Jul
14

First Half Review: Corner Infielders

By

At 51-37, with the third best record in baseball, leading the Wild Card and just three games back in the AL East, the Yankees had a fine first half. Yet it was a tumultuous three months, wrought with streaks and injuries and strange trends, causing mass panic at times among Yankees fans. Over the extended All-Star Break, we’ll go over each position to see what went right, what went wrong, and how things look for the second half. First up we looked at the starting pitching, then relief pitchers. Now we’re onto the corner infielders.

The expectations

The corner infielders were supposed to anchor the 2009 Yankees. Even though everyone knew Alex Rodriguez would miss more than a month after hip surgery, the general expectation was for him and Teixeira to be the best 3-4 combo in the game. This wasn’t unreasonable. Alex might be the best hitter in the game (NPD), and Teixeira was coming off one of his best seasons and is right in the prime of his career.

There’s not much more to say about the expectations. They were supposed to be the best. At least once the calendar flipped from April to May.

The results

We’ve seen massive success from both players, but we’ve also seen them hit some pretty nasty slumps. Combined with A-Rod‘s month-long absence, and it doesn’t add up to the best. They’re close, for sure. The following are the two best 3-4 combos in the league, based on the first half:

1. Ryan Braun – Prince Fielder
2. Joe Mauer – Justin Morneau

After that there are a number of third-place contenders. Alex and Tex are among them, along with Youkilis-Bay, Utley-Howard, and Pujols-Ludwick. So they’re not the best, but are certainly up there. Given Tex’s slumps and A-Rod’s absence and slump, that’s a pretty good place to be right now.

Mark Teixeira

It’s hard not to have high expectations for a guy who just signed an eight-year, $180 million contract. Yankees fans held Tex to such a high standard, in fact, that they started to boo him during his protracted April slump. That ended promptly upon A-Rod’s return, as Teixeira went on a tear.

What’s often overlooked in Teixeira’s early season woes is the tendinitis he suffered in his wrist. He sat out a few games early on, but with A-Rod already out of the lineup, the Yankees could ill afford to lose the other part of their 3-4 punch. We don’t know how much pain he played through, but considering the results through the first month, it would seem that the wrist bothered him more than he let on.

Teixeira’s season has been defined by streaks and slumps. From Opening Day through May 8, he hit just .192/.336/.384. This was both worse and longer than his normal slow starts. He more than made up for it over the next month, hitting .369/.447/.844 from May 9 through June 12. Since then, though, he’s had quite the power outage, hitting .245/.341/.327 from June 13 through the All-Star Break.

While Tex’s hot streak helped the Yanks surge through May, his power outage also hurt them as they struggled with the NL East. There’s little concern that this slump will continue into the second half. Teixeira’s a pro hitter, and we’ve seen him perform better in the second half over his career: .277/.368/.515 in the first half vs. .303/.390/.574 in the second half. Last year was even more pronounced: .271/.373/.484 in the first half, .366/.464/.656 in the second half.

Alex Rodriguez

For all the drama he brought leading up to the regular season, it’s been all about baseball for A-Rod since he returned in May. Well, except the bit with Kate Hudson. But we won’t hold America’s obsession against him.

A-Rod returned with a bang, drilling the first pitch he saw into the left-field stands at Camden Yards for a three-run blast. This put the Yanks ahead early, which was big coming off the team’s five-game losing streak, including four to Boston and Tampa Bay. He slipped a bit from that point, but found his stroke during the Minnesota series, hitting a walk-off homer that weekend.

From May 16 through June 7, we saw the A-Rod of old. He hit .289/.419/.618, helping the Yanks steamroll the competition. The only blemish in that period was losing two of three to Philly — though in that lone win Alex hit a game-tying home run off Brad Lidge.

Then came The Slump: .088/.262/.236 from June 8 through June 18. It might have been the worst 11 days of A-Rod’s career. It was decided at that point that he’d played far too often — he hadn’t missed a game since returning, and played all but two in the field — and would sit out the first two games of the Marlins series. That, it appears, did the trick. From June 21 through the ASB, A-Rod has hit .343/.483/.716. Again, the A-Rod of old.

