Set in stone: Left side of the infield

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If you take a look at the Yankees roster and then read through all the rumors that have surfaced this off-season, you might come to realize that nearly no position is set in stone. They’ll seek a new first baseman; Robinson Cano could be traded; the outfield is anything but set; Jorge Posada might not be able to handle the rigors of catching. While the entire roster won’t be made over in the off-season, a number of things could change.

Except third base and shortstop, of course. Sure, the Yanks could move A-Rod to first base, but I think there’s a better chance you see Derek Jeter make that move. Which is to say, slim to none. The left side of the infield is the only sure thing the Yanks have on the offensive/defensive side of things. It would make sense for them to build around Jeter and A-Rod, since they’re the ones not going anywhere.

With Jeter, you have a shortstop with limited range defensively, and a guy who can consistently hit for average and take his share of bases on balls offensively. He’s a perfect fit in the two-hole, and can hit leadoff if you need him to.

With A-Rod, you have a true superstar, a guy who can hit for power, average, and take walks with the best of them. He’s the consummate cleanup hitter, though there’s no harm putting him in the three hold, allowing him to set the table. He plays average defense, as Dave Pinto notes in his Probabilistic Model of Range, which is fine for a guy who puts up gawdy offensive numbers.

On the whole, the left side of the Yankees infield is well above average offensively, but below average defensively. So how do you build a team based on this? It’s clearly not an easy question to answer. Plenty of factors go into team building, even if you don’t have a solid foundation like Jeter and A-Rod.

We can, though, look at what Jeter and A-Rod don’t have and look to add those parts.

Speed. Neither man is slow. Jeter seems to have lost a step as far as stealing second goes, but that’s no huge loss. Alex is one of the better baserunners in the game, and he can swipe second when need be. However, the Yanks could use a burner out there — so long, of course, as he’s able to do his job and get on base. Willy Taveras might be fast, but he can’t utilize that speed to the fullest because he’s not on base often enough (though if you combined his OBP from 2007 with his steals from 2008, you have a real threat). Brett Gardner is the hopeful answer here.

Slick glovework. If the left side of the infield is below average, the team would do well to field a quality right side. Robinson Cano has an excellent glove, though we’ve seen mental lapses take away some of his luster. Mark Teixeira is one of the better glovemen at first base in the league. He and Cano could comprise an above average right side. It won’t make up for the left side, but it will make it more bearable.

Pitch selectivity. Jeter and A-Rod aren’t guys who swing at everything, but they’re not the most selective hitters in the league. A-Rod saw 3.88 pitches per plate appearance in 08, and Jeter saw 3.72. Those are fine numbers, but the Yanks were led by Bobby Abreu (4.29), Jason Giambi (ditto), and Johnny Damon (4.10). Two of those guys likely won’t be back next year. The Yanks need one or two players who can take a ton of pitches and work their way on base via the walk. Abreu actually isn’t the worst in this regard, as he has decent speed on the basepaths.

This isn’t a complete list by any means, just a few things I thought of off the top of my head. What else do Jeter and A-Rod lack which the team should be looking for this off-season?

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  • jsbrendog

    to quote bush, clutchitudiness. :-P

  • Larry

    Somewhere in this discussion should be our ability to move runners once they get on base. When we had all the big boppers in the line up, “we don’t have to move runners.” Jeter moves runners, A-rod is supposed to get the runs scored, Cano doesn’t move runners. Can Tex? Where is Scooter when you need him?

  • Alex K.

    Modern day haircuts.

    Let’s get more players like Brett Gardner. Now that’s a haircut you can set your watch to!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      I said trim those sideburns, Mattingly!

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

        Burns: You, Strawberry…take a lap and then hit the showers…I’m pinch-hitting for you.
        Strawberry: But I’ve got NINE home runs today, Skip!
        Burns: Yes, you should be very proud… but, you see, the pitcher’s left-handed, and so are you. If I send up a right-handed batter…it’s called “playing the percentages.” It’s what smart managers do to win ballgames.

