6 Yankees Players Benefiting the Most from the All-Star Break
Despite a 49-42 record, the New York Yankees sit in fourth place in an extremely competitive AL East.
This season has been marred by injuries. With a strong pitching staff—largely the reason the Yankees are above .500—we’ve seen very limited offense from the Bronx Bombers.
A year removed from setting a franchise record with 245 regular season home runs, the Yankees have mustered just 87 long balls through the first 91 games.
First in the majors with a +129 run differential in 2012, New York has a +1 run differential on the season and that number is -21 playing at Yankee Stadium.
Without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis, the names in this Yankee lineup are not at the talent level Yankee fans have become accustomed to.
Many have transformed from role/utility players to everyday players—i.e. Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and David Adams—and understandably, some are suffering through long slumps as they adjust to new roles.
The All-Star break provides some much-needed rest for every player, but will prove to be beneficial for these Yankees in the second half of the season.
Travis Hafner, the oft-injured designated hitter, was brought in to be a steady supply of power with the departure of Raul Ibanez and the awaited return of Alex Rodriguez.
Though he’s remained relatively healthy through the first half of the season, Hafner hasn’t been all that productive.
He started the season red-hot, hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBI in April. Since, he hasn’t cracked .200 in any month. He had three more hits in May and June combined (24) than he did in April (21).
The past five games, Hafner is just 1-for-19 with zero extra-base hits and eight strikeouts. With a measly .215 batting average, Hafner needs a break.
The 36-year-old has already seen action in 72 games. With an extensive injury history, he has only eclipsed 100 games once in the previous five seasons.
It’s tough to watch Hafner, who doesn’t play the field, struggle to get good wood on the baseball. Hitting is all Hafner thinks about and he spends time in the batting cages between plate appearances.
It’s all about consistency. Hafner told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com, “At times I feel great up there. But I'm not able to keep it going on a consistent basis.”
There may be an injury that he’s trying to play through or his durability is being tested, but at this point he’s hurting the team.
Hafner was removed from the lineup after two at-bats on Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals with a freak injury. The pitching machines in the batting cages went wild and, at 95-100 mph, hit Hafner in the top of the foot. He is day-to-day.
With four days off for the All-Star break, and a minor injury that needs to heal, Hafner should benefit from the rest and return refreshed.
Like Hafner, Vernon Wells was an offseason pickup who jumped out of the gate in April. Freed from his fourth-outfielder duties with the Los Angeles Angels, Wells became the starting left fielder for the Yankees.
He hit .300 in April with 27 hits and six home runs. Since, his average has dipped to .237, in large part due to the month of June.
Wells hit just .133 in June with a .143 on-base percentage. In 15 of the 24 games Wells played in, he went hitless. He finished the month with just 10 hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts.
Now, with the recent emergence of Zoilo Almonte, Wells is battling for playing time. He is having a productive July, going 10-for-20, though he’s been out of the starting lineup in six of the 10 games (he entered as a pinch hitter in three of those games).
Wells has shown off his arm on defense with five outfield assists. His 0.6 WAR is solely due to those assists; his offensive WAR is 0.0.
Aiming to earn a spot in the lineup again, Wells will benefit from time off and look to find a new gear in the second half of the season.
Far removed from the “Joba Rules” of 2007 and the spinning fist-pump after a punchout, Joba Chamberlain is struggling mightily on the mound this season.
Owning a 5.48 earned run average, Chamberlain has given up 13 runs in the 21.1 innings he has pitched.
He has struck out 22 batters and recorded four holds—a way to measure the effectiveness of a relief pitcher—but Chamberlain is the epitome of inconsistent.
The four home runs surrendered by Chamberlain and 1.73 WHIP is a cause for concern.
Opponents are hitting .310 against Chamberlain and possess an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .862.
Obviously, it's frustrating letting the team down. That's the worst part. I know I [stink] right now. There's no getting around it. You've got to figure out what you can do to make it better.
Using the break to work on command and polishing some mechanical issues could bode well for his second half.
He has the velocity, he’s just leaving the ball belt high in the middle of the plate. That’s when he gets beat.
Lyle Overbay, a career journeyman who has played for six different teams, was signed by the Yankees five days before the start of the regular season.
He’s been a mainstay in the lineup since Opening Day. After Mark Teixeira came off the disabled list (only to be placed back on after 15 games), Yankees manager Joe Girardi put Overbay in right field for a few games.
With the sputtering New York offense, it’s tough to keep Overbay's bat out of the lineup.
Since Teixeira is out for the season, it’s going to be Overbay for the long haul. The 36-year-old has played in 82 games after appearing in just 65 between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves last season.
Overbay has been a pleasant surprise for Girardi and the Yankees. He is now hitting .244 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI.
He will use the All-Star break to re-energize and keep his stamina up for the hot days of August.
At his age he needs all the rest he can get, and unless the Yankees acquire a first baseman at the deadline, this may be the only time for Overbay to rest.
Catcher was supposed to be platooned between Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. After Cervelli was placed on the disabled list with a broken right hand at the end of April, Austin Romine was called up to the club.
Romine has struggled tremendously, which has left Stewart as the primary, everyday starting catcher.
Stewart has already played in more games in the first half than any year of his career. Six more starts and he matches a career-high in games played. Plus, he spent a marathon 18 innings behind the plate in a single game earlier this year.
Stewart has thrown out 11 runners so far this season and has caught to a 3.98 catcher's earned run average.
Offensively, he's hitting a respectable .248 and an even better .284 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
This isn’t a scenario where Stewart uses the break to recover from injury or try to right a wrong; he’s played extremely well in his increased role on this team. The break will allow Stewart to come back with fresh legs after four days of rest.
The time off should benefit Stewart as he prepares to call games during the stretch run of the regular season.
Andy Pettitte came back for another year because he wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet.
Though he surely didn’t expect the season to start quite like it has, his 4.37 earned run average is the third-highest of Pettitte’s lengthy career.
His season took a turn for the worse in the April 29 loss to his former team, the Houston Astros. He surrendered seven runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings.
Since, he’s given up four or more runs in all but three of his starts to drop his record to 6-6 after starting 3-0.
At 41 years old, it's unfair to think Pettitte is going to be the front-line starter he once was. But in 12 games after coming out of retirement last season, Pettitte struck out 69 batters in 75.1 innings, pitching to a 2.87 ERA.
This year, the Yankees expected some similar numbers. Pettitte has struck out just 70 hitters in 95.2 innings.
After surrendering three runs in a 42-pitch first inning against the Minnesota Twins on July 1, Pettitte voiced his concerns to Erik Boland of Newsday: "Same old story for me right now every time I pitch. It's frustrating...I'm just not putting up zeros for us."
He did surpass Whitey Ford as the Yankees' all-time leader in strikeouts, but above all else, Pettitte strives to win. He needs to be more aggressive and utilize his pitches more effectively throughout the game.
At this point, the length of a grueling season is taking a toll on his body. He needs the All-Star break to regroup from his woes and control the game with his pitching.