New York Yankees: Biggest Winners and Losers for the Month of April

Anthony Maimone@@amaimone4Featured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

New York Yankees: Biggest Winners and Losers for the Month of April

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    USA TODAY Sports

    If the standings are all that matter than the New York Yankees couldn't be happier with their April performance.

    The team wrapped up the month with a 15-11 record, and they're sitting in first place in the American League East.

    However, April is just the first of a six-month journey through the regular season and isn't necessarily an accurate gauge of the season to come.

    With that in mind, the first month of the season can still create handfuls of notable stories.

    In this slideshow, we will take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers on the Yankees for the month of April.

    Being considered a winner or a loser isn't strictly statistic based—the overall impact on the team and the individual's expectations weigh into the consideration.

    With still five months to go in the season a lot can change. Winners can become losers and vice-versa.

    Let's take a look at how April played out.

Winner: Masahiro Tanaka

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    It is tough to argue that anyone on the Yankees had a better April than Masahiro Tanaka.

    With all they hype and expectations on his shoulders, Tanaka has delivered for New York.

    In a rotation that is dealing with all sorts of issues, he is the lone star of the group—finishing the month undefeated at 3-0 coupled with a 2.27 ERA.

    He is tied for seventh in MLB with 46 strikeouts with the six pitchers in front of him all having had one extra start.

    Tanaka has showed the ability to be a true ace, and Johnette Howard of ESPN New York states how impressive he can be even on an “off night.”

    With any player new to the league, the rule of thumb is to wait until you see him more than once.

    I get the feeling the rest of the league would rather not see Tanaka ever again.

Loser: CC Sabathia

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    For as much of an ace Tanaka has been for the Yankees, CC Sabathia has been the exact opposite.

    Much was made of Sabathia’s weight loss and down velocity heading into the season, and he wanted to get ahead of that conversation.

    Unfortunately for CC, the only thing getting ahead is his opponents in their batting counts.

    Sabathia's record sits at 3-3 on the year with an ERA of 5.11—barely lower than his 7.50 first inning ERA.

    If there is a silver lining for Sabathia so far this season, it is that he has been able to get opponents to swing and miss.

    His 41 strikeouts in only 37.0 innings are an indicator that he still has the makeup to dominate a game.

    For the Yankees to have any shot of staying in first place, they will need Sabathia to turn things around fast.

Winner: Jacoby Ellsbury

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    If you finish the first month of the regular season ranked first on your team in runs (14), hits (29) and stolen bases (8) and second in batting average (.312) and RBI (11), it's safe to say you will be on the winner's list.

    That’s what Jacoby Ellsbury did for the Yankees.

    After signing the biggest free agent contract the Yankees handed out this offseason, it was important for him to get off to a fast start.

    Coming from the hated Red Sox, a slow start could have meant doom for Ellsbury in the Bronx, but he has risen to the spotlight and become the New York's best offensive weapon.

    The only thing Ellsbury didn’t do for the Yankees in April was hit a home run, but he made sure not to waste any more time in May—launching his first in a Yankees uniform on May 1.

    Through one month, Ellsbury seems like a great buy for the Yankees and a potential MVP candidate.

Loser: Brian McCann

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    For as good as a buy as Ellsbury has been, Brian McCann has been a bust.

    I will be extra hard on McCann because he was the easiest decision for the Yankees this offseason. The Yankees were in dire need of some better offensive production out of the catcher position.

    Unfortunately, they are not getting it out of McCann.

    A .276 hitter for his career, McCann hit only .224 in April.

    He has also provided little power—outside of one game in which he slugged two-of-his-three home runs on the year.

    The Yankees are in first place, and their other offseason acquisitions have done well, so McCann’s struggles have slipped under the radar for the most part.

    However, if things start to go south for the Yankees, they will soon realize that if they wanted a catcher with a .220 batting average and no power they could have kept the guys they had last season.

Winner: Dellin Betances

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    Dellin Betances was one of the last guys to make the Opening Day roster for the Yankees—it is hard to imagine what the condition of the bullpen would be if he had not.

    Betances finished April 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA.

    In only 13.1 innings pitched Betances has struck out a whopping 23 batters.

    The once highly-touted prospect has fought his way back from several injuries in the minor leagues—including Tommy John surgery back in 2009.

    With every dominating appearance, he gains more of Joe Girardi’s trust as well as valuable experience to guide him through the season.

    Projected as a starter early in his career, Betances has settled nicely into a relief role, a job Peter Kerasotis of the New York Times stated back in March was made for him.

Loser: Ivan Nova

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    I'm not sure if it is possible to have a worse first month of the season than the one Ivan Nova had.

    Hoping to build off a great end to the 2013 season, Nova entered camp with a starting spot in the rotation secured for the first time in his career.

    Sadly, nothing went Nova’s way in April.

    In only four starts, Nova was a complete mixed bag of results.

    In his two wins, Nova pitched 13.0 innings with an ERA of 2.77.

    In his two losses, Nova only went a combined 7.2 innings and had a 17.61 ERA.

    Following his second defeat, he would leave the game with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow—forcing him to end his season by undergoing Tommy John surgery.

    It is tough to figure out how Nova’s season would have played out had he not gotten injured, but if your season ends in the first month it's even tougher to avoid the losers list.

Winner: Yangervis Solarte

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    There might be no bigger winner nor better story in the month of April for the Yankees than Yangervis Solarte.

    The career minor leaguer was the last guy named to the Yankees' opening day roster thanks to a blistering spring training that carried right over into the regular season.

    Given everyday at-bats due to several injuries along the Yankees' infield, Solarte has rewarded the team with stellar play.

    Solarte batted .303 in April and tied Carlos Beltran for the most RBI (13) for the month on the team. 

    More surprising has been Solarte's tremendous plate discipline. He had a team high 12 walks in April, helping him to another team high—a .404 OBP.

    It's hard to imagine Solarte keeping up this pace all season, but he is one of the biggest reasons the Yankees finished April in first place.

Loser: Michael Pineda

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    How do you finish April with a 1.83 ERA in four starts after not starting for two full seasons and land on the loser's list?

    You get suspended for using pine tar during a game and then get injured during a simulated game while on suspension causing you to miss 4-6 weeks.

    Had this article been written a week or two earlier we might have been discussing Pineda as the biggest winner for the Yankees this season.

    But a lot has changed, and now we are left wondering what the Yankees will get out of Pineda the rest of the year.

    How much will this injury set an already injury-prone player back?

    Will Pineda be able to pitch with increased focus on him due to the pine tar incident?

    Hopefully the answers to those questions are (a) not at all and (b) absolutely, but Pineda has been an enigma for the Yankees since the moment they traded for him.