Expectations for the second half

It looks like A-Rod is back. Teixeira is bound to come out of the little funk he’s been in lately. Basically, they’re in the same position as the starting pitchers. They haven’t quite hit expectations, but there’s still a good chance that they do in the second half.

Remember the first line of the introduction. The Yankees are in fine shape. That’s without a good portion of their roster performing to expectations. If they get typical second-half production out of both A-Rod and Teixeira, they’ll be right back on track, and could conceivably finish the season as that feared 3-4 combo the Yanks thought they were getting when they signed Tex.

Things are good for the corner infielders. The scariest part, for the rest of the league: They could be even better.

Categories : Offense

67 Comments»

  1. OmgZombies! says:

    Despite Arod missing a month and a half hes still on pace for 39 HRs and 109 walks, which would top his career high of 100(in less PA’s).

    Tex has been great overall despite slumps. His defense well we all saw how much of a difference he makes out there in 1B.

  2. Tex’s defense alone makes that contract worth it.

  3. Frank says:

    Your analysis of Tex was on point although you failed to mention the impact his defense has had. I suspect they are easily 6-7 games behind Boston but for his outstanding defense and the second half suddenly isn’t looking so good.

  4. Reggie C. says:

    These guys are delivering. ‘Nuff said.

  5. Chris says:

    I don’t think Tex’s early season struggles were related to the wrist but was just his normal slow start. If you look at every year of his career, he sucks from the start of the season through about May 15, and then turns it on.

    • UWS says:

      Behold, from the article:

      This was both worse and longer than his normal slow starts.

      • Chris says:

        I don’t think this year really is worse than previous years. He had an OPS on May 8th that was the lowest of his career on that date (not counting his rookie season), but it’s basically inline with the last couple years.

        Here are his low points for OPS:

        2009: .720 on May 8
        2008: .733 on May 16
        2007: .666 on May 1
        2006: .786 on May 12
        2005: .775 on May 15
        2004: .738 on May 12
        2003: .676 on May 20

      • RAB poster says:

        On the other hand this will (hopefully) be offset w/a ridiculous second half.

  6. mryankee says:

    Good analysis on infield but we need Halladay-no way yanks win with Joba-wang-pettite pitching important games. If they are going to spend 425 mill then its time to pony up and get us Hallday so we have a shot inthe postseason.

  7. I don’t think there’s one part of me that’s disappointed by A-Rod and Tex.

  8. mryankee says:

    why the hell not infield wont keep tema from w/s its the crappy pitching from 3/5-yet Halladay would put Yanks right in mix. if your gonna spend 425-mil or so why the hell not go all the way?

  9. Mike HC says:

    You can’t leave out the depth factor in the corner infield analysis. Behind A-Rod and Teix are Ransom, Berroa, Pena and Hinske (who is really just a corner outfielder). That is awful. While our top two are excellent, the drop off is enormous after them. That has to be taken into account, especially since A-Rod has already missed a month forcing Ransom into the action.

    • Tom Zig says:

      Berroa is with the Mets now. He has gone to a better place.

    • UWS says:

      I’m sure the depth will be the subject of a bench-related post at a later date.

    • Hinske is a fine back up CI/CO, Pena is at least a good fielder, and though Ransom’s pretty worthless, even as a UTI, most teams’ UTIs aren’t all that great. Also, Berroa just signed a MiL deal w/the Mets so he’s not the Yankees’ problem anymore. I’d say the depth the Yankees have at the corners (don’t forget, Swisher can play first) is more than acceptable.

      • Mike HC says:

        Good point with Swisher at first. He has been such a staple in the Yanks outfield, I forgot about him at first. Their CI depth certainly looks better with the Swish to first and Hinske in right option. I still believe that the Ransom/Pena backup infielder situation hurts the team, but when looking only at corner infield depth, it is not that bad adding in Swisher.

        • But w/Ransom/Pena/Whomever, you’re only looking at maybe 6-8 at bats a week, and some of those can/will come with the guys they’re “replacing” still in the lineup as the DH, so their effect probably isn’t going to be too detrimental.

