The Yankees are not getting any offense from the middle of their infield. Stephen Drew is below the Mendoza Line while Gregorious is barely above it. Both are failing at the plate, but after almost a quarter of the season it is clear that there is hope for one of them and real concern for the other.
Surprisingly, the hope is for Stephen Drew. Yes, his numbers are terrible- .177/.264/.345. Yes, his numbers have been terrible since 2014 started, but some of the more advanced stats paint a more optimistic picture. Compared to his overall career, Drew is hitting more home runs per plate appearance, drawing more walks and hitting more line drives. He is striking out at close career rate and hitting ground balls at exactly his career rate. Basically, he is hitting line drives, a good thing while his fundamental numbers haven’t deteriorated. His BABIP of .190 is really low, so it isn’t outrageous to suggest his luck will turn and he will be a productive player for the Yankees.
If Drew is the positive news, then Gregorious must be the negative and he is. Didi is hitting fewer line drives and fewer fly balls than he has in his career. His strikeout rate is higher while his walk rate is lower. His BABIP is .256, which is low but not like Drew’s is low. Worst of all, he is hitting RHP at only a slightly-better rate than LHP. When DiDi came here, the question was if he could hit lefties enough to be an everyday shortstop. He still can’t, but he isn’t hitting RHP enough now either.
If I were running the Yankees, I would continue to run both of these guys out there every day because I expect Drew to hit in the near future and because you have to give DiDi plenty of opportunities to turn things around. Most young players are not Mike Trout or Derek Jeter. They don’t just show up and instantly turn into stars, no matter what the hype about them says. The Yankees don’t need DiDi to become a star, they just need him to approach the average offensive output for shortstops in the league- .259/.309/.376. DiDi basically did that in 2013 for the Diamondbacks, so the potential is there, the Yankees need to keep letting him try to find it.
I loved the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade when it was made and I stuck to my analysis when he tore his labrum shortly after starting his Yankees’ career. I have not been afraid to criticize him for dumb decisions, but yesterday was a fun day for me. We saw Pineda show the potential to be exactly what the Yankees thought he could be- an ace. Now it is never smart to make too much of one start, so let’s not predict Pineda to win the Cy Young just yet. But I think we would all agree that the potential for that to happen is absolutely there. That’s all you can ask for.
Some people will revisit that Montero-Pineda trade today and declare the Yankees clear winners because of what Pineda did yesterday while Montero is playing at AAA. We won’t know who really won that trade until both players (and Noesi and Campos) are no longer playing, but it was the right move for the Yankees to make. They simply didn’t have a place to play Montero in their lineup regularly. They believed, and were proven right, that he wasn’t a big league catcher (he is trying 1B right now) They could not, given the construction of their roster, give Montero the DH spot on a regular basis. So they did the smart thing, they traded him for the biggest hole they had- pitching. It took two years after the trade went down, but last year they started getting a return on their investment. Montero could go on to be an All-Star, but the Yankees still made the right move for them.
And now you can start to dream about seeing the guy we saw yesterday continue to develop into an elite pitcher and leading this staff for years to come.
We won’t see the Red Sox again until July- right before the All-Star Break. Hopefully by then, Hanley Ramirez will have figured out that nobody is trying to hit him in an 8-1 game and Edward Mujica will realize that there is a way to plunk a guy and that wasn’t it. But enough about that silliness, the Yankees are playing good baseball right now and the question on everyone fans mind is if it can last.
The performances are approaching the size where you can draw some intelligent conclusions from them, but it is still early. Generally, three things stand out as encouraging. The offense is better than we thought it would be. The Yankees have scored 124 runs, good for 5th in the AL. Second, the bullpen has been great. Third, the defense has been solid and better than last year at turning balls into outs.
Are those three factors enough to propel the Yankees to the playoffs? In a flawed division like the Al East definitely. But there are injuries, trades and changes that will happen within the division over the next few months that will change the outlook of each club. It’s been a good start to the season, and sweeping the Red Sox in Fenway is always fun, but pennants aren’t won in May.