Yankees’ April Report Card:
In a pleasantly surprising April, the Yankees finished 15-8, tied for best record in the American League with the Baltimore Orioles, and are tied atop the AL East standings. New York bucked the trend of slow starts in recent seasons, and answered a few important questions about the depth of this year’s lineup and how the starting pitching staff would rebound from 2016. It’s early, but the Yankees have showed positive signs that this may not necessarily be a “Wait until 2018” type of year in the Bronx.
Here is a quick breakdown of the Yankees’ first month of the 2017 season:
Pitching Grade: Grade: A-
Couldn’t have asked for anything more from the starting rotation in April. Masahiro Tanaka (3-1. 4.20 ERA, 22 K in 30 IP) was shelled on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays, but quickly rounded into form. C.C. Sabathia (2-1. 4.34 ERA, 20 K in 29 IP) has, for the most part, been consistent.
Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.14 ERA, 37 K in 28.2 IP) and Luis Severino (2-1, 3.00 ERA, 33 K in 27 IP) have been better than expected, and actually the two best starters in regard to pitching later into games, and are both in the top 10 in K/9. The number five spot in the rotation, a question mark during Spring Training, has been filled in adequately by rookie Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.15 ERA, 23 K in 21.2 IP).
The Yankees bullpen ERA sits at 2.19, second best in the majors; Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and company have been every bit as good as advertised.
Offensive Grade: Grade: B+
This grade could have been higher, but the offense did not have Gary Sanchez (bicep) and Didi Gregorius (shoulder) for most of the month. Despite those two injuries, the Yankees are collectively hitting .266 (fifth in MLB), with a .349 OBP (second in MLB); they have 210 hits (tied for 11th) and scored 128 runs (tied for fourth). A stagnant offense before August (Sanchez’s call up) last season, the Bombers have pleasantly exceeded expectations.
Chase Headley (.301/.402/.600, 3 HR, 8 RBI in April) was a pleasant surprise the first month of the season; a key clog who has been moved around in the lineup by manager Joe Girardi. Jacoby Ellsbury (.277/.333/.410, 3 HR, 9 RBI in April), also moved around a bit, is off to a solid start too. Jacoby has done his best work in the four and five holes, batting .306 in the cleanup spot and .368 when batting fifth. Girardi has used Jacoby mostly in in the cleanup spot, batting him there in nine games this season.
Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday and Ronald Torreyes – more on him in a bit – have also been key contributors with timely hits, picking up a lineup that hasn’t had a consistent Greg Bird yet. The real winner?
Most Outstanding Player: Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge (.303/.411/.750), who is tied for second in MLB with 10 home runs and leads the team with 20 RBI, is an entirely different player than the one last season who struck out in half his plate appearances. Why? Judge’s improved play can be attributed to his adjustments at the plate, namely improved discipline. Attention to detail on low and inside pitches have paid immense dividends. It also helps that the 6-foot-8 Judge can hit baseballs 450 feet and has deceptive range in the outfield, although you’d never know by just watching Yankees’ home games.
Unsung Hero: Ronald Torreyes
“Mr. Bargain Bin Swiss Army Knife Utility Infielder,” Ronald Torreyes, filled in admirably for Gregorius in April. Torreyes (.313/.313/.433) accumulated 21 hits, fifth on the team, with 13 RBI (fourth on the team) and actually led the team in RBIs for a few stretches in April. Torreyes, a natural shortstop, has the ability to play multiple positions in the infield and has quietly been a steady backup for Girardi’s squad dating back to last season. Torreyes works the count, is reliable in the field, and takes the extra base on the basepaths. Winning teams acquire and utilize players like Torreyes.
Honorable mention goes to Austin Romine (.314/.351/.471, 16 hits, 2 HR, 10 RBI), who has looked comfortable behind the plate calling games and been a steady presence for the pitching staff so far. Romine, once a highly-touted prospect, looked the part in April, and will likely land a starting job for another team sometime down the line.
Final Grade: A-
The Yankees were better than expected in April, but there is certainly room for improvement. That, and consistency and health in the rotation will go a long way in determining if this group can sustain their early-season success. For now? The Yankees are back. Theeeeeeee Yankees are back!
Mets’ April Report Card
The New York Mets entered the month of April with expectations through the roof. Sporting a mostly healthy roster filled with scintillating young pitching, and veteran sluggers, the Mets hoped to get off to a hot start in search of a third straight postseason appearance. What they got instead was their worst start since 2013, and at 10-14, their worst month by winning percentage since August of 2014.
Things were up and down for the Mets, starting off 7-3 and appearing to be on their way to another strong April. After that point, the Mets lost ten out of their next 11 games, including a sweep at home by the Nationals, and injuries mounting to many of their top hitters, most notably Yoenis Cespedes.
