Thursday, May 1, 2014
AB4AR "Best Of The Month" Awards: April 2014
Just like that, 1 month of baseball in the books. The Yankees wrapped up April with another rainout last night, and they find themselves sitting atop the AL East mountain as the only team above .500. Their 15-11 record doesn't match up to their -11 run differential, but it's too early in the season to put any real meaning in run differential. If anything, that number illustrates how inconsistent the Yankees were in the later part of the month, getting blown out by 10+ runs one day and then winning a 3-2 game the next. They still don't have their offense clicking and their rotation situation has taken a turn for the worst, so to have a 2-game division lead despite all of that is plenty fine with me. After the jump, the best of the month that was in Yankeeland.
Player of The Month- Yangervis Solarte
This selection is admittedly based more on the story and the person than the performance. There are guys who had more hits, runs, homers, and WAR in April, but none who did it more surprisingly than Solarte. After never playing a single game above Triple-A in his pro career and beating up Eduardo Nunez for the final bench spot out of camp, Solarte has become a fixture in the starting infield and in run-producing spots in the batting order. And when it comes to the numbers, it's not like he's been slacking . His .303 BA is 2nd on the team among qualifiers, he's tied for the team lead in doubles (9) and RBI (13), and he stands alone in the lead in wOBA (.386) and wRC+ (143). His BB and K rates suggest there's more than just luck to his high BABIP too, so perhaps he can keep this surprising hot streak going into the summer.
Pitcher of The Month- Masahiro Tanaka
Was there any doubt? Tanaka has come in and been everything the Yankees hoped he would be when they agreed to give him $155 million. His stuff has stood up to the MLB hitting competition, his understanding of and approach to the game is outstanding for a pitcher his age, he's shown the competitive spirit that was part of his scouting makeup, and the results have been exceptional. He's second on the team in IP with 35.2 and that's only because he made 5 starts to CC's 6. Among starters, he's tops in ERA (2.27), FIP (2.96), xFIP (2.08), strikeouts (46), whiff rate (15.8%), and 2nd in BB rate (4.3%). He's the staff ace right now. His splitter might be the best pitch in baseball at the moment, and it will be fun to see how the rest of the league adjusts to him and how he adjusts to the rest of the league now that everyone has seen how good he is.
Play of The Month- 5-4-3 Triple Play against the Rays (4/17)
Ichiro's HR-saving catch against the Red Sox was a close 2nd here, and I know this has basically become old hat for the Yanks when CC is on the mound, but a triple play is still a triple play and triple plays are awesome. What gives this play the slight edge over Ichiro is the personnel involved. Solarte at third making the pick and having the field presence to go to third immediately, Brian Roberts hanging in at second and making a quick turn, and Scott Sizemore, in his first ever game at first base, making a slick scoop on a short hop to complete it. Not your typical trio of Yankee infielders. The timing of this play was also big, as it came after the Rays put 2 runners on in response to the Yanks taking a 4-0 lead the half-inning before. It snuffed out a rally quickly and gave the Yanks the chance to extend their early lead.
Game of The Month (Player)- Tanka fans 10 in 8 shutout innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Cubs (4/16)
Yes the Cubs are young, and yes the Cub hitters are mostly a bunch of inexperienced hackers, and yes the Cubs flat out suck. That doesn't change how dominant Tanaka was in this game. The weather was cold, but there was no cooling him down on this day. He only gave up 2 hits in his 8 innings of work and both of them came on bunts. 1 of them even had to be confirmed by replay. The rest of the Cubs' time was spent either flailing helplessly at Tanaka's splitter or spraying weak contact around the infield and outfield. Tanaka was efficient (107 pitches), aggressive (76 strikes, 20/27 first-pitch strikes), and very good at putting guys away. The Cubs never advanced a runner to second base in the game. I don't care how weak your lineup is, that's a textbook dominant pitching performance.
Game of The Month (Team)- 10-2 win over the Rays on the road to open a 4-game weekend series (4/17)
Linking the individual game of the month and play of the month together, this win was probably the most well-rounded one so far for the Bombers. Coming into Tampa on the heels of the previous day's doubleheader, they had to be dragging a little bit. You wouldn't know it by the results though. CC made his best start of the year ( 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 K), the lineup beat up Tampa ace David Price early, knocked him out early, and kept right on pounding the Rays' bullpen. 6 guys had at least 2 hits, 3 of them had 3, Soriano, McCann, and Solarte each hit home runs, the triple play happened, and Dellin Betances shut the door with 2 innings of scoreless relief. Beginning to end, top to bottom, the most complete team performance of the month.