New York Yankees: Grading Every Hitter in the Lineup After Week 1

Joe Acampado@@AwesomepadoCorrespondent IApril 13, 2012

New York Yankees: Grading Every Hitter in the Lineup After Week 1

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    It may be a little harsh to grade guys after only having a week's worth of stats, but these are the New York Yankees we're talking about.  They're used to the nitpicking and swift conclusions of the media.

    The Yankees are 3-3 and fourth in the league in runs which means something's not right.  These are the New York Yankees after all, the spotlight's always brightest on them.  One of their problems has been the lineup where some of their big guns aren't performing as expected.

    Some guys are playing out of their minds to keep the team up while others need to get better soon.  I don't expect Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher to carry the team for the entire season.

    The whole team needs to pull it together.  They can't always get swept by the Tampa Bay Rays and rely on lower-tier teams such as the Baltimore Orioles to give them wins.

    So I'll be grading the hitters based on what they've done so far and what the expectations for them were coming out of spring training.

Derek Jeter

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    Stats:  .370 AVG, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .414 OBP, 3 R

    Grade: A

    We start with the captain of the New York Yankees and their leadoff hitter, Derek Jeter.

    He's doing everything he can to help the team win games while holding off Father Time.  Recently, Jeter's looked like the Jeter of old with his high batting average and tendency to get on base.

    This is no doubt a carry over from last season when Jeter had an amazing second half.  While Jeter's bat has been a bit slower because of age, he's made some slight adjustments to his swing to compensate.

    Jeter has always had a bit of an unorthodox swing and method to his at-bats.  He has a linear swing which is something most major leaguers don't have.  Basically, his back elbow gets in front of his hands which means he pulls the knob of his bat towards the ball.  Most major league hitters keeps their back elbow behind which allows them to not let the bat drag.

    A dragging bat is okay for the lower levels, but at the majors, a hitter who drags his bat can't get off-speed pitches and breaking balls.  Right now, Jeter, with all of the imperfections in his swing, is keeping his batting average up.

    The Yankees will need him to do so if they want to win, but he's not likely to sustain this for the whole season.

Curtis Granderson

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    Stats:  .200 AVG, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .310 OBP, 6 R

    Grade: C-

    Curtis Granderson would have a lower grade if not for all those runs he's scoring.  He was the team's MVP last season along with CC Sabathia.  This year, he's doing everything he can to not be the LVP.

    Some natural regression in his numbers were to be expected.  He can't hit 40 home runs every year if he only hit 30 or more home runs once before in 2009.  Granderson isn't known as a power hitter but as a guy who scores runs.  As long as he can do that, he'll be doing his job.  Anything more is a plus.

    When he came to the New York Yankees, hitting coach Kevin Long tinkered with Granderson's swing.  The main changes were in his stance as his feet aren't as far apart and there's less moving parts.  The change has allowed him to hit lefties better and has given him more power.

    Granderson doesn't need any more changes to his swing.  He just needs time to get into the groove again.  He'll be hitting homers soon enough, just don't expect 40.

Robinson Cano

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    Stats:  .250 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .300 OBP, 3 R

    Grade:  C-

    Here's another New York Yankee performing below expectations.

    Robinson Cano's never been one to be on fire out of the gate, but I expected at least one RBI by now.  Especially since he's the number three hitter.  Maybe even a homer by now.

    This was the year when everyone thought Cano was gonna take his spot as the Yankee's best hitter in name and in real games.  Cano still has plenty of time to do just that, but this slow start isn't helping at all.

    The slow start is characteristic of Cano.  He'll be batting .300 in no time.

    He'll do what he always does which is get into his groove and end up with his usual stats.  There's no need to fix his swing or anything like that.  Cano has one of the smoothest and best swings in all of baseball.  Just about any announcer will tell you that.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Stats:  .174 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .345 OBP, 5 BB

    Grade:  D+

    Gotta love Alex Rodriguez's effort on drawing walks.  Gotta hate that there hasn't been any A-bombs from A-Rod.  Heck, he doesn't even have an RBI and he's the clean-up hitter.

    His grade isn't a flat out F because I didn't expect a whole lot coming from him this season.  A-Rod hasn't been able to fight off Father Time like Derek Jeter has, let alone Mariano Rivera.  He's been on the decline since 2009 and it doesn't look like he'll be getting anywhere close to his old MVP stats.

    He had surgery on his knee and even visited Kobe Bryant's mystical doctor in Germany.  Everyone thought he'd be able to put his injuries behind him and start producing once again.  So far everyone's been wrong.

    I don't believe the injuries are the only thing that's affecting him.  Age is another factor and no amount of coaching and changes to his swing is gonna fix that.

    A-Rod isn't gonna finish the season with an average below .200.  He also won't finish the season as the cleanup hitter.  

Mark Teixeira

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    Stats: .200 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .310 OBP, 3 R

    Grade:  C-

    Call me a harsh grader, but when the team's 3-4-5 hitters only have one RBI combined, you need to be a little harsh.  That's the truth.  Especially when the team is the New York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers.

    How does the heart of the order have no homers and one RBI?

