The first month of the baseball season tends to be the most scrutinized and overvalued in terms of team performance. A team that dominates in April will garner high praise even if it's a bit premature. Likewise, a team that struggles out of the gate will be written off although they have more than 80% of the season left to recover from it.
In recent history, the Yankees have enjoyed success in April as they have compiled a combined 57-39 record in that month since 2012 and have been at least four games above .500 heading into May each season. However, only two of those seasons ended with a playoff berth. In 2013 and 2014 they struggled to score runs for the balance of the year and finished with the two worst records for Yankee teams since the dark days of the early 90's.
The same is true for individual players. A player that lights pitchers up in April will tend to cool off as the season wears on while a poor April doesn't necessarily mean that a player is in for a bad year overall. Still, over the course of a career, players can get the reputation for being either a fast or slow starter depending on how they typically perform in April. For instance, Yankee fans have come to not expect much from Mark Teixeira until the weather starts to warm up in May.
Given that players can be prone to a particularly good or bad performance in April, regardless of how their season as a whole may go, what can we expect from the current Yankee lineup next month? The table below displays the career slash stats for each Yankee regular during the month of April.
Please note that tOPS+ given here is not your standard OPS+. That is, tOPS+ is the OPS for this split relative to the player's total OPS. So, a number greater than 100 indicates that they player did better than their usual performance in this split.
|Career in April|
It's clear from this table that Teixeira has earned his reputation as a slow starter. His OPS in April is more than 20% worse than his career OPS overall. As bad as that seems, the only Yankee regulars with a better raw OPS than him in April are Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, which stands as a testament to how good Teixeira has been outside of April throughout his career. Brian McCann has also been a notorious slow starter in his career as evidenced by his rough April in 2014 that had Yankee fans panicking. Luckily, he has recovered rather well since that time and was actually above average at the plate last April.
Speaking of panicking Yankee fans, Didi Gregorius didn't have anybody convinced that he was the shortstop of the future last April when he had an abysmal start both at the plate and with the glove. However, given his numbers above, that was likely due to the pressures of following in the footsteps of a Yankee legend rather than his being prone to a slow start. To his credit, he earned the respect of Yankee fans down the stretch in 2015 when he was one of the only reliable bats in the lineup in September and October.
Starlin Castro has by far the best April split in the lineup and it's safe to say that he won't be feeling much pressure following in the footsteps of Stephen Drew. A strong April for him in 2016 may go a long way to getting his career back on the right track after leaving the Cubs on a sour note.
In general, only four of the nine Yankees that should be regulars in 2016 have put up numbers better than their career average in April. Even then, of those four only Castro has been significantly better. So if the Yankees aren't exactly tearing the cover off the ball next month, don't panic just yet. There will be plenty of season left and that's when most of these guys do their best work.