September 27 – Happy Birthday Don Schulze plus the 2012 Yankee Report Card
The only Yankee I could find who was born on this date is a right-handed starting pitcher named Don Schulze. Schulze started two games for the 1989 Yankees, winning one and losing the other. He went 16-25 during his six-season big league career, during which he also pitched for the Cubs, Indians, Mets and Padres. The Yankees traded Schulze and third baseman Mike Pagliarullo to the Padres right after the 1989 All Star break for Walt Terrell. He is now a pitching coach in the Oakland A’s organization.
As the Yankees wind down their regular season this week, its a good time to share my Pinstripe Birthday 2012 Yankee Team Report Card. You can use the comments feature at the end of this post to let me know if you agree or disagree with my grading:
INFIELD – B
1B Mark Teixeira (B-) – Its been a disappointing season for Tex. He got off to another slow start at the plate in April and then slumped again in June. He’s also had a tough time staying healthy. He’s strained his calf muscle twice and those injuries have cost him right about forty games of inaction this season. Defensively, he’s remained close to brilliant. He’s currently got 23 home runs and 81 RBIs, decent numbers considering he’s missed a quarter of the schedule.
2B Robbie Cano (B+) – A lot was expected from Robbie in 2012. He got moved to the middle of the order this year and he did hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career but he has driven in just 80 thus far. For a while, it seemed to me that he was trying to hit everything out of the park instead of spraying the ball to all fields and he was once again swinging at way too many bad pitches. He’s been hot of late and is still the best all-around second baseman in baseball, hands down. A pure hitter and superb defensively.
SS Derek Jeter (A) – I am a Derek Jeter fan. Always have been, always will be. His April-to-September brilliance this season finally quieted the media morons who kept insisting the Yankee Captain was in permanent decline.
3B Alex Rodriguez (C) – For the third consecutive season, A-Rod has experienced physical breakdowns that have limited his playing time. This year it was a broken finger at the end of July that caused him to miss approximately 40 games. Now looks to me like his 30-40 homer, 100 RBI seasons are history. Still, when he’s healthy and in the Yankee lineup, it is a much more productive lineup.
Infield Reserves – Chavez (A-) Nix (B-) – Chavez filled in close-to-brilliantly when A-Rod was hurt this season but the Yankees had a tougher time winning with him in the line-up. Nix hit better than I thought he would and proved to be much more versatile defensively than Nunez was.
C – Russell Martin (C+) – Had a horrible first five months at the plate. Looked like he was trying to pull everything. I also think his defense was down a notch this year. I’ll raise his grade if he finishes these last few games like he’s been playing this final month.
Backup Catcher – Chris Stewart (B) – Definitely an improvement defensively over Francisco Cervelli. Offensively, he’s certainly no Thurman Munson. Still, I was impressed by the way Stewart handled pitchers when he was behind the plate. I don’t expect him to be in pinstripes too much longer but he’s certainly worn them well.
Outfield – B+
OF – Curtis Granderson (B+) – They pay Granderson to hit bombs, drive in runs and play a solid center field. He did all three with a lot more line-up shuffling going on this year than last. Yes he strikes out a lot and he appeared to have more trouble with southpaws this year than he did last season but the Grandy-Man is still this team’s stud outfielder
OF – Nick Swisher (B+) – Another solid Swisher-like season from a guy who has given the Yankees four years of maximum effort. The question now becomes will he get a chance to extend that streak as a Yankee.
OF – Ichiro Suzuki (A) – Great move by Yankees to bring Ichiro east. After an OK start in pinstripes he’s been a fireball recently and huge reason why Yankees are on their current hot streak.
DH – B
During the first part of the season, there were times Ibanez (B+) and Jones (C) carried the Yankee offense. Both went stone cold in the second half though Ibanez’s bat has certainly come back recently.
Starting Pitching -B
Sabathia gets a B+. That tender elbow slowed him down but his last two starts tell me he’s back in force. Kuroda gets a B+ too, for taking over as ace in Sabathia’s absence, though I still think he loses too many close decisions to make a huge difference to a team in a pennant race. I give Hughes a B because he’s rebounded nicely after another horrid start but I still won’t hand him the ball before a must-win game in the postseason. Nova gets a C-. He needs to watch Pettitte pitch and try and mimic him on the mound, exactly. Pettitte gets an incomplete for now. I’ll wait to give him his final grade until after the season because I think he’s got a shot at an A+. Phelps and Garcia both pitched better than I thought either would this season. We will see more of Phelps in pinstripes, I’m sure.
Bullpen – A
When the greatest closer ever was lost for the season, there were probably more Yankee fans who thought it would be David Robertson (C-) and not Rafael Soriano (A+) who tried to fill the gaping hole Rivera’s injury left in the team’s bullpen. We were wrong. The “Un-tucker” had a brilliant season while Robertson let it be known he was not yet ready for primetime. Eppley, Rapada, Logan and more recently Joba and Lowe gave the Yankees one of the League’s better bullpens in 2012.
Manager Joe Girardi – Incomplete
Managers who win their Division deserve an A for their regular season performance. Managers of teams with a ten-game lead in July that lose their Division, don’t. I’ll wait and see.
Intangibles: One of the things I like most about this Yankee team is their professionalism. They play the game the right way. All they seem to care about is winning games and they keep trying to do that and believing they can, regardless of the score until the very last out is made. I love the fact that they don’t brag about themselves and they don’t disrespect their teammates or their opponents.