For the second straight season, the Yankees have won 15 games in the opening month. They were 15-7 last year and by going 15-9 this month, the Yankees have won at least that amount of games in consecutive opening months for the first time since 2002 and 2003 teams were a combined 38-16 in those Aprils.
The Yankee offense has had an interesting and contrasting month.
The .253 batting average places them slightly above the league average which was .249 going into Saturday's games. The .337 on-base percentage ranks in the top half of the league and well above the league average of .319 going into Saturday's game.
Where the Yankees have really shined offensively is hitting home runs. Their 43 home runs lead the league by far and only four of their 24 games have not featured a home run and six players have at least five home runs.
On the pitching front, the Yankees have finished the month with a 3.79 ERA. A week ago, it was at 4.33 but this week, Yankee starters pitched nine straight games before allowing three earned runs, a streak that A.J. Burnett broke during his six innings of yesterday's 5-4 win over the Blue Jays.
In terms of player performance, it has been a mixed bag, which you'd expect since very few teams have anyone clicking on all cylinders at the same time.
Starting with catcher, Russell Martin has been a steal. Besides hitting for a .293 batting average, second-best on the Yankees behind Robinson Cano, Martin has surpassed his home run total from last year. He also has been a defensive upgrade and has provided excellent encouragement towards getting Burnett to throw his changeup. Burnett threw that pitch close to 50 times and often credited Martin with encouraging him to do so.
Moving to first base, Mark Teixeira made it through April well above his normal opening month performance. He finished the month by equaling his .256 batting average from last year. He also hit six home runs, though three were in the opening week and ended April by going 5-for-22 in the final week.
Moving to second base, Robinson Cano showed numerous signs of being the AL's best player with a .320 average. He finished the month by hitting in 18 of his last 19 games and 21 of 24 overall. He actually hit .400 through the first month of 2010 but by hitting eight home runs in April, Cano is the third player to hit that many in April, joining Vinny Castilla (1997-98 with Colorado) and Alex Rodriguez (2002-03 with Texas).
Moving to shortstop, Derek Jeter finished at .250 without a home run and six RBI. When he swung at a high fastball from Octavio Dotel Friday, a few columns wondered if he was done. Jeter has had 92 at-bats and Joe Girardi said earlier that it would be 150 or so at-bats before he considered moving him further down in the order. For what it's worth, Jeter did hit well in the final week of the month, going 8-for-24, but a year ago when he finished at .270, the captain was .330, four HR and 18 RBI in the first month.
Moving to third base, Alex Rodriguez spent most of the month over .300 but dealt with an oblique injury (the one that seems to going through baseball). He returned last Saturday with a 2-for-5 performance that lifted his average to .370 but in the last week the batting average dropped 80 points due to a 3-for-23 slump. Combined with age and that injury, it's something to bear watching, which is what Girardi did when he gave him Saturday off.
Moving to left field, Brett Gardner disappointed at the leadoff spot, which he was placed in against right-handed pitchers through April 16. When he hit .135 in that spot, Gardner went back to hitting at the bottom of the order. The last week of the month has been a decent one for Gardner, who went from .154 to .188 by going 5-for-17 and hitting two of his three home runs. Gardner hit .277 last season and the first sign that he has returned to normal is when the on-base percentage goes over .300 and in the last week it has increased from .214 to .273.
Moving to center field, Curtis Granderson's late season surge has continued into this year. You can make that conclusion based on his .271, seven home runs and 15 RBI as well as his .280 batting average off left-handed pitchers, which is an increase from the .234. Should Granderson continue that figure, it would be his best mark against southpaws since becoming a full-time center fielder in 2006. It would also represent a nearly .100 point increase from two years ago.
Moving to right field, Nick Swisher had a rough month that in the final week saw him hit his first home and end droughts of 19 at-bats without a hit and nine games without an RBI. It was during that week that Swisher also went 4-for-25 and saw his average drop by nearly 30 points to .226.
Moving to designated hitter, the adjustment to getting three or four at-bats per game has not gone well for Jorge Posada. Posada has had a weird month with six home runs, but has just three other hits and because of that goes into May hitting just .125. Though given Posada's age, you would not expect the production from the DH spot the Yankees had from Hideki Matsui two years ago, but you'd certainly expect better than the first month.
