Yanks have the best worst hitter in the playoffs

Quick Hits: Daily Tailgate and some USA Today blogging
The big, position-by-position Yankees-Twins breakdown

If there’s one thing the baseball world can do without right now, it’s another article expounding on the Yankees offense. It’s really good. Everyone knows it, and it’s their biggest advantage heading into the postseason. But, as the old saying goes, you’re only as good as your weakest link. Over the course of a 162-game season teams can cover up their weaknesses. If a poor hitter kills a rally one game, the team can make it up at some point days, weeks, or months later. That’s not the story in the playoffs. One killed rally can ruin a season.

Sports PhD recently ran a bit on the worst hitters on each playoff team. For the Yanks, that honor goes to Melky Cabrera and his .752 OPS. Of the players examined in the post, this is the highest OPS, meaning the Yankees have the strongest weakest link — at least according to this standard of analysis. There are a few flaws, not least of which is the use of OPS, something I’m trying to move away from. There are far better metrics, such as wOBA. The other issue is that some of the listed players didn’t exactly get regular playing time.

Here’s the Sports PhD list. In addition to OPS, I’ve added wOBA figures for each player. Also, I added the Twins (the Twins and Tigers were left off the list).

Player OPS wOBA
Melky Cabrera .750 .331
Gary Matthews .697 .313
Jason Varitek .703 .306
Russell Martin .680 .307
Pedro Feliz .694 .302
Colby Rasmus .714 .311
Clint Barmes .743 .312
Nick Punto .621 .295

Melky looks even better in this comparison, smoking the next closest wOBA by a long shot. Just looking at this data, it’s easy to surmise that of all the teams’ weakest links, the Yankees is the least concerning.

As mentioned above, there is an issue with the playing time involved for some players. For instance, 10 Angels had more plate appearances than Gary Matthews, so to describe him as the weakest regular is a bit inaccurate. Of the nine Angels likely to start on Thursday, Erik Aybar is the weakest link with a .776 OPS and a .339 wOBA, so he’s right around Melky’s level. Then again, Scioscia could go and start Jeff Mathis with his .596 OPS and .267 wOBA and make him the weakest link.

Then there’s Jason Varitek, who will probably get Jose Molina playing time in the playoffs. That is, catching Josh Beckett and little else. On days when Martinez catches, Alex Gonzalez will be the weakest link and he’s quite weaker than Varitek, sporting a .635 OPS on the season and a .275 wOBA.

Where this gets real interesting — and yes, now I’m going to expound on the Yankees offense — is when looking at the second weakest link. To spare some time, I’ll go with just the AL teams, using wOBA as the low-water mark.

Player OPS wOBA
Robinson Cano .871 .370
Delmon Young .736 .313
David Ortiz .794 .340
Howie Kendrick .778 .341

The Yankees have an even greater advantage when it comes to second worst hitter. The players will start to even out as we get further towards the top (though I believe the Yanks would come out on top one through nine), but at the bottom, the Yankees have an advantage.

Like most analysis, this one is not perfect. Some of the above-listed, poor-hitting players bring have other strengths. Pedro Feliz, for example, is an excellent defender at third, as is Barmes at second. Colby Rasmus has the highest UZR/150 of any NL center fielder. So it’s not as if these players are complete drags on the team. It’s just that when they come up, they make outs at a higher frequency than their peers. The Yankees’ advantage is that their worst player is better than those of other teams.

There’s no shame in being the ninth best hitter in this Yankees lineup — they had eight players with an OPS+ of 120 or higher. Yet even as the worst hitter in the Yanks lineup, Melky Cabrera is still better than the worst hitter in any other lineup — and if Mathis starts for the Angels, Melky’s superiority is only strengthened. Then again, in Game 2 that advantage is squandered, as Jose Molina is in Mathis territory. So much for that.

Quick Hits: Daily Tailgate and some USA Today blogging
The big, position-by-position Yankees-Twins breakdown
  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    So, in other words, we should stop freaking out about Jose Molina?

    • Salty Buggah

      Wierd. You started your comment the same way I did.

    • JMK aka The Overshare


      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Not at all.

      • Chris

        So you think the 1 (maybe 2) meaningful at bats that Molina will get in the ALDS are going to have any impact?

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Very possible.

          I hate the idea that Molina is in there instead of Posada. It’s a terrible move.

          • Doug

            what he said

          • Chris

            I certainly wouldn’t do it, but I think people are getting way too worked up over it. Molina will bat 9th, so he’s going to get up in the 2nd or 3rd and then the 5th inning. The only way that second at bat has any meaning is if AJ is pitching a gem and the game is a pitchers duel. The only way Molina bats a third time is if the Yankees are winning a blow out.