    Mark Teixeira's struggles have seemed to follow him into this year. Surprisingly, Teixeira has the same average batting left-handed as he does batting right-handed: .200.

    There was a significant difference last season as Teixeira pulled the ball way too often and had the habit of hitting into the shift.  It remains to be seen if the difference between him as a right-handed batter and as a left-handed batter will emerge again.

    Teixeira is also experiencing a lack of power as he has yet to hit a homer.  He went through this before in 2010 when it took him 12 games to hit a homer.  But even then he was still driving in runs and ended up with 33 homers.

    Without a doubt, Teixeira will end up with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI.  The only question is whether his average will recover or continue to dip as it has been doing over the past few seasons.

Nick Swisher

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    Stats:  .208 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .367 OBP, .542 SLG

    Grade:  B-

    Hey, we finally have a grade over C- again!

    Nick Swisher is doing his best to keep the New York Yankees at .500.  He's leading the team in homers and is tied with Raul Ibanez in RBI.  Not to mention he's slugging over .500 as one of the team's few power bats.

    On top of that, Swisher is still drawing walks and getting on base as he's always done.  Swisher is also still his charismatic self being the clubhouse guy for the Yankees.

    So why not a higher grade?  His average is still .208 and it's not like he's lighting up the stat sheets.  Swisher just has the fortune of being the guy who's picking up the slack for everyone else.

    He still has lots of room to improve, especially in the average department.  As the season goes on, he'll stop leading the team in homers and RBI but will continue to do his part of getting on base and driving in runs.

Raul Ibanez

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    Stats:  .200 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .278 OBP, 2 SB

    Grade:  B-

    Along with Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez is the New York Yankee's other early season savior.  And no, it's not only because of those two bases he stole.

    When the Yankees signed him, it was expected he'd be a part-time DH, sharing the role with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.  He wasn't supposed to be one of the leaders in RBI.

    Fortunately for the Yankees, Ibanez is doing what the heart of the order can't do right now, drive in runs.  Because of that, he's doing better than what I expected him to do this far into the season.  That grand slam in the first game of the season helps his cause too.

    Ibanez is still 40 years old, and he's still hitting .200.  For that, I don't expect him to the RBI leader for long.  He's not going to play that big of a role later on in the season.  He can still have some key at-bats and game winning hits, but the core of the lineup should return to being the team's saviors.

    Had Ibanez capitalized on his success in the first game, he would've gotten a higher grade.  His age however, is what likely is keeping him from continuing that.

Russell Martin

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    Stats:  .200 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .455 OBP, 6 BB

    Grade:  C

    Russell Martin is doing about as well as I'd expect him to do.  Of course the on-base percentage is a plus, but other than that, I kinda expected this.

    There was no way that Martin would repeat his performance from the beginning of last season when he was one of the New York Yankees' leaders in home runs.

    Maybe a higher average and another RBI or two would've been better, but you can't complain when your catcher and number eight hitter is doing as well as your 3-4-5 guys.  I also would've liked at least one home run, but I'm getting a little greedy.

    Martin is doing his job of calling games and being defensively sound behind the plate.  Any offense he adds to that is a bonus.  The Yankees don't need to rely on him to be the offense after all.

Brett Gardner

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    Stats:  .353 AVG, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .389 OBP, 1 SB

    Grade:  A-

    Those numbers are simply nowhere near where Brett Gardner's numbers were at the start of last season when he was struggling to get his average above .200 throughout April.

    But how can he get an A- when he's batting so well you ask?  Points are deducted anytime Raul Ibanez has stolen more bases than you have and you've scored zero runs despite being known for stealing bases and scoring runs.  There's also the small fact that he's struck out six times.

    Gardner's role on the team is to be the energizer, the spark that can lift the team.  He does that with his speed.  If he's not stealing bases or scoring runs, he's not doing his job.

    Gardner will continue to get on base and he'll score a run eventually unless he's gonna have a historic season where he scores no run despite playing over 150 games.

    His average is a plus but it's not sustainable.  He's never batted over .280, let alone .300, in his major league career.  

    Gardner is batting .353 because he has a .750 average against lefties. It's not what you think.  He's only had four at-bats against them so that number is bound to drop especially since he's better against righties anyway.

The Lineup Overall

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    Stats:  .249 AVG (13th), 6 HR (tied for 5th with 10 teams ahead of them), 29 R (4th), .352 OBP (4th)

    Grade:  C-

    If C is average, then the New York Yankees are certainly below average.  Their average is subpar and the lack of homers don't exactly make them look like the Bronx Bombers.

    The only thing keeping them up is the fact they can still score runs and get on base.  Hopefully, the other numbers will catch up and be what we're used to seeing from the New York Yankees.

    It's only the first week of the season and some guys have yet to hit their stride.  The players to watch out for are Alex Rodriguez to see if his power and batting average come back, Derek Jeter to see how long he can hold off Father Time, Mark Teixeira with his batting average issues, and whether or not Raul Ibanez will be an effective DH.

    The other guys will fix themselves soon enough and the Yankees will once again have another offensively potent lineup and season.  Then again, only time will tell.