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Today is July 14, 2010.  There’s no baseball being played anywhere.  So I’m going to take this opportunity to do my mid-season Yankee rankings.  Overall, I don’t think Yankee fans could be much happier with the team.  The Yankees lead the entire league with a 56-32 record, two games ahead of Tampa for best in the AL and four games ahead of the NL-leading Atlanta Braves.

Most Valuable Player – Robinson Cano

Hands down the Yankees MVP this season, Cano has been almost unstoppable at the plate and has played superbly on defense as well.  He earned his second all-star appearance this season and his first ever appearance as a starter.  Cano leads the Yankees in batting average, runs scored, doubles and slugging percentage.  He is second in on-base percentage and homers, and third in RBI.  He also boasts a team low 40 strikeouts out of all Yankees with at least 200 at-bats.

Most Improved Player – Nick Swisher

Swish is one of my favorite Yankees and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.  The attitude and passion that Swisher brings to the game is unmatched.  His fun-loving personality is a big reason for the Yankee’s success the past season and a half.  Swisher has improved his eye at the plate, putting in a lot of work with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Last season, Swish hit .249 with 29 homers, 124 hits 82 RBI, scored 84 runs and had a .371 on-base percentage in 498 at-bats.  Midway through this season, in 315 at-bats, he is hitting, .296, with 94 hits, 15 homers, 49 RBI and has scored 55 runs due to his extra hits.  His OBP is .377.

Biggest Disappointment – AJ Burnett

The sad thing is Burnett is exactly what everyone has criticized him for in the past – being inconsistent.  Only two years removed from an 18-10 season for the Blue Jays, Burnett is performing below his salary at 7-7 with a 4.70 ERA.  He is arguably the Yankees weakest starting pitcher right now, especially considering his win on July 7 in Oakland was his first since May 30th.  He was 0-5 in five starts with an 11.35 ERA in June.  The sad thing is Burnett started the season 4-0 with an ERA under 2.40, then was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA before things went very downhill.  The Yankees will need his veteran presence on the mound in the second half, especially since Phil Hughes will face innings limits later this season.  Burnett needs to find a way to turn his season around.

Biggest Surprise – Phil Hughes

In spring training, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain had to compete for the fifth spot in the Yankees starting rotation.  Hughes had a successful spring while Joba struggled, earning Hughes the nod.  Hughes dominated for the Yankees from the beginning.  He started his season 5-0 with a 1.38 record, taking advantage of massive run support from the Yankee offense.  Hughes is one of the top ten pitchers in the American League this season, boasting an 11-2 record with a 3.65 ERA, earning him a spot on the All-Star team.  However, he will face inning limits later on this season, requiring the Yankees to get someone else to finish the season after he hits the limits.  No word on his post season availability.

Grades

Offense: A The team is 2nd in runs scored and RBI, 5th in hits and 7th in batting average.

Starting Pitching:          A- Sabathia & Co. are 1st in wins, 7th in ERA(2nd in AL only) and 10th in strikeouts.  By the way, Andy Pettitte is 11-2 with a team leading 2.70 ERA.  He could end up having the best season of his career at age 38.

Relief Pitching:              B- Joba and David Robertson are the go-to guys in the pen’ but their ERA’s are 5.79 and 5.46,          respectively.  The bullpen has also only lost 10 games, a little better than average.  But the Bombers still have the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera.

Coaching:                        A Joe Girardi appears to have a good thing going with the Yankees right now and a great support staff, including pitching coach Dave Eiland and hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.  The Yankees are in first place, enough said.

The folks at the New York Times did this cool graphic video explaining how Mariano Rivera’s cutter worked. I know there’s sound involved and I can’t hear it.

The cool thing? They graphed every single pitch Rivera threw in 2009 and had them ink-splattered all over the strike zone. Amazing.

Check out the video here!

ESPN just posted this article dissecting the MVPs of the rivalry since 1995 — the year both teams made the playoffs.

I won’t go into details here, but here are the MVPs of both teams — the lineup and the rotation.

Red Sox MVP: Manny Ramirez (no surprise here, this was to be expected)

Red Sox MVP pitcher: Pedro Martinez (I may have thought of Curt Schilling, but Pedro was around longer than Curt and he had several gems, even if he was the Yankees’ “Daddy.”)

Yankees MVP: Alex Rodriguez (I think what surprises me the most is that Paul O’Neill is second on the list and Jeter isn’t even in the top five)

Yankees MVP pitcher: Mariano Rivera (No surprises here, and number two is Andy Pettitte, again no surprises here.

I think it’s quite an interesting article to read, so go ahead and click on the link above to read about the MVPs of the rivalry.

Mariano Rivera’s major league record streak of 51 consecutive saves at home was broken today when the Minnesota Twins came back from a 3-1 deficit to win 6-3.  The Twins prevented being swept for the fourth series in a row by the Yankees dating back to last season when they rallied against Mo and the Yankees in the top of the eighth inning.

Rivera inherited a bases loaded situation from Joba Chamberlain and it never looked good for Rivera.  He walked his first batter, Jim Thome, allowing a run to score and the lead drop to 3-2.  A few pitches later, Jason Kubel hits a grand slam for the Twins.  Oh, yeah…the same Kubel who is hitting .225.

The last time Rivera blew a save at home was back in August of 2007.  The only other time he allowed a grand slam as a reliever was back in 2002 and the last time he walked someone with bases loaded was in 2005.

We’ve been spoiled as Yankee fans with Mariano Rivera closing games.  He is the epitome of a complete player and a heck of a great pitcher, undoubtedly the best relief pitcher ever.  I think Jorge Posada said it perfectly when he said there wouldn’t be 5 championships without Mo.

The Yankees-Tigers game in Detroit Tuesday night has been postponed to Wednesday.  Since the teams don’t play in Detroit again this season after this Thursday, the teams elected to play a day-night doubleheader at 1:05pm and 7:05pm.  No word yet on if Javier Vasquez and Phil Hughes will still be the starters of those games.

It looks like the E:60 report on ESPN about Mariano Rivera will be a great watch tonight.  The theme appears to be about how the best closer in baseball history in well-regarded not only in New York, but even more so in his native Panama.  Check it out at 7pm on ESPN.

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