When Alex Rodriguez went down with a quad injury that will keep him on the shelf for a few weeks this year, he hadn’t been off to the same start he enjoyed last year. Admittedly, that’s not a fair comparison. How often does any player hit 14 home runs in a month while single-handedly carrying a team?
But despite a slower start, he still had a vital role in the lineup. As the cleanup hitter, he was hitting .272./330/.506 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in 81 at-bats. Those are poor numbers by A-Rod’s standards, but to suggest that the team doesn’t miss him is wishful thinking at best.
In his absence, the Yankees’ replacement third basemen have been downright awful. The three replacements — Wilson Betemit, Alberto Gonzalez and Morgan Ensberg — have now enjoyed 70 plate appearances as third basemen this year. Collectively, they are hitting .239 with a .271 OBP and a .269 slugging percentage. That is utterly woeful.
Things don’t look much better behind the dish either. As a catcher, Jorge Posada hit .321/.345/.429 this year in 29 plate appearances. The other three catchers have put together 114 plate appearances and are hitting .224/.263/.348.
While it’s easy to say that the Yankees were a .500 team without A-Rod and, hey, wouldn’t they still be a .500 team now, that ignores the reality offered by those who have tried to replace Jorge. The Yankees are missing a ton of offense right now, and it’s showing in the product on the field. The middle of their lineup is weak; Shelley Duncan had to hit cleanup against lefties, and even Derek Jeter found himself penciled into the four hole for one game. The bottom of their lineup — drawing well below league-average production from the C and 3B spots — has become a terrible liability. It’s a cascade issue.
The Yankees probably could have withstood an injury to either A-Rod or Jorge. They probably would be two games behind Boston had just one of them gone down. But with both out, this team’s offensive production slides off the table. Get well soon, guys.