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Now about a month away from having enough plate appearances to appear on the active leader boards, at which point he’ll show up in the lower half of the top-25 for both OPS and slugging percentage. As well as he’s done so far, he hasn’t been quite what the Sox bargained for -- he’s hit a ton of doubles, but his walk rate is down and his home-run rate is the lowest of his career. You can’t draw a straight line from his hip problem to his current output, and perhaps we shouldn’t try to read anything negative into the change at all. Napoli has always been a variable player, and maybe this has been his version of a slump.
A great story you would like to see less of, the Red Sox plucked the non-drafted Nava out of the Golden Baseball League back in 2007. He proceeded to hit .317/.415/.498 in the minors, earning his way to the big leagues at 27. There’s a great deal he can’t do -- he’s far from Tris Speaker in the outfield (though he's improved immensely since returning to the majors in 2012), and he’s one of those switch-hitters who can’t switch-hit, with career averages of .206/.311/.335 from the right, albeit less important side. But he’s now had roughly a full season of plate appearances as a left-handed hitter, and he’s batted .273/.384/.428, numbers that won’t win you any awards but are more than solid. Ideally, he’d play a bit less often than he has of late, but injuries and disappointing performances from outfield wings Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino have led to a rotating cast in the corners. One of them will ultimately end up with Jackie Bradley, Jr., but for now Nava remains an asset.
This is a kind of pointless bit of baseball trivia, but we haven’t had namesakes win the Cy Young Award since 1980, when Steve Stone and Steve Carlton swept the awards. An all-Clay award seems possible this year. Since reinventing himself last June, Buchholz has made 29 starts with a line of 205.2 innings, 161 hits, 63 walks, 170 strikeouts, and a 2.84 ERA. Seemingly the only thing that can stop him is injury, and it nearly did -- Buchholz hasn’t pitched since May 22 after feeling some soreness in the AC joint, which lurks near the collarbone. Healthy or not, there’s probably one part of his act that’s not going to sustain itself -- his ultra-low 2.5 percent rate of home runs per fly ball. As the weather heats up, some of those are going to find the stands.
Gardner is a good example of the confusion that speed creates in managers. Major league center fielders are hitting .255/.321/.405 this season, so at .262/.330/.421, Gardner is ahead of the pack. Put that together with his excellent speed and defense and you have a very valuable player, one who might even come close to repeating his seven-win season of 2010. In an ideal world, he wouldn’t be a leadoff hitter, as his hitting skills are normally just adequate. However, the Yankees are hardly living in an ideal world this year, and Gardner is where he belongs. Subject for further discussion: Though it feels as if he just got here, Gardner is 29; is his career mostly over?
You'd be smug too
Watch Teixeira when he hits -- his face goes completely slack, as if his focus is so extreme it doesn’t leave him any extra brain power to control the nerves in his face. Teixeira has been roughly the same player for the last three years, averaging .252/.347/.484 from 2010-2012. What makes that depressing is (a) it’s a lot less than the Yankees expected to be getting for their $22.5 million and (b) it comes courtesy of a healthy Yankee Stadium subsidy. Teixeira is returning from a strained wrist tendon. We’ve often seen that with wrist problems, a player being healthy enough to play doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s healthy enough to hit. Stay tuned, not just now, but indefinitely -- there are still another three seasons to go after this one.
CC SabathiaThis just isn't fair
Possibly the world’s largest living land mammal, at least in baseball terms. That’s not a fat joke but rather a recognition that there just haven’t been many specimens as large as he is in the history of the game, and as such it was, until very recently, hard to know what his career trajectory was going to look like. People always like to say, "He can handle it" of players who have carried tremendous workloads, but the truth is, like all of us, he can handle it until he can’t. Sabathia, built something like a triceratops, might have seemed like the exception, but no -- with his fastball down 90 mph, it seems that the mileage has told on him as it eventually must on all pitchers. Having said that, he’s still just 32, and until recently had pitched quite well; the best pitchers reinvent themselves and carry on despite the reduced velocity, and the guess here is that Sabathia will eventually figure out how to succeed despite his new limitations.
""The new Yankee Stadium undoubtedly has its faults. Monument Park is not nearly as well-displayed as it was across the street, and while the closest seats were never that affordable or accessible, they feel even more removed by the proclaimed "moat." Is it so different compared to the old place though? I order my tickets the same way (not Ticketmaster), sit in the same areas with the same beautiful ballpark views (1B/3B upper deck), and witnessed some thrilling offensive performances. The prices are irritating at times, but it remains a wonderful place to see a game. Don't forget--for as much as people mock the short porch in right field, it was even shorter in the days of Ruth, Mantle, and Murcer. -- Andrew Mearns, Pinstriped Bible
Not quite Splinter vs. Joltin' Joe
"Player comparisons are just one part of what has made the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry so enticing over the years. From DiMag & The Mick vs. Teddy Ballgame & Yaz to Munson vs. Fisk and Jeter vs. Nomah, there have been plenty of all-stars and Hall of Famers to go around. Given the current injury-depleted Yankees roster that just got swept by the Mets though, what is there? Sure, there's Cano vs. Pedroia, but what else? Pronk vs. Papi? Ichiro vs. Victorino? It's slim pickings, even with the return of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis to the Yankees lineup. Youk's return from the DL against his old team does add some spice though, and the fact that he and Teixeira (in place of the crashing-down-to-Earth Lyle Overbay) will be in the lineup makes it a little more watchable. The Yankees were just shut down by Dillon Gee, and now they must face the sizzling Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in two of the three games. Maybe the familiarity will help and maybe it won't, but Yankee fans will certainly feel uneasy about the slumping offense entering each game. -- Andrew Mearns, Pinstriped Bible
The enemy of my enemy is my enemy
"Of course the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry still exists, but it's changed over the years. Now, the Rays are competitive all of the time, the Orioles are back in the mix, and even the Blue Jays are making waves. (To this point, in the off-season only, but still. They're trying!) Yankees/Red Sox series feel a little different these days for those reasons, as it seems like the geographical rivalries of the AL East have helped to widen the scope of where worry and dislike and schadenfreude and all of the best parts of a rivalry need to be directed. Red Sox and Yankees fans aren't just contending with each other for bragging rights: they need to listen to Rays fans rub 2008 in both of our faces -- Boston was eliminated in the ALCS and the Yankees sat out the playoffs entirely -- watch the Orioles stop a Red Sox playoff run and be a Yankees playoff opponent in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and listen to Blue Jays fans tout the superiority of Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson while forgetting those boxes were marked "Fragile." With all that being said, the Red Sox start the series in first, the Yankees in second, with the rest of the bunch behind. What matters this weekend is this specific rivalry." -- Marc Normandin, Over the Monster