The New York Yankees are again one of the top teams in baseball, and through games played July 17, the Bombers are on top of the major league heap.
There have been injuries to Brett Gardner and Andy Pettitte, and the media are speculating whether the Yankees may make a move for a soon-to-be free agent like Cole Hamels to help bolster the pitching staff.
Either way, the Yankees 56-34 record is currently best in baseball, and at the halfway mark of the 2012 MLB season, I felt it was a perfect time to hand out the New York Yankees' first-half report card grades. Here they are:
Derek Jeter: The Captain started at shortstop for the American League All Star team and he leads all major league shortstops in hits. Jeter's impressive first half owes largely to a truly exceptional month of April, which descended into two really mediocre months of May and June. Jeter catches loads of grief for his poor fielding, but the fact is he's still hitting over .300 and is one of the best in the game.
Curtis Granderson: Like Jeter, The Grandy Man had a red-hot month of April and has since regressed slightly with each passing month. Granderson's potent home run contribution remains a constant; he's tied for fourth in the major leagues in homers.
Robinson Cano: As the weather has warmed, Robinson Cano has caught fire. After a surprisingly slow start, Cano had a stellar month of May, then followed that up with a Ruthian month of June where he hit .340 and belted 11 home runs. The Yankees' best hitter is sizzling hot and currently enjoying the finest season of his impressive career.
Mark Teixeira: The Yankees' first-baseman got off to his usually slow start and then turned it up for a very productive month of May. Since then, Teixeira has slowed down a bit at the plate. He's hit the most home runs in the majors among full-time first basemen, though he's simply not the complete hitter he once was. He does remain a quality glove at first base, leading the majors in fielding percentage for first basemen.
Alex Rodriguez: We may never see the Alex Rodriguez of old ever again, and Yankees fans need to recalibrate their expectations accordingly. What you've seen so far is likely what you'll get. He's on pace to hit around .270, belt out 25 home runs and knock in around 80 runs. His high-priced contract may infuriate fans, but the Yankees' lineup is still much better with him in it.
Nick Swisher: Swisher enjoyed very, very solid months of April and June and sandwiched a dud in between for the month of May. He's been hot and cold, yet overall, he's a very nice sixth hitter for any lineup. Swisher is fourth on the team in RBIs and has hit several key home runs in the first half.
Raul Ibanez: For the value of just over $1 million for this season, Ibanez has been an outright steal. Ibanez has hit to the tune of a .805 OPS against right-handed pitching, and due to Brett Gardner's injury, has been pressed into full-time duty. He has exceeded expectations.
Will the Yankees Win the World Series
Russell Martin: Martin has struggled mightily. Sadly, he's back on the interstate with a paltry .179 average. Everyone keeps expecting Martin to break out of his slump and he did show signs in mid-June, following his two home run game to finish off the "Subway Sweep" of the Mets. But he's back to where he was, struggling again.
Andruw Jones: Jones was brought in to to hit southpaws and instead has been much more proficient against right-handed pitchers. A huge series in Boston before the All-Star break showed that the veteran from Curacao still has monstrous power. Jones is a solid bat to have off the bench, though far from a regular at this stage of his career.
Brett Gardner: An elbow injury has limited Gardner to only 9 games. He was off to a nice start.
Eric Chavez is giving the Yankees very solid production as their top bench player in 141 at-bats, hitting .284 and doing a great job of filling in for Alex Rodriguez. Chris Stewart, Jayson Nix and DeWayne Wise have had some highs and lows in limited roles. Eduardo Nunez hit well but demonstrated he could not play shortstop. He was demoted to Triple-A nearly two months ago.
CC Sabathia: CC has been the Bombers' ace yet again. He leads the team in innings pitched, strikeouts and is tied for the team lead in wins. His groin injury was hopefully just a blip on the radar, which should give him some nice rest for the second half.
Hiroki Kuroda: After a rocky start, Kuroda has been a revelation in the rotation for the Bombers. He has 10 quality starts (tied for most on the team) and four of his eight wins have come in his past seven starts.
Phil Hughes: After a horrendous start, Hughes has won five of his last eight starts, with all the wins coming in quality starts. Hughes has had his share of clunkers, but to be fair, he's had some excellent starts. He's also 17th in the American League in strikeouts.
Ivan Nova: Nova continues to win games and he's striking out more batters than he ever has in his young Yankee career. In five starts in the month of June, Nova had a 1.26 ERA and went 3-0
Andy Pettitte: In nine starts, Andy Pettitte was everything the Yankees could have asked for and more. Unfortunately, the ninth start involved Pettitte getting hit with a liner and breaking his fibula. He's out until early September, and fans are already greatly awaiting his return.
Freddy Garcia is back in the rotation, for now, following a dismal start to the season. David Phelps has shown a promising future in three starts for the Yankees and has opened a lot of eyes.
Mariano Rivera's loss for the season in early May was a heart-breaker. He will never be replaced, though give Rafael Soriano credit for doing a fine job of filling in for the future Hall of Famer. Soriano has saved 24 of his 25 games and keeps a tidy 1.46 ERA.
David Robertson was off to a mesmerizing start, then got hurt and he's since blown two saves since his mid-May through mid-June DL stint.
Cody Eppley and Boone Logan have been a fine double-barrel combo in the 'pen, while Cory Wade's sensational start disintegrated into a demotion to Triple-A on July 2 . The Yankees' bullpen sports the seventh best ERA in the American League.
Joe Girardi has mostly done a fine job of not over-managing and letting his players get sufficient rest when needed. The bench has provided nice production and the bullpen has been mostly great.
It's really hard to knock Girardi for any one thing. He's keeping his players fresh and the Bombers have heated up significantly. This club looks primed for another run at a World Series title.