  • Alan

    Worth noting that Cano finished last in this year’s fielding bible rankings; not the only indicator as I know he’s finished near the top of some stats in previous seasons, but seems very troubling…

  • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

    If Cano is on this team, this year he needs to step up. I really would like to get rid of this kid. He does not get it. His physical talent is top tier, but his head is not in the game 90 percent of the time.

    I like the idea of having 25 guys pulling in the same direction. Obviously you need talent as well but this team needs to be built as a team and not as a fantasy league team as it has been the last 5 years.

    People we need a bench. We need a first baseman who has a glove. We need our second baseman to not be a goof. Our OF is a complete mess. The problems on this team are not Jeter and A-Rod.

    Its pitching, base running, fielding, knowing your role, and pitching.

    Oh yeah PS Cashman SIGN MANNY. Since we are just a fantasy league team get us a thumper.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

      None of this makes any sense.

    • Chris C.

      “I like the idea of having 25 guys pulling in the same direction. Obviously you need talent as well but this team needs to be built as a team and not as a fantasy league team as it has been the last 5 years.”

      “We need our second baseman to not be a goof.”

      LMAO!! Then he says, “PS Cashman, SIGN MANNY”.

  • Adam

    can someone explain to me how despite jeter’s unwillingness to move off of shortstop for the good of the team, he is still referred to as the consummate professional and team player? how is it that he can have it both ways, yet alex is called selfish, despite yielding his position to a clearly inferior glove-man and forgoing the opportunity to be the greatest shortstop of all time?

  • nolan

    Jeter should be moved to 3rd, Arod should be moved to 1b or traded and a shortshop who isnt one of the worst defensively should be brought in (Furcal?). Good pitching relies on good defense to get as many outs as possible. Jeter isnt getting to a number of balls that your AVERAGE shortstops get to. Thats costs us games. If he’s really a “team first” captain he should move to a position (3b) where his lateral range (or lack of) doesnt kill us.

    • E-ROC

      Jeter doesn’t have the arm to play 3rd. The outfield or 1B suits him best.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

      Jeter should be moved to 3rd, Arod should be moved to 1b or traded and a shortshop who isnt one of the worst defensively should be brought in (Furcal?). Good pitching relies on good defense to get as many outs as possible. Jeter isnt getting to a number of balls that your AVERAGE shortstops get to. Thats costs us games. If he’s really a “team first” captain he should move to a position (3b) where his lateral range (or lack of) doesnt kill us.

      Batshit crazy from clause #1.

      • Chris C.

        Jeter should be moved to 3rd, Arod should be moved to 1b or traded and a shortshop who isnt one of the worst defensively should be brought in (Furcal?).

        Move a GG calibre 3rd baseman to 1st.
        I love it.

  • Derek

    how can you say that Taveras’ speed can’t be utilized because hes not on base enough and then propose that Brett Gardner could be our speed solution.. yeah he’s fast but he’s on base even less than Taveras

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      He’s younger. We’ve seen what Taveras can do. Now let’s see what Gardner can do. He’s cheaper, and he won’t cost us any players.

      • Derek

        not much younger

      • Derek

        not much younger

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

      yeah he’s fast but he’s on base even less than Taveras

      Willy Taveras Career OBP, Minor Leagues: .355 in 1718 AB’s
      Willy Taveras Career OBP, Major Leagues: .331 in 1973 AB’s

      Brett Gardner Career OBP, Minor Leagues: .389 in 1456 AB’s
      Brett Gardner Career OBP, Major Leagues: .283 in 127 AB’s

      Of those four numbers, which one looks the most like a statistical outlier due to small sample size? Is it really that farfetched to think that over time, Brett Gardner will be able to get on base at a higher clip than Willy Taveras?

