Mid-season Report Cards, Part 2

Half of the season is over and we here at PinstripesPlus have begun handing out report cards. In the second part of the four-part column, we grade the individual Yankees infielders on their performances (or lack thereof) through the first half of the 2003 season.

If you missed part one, click here.

Jason Giambi: A-
Giambi got off to an incredibly slow start, hitting .204 in April and .260 in May before turning up the heat in June. But despite Giambi's poor batting averages, the slugging first baseman was still producing. His on-base percentages in the first two months of the season were still better than average, and he was still driving in runs and hitting homeruns at almost his normal pace. Then in June, Giambi took off. He batted .373 with 11 homeruns and 29 RBI during the month and was named AL Player of the Month. Giambi's first half of the season, while below average for him, was still fine and his June was phenomenal. With Bernie Williams returning to protect him in the lineup, Giambi should play up to his normal level of excellence for the second half of the year.

Alfonso Soriano: B+
Soriano continues to wreak havoc on American League pitching. The second baseman has made a name for himself as the league's top combination of power in speed. As of this writing, Soriano is fourth in the AL in homeruns with 22 and leads the league in stolen bases with 25. Soriano has also drastically improved his patience at the plate. Last season, Soriano walked 23 times in the entire year. In 2003, Soriano already has 24 walks, a sign that he is trying to become a more complete player. Soriano's defense still needs improvement. He has committed 10 errors already this year, but is slightly improved from last year in fielding percentage.

Derek Jeter: C+
The Yankee captain missed the first month of the season with a separated shoulder that he sustained on the very first day of the year. Since returning to the lineup, Jeter has been shaky at the plate. In the beginning, he looked very reluctant to pull inside pitches because of his shoulder, and his performance suffered. Jeter hit just .254 in June, with a pathetic .364 slugging percentage. Other areas of his play were found lacking as well. He has stolen just five bases all season, compared to 19 before the break last year. His defense is extremely pedestrian as well, as he has committed seven errors in 48 games. Once Jeter's confidence in his shoulder returns, he should produce more around where he did last year. But Yankee fans might have to work under the assumption that Jeter won't ever regain the form he had in 1999. If he hits around .305 the rest of the way, it will be enough.

Robin Ventura: C-
Ventura signed a one-year contract with the Yankees in the off-season, hoping to provide one more season at third base before the Yanks were ready to call up Drew Henson. The way Ventura's been playing lately, the Yanks might have been better off with Henson, or even Erick Almonte. Ventura's average is all the way down to .242 through Monday after hitting just .202 in June. Ventura enjoyed a decent first two months of the season, but he hasn't homered since June 8. Among other things the third baseman – who leads active players in career grand slams – is just 1/10 with the bases loaded.

Jorge Posada: B
Posada has been a rock behind the plate for the Yankees this year. He got off to a hot start, hitting .280 in April and smashing seven homers in the first month of the year. He's slowed down since then, but his newfound proficiency at drawing walks has kept him productive. But it is his improvement on defense that has raised the most eyebrows. During spring training, Posada worked on his footwork behind the plate and his work has paid dividends. He has already thrown out 17 baserunners this year, and has committed only five passed balls (he had 18 in 2001). The hot weather seems to have gotten to Posada a bit, but he was named to start his second All-Star game this weekend, and he deserves it.

Todd Zeile: D
Zeile was expected to be something of a force off the bench for Joe Torre, but due to the injuries of Nick Johnson and Bernie Williams, he has seen a ton of playing time this year at the designated hitter spot and at first base. Despite playing regularly, Zeile hasn't produced. His batting average continues to hover around the Mendoza line, and he's been in a prolonged slump since the season started. Zeile's best month came in May, when he hit .222. These numbers aren't exactly good for a player who was a starter for about 15 seasons before 2003. When Johnson returns from the DL in a few weeks, Zeile will be pushed right out of the lineup and into a pinch-hitting role.

Enrique Wilson: C
Wilson has one job on this team, to be a defensive replacement. And he does that job well. He has committed just one error all year long, at third base – which isn't his primary position. At shortstop and second base, he has been flawless.

John Flaherty: C+
Flaherty is exactly what the Yankees need in a backup catcher. Where Jorge Posada is mainly in the lineup for his offensive contributions, Flaherty can be called upon for his abilities to call a good game and play very good defense. This point is best illustrated when Flaherty caught Brandon Claussen's major league debut against the Mets. The Yankees specifically had Flaherty behind the plate for that game to handle the young Claussen, showing their confidence in his ability to handle a pitcher.

Nick Johnson: Incomplete
Had Johnson stayed healthy and on pace with his start, he would have easily been given an A-. But that was not to be. Johnson injured his fragile hand while taking a swing back in the middle of May. When he went on the disabled list, he was leading the league in walks, had a .308 batting average and a .455 on-base percentage. Johnson is due back to the lineup sometime in the next few weeks and, if he can stay healthy, will be an important piece to the Yankees playoff run.

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