New York Yankees Only a Player Away from Being World Series Contenders

Rudy TarkusContributor IIJuly 7, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29:  Russell Martin #55 stands with Cory Wade #53 of the New York Yankees as he gets pulled against the Chicago White Sox on June 29, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Last year's AL starting catcher for the All-Star Game was Alex Avila.

Russell Martin won the role of AL's reserve backstop, purely on fan voting; Tigers catcher Alex Avila topped him in nearly every offensive category. Perhaps the fact that Martin made the team at all is another argument in favor of changing the method of All-Star selection.

Perhaps it is a sign of the Yankees' true weakness:

Jorge Posada is gone. He was gone well into the last season of his career, but the Yankees—in a typical display of loyalty—let him ride it out for good or for worse. 

Joe Girardi could benefit from letting Chris Stewart see more at bats for the time being, albeit his OBP at the midway point this season is a mere two points above Martin's (.297 vs .295). Granted, he's a journeymen 30-year-old with not much of a ceiling, but Russell Martin's decline at the plate is something that shouldn't go unnoticed.

A look at Martin's BA over the last four years reveals a pattern:

2008: .280

2009: .250

2010: .248

2011: .237

2012 (66 games): .178

When the truthfulness of numbers comes blaring in, even a team's manager is forced to think out loud.

Martin's career fielding percentage is .990 and Stewart's is .984—both respectable defensive numbers but Russell Martin's WAR (wins above replacement) is benefited by his defensive edge over by the slightly older Stewart.

Through 82 games, the Yankees are atop the AL East at 50-32. Joe Girardi's club has gone 6-4 over their last ten games, and appear to be coping well with the losses of Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia.

The 2012 Yankees have veteran production in Derek Jeter, veteran disappointment in Alex Rodriguez (if only because of the $29 million is getting), and the third-best team (3.70) and fourth-best bullpen ERA (3.12) in the American League,

Russell Martin has been a solid backstop for the Dodgers and Yankees, but baseball's premier organization will certainly take into account his declining numbers, especially if what's at stake is another World Series berth.