Bounce back players helping to power Yanks

It's all Yankees in 11-1 drubbing of M's
Adjusting the Joba Plan

When asked what three additions have meant most to the 2009 Yankees, the first names that probably come to mind are A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. All three signed with the Yankees over the off-season, and they’ve been excellent upgrades over their 2008 counterparts. Still, Dave Pinto has three different names in mind: Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano. Both were on the 2008 team, but the first two missed significant time with injuries, and Cano had a horrible first half and a good but not compensatory second half. Their returns to form this year have been a huge difference for this year’s team.

In 2008 Robinson Cano stepped to the plate 634 times and hit .271/.305/.410, his worst season since he was a rookie in 2005. His defense also suffered, as we saw him have trouble making some routine plays. It came at a curious time, as Cano had signed a four-year, $30 million contract over the off-season. Baseball fans love narrative, and this one wrote itself: Cano was lazy and he needed Larry Bowa to return to form.

This year Robinson has appeared at the plate 489 times and is hitting .318/.352/.513. He already had 18 homers and a team-high 32 doubles (tied with Tex). He still has his ups and downs, but that’s inherently Cano. He doesn’t necessarily rely on waiting for his pitch. Instead, he relies on timing, and sometimes his timing is going to be out of whack. That means a slump here and there, but as long as he can keep those limited, as he has this year, he’s going to be a valuable piece of any Yankees team.

Despite knee troubles that kept him out of action for two months, Matsui didn’t have a terrible 2008. He hit the DL hitting .323/.404/.458, which is fine for a 34-year-old with bad knees. Problem was, the injury came at a poor time. The Yankees were trying to pull of their second-half surge, but their offense sputtered in early August. A healthy Matsui would have done wonders then. He came back on August 19, but posted a paltry .209/.269/.326 line over 93 plate appearances the rest of the way. It left open the question of Hideki’s effectiveness in 2009.

This year Hideki has almost hit his plate appearance total from 2008, but is performing at a much higher level. The Yankees made the decision to keep him out of the field this season, and it’s paying off, as he’s hitting .269/.365/.516. We saw some extreme streakiness from Matsui earlier in the year, but it’s seemed to stabilize a bit lately. His .881 OPS is fourth on the team, and he’s had his share of big hits. The Yankees went on a similar post-break run this year as last, but this year were able to sustain it. Hideki is a big reason for that.

Finally, it’s impossible to talk about the 2008 season and not mention the loss of Jorge Posada. He and the team downplayed shoulder pain in Spring Training, and it turned out to be bad. Really bad. He hit the DL at the end of April in hopes that rest and rehab would heal it, but that just wasn’t the case. From mid-June, when he returned, to mid-July, when it was finally clear that he couldn’t go on, Posada hit .248/.380/.371, a far cry from the power he’s displayed in the past. Overall, the Yanks got a .230/.290/.335 line from their catchers, something they haven’t been used to.

After hitting the DL in May, it seems like Jorge’s been just fine physically. Among AL catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Posada ranks third in OPS. The Yankees as a team are also third in the AL in catcher OPS. They were ninth last season.

While Tex, CC, and A.J. have been fine additions to the team, the Yanks have gotten what they’ve needed from their in-house guys, and then some. Before the season started, we asked which Yankee had the best chance of bouncing back from a poor 2008. Unfortunately, there was no all of the above option. That would have been the correct one. Jorge, Hideki, and Cano (and even Swisher) have all come around and have helped the Yankees greatly in 2009. They’re as big a part of the team’s success as the new guys.

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It's all Yankees in 11-1 drubbing of M's
Adjusting the Joba Plan
  • Makavelli

    What about the Melky Cabrera bounce back year?? He’s MUCH better than last year…and even Gardner had been performing at least slightly above expected…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      You forget, we hate Melky Cabrera.

      • Makavelli

        LOL. This is true…

      • Klemy

        Well, he’s Dominican.

        • http://www.twitter.com/shaked RichYF

          Mike Axisa: Racist, baseball enthusiast, and sandwich connoisseur

          It’s like the triple play of awesome.

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            He’s like a sandwich loving Ty Cobb…minus stabbing a guy.

          • Makavelli

            Well what’s more rational than judging people by the color of their skin and/or their ethnicity?

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

          So is Cano.

      • BklynJT

        It’s funny, because it’s true.

    • Makavelli

      Not to mention all his clutch hits this season…

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Ok… Before I give the substance of my comment, a little disclaimer since this tends to be a sensitive subject: I do not hate Melky Cabrera, I root for him, I want him to be awesome, and I appreciate the contribution he has made to the 2009 Yankees… Ok, now then…

      Let’s not go overboard with the RAB-bashing-Melky-rules stuff. I know it’s fun and Ben, Joe and Mike are pretty good-natured about people taking shots at them for their less than glowing reviews and expectations of Melky in the past, but don’t take it too far.

