It seems like it's been a while since we've started one of the "best of the month" posts on a positive note. That's because it has. May and July were kinda "blah" months and June was a disaster. To be fair, the Yankees' 16-12 record in August doesn't stand out as overwhelmingly good. Their stumbling, bumbling start to the month has a lot to do with that. Now that they've got some more guys healthy and have an everyday lineup that's more befitting of the team's reputation, things are on the upswing and the Yankees closed the month of August in much better shape than they were when they started. They're back in the playoff hunt, they're as healthy as they've been all year, and they had a month chock full of great performances and great moments. See the best of the best after the jump.
Player of The Month- Alfonso Soriano
Did Robinson Cano lead the team again with a .370/.442/.570 slash line, .436 wOBA, 178 wRC+, 37 H, and 1.5 fWAR last month? He certainly did. Did he continue to prove that he's the most indispensable part of this lineup and the most valuable player on the team? No question about it. But there was something special about Alfonso Soriano's first full month back in pinstripes, a month in which he led the club in HR (11), R (21), RBI (31), SB (6), SLG (.578) and came in second to Cano in pretty much every other category. That's not just opinion talking either, it's stats. Soriano led the club in WPA in August, by a pretty healthy 1.14 to 0.89 margin over Cano. It wasn't just that Sori hit home runs and stole bases, it was that he hit a lot of big home runs and stole a lot of big bases in big moments. Soriano brought excitement back to the lineup last month and he did his best work when the team needed it most. That's good enough for me.
Pitcher of The Month- Ivan Nova
It would have been fun watching Nova and Hirok duel for this award all month, but that went out the window once Kuroda started struggling a few weeks ago and Nova cruised to the finish line. Nova led the entire pitching staff in starts (6), innings pitched (43.1), GB rate (57.0%), and fWAR (1.0) in August and came behind only D-Rob in ERA (2.08) and FIP (3.08). The latest new and improved version of Ivan has been the best one we've seen to date, and he put the stamp on a great month of work with his complete game shutout gem against Baltimore on the last day of August. Nova has assumed the role of current ace of the staff, and even without a lot of competition last month it's a role he earned with his performance.
Play of The Month- Alex Rodriguez's HR off Ryan Dempster to lead off the 6th inning of the Yanks-Sawx game after taking the 4-pitch HBP from him in the 2nd (8/18)
This one wasn't about being clutch or doing something physically impressive that deserved its own standalone recognition as an athletic accomplishment. This was simply incredible TV and incredible entertainment. The most hated man in America at the time spitting in the face of his haters by CRUSHING a home run off the guy who just intentionally threw at him 4 consecutive times and then pimping it around the bases like Jack Parkman in "Major League 2." I'm on the record as LOVING me some Heel A-Rod and this was some of the finest heel work since Vinny Mac during the Attitude Era. Like I said in that IIATMS/TYA post, if you didn't enjoy anything about that play and about Heel A-Rod as an outlet for entertainment, I don't know what to tell you. This moment was gold, Jerry. Gold!
Game of The Month (Individual)- Alfonso Soriano goes 3-3 w/ 2 HR and 7 RBI in an 11-3 romp over Jered Weaver and the Angels (8/14)
Oh you know, no big deal. Just a 0.32 WPA day the day after having a 0.30 WPA day the game before. Just 4 homers, 6 R, and 13 RBI in a 2-game stretch and the highest single game RBI total in a 4-game/18-RBI run. Soriano was as dialed in as a hitter could be on August 13th and 14th and he almost single-handedly dismantled Weaver and the rest of the Angels pitching staff on the 14th. He opened the scoring with a 2-out grand slam in the bottom of the 1st, he he blew the game wide open with a 2-run double in the 2nd, he poured salt in the wound with a solo shot to lead off the 5th, and he smartened up and took a walk when Anaheim was willing to give him one in the 7th. This would have been a fun game to watch in person.
Game of The Month (Team)- Yanks come from behind twice after Ryan Dempster plunks A-Rod to beat Boston 9-6 on the road and take the series (8/18)
Duh. This is about as easy a no-brainer as a decision gets. The Yanks had split the first 2 games of this series, they had a shaky CC Sabathia on the mound, and there was a tanker full of gasoline poured on the fire when Dempster tried and failed to hit A-Rod with a pitch 3 times in the top of the 2nd before finally doing it. Benches cleared, words were exchanged, Joe got a wee bit hot under the collar, and when the inning ended the Yankees had tied the game back up. They gave CC a brief lead before he mangled that back into a 6-3 deficit in the 6th. A-Rod gained a major matter of revenge on Dempster, touching him up for the longest Yankee HR of the season that started a 4-run rally from which the Yankees would never look back. That's a great way to beat your hated rival in an important game.
The talk after the game was that this would be a game to look back to as the start of the Yankee turnaround if they ended up making the playoffs. They're 10-5 since the plunking incident, only 2.5 games back in the Wild Card chase, and in the wackiest twist of all they owe it to A-Rod, the one player that ownership and upper management (along with MLB) clearly didn't and don't want on the field. Only in America. Oh, and there might be some payback cooked up this weekend.