            So, basically Molina would need to be one out better defensively to equal the loss at the plate. If AJ is more comfortable with Molina behind the plate, then don’t you think that would be worth one extra K? Maybe more than that?

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              In a five game series there are too many variables, and I don’t like the idea of putting a worse team on the field because of a small sample of statistics that can be and have been) rationalized and debunked in many ways. I don’t like the move.

              But if Molina has a good game all is forgiven.

            • Doug

              Yanks are up 4-1 in the 5th, 2nd and 3rd, 2-out, Melky coming up. Now you know what’s going to happen…Melky gets intentionally walked to bring up Molina. Molina more than likely makes an out and the Yanks lose a chance to break the game open. I’d say that’s pretty meaningful.

              The fact that Molina is there will likely take the bat out of Melky’s hands at least once a game. Kinda important in my eyes.

              • Chris

                You pinch hit Posada for Molina in that case. I believe that’s what Girardi would do.

                Or you have Posada stand in the on-deck circle warming up during Melky’s at bat. Then they pitch to Melky.

                Either way, Molina isn’t a problem.

                • Doug

                  with AJ pitching well, no way girardi takes out molina. and gardenhire’s too smart to be tricked by the on-deck thing.

                  molina’s a problem

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                  From good friend CB from lohud:

                  October 7th, 2009 at 10:05 am
                  “Rob Neyer has a good take on the Posada Benching:

                  “Essentially, Girardi has to get inside Burnett’s head. And if he thinks that Burnett might give up even a quarter of a run more with Posada catching, then Molina’s the better choice. Because as well as Posada hits and as poorly as Molina hits, the difference between them within a particular game is so small, it defies measurement.”

                  Neyer is off on this one.

                  For every plate appearance, Posada generates 0.1 runs more than Molina does. 0.1 runs more.

                  That is an enormous difference.

                  For every 4 at pats Posada generates 0.4 runs more than Molina.

                  So in order for this move to make sense, you’d have to be very confident that Molina will shave off close to half a run off burnett’s runs allowed for a game.

                  And there’s no solid evidence that how Burnett pitches is correlates to who is catching him.

                  Burnett very well could go out and throw a shut out in game 2 or 3. That wouldn’t be a surprise and I really hope that happens. But he could go out and give up 5-6 runs. That wouldn’t be a surprise. Who is catching him makes no difference.

                  What we do know with much more confidence is that with Molina getting 3-4 at bats instead of Posada the yanks will be in a relative hole of -0.3 to -0.4 runs.

                  That is a huge loss. So even if molina did shave off a quarter run from Burnett’s runs allowed as Neyer is saying (which there is no evidence to support) the yankees would still be worse off.

                  People are underestimating how enormous the gap at the plate is between these two players. Neyer is doing the same.

                • Doug

                  i agree with you rocky, but the pro-molina camp will argue that there is “solid evidence that how Burnett pitches correlates to who is catching him.” and they’ll throw ERA and WHIP stats at you.

    • Lucky

      If you are going to count Varitek as the Sox best worst hitter, then Molina has to make your list for NYY. Molina will catch more than Varitek in Oct. Alex Gonzalez is the Sox best worst hitter (of the starters).

      Varitek is not going to catch Beckett.

  • Salty Buggah

    So in other words, the Yanks are pretty much the balls.

  • JSquared

    Yankees = Uber Pwnzors.

  • Jersey

    The fact that Robbie Cano is our second worst hitter is making my head spin.

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

      Not just yours

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Is this a compliment to Melky? It’s hard to tell. I guess as good as it gets from RAB. :)

    • ShuutoHeat

      It’s a back handed compliment.

    • Salty Buggah

      “Best worst hitter” = Compliment to me

  • Phranchise

    why are you trying to get away from OPS? I love that stat, and wOBA is a little further than i’m willing to try to understand at this point(though i’m sure its not that hard). the only thing OPS doesn’t really cover is speed on the basepaths and clutch hitting and i’m not sure wOBA does cover either of those.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      …I love that stat, and wOBA is a little further than i’m willing to try to understand at this point(though i’m sure its not that hard).

      So…you’re against the use of wOBA because you don’t understand it (and are unwilling to learn)? I’ve got that right?

      • Phranchise

        my real point here was that OPS is a good stat, not that wOBA is a bad one.

        • whozat

          …but it’s not that good a stat. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s easy, and it’s a bit better than straight AVG+counting stats.

    • Jersey

      You’re right, it’s not that hard.


      “An average hitter is around 0.340 or so, a great hitter is 0.400 or higher, and a poor hitter would be under 0.300.”

    • whozat


      a) it acts as though OBP and SLG contribute equally to scoring, which is untrue.
      b) it does not adjust for park effects (playing in fenway inflates AVG/SLG, playing in petco suppresses SLG, etc)

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

        Also counts hits twice, so it weighs singles disproportionately.

