Curtis Granderson a force for Yankees

Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.

At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.

Who's the big dog?

Curtis Granderson


Despite claiming he is not a home run hitter, Curtis Granderson's bat has been awfully loud for the Bronx Bombers this season. He's set a new career high with 35 homers, going with his line of .281/.375/.594. Granderson's weighted on base average (wOBA) of .414 is fourth in baseball (second in the American League) and he leads New York with 6.1 wins above replacement (WAR). The fact that he is not your typical power hitter has made the center fielder that much more dangerous, as he can beat teams in any number of ways. Combine Granderson's season with Robinson Cano's (.304/.349/.526) and the resurgence of Derek Jeter (.333/.392/.428 since the All-Star break), and it is no wonder the Yankees didn't slow down when Alex Rodriguez hit the DL.

-- Tamar Chalker, It's About the Money, Stupid, an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network

Who needs to step up?

The obvious answer right now is A.J. Burnett, who is coming off a miserable start in which he gave up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings against a weak Twins lineup. He is 9-10 with a 4.96 ERA and is a far cry from being the No. 2 pitcher the Yankees need. Beyond CC Sabathia, the Yankees have a lot of question marks in their rotation this late in the season. Ivan Nova has been going deeper into games than in 2010 and adjusting well. It will be interesting to see how this translates to the pressures of September and October in the Big Apple.

On the other side of the field, Mark Teixeira may have 33 homers, but he is still hitting a disappointing .251, in part due to a career-low batting average on balls in play (.235). Russell Martin cooled down after a hot start to the season, though he is showing signs of life lately.

-- Tamar Chalker, It's About the Money, Stupid, an affiliate of the SweetSpot Network


In at-bats ending with pitch away:

Key stat: hitting pitches off plate

One of the keys to the Yankees' success this season has been their ability to hit pitches off the plate. The Yankees lead the league in hitting in such situations with a .265 batting average and 58 home runs coming off such pitches. The main catalyst has been Curtis Granderson, who is leading the way for the Yankees in such situations, and has dramatically improved his batting average and slugging percentage this season against pitches off the plate.

-- Kimberly Meyer and Andrew Davis, ESPN Stats & Info

Where are they going?

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the 2011 New York Yankees knows they have one of the best offensive attacks in the league. They are edging out the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers for the most runs scored in baseball this season, and it's hard to find a true weakness in the lineup to exploit. The Yankees hit at home and on the road, against lefties and righties, against fly-ball pitchers and ground-ball pitchers. With apologies to the late great Dr. Seuss, this team would score runs in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse.

Looking at the pitch-by-pitch stats against the Yankees on FanGraphs, however, tells a story of a lineup with a weakness this season. The Bronx Bombers have been the best team in baseball this year at hitting fastballs, generating 81 more runs of production against fastballs than the average team. Only five teams in baseball are even 20 or more runs better than average against fastballs this season, so that 81 is a pretty impressive number. But the Red Sox and Rangers, who are also very good fastball-hitting teams this year, also have more balance. For example, the Red Sox and Rangers rank second and third in baseball against changeups. Against changeups and curveballs, the Yankees are a combined seven runs below average, a relatively weak performance for a team that is leading baseball in runs scored.

For more of Dan Szymborski's analysis, click here.Insider