New York Yankees: Russell Martin and 5 Bombers Actually Pulling Their Weight
Part of the fallback of having a team with the highest payroll in baseball is that you're bound to have some players who always seem to fall short of expectations.
Granted, when critics and fans alike chime in that the entire roster is overpaid, those expectations tend to be a bit higher, especially in a market that creates as much pressure as New York.
Nevertheless, this season in particular has seen some of the Yankees' biggest stars falling short of the standards that their reputations (and paychecks) dictate. I won't name names, but let's just say one of them plays right field, one of them cost the Bombers $35 million this offseason and one of them, yes, happens to be the captain of the team.
So let's take some time to appreciate those Yankees who have pulled their weight so far this season, including a couple who may even be exceeding expectations.
All stats courtesy of www.baseball-reference.com/ and are recorded as of May 31, 2011.
1. Ivan Nova
Granted, he hasn't exactly been a super Nova this year (I have a special rule: Readers have to grant me one cheesy pun per article, no questions asked), but he's certainly been a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation starter.
His earned run average is a bit high (4.67), but he keeps the ball in the ballpark (four home runs allowed all year) and is good at getting a ground ball when he needs one.
What's most important to remember is that Nova is only 24 years old and has been expected all season long to be a reliable cog in this otherwise shaky rotation. The Yankees, in recent seasons, have had mixed success with young starters.
Phil Hughes eventually came into his own, but for every Hughes there's an Ian Kennedy. Chien-Ming Wang was, for awhile, the Yankees' ace, but for every Wang, there's a Joba Chamberlain (starter edition).
Nova has been poised, relatively effective and a generally consistent performer this season. He doesn't receive much attention, but he's giving the Yankees what they need.
2. Russell Martin
It's hard to remember now, but Martin, once one of the premier catchers in the National League, was not tendered a contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last year, allowing him to become a free agent. A couple of subpar seasons accompanied by an uncertain hip condition gave Yankees fans some trepidation when the club signed him to become their everyday catcher.
But Martin has proved to be a wonderful signing so far in 2011.
He's been a solid run producer, blasting nine home runs and knocking in 26 runs. (He's added five stolen bases, to boot.) Martin's also played adequate defense behind the plate and has thrown out 29 percent of attempted base-stealers.
These aren't eye-opening numbers by any means, but for what was, frankly, a total question mark of an acquisition, Martin has been pleasantly productive.
It is also worth acknowledging that this year marks the first in the post-Jorge Posada era, in terms of the starting catcher, anyway.
(I haven't quite understood why the transition to a team without Posada isn't receiving much attention; does no one seem to realize that this guy has been with the team for more than15 years, has won five championships and all the while took bumps and bruises that neither Derek Jeter nor Mariano Rivera ever had to endure? But I digress.)
Martin has made this transition rather seamless—even if Posada has not.
3. David Robertson
Nicknamed "Houdini" this season for his tendency to get out of tough jams, David Robertson has been a magical part of the Bombers' bullpen.
(Fine, two bad puns. Sorry.)
He does walk too many batters, thus creating many of the troublesome situations he then works himself out of, but Robertson also has devastating stuff. He is currently second in the American League with an outstanding 14.77 strikeouts per nine innings.
Especially with Rafael Soriano missing significant time, Robertson has had to pick up his game this season. Manager Joe Girardi has shown that he trusts him in big spots, and that trust has paid off so far. Robertson has given up only four runs all year, three of them earned.
Plus, it never hurts to add charity to one's on-field performance.
4. Curtis Granderson
Saying that Curtis Granderson has been the most productive Yankees outfielder this season does not give him nearly enough credit, and not only because Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner have been inconsistent (or, in Swisher's case, downright awful) in 2011.
Granderson has been arguably the most productive Yankees hitter, period. While everyone in the lineup has, at one point or another, been mired in a severe hitting slump, Granderson has been very reliable, getting plenty of big hits and settling nicely into the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
His 16 home runs are tied with Mark Teixeira for the team lead while his 55 hits are two behind Robinson Cano's Bombers-best 57.
He still strikes out a lot, and I'd personally like to see him run more often, but Granderson has had a respectable year so far, perhaps All-Star worthy if he keeps up his current pace.
Most importantly, Granderson has fixed his once fatal flaw: hitting left-handed pitching. Half of his long balls have come off southpaws this season.
5. Bartolo Colon
No, no, no...I will not make another joke here, despite the fact that I'm including Bartolo Colon in a slideshow with the word "weight" in its title.
(Trust me, the urge is strong.)
But there's no joke to be made about Colon's pitching when he's performing better than, literally, everyone had expected. Some people didn't even see him lasting in the rotation through May, let alone leading the staff in WHIP (1.10) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.4) after the first two months of the season.
Colon has also been a consistent innings eater (no pun intended!), averaging over seven innings per start over his last four starts.
He has looked dominant at times, bringing back memories of his 2005 Cy Young Award season with the Los Angeles Angels. Colon has kept the Yankees in most of the games he's pitched while taking a significant weight off of the bullpen.
(Okay, I give up.)