's 6.2-Inning, 1-Run Outing at Bahhston- 7/7

Speaking of great things being done by people in situations where they normally fail, my pick for best individual performance of July goes to Freddy Garcia.  You have to go all the way back to the beginning of July to find the last time the Yankees played a good string of baseball games, that string being their 4 out 5 wins against AL East opponents right before the All Star break.  Ironically enough, it was Freddy Garcia pitching a great game against the Fraud Sawx that fell right in the middle of that streak.

It was just his 2nd start back in the rotation, it was at Fenway, and it was against a team that has absolutely murdered him in the past.  Now the lineup he was facing that day didn't have Ellsbury, Cahhl Crawfahhd, or Dahhston Pedroyahh, but it was still the Fraud Sawx at home and history wouldn't have predicted an outing like this.  Freddy was sharp, he was efficient, and he mixed his pitches incredibly well on this to generate a lot of weak contact and a lot of swings and misses (11 swinging strikes out of 60).  This performance was a sign that Freddy could stick in the rotation, and he's continued to pitch pretty well since.

Game of The Month (Team): 10-8 Win at Bahhston- 7/6

The day before Freddy's great outing, the Yankees got this 4-game weekend series off to a good start with an exciting win.  After putting a 5-spot up on Josh Beckett in the 1st inning, it looked like they were going to run the Sawx into the ground.  But this was the day of Kuroda's aforementioned 1 bad inning, and Bahhston got right back in the game with 5 of their own in the bottom half.  The game was only 1 inning old and there had already been enough offense for a full 9 innings.

The teams traded runs in the 2nd inning as well, and then the Yankee bats went silent for a few innings while Bahhston took a 7-6 lead in the 5th.  Kuroda managed to get into the 6th, which saved the bullpen for later in the game, and that's when the Yankees made their move.  They scored 4 runs in the top of the 7th, the biggest blow a Mark Teixeira triple off Vicente Padilla to score the go-ahead runs.  Ibanez and Chavez followed with clutch RBI hits to provide some insurance, and a great play by Derek Jeter in the bottom half of the inning stymied an attempted comeback.

Best of all, the Yankees pounded out 14 hits, scored 10 runs, and not one of them was a home run.  It's a stupid MSM talking point, but on this day the Yankees got to rub it in everybody's faces a little bit and show that they were more than just a bunch of HR-bashing Neanderthals.

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