Tuesday, June 3, 2014

AB4AR "Best of The Month" Awards: May 2014

In April, the Yankees went 15-11 and outperformed their negative run differential.  The reaction was mostly one of "let's wait and see" heading into May and now that month has been checked off the calendar.  The Yankees posted a 14-14 record in May with a -12 run differential, worse results on both fronts.  The rotation continued to lose key members to injuries, the lineup continued to stagger and sputter and not even come close to clicking as some of its older members saw a dip in production, and once again we're left waiting and seeing what this month will have in store in terms of recovery from injuries and team performance.  There was a lot of "blah" in May, but as always, there were the players,  plays, and games that stood out for the better.  My picks for the best of the best after the jump.

Player of The Month- Brett Gardner

Gardner was definitely the workhorse of the position players in May.  He led the team with 28 games played and 123 plate appearances.  He also led them in hits (31), triples (2), runs scored (19), and fWAR (0.8), was 2nd in stolen bases (6), and was top 3-5 in almost every other offensive category.  Gardner's .290/.364/.411 slash line, good for a .345 wOBA and 117 wRC+, was one of the best and most important to the team during a month of depleted offensive output.  Gardner certainly did his job at the top of the batting order, getting on base a ton and creating scoring opportunities with his legs.  He also had another solid month defensive in the the outfield.  Hard to argue for anybody else over him when it comes to all-around performance.

Pitcher of The Month- Masahiro Tanaka

With all due respect to Dellin Betances (1.04 ERA/0.94 FIP with 11 total baserunners allowed and 28 K in 17.1 IP), it would be wrong to give this award to any other pitcher than Tanaka.  After being very good and the best starter on the staff in April, he was even better than that in May.  6 starts, 43.0 IP, 1.88 ERA/2.21 FIP, 6 BB, 42 K, and 1.5 fWAR.  There are precious few pitchers in all of MLB who can compete with those numbers.  Tanaka did strike out fewer batters per 9 than he did in April, but he also cut down on his BB and HR allowed, which is a sign that he's making the right adjustments to the level of hitting competition.  2 months into his first season and there's almost no doubt left that this guy is going to be a stud for years to come.

Play of The Month- Mark Teixeira hits a game-tying solo home on bad legs with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the top of the 9th against the Brewers (5/11)

This one is admittedly graded way up because I was there to watch it firsthand.  The Yankees had completely given this game away with bad offense, defense, and pitching, and the Brewers just about had it all wrapped up with K-Rod on the mound.  My old man and I had been chatting for a few innings about how terrible Teix looked running the bases earlier - this was the game after which he talked about his legs feeling tired - and with every ounce of strength he had left in them he launched a hanger from Rodriguez into the second deck in right field.  It was a bomb, one we had a perfect view of, and it was great to get to stand up and cheer, clap, tell K-Rod to go fuck himself, and quiet the gaggle of high school kids sitting behind us.  Of course the Yanks blew all of those good vibes in the bottom half of the 9th for the walk-off loss and I spent the next 20 minutes walking back to the car not talking to my girlfriend or my family, but that's a different story for another time.

Game of The Month (Player)- Tanaka tosses a 4-hit shutout against the Mets for his first career complete game (5/14)

Double back-to-back "Best of The Month" awards for Ma-kun.  Guy's a killer, I tell ya.  This was right on par with his 8 shutout innings against the Cubs in April, from the efficiency (4 hits, no BB, 114 pitches) to the overwhelming stuff (22 swinging strikes).  The fact that he had to hit for himself in this game and still didn't miss a beat on the mound makes it even more impressive than the game against the Cubs.  Pitching against a lineup as weak as the Mets certainly helped, but there aren't pitchers going out and throwing complete game shutouts every day, against the Mets or any other team.  Tanaka came out and did it in incredible fashion while also making it look easy.

Game of The Month (Team)- 6-4 road win over the St. Louis Cardinals in 12 innings on Memorial Day (5/26)

There weren't a lot of good candidates for this last month, but I'll give it to this game just because of all the factors.  Chase Whitley pitching against a dangerous lineup, Chase Whitley pitching well against a dangerous lineup, a lot of really good relief pitching behind him from guys expected (Betances) and unexpected (Claiborne, Aceves), Joe coming out on the winning side of the bullpen gamble game for once, and Mike Matheny costing his team by making a couple of questionable bullpen decisions that led to the 3-run Yankee 12th.  It was good to see Jacoby Ellsbury making something big happen in that rally too.  He had a crappy month but showed in that 1 inning why the Yanks gave him so much money.  Big single game win in a game they could have easily lost to set up a pleasantly surprising series victory.  I'll take it.

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