Moving to the rotation, CC Sabathia has been fine and is off to one of his best starts despite a 2-1 record in six starts.
Burnett has had a history of pitching well in April and this year was no different. Many are waiting to see what happens in May and beyond before saying Burnett has turned it around from last year, but his mechanics look free and easy. That makes you believe this year will be better, especially if he uses the changeup with confidence and conviction.
Freddy Garcia pitched well in two starts, which was impressive for someone who hadn't pitched in a while and had two starts changed due to rainouts. Garcia beat Texas and pitched well against Baltimore but his assortment of slow stuff and fastballs in the high 80s had nothing Friday against Toronto in a game that could have been much worse than a 5-3 loss.
Phil Hughes was awful in three starts and so far nobody has figured out why his velocity has diminished or why it appears for two innings and then goes away. That happened in his last start April 14 against Baltimore and Hughes has not pitched since, going through various MRIs and tests to figure out the mysterious cause.
Hughes' problems bring us to Bartolo Colon and impressive would be an understatement for someone who last pitched two years ago and has not had a winning season of more than 10 starts since being a 21-game winner and a CY Young pitcher for the 2005 Angels. Colon has started twice and thrown mostly two-seam and four-seam fastballs and for someone of his age, it was quite the sight to see him hitting 95 and 96 late in his eight inning start against the White Sox.
The final rotation spot is occupied by Ivan Nova, who pitches today. Nova's biggest problem in his brief career has been getting through the fifth and sometimes the sixth but he did Tuesday when he pitched into the seventh before the bullpen blew it. You'd like to see Nova get more than the 12 strikeouts and less than the 11 walks he had in 21 2/3 innings. For now, Nova seems to be someone who will split good and uneven starts right down the line based on the four runs and 11 hits he produced in 12 1/3 innings against the Twins and White Sox compared with the nine runs and 11 hits produced in 8 2/3 innings against Boston and Texas.
Finally the bullpen, what can you say about Mariano Rivera that hasn't been said before? Yes, he is human when he blows consecutive save opportunities but his nine saves in the season's opening month are his most before May 1.
As for the eighth inning, it has been a rough first month for Rafael Soriano. When someone takes the Yankee money, they take the booing that goes along with it when it does not go well. That happened twice to Soriano, who allowed six runs and four walks in ugly performances against Minnesota and Chicago. Soriano did not own up to it after the Minnesota but was very engaging the next afternoon. There is some talk that Soriano cannot make the adjustment from being a 45-save man to the eighth inning but it seems to be a little early for that chatter, especially when his other 10 appearances have produced a respectable 2.89 ERA.
The seventh inning is Joba Chamberlain's for the time being and he produced a 4.15 ERA. For the first time since coming up in August 2007, Chamberlain seems to have a defined role and it appears the velocity is back at around 94, 95 after it being down in the previous two years, which is to believed to have been caused by the August 2008 shoulder injury.
Elsewhere in the bullpen, David Robertson has pitched well. He was unscored upon in 10 appearances until Friday night when he froze as Jose Bautista stole second on him and his throw sailed into center field. He is allowing roughly one hit per inning and has struck out 12 in 9 1/3 innings so far.
As for Boone Logan, the onus is on him to pitch as well as he did during the second half last year when Damaso Marte's injury made him the lone lefty. This year, Logan is currently facing the same scenario since Pedro Feliciano is sidelined with a torn capsule. Logan finished the month with a 3.00 ERA in nine outings and that was due to three scoreless appearances this week.
In terms of what lies ahead for the Yankees, the next month opens with one game against the Jays, followed by a seven-game trip through Detroit and Texas, which was a nightmare place for the Yankees last year. There are home games with Kansas City and Boston to go along with a visit from the Mets and Blue Jays again. The Yankees also see Tampa Bay for the first time, return to Baltimore and end the month in Seattle and Oakland.
Right now, the Yankees are on pace to win 101 games and hit 290 home runs and if you want to see if that pace can be maintained the best advice would be to stay tuned.