New York went into the Nation’s Capital and took a series from the hottest team in baseball, but ended the series and the month with a thud, letting up 23 runs, seeing their ace pitcher leave in the second inning, and finishing with their third string catcher on the mound. The news only got worse as Noah Syndergaard has a tear in his lat with an uncertain timetable to return that figures to span at least a few months. As the Mets try to course correct with the calendar turn to May, here is a breakdown of their first month of the year:
Pitching Grade: C
The expectation for this Mets club was that their starting pitching staff would prevent them from going on any of the extended stretches of losing that they saw in April. Obviously, that was not the case. For the most part, the Met starting rotation was pretty good. While the starting staff sits 21st in ERA in the MLB, when you account for the team’s shoddy defense, they sit second in FIP.
The club is also fourth in the MLB in K/9 for starting staffs and in the top ten in BB/9. The front end of the rotation was strong, including Matt Harvey (2-1, 4.25 ERA, 18 K in 29.2 IP), who outside of one start he made on short notice kept the Mets in every game he pitched despite clearly not yet having his best stuff.
The problem lies in the back of the rotation with Robert Gsellman (0-2, 6.23 ERA, 22 K in 21.2 IP) and Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.78 ERA, 25 K in 26.1 IP). Gsellman is sporting a 12.27 ERA his first time through the order, and thus has only pitched beyond the fifth inning once in his first five starts, and Wheeler has dealt with poor pitch efficiency leading to zero quality starts and three outings of fewer than five innings. These two guys will have to perform better next month, especially with Noah Syndergaard sidelined.
With the back end of the rotation not getting deep, the Mets are relying heavily on their bullpen which had the fifth highest ERA in baseball in April, albeit that was inflated by 18 runs in the month’s final day. As Jeurys Familia rounds into form, the Mets will need to manage workloads and find a fourth running mate to the Familia, Reed, and Blevins trifecta at the end of games.
Offensive Grade: C-
The Met offense is going to be an inconsistent bunch throughout the year, and many people knew that coming into the season. The team is built on sluggers, and there are going to be times where they are crushing home runs, and times where they cannot score. The Mets saw both in April, but saw more bad than good. There was a 14-run explosion in Philadelphia which was the highlight of the month offensively, but in the Mets’ stretch of losing ten out of 11, they broke four runs in only three of those loses.
Jay Bruce (.292/.370/.584, 7 HR, 16 RBI) and Michael Conforto (.321/.394/.664, 6 HR, 13 RBI) did their best to carry the offense, but Curtis Granderson (.128/.174/.221, 1 HR, 6 RBI), Jose Reyes (.174/.260/.302, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Neil Walker (.195/.273/.310, 2 HR, 10 RBI), and injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda dragged the group back down.
The Mets still sit 29th in the MLB in batting average, despite rising by ten points over the weekend, 27th in on-base percentage, and they are 18th in the league in runs scored even though they are fourth in home runs.
The Mets have scored five or more runs in their last four games in April, and will have to find a way to keep that going in the coming weeks.
Most Outstanding Player: Jacob deGrom
Do not let the record fool you, Jacob deGrom (1-1, 2.84 ERA, 44 Ks in 31.2 IP) was the best pitcher on the Mets as well as all one of the best in all of Major League Baseball in April. The lanky right hander battled injures in 2016, but his 2017 stuff looks like that of the Cy Young contender he was in the Mets’ NL pennant year, as he closed the month with 13, 10, and 12 strikeout performances. His 34.4% strikeout rate in April is the best for National League starters, and trails only Chris Sale in the MLB. deGrom walked six batter in a loss to the Nationals on April 22 and he has been bit by a few home run balls, but those have been the only blemishes on an otherwise very impressive first month. If deGrom can continue to pitch the way he did in April, he will be arguably the most valuable player on the Mets, particularly in Noah Syndergaard’s absence.
Unsung Hero: Travis d’Arnaud
Travis d’Arnaud had a poor 2016, and that led a good majority of the Met fan base to completely ignore the fact that he posted a 130 wRC+ at the catcher position in 2015. Despite calls to add a catcher, the Mets stuck with d’Arnaud (.226/.305/.528, 4 HR, 16 RBI), and thus far, the results have been solid.
While his batting average leaves a bit to be desired, d’Arnaud leads MLB catchers in RBIs and is fifth in slugging percentage for catchers with 50 or more plate appearances. As has always been the case with Travis d’Arnaud, health is an issue, as the catcher had to miss a number of games with a hand injury already in April. That said, the Mets have ten wins, and d’Arnaud lifted the offense in three of them, including a four RBI game in a 16-inning marathon win over Miami, and a two home run performance in a much needed win over Washington in the month’s final series.
If Travis d’Arnaud can stay healthy and continue to get big hits out of the eight spot in the order, the Met lineup can provide the offense it needs to win games going forward.
Final Grade: C-
The Mets close out April with second fewest wins in the National League. To make matters worse, the Nationals are the hottest team in the game, and have already built a 6.5 game lead over the Amazins. It’s still too early to look at the standings (fans who aren’t in first always say this), but before the Mets can even worry about catching Washington, they have to find a way to get themselves playing better baseball.
If this is the worst month the Mets play in 2017, this is not all that big a deal. If their report card in May is saying more of the same, the Mets could find themselves in a big hole by the time the summer even starts. With a few key players already hurt, the Mets will need some others step up. They’ve battled through adversity the past few seasons, and in order to avoid a tailspin, they will have to do it again.