  • Baseballnation

    Seems like a relatively strong possibility that Cano is dealt and the yankees shore up the right side defense by possibly landind Tex/Hudson…Then again I’m not to sure how Hudson solves the Yankees need to get younger so inevitably they would be searching for his replacement in two years and I’m not nearly entirely sold like some on Angelini & Co.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

      Seems like a relatively strong possibility that Cano is dealt and the yankees shore up the right side defense by possibly landind Tex/Hudson…

      No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t seem like a relatively strong possibility that Cano gets dealt, seeing as how the overwhelming majority of Cano trade rumors are either A) horribly unworkable and so drastically one-sided one way or the other that they’d never happen, or B) pulled from the fanciful imaginations of well-known idiot hack journalists who are pretty much always wrong.

      I don’t think the team has any great desire to trade Cano, because they recognize the value in a 25-year old offensive-plus defensive-plus kid signed to a very reasonable deal. Especially as the team grays and experiences turnover. He’s had three amazingly awesome years and one crappy one. Cashman is smart enough to not move Cano unless he’s bowled over, which he won’t be, so it’s moot. Robinson Cano will be our second baseman for the foreseeable future. Learn to love it.

      • Derek

        so what will happen this offseason, since you know everything that will NOT happen.. are you secretly brian cashman?

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

          You don’t have to be a Yankee executive to know that stupid shit like dealing Cano or moving ARod/Jeter to first isn’t going to happen. You just have to have common sense and a decent knowledge of baseball history.

          Here’s what will happen:

          -We’ll sign CC
          -We’ll sign at least one more of the Tex/Manny/Sheets/Burnett group (my preference is for any/all of the first three and none of the last one)
          -There will be rumors all winter long about dealing Hughes, Cano, Melky, and Kennedy; all of them will be bullshit
          -Our opening day roster will have ARod at third, Jeter at short, and Cano at second
          -Cano will bounce back and people will wonder why he was ever included in cockamamie proposals, and 10 years from now, sportswriters will write “Remember when we almost traded Cano?” stories like they do now about Pettitte and Bernie

          • Permínio

            Couldn’t agree more.

  • leftylarry

    Jeters range is better then some suggest.He goes back on pop flies as good as anyone in the game.Additionally he charges the ball with the best.Goes into the hole very well and makes the jump throw and the reason he doesn’t cut off as many balls up the middle as the truly elite SS’s is that he does tend to play a shallow SS and that helps on swinging bunt plays but makes it harder to catch up to balls up the middle.
    Jeter defensively is the least of Ynkee problems.

  • Axl

    I’ve asked this question several times both in these chats and in the other “chats” that go on on other sites. We saw the Yankees offensive number take a significant hit replacing decent OBP and RBI guys Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada this year. While they might be back (and for how long?) we’re losing even BETTER OBP and RBI guys in Abreu and Giambi. How are we going to replace the OBP and RBI they had given us?? These young inside guys like Miranda, etc aren’t the answer. You can’t replace 4.33 pitches seen per at bat with a new rookie guy in Miranda…and Nady doesn’t see even close.

    A team that used to be based on OBP…now has to wonder what we’re going to do? One could say if all the pitching rumors turn out in our favor…we won’t need to score as many runs…but as we’ve noticed in the recent past…pitchers rarely stay healthy all year.

    Teixeira would be a perfect fit although many many years and dollars…

    So my question is…who can replace the OBP and RBI that these guys (Abreu/Giambi) will be taking with them?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Mr. Snarky Irrelevant Non Sequitur Jones

      Teixeira and Manny?

      • Permínio

        Teixeira and Dunn could work too. Probably with less yrs/$$ and a younger guy.

    • Old Ranger

      Tex would help but, we don’t need to have, what we don’t have.
      We can still score as many runs, just a different way…moving runners with the bunt, hit the other-way, hit & run and best yet, speed. Scoring from 2nd, going 1st to 3rd on a single many of the things that I believe Joe G. wants to do but couldn’t with the team as it was constituted in 2008. 27/09.

  • Brown44

    Teixeira is the kind of guy we are used to playing 1st base, great glove and great power numbers. He should see a ton of pitches in the three hole. CC is a good #1. He is the ace any team is looking for. Brett gardner is a player that can be real good if he gets the chance. Remember Bernie didn’t forcast very well and look what we got. Trading away any young pitchers now seems a little silly considering they would have been enough to pick up Santana.