Despite a whole host of injuries and a disastrous week in the middle of the month, the Yankees exited May just two games behind the Rays in the loss column, only one game worse than at the end of April.
On offense, the Yankees were without Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada for a combined 60 games in the month, yet incredibly still managed to score 5.9 runs per game, a half run improvement over their April output. Unfortunately, the increased offense was not enough to offset the additional run per game that the pitching and defense combined to yield. As a result, the Yankees winning percentage in the month dipped from .676 in April to .552 in May, the latter being two wins lower than their expected total based on run differential. Below is a recap of the month:
AL East Standings for May
Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez were the two main contributors to the Yankees offense. Not only did both hitters compile impressive statistics in the month, but they also came up with several big hits (Swisher’s WPA for the month was .813, followed closely by Arod at .779). Robinson Cano also came on strong in the last half of the month and posted a near .900 OPS, while Mark Teixeira contributed a solid line of .280/.366/.475 with 25 RBIs, despite suffering a rough 2-24 stretch in the middle of the month.
The biggest disappointment of the month had to be the Captain, who posted a dismal .702 OPS despite hitting .486 over an eight game hitting streak to end the month. The only hitters with a lower OPS in the month were Marcus Thames, Kevin Russo, Ramiro Pena and Chad Moeller, although that quartet combined to have fewer at bats than Jeter. In spite of their struggles, both Jeter and Thames made their lone May home runs count as each proved to be a game winner.
Best of May (Hitters)
Worst of May (Hitters)
Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes were brilliant in May, posting a combined 8-2 record with an ERA just around 3. Surprisingly, the only other pitcher on the staff with an ERA under 4 in at least 10 innings was Sergio Mitre, who recorded a 3.38 ERA in 18 1/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen.
Although Sabathia, Vazquez and Burnett struggled at times during the month, the main reason for the team’s pitching struggles in May was the bullpen, which sported a 4.94 ERA in the month. Even Mariano Rivera failed to escape May unscathed, suffering a loss and a blown save in successive outings. The real problem, however, was in the setup ranks. Without Alfredo Aceves for most of the month (and the foreseeable future), Girardi had to rely more on his middle relief, and, with the exception of Damaso Marte, they came up decidedly lacking. In particular, Joba Chamberlain suffered two prominent melt downs that resulted in blown leads of at least four runs on both occasions. In terms of pure ineffectiveness, however, Chan Ho Park took home the prize by surrendering 14 hits and eight earned runs in his 7 2/3 innings.
Best of May (Pitchers)
Worst of May (Pitchers)
|Chan Ho Park||0||7.2||0||0||6||2.09||9.39|
Best Win of the Month
Monday, May 17: After squandering a 6-1 lead to the Red Sox, the Yankees rallied to overcome a 9-7 deficit in the ninth when Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames each hit a two-run homer off Jonathan Papelbon.
Worst Loss of the Month
Tuesday, May 18: One day after staging a dramatic comeback, the Yankees gave one right back to the Red Sox. First, Joba Chamberlain couldn’t hold a 5-1 lead in the 8th inning, and then Mariano Rivera surrendered two go-ahead runs in the ninth, thanks to a dropped fly ball by Marcus Thames, the previous day’s hero.
The schedule gets a little easier in June as the Yankees’ play 14 games against opponents that currently have a winning percentage of .385 or lower. The month also features a rematch of the 2009 World Series against the Phillies, the home portion of the Subway Series as well as an interleague tilt in Los Angeles against Joe Torre and the Dodgers.
In the rotation, the Yankees continue to try to solve the enigma of Javier Vazquez, but with Burnett, Pettitte and Hughes pitching well, and Sabathia a near lock to soon join them, nailing down the fifth spot is not a prime concern. Instead, the Yankees most pressing worry is their bullpen. With Alfredo Aceves not expected back anytime soon, the Yankees need to iron out their struggling middle relief. Joba Chamberlain, in particular, needs to establish a greater level of consistency. Despite struggling in May, he did record over 13 strikeouts per inning in the month, so perhaps that augers well for the coming months.
On offense, the late May return of Granderson and imminent arrival of Jorge Posada should bolster a lineup that has managed to persevere despite a significant number of injuries. If Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira can build on their late May surges, the Yankees should be able to score more than enough runs in June, even if some of their hotter hitters fall into a slump.
Things seem set up well in June for the Yankees to make a big run toward the top of the AL East. Now, the Yankees just need to hope their bullpen doesn’t stand in the way.