          • Mike HC says:

            The depth is more for an injury. If Jeter or Cano or A-Rod goes down for an extended period of time, the negative impact will be compounded due to the fact our backups are pretty bad. It is too late to trade for someone if one of those guys gets hurt right before the playoffs.

            • A-Rod missed a month of the season and the offense found a way to do alright and the team kept winning. Now, I’m not saying the team could necessarily survive if one of those three went down (again), but how many teams have backups that can come in and do even average? Not many. I think Hinske would do fine in a platoon w/Ransom if A-Rod went down (Hinske would obviously get the majority of the PT) and even though Pena might not be able to hit all that well, he could probably provide an adequate fielding replacement for either Jeter or Cano. I’m comfortable w/the Yankees’ bench as is.

          • Mike HC says:

            Although the guy that Ransom/Pena replaces might be the DH for the night, that still takes the bat away from Matsui or Posada (if Cervelli is catching). The negative impact is not neutralized in any way by A-Rod/Jeter/Cano DHing on their off night.

            • You’re right, but it’s at least offset slightly (if not more than slightly). Just to ask a curious question, what would you prefer the bench look like? I don’t think it’s perfect, I would like to see a RH power bat in there, but I’d say it’s no worse than any other team’s bench.

              • Mike HC says:

                I would prefer a better middle infielder. Other than that, I think the bench is fine. I’m not saying it is a major deal, but if you are going to look to improve, that is surely one area. It is not that difficult to find a guy like Alex Cora. A reliable veteran who is ok, but not great. A guy like Miguel Cairo, or Luis Sojo, or Enrique Wilson.

      • Mike Pop says:

        +1.

        There is obviously going to be a huge drop off when you have Teix and Arod. Arguably the top 3 at each of their positions if Arod isn’t the best.

        The backup depth for this is fine. It is what it is. I would like Pena up here more than Ransom though.

  10. Observer283 says:

    The Kate HUdson thing bothers me a bit. Is the man not allowed to date? The cheating on the wife with strippers/Madonna stuff was all kinds of awful for many reasons.

    But I just don’t see the analogy to the Hudson situation. He’s a single man now. Is he not allowed to date because he plays baseball and has a huge contract? I just don’t see how anyone can view his being in a relationship as an impermissible “distraction.”

    I think Mike wasn’t calling A-Rod to task for dating Hudson, just merely pointing out that it has caused a bit of a hullabaloo (which it certainly has). Mike is correct, but I want to take issue with the very fact that there is any hullabaloo here at all.

    I just don’t think it is fair that people have pointed to it as evidence that his commitment to baseball isn’t sincere. He’s a grown single man. He can date.

    Hullabaloo.

    • Mike Pop says:

      0Agreed, except it was Joe ;)

    • I just don’t see how anyone can view his being in a relationship as an impermissible “distraction.”

      Because everything ARod does, or does not do, is distracting.

      If he has a personal life, that’s distracting because it causes media headlines. If he has no personal life, it causes a distraction because since there’s no media headlines about his personal life, the media is left to speculate about what it doesn’t know about his personal life, which causes media headlines.

      And if there’s one great truism in baseball, it’s that guys who have media headlines suck and are horrible teammates who are clubhouse cancers and you can’t possibly win titles with guys like that.

      That’s why the greatest baseball player ever is my boy Scotty Bro.

  11. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    Love the NPD reference. I believe it was steve (different one) who came up with that.

  12. casey says:

    Tex has had more slump than hot streak this season offensively. His defensive is great but it’s time for him to pick it up with the bat.

    • RAB poster says:

      Tex (and CC for that matter) are traditionally better second half player. I think they’re both gonna get hot.

  13. Jefe says:

    Where’s the part about how terrible 3b was before A-Rod got back?

    Berroa and Ransom deserve their own part just for being so darn terrible.

  14. [...] and how things look for the second half. We already looked at the starting pitchers, relievers, corner infielders, and catchers, so now it’s time to take a look at the middle [...]

  15. [...] Pondering the addition of a veteran starter / First Half Review: Catchers [...]

  16. [...] and how things look for the second half. We already looked at the starting pitchers, relievers, and corner infielders, so now it’s time to take a look at the [...]

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