      Right now, Melky Cabrera has a 100 OPS+. He has been better than a lot of people expected and I’m sure every Yankees fan appreciates what he’s done this year. He’s a decent young player who has seemingly worked on his approach and game and has improved, and he’s a valuable part of the team. That’s all great, we’re all psyched about that… But he’s still a 100 OPS+ guy (even as people seem to think he’s having some great breakout season). He’s a valuable guy and I love the idea of having a guy who can play a decent OF, with a strong arm, and has shown he can be a MLB-caliber hitter, as a piece of the roster, but let’s be careful before we start talking about the importance of his bounceback season in the same breath with which we discuss Posada’s, Matsui’s and Cano’s bounceback seasons.

      Ok. I’m ready. Punch me harder.

      • V

        :haymaker:

      • jsbrendog

        +agreement

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          +more agreement. Well said, Mondesi.

  • vin

    This post pretty much sums up the Yankees year. They’ve gotten good performances from almost everyone.

    • V

      And those they didn’t, they had replacement pieces –

      See, Robertson+Aceves vs. Veras+Ramirez, etc.

      The only weakness that hasn’t been filled is the hole that Wang left.

      • Makavelli

        Which is a much bigger piece than the Veras one…

      • Joe R

        This is just begging for one…

      • Dela G

        The only weakness that hasn’t been filled is the hole that Wang left.

        Thats what she said

        • V

          I was waiting for that ;-)

    • Makavelli

      What’s kind of sad (yet not that important at the moment) is that we started out 0-8 against the Red Sox who have had barely any good performances from anybody lol. Even at the time of the first 5 head to head games, Beckett and Lester were looking like garbage…although Bay and 3rd string Nick Green were playing through their shoes…

      But this doesn’t matter anymore…although if we get swept this weekend (good chance with Mitre and Gaudin on the mound)…we might start to worry about it again…

      • Klemy

        The bats will surely need to stay hot.

      • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        “…although Bay and 3rd string Nick Green were playing through their shoes…”

        Sounds painful.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          you want painful?

          TRY TEARING ONE OF YOUR BALLS IN HALF!!!

          • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            I just vomited in my mouth a little bit.

    • Bo

      Everyone? Wang disagrees.

      • jsbrendog

        vin’s comment:

        This post pretty much sums up the Yankees year. They’ve gotten good performances from almost everyone.

        bo’s reading comprehension:

        epic fail

  • http://www.twitter.com/shaked RichYF

    His .881 OPS is fourth on the team

    This OPS would lead the following teams:

    Baltimore Orioles (Luke Scott – .856)
    Cleveland Indians (Shin-Soo Choo – .871)
    Kansas City Royals (Billy Butler – .832)
    Pittsburgh Future Yankees (Andrew McCutchen – .834)
    Oakland Athletics (Cliff Pennington – .824)
    Los Angeles Dodgers (Andre Ethier – .874) – Manny at only 64 GP

    A close second to:

    New York Mets (David Wright – .883)
    Chicago White Sox (Jim Thome – .883)
    Seattle Mariners (Russell Branyan – .882)

    His .881 OPS is fourth on the team

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      That’s how dirty the Yankees’ offense is.

    • Kiersten

      That’s insanely awesome 8-)

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He’s also second in the AL in road OPS, so it’s not just the Stadium.

    • pete

      “Pittsburgh Future Yankees”
      lol. My god when the yankees get McCutchen, i will be so happy. Imagine an outfield of AJax, Cutch, Cabrera, and Gardner. Solid offense and probably the best defensive outfield in the majors. Plus he’s black, so we don’t have to worry about the redsox taking him.

      • Makavelli

        Seattle’s outfield is pretty ridiculous right now…

        • jsbrendog

          except other than ichiro they can’t hit and with endy chavez on the dl there’s not as much defense.

          franklin guitierrez, ryan langerhans and michael saunders?

          other than ichiro no thanks. maybe guitierrez in a couple years. offensively meh

    • fabio

      As of right now, from the Yankees regular lineup, there are 8 hitters with an ops >.845, which would top 3 teams in MLB. If Arod and Posada did not miss so much time, we would score a 1000 rns this year.

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

        The Yanks are on pace to score about 900 runs this season. I don’t think Jorge and A-Rod are each worth 50 runs per month.

        • andrew

          Bite your tongue, Joseph!

        • Makavelli

          per month?

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

            Yeah. They each missed a month. The Yankees, if they keep up this pace, will score 900 runs. To get to 1,000 they need 100. Hence, 50 each for the month they missed. You could go 60 for A-Rod and 40 for Jorge, but the overall point remains.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    As Jorge goes, so do the Yankees. We are not going to realize just how valuable he has been until he is gone. The offense the Yankees have gotten out of the catcher position has been flat out incredible and the team may take more of an offensive hit than we think when Jorge retires. Hopefully, the Jesus can stick at catcher long enough to be Jorge Pt. 2.

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      “The offense the Yankees have gotten out of the catcher position has been flat out incredible and the team may take more of an offensive hit than we think when Jorge retires. Hopefully, the Jesus can stick at catcher long enough to be Jorge Pt. 2.”

      It’ll be pretty funny if/when, after Jorge retires, the Jesus ably fills his shoes, offensively, but is sub-par defensively, and people start pining for the days of Jorge behind the plate. You know it’ll happen.

      (Not a knock on Jorge’s defense, he’s always gotten the job done well enough back there. It’s a knock on the short and fickle memories of fans.)

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Ha, yeah I can totally see that happening. Then you can create a comment vortex back to this week’s Jorge bashing. It’ll be fun.

      • Raf

        commenter arguments comparing Posada’s and Jesus’ catcher-ERA is a future we’re all hoping for.

    • Nady Nation

      I dunno – I’d rather see Cervelli’s and/or Molina’s ball blocking and pitch framing abilities on more of a nightly basis.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        I’d rather see the Yankees getting better than good offensive production out of the catcher’s spot, even if it means sacrificing a little on defense. If Montero can stick at catcher (meaning he’s Piazza/Posada like back there), he’s that much more valuable and he allows the Yankees to have another big bat at DH in the lineup.

        • Nady Nation

          I was totally being sarcastic. I was poking fun at those who were ripping Jorge’s defense during AJ’s start the other night. I couldn’t agree more with your initial comment – Jorge has been insanely valuable over the last 12 years.

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            My bad!

        • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          “Piazza/Posada like”

          I’m with you, but that comparison is inaccurate. Jorge has always been a superior defensive catcher to Mike Piazza. Piazza’s really an outlier.

  • JGS

    “Among AL catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Posada ranks third in OPS.”

    Mauer is obviously in first (I’m guessing by quite a bit), but who is in second?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Mike Napoli

    • http://www.twitter.com/shaked RichYF

      Mike Napoli – .914 OPS

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      Mauer and Napoli are ahead of Jorge. Mike Napoli is stupid underrated.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

      Napoli?

      • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

        Sweet, that was a guess!

        • http://www.twitter.com/shaked RichYF

          You call it a guess, I call it reading the 12 comments above yours giving you the name! /wink

    • Makavelli

      And to think, Napoli used to split time with Mathis…who also hits bombs…

  • Ed

    [Posada] and the team downplayed shoulder pain in Spring Training, and it turned out to be bad. Really bad.

    I don’t remember any Spring Training issues. The story I always heard was Posada hurt his shoulder throwing down to second on opening day. And that playing through it made the situation a lot worse. When did he have issues in Spring Training? Early? Late? Early I’d write off as normal aches and pain.

    • Makavelli

      Last year’s Spring Training I’m assuming. Not this years.

      • Chris

        He wasn’t hurt during last year’s spring training. The injury was opening day 2008.

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

          Really? I could have sworn it was something of an issue in ST 08.

  • Makavelli

    Who get’s “Comeback Player of the Year” this year you think?

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      Josh Hamilton. Again.

    • JGS

      Verlander

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

    Now if only Chien-Ming Wang were having a bounce back season also. The Yanks would be unstoppable.

    • mike HC

      Who is that again? Chien-Ming Who??

    • Raf

      so true. a healthy Wang performing to his past successes would be the nail in the rest of baseball’s coffin this year.

      • Bo

        Bounce back? if he just had an ERA of 5 it would be 5 wins better.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        wang. nail. sigh…

    • Makavelli

      Don’t worry, we have Sergio Mitre

  • mike HC

    “Tex, CC, and A.J. have been fine additions to the team” – – that could be the understatement of the season.

    Jeter has also stepped his game up, along with the guys you and the previous RAB commenters have mentioned. Everyone but A-Rod really.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Everyone but A-Rod really.

      That’s a joke, right?

      • mike HC

        A-Rod is having a great year. I was just saying he is the only one not having a better year than last year. Jeter, Cano, Jorge, Melky, Matsui, Damon are playing better this year than last. A-Rod is still great, but was better last year.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

          Oh. I gotcha now.

        • jsbrendog

          arod this year as been a monster. havent all but like 3 of his hr come when the run differential was 2 or less? and he has had almost as many clutch hits as melky, probably more its just that they havent been game enders or the pen has blown it right back so ppl dont remember

          arod this year is a clutch monster

          • Bo

            A-Rod could hit 84 game winning homers and still have people like this trash him.

            When you have the highest salary in the game this is what you deal with.

            Considering the fact that hes playing on a bad hip and has clutch hit after clutch hit and is playing a solid 3b its pretty comical

  • Zack

    Anyone else see the similarities in Matsui and the Mussina? Both going into (probably) their last season with the team with a lot of questions about what they are going to give us. We all know what Moose did, and Hideki has already passed my expectations for the year.

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