    • Esteban

      Just wondering: why did Fangraph’s stats became the go to stats over Baseball Prospectus’. You know, EqA vs. wOBA, WARP3 vs. WAR (though I know people are suspicious of BP’s fielding numbers). I think it would just be easier to have a something everyone agreed on.

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

        I like the openness with the FanGraphs stats.

        • http://sportsphd.wordpress.com/ Sports PhD

          I will do a post later today on wOBA. I try to do a weekly stats post to introduce folks to sabermetric stats. I used OPS for the players because it is the most widely known of the somewhat advanced stats. Joseph is correct, though, that wOBA is a better measure.

      • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

        I still like EqA over wOBA, but Stat Corners doesn’t do EqA+.

  • BigBlueAL

    So now that the Twins are the opponent and not the Tigers any chance Girardi switches the rotation and have Pettitte as the Game 2 and possibly 5 starter since the Twins are much more LH than the Tigers????

    I know this is off-topic to this thread but this is the newest thread so I figured Id post about this here.

    • whozat

      So your excuse for not following the commenting guidelines is “yeah, I know the rules…but I want to ask my question about which no one will have any actual insight beyond pure speculation NOOWWWWWWW!!!!!”

    • Phranchise

      not only is there a chance, but i’m pretty sure its gonna be petitte in game 2. its seemed like that for a while. though personally, i’d prefer AJ in game 2 (and 5 if necessary) because he has better stuff, has the ability to dominate a game, and can strike more people out.

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        Pettite has dominated games this season, has been far more consistent in the second half, has had big game experience, and is a lefty. I’d take Pettite in game two.

  • Dela G

    i really hope the yanks win the first 2 games so i can gain some sanity about the yanks and the playoffs. They need to make a statement this year that they are the real deal and not the 2001 mariners

  • no.27

    So that means, when Molina is in the lineup to catch Burnett the Yankees will have the worst worst hitter, by far (Molina) and the 2nd worst 2nd worst hitter (Melky).

    The willingness to completely give up the Yankees huge advantage that is their lineup depth ridiculous.

    • http://kikojones5.blogspot.com Kiko Jones

      And if they end up going to the WS—knock on wood—and Girardi sticks to this nonsense, the Yankees will have Molina and AJ in the lineup when playing in a NL park.

      • cr1

        Double ugh.

        In fact, barf.

  • Tom Zig

    Among all playoff teams, only three players have higher wOBAs than Arod (.405) and Tex (.402).

  • MAMO


    • Tom Zig

      You might want to take the next few plays off.

    • chriskeo

      See commenting guidelines, all caps + unnecessary

      • Mike Pop

        In a weird way, I kind of enjoyed it.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Remember when Russell Martin was going to be the next Roy Campanella? Good thing the Dodgers didn’t trade one of their great catching prospects for a utility player…..

    • JSquared

      Teh Uber 20/20 Catcher he was supposed to be…

  • http://twitter.com/hopjake Jake H

    Hopefully the Yankees dominate this series.

  • Tampa Yankee

    But Varitek is the Super Captain and (per last nights announcers) Nick Punto (like the rest of the Twins) is a “baseball player who plays the game right” so they are automatically elevated above Melky, no?

    • Colombo

      It depends…this newfangled “stat” doesn’t take grit or no-hitters caught into consideration, does it?

  • Doug

    no offense at all to joe p but this post is essentially meaningless since we’ll have by far the worst worst hitter in 40% of our games

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      Yeah but our crappy catcher at least plays good defense in the 40% of the games he’s in. The Red Sox crappy catcher doesn’t. He essentially has no value but his uber-awesome Red Sox grit and almost mythical game-calling skills.

  • miketotheg

    now that somebody put together that list I wont be surprised one of those guys hits a walk off. baseball is funny that way.

  • Bo

    Nothing like a bash Melky post from RAB to get the playoffs off right.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      I probably shouldn’t respond to this, but…

      (Stop. RAB does not support making replies to unproductive or insulting coments. Ignore and move on.)

      • Chris

        I hope this was intended as a bash Melky post. Immediately after RAB bashes a player, they take off and have an incredible hot streak. If this wasn’t a bash Melky post, then I sure hope RAB is planning one for this afternoon. Followed by a bash A-Rod post, and a bash CC post, and a bash Jeter post….

        Enough of these posts, and they’ll guarantee a Yankees WS!

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Alex needs to get off his fat Dominican ass and start getting clutch hits in the playoffs. Which I fully expect not to happen since he’s such a horrible, lazy Dominican ass-wipe.

          …So A-Rod’s gonna hit 400 now, right? Right?

  • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)
  • Bo

    It’s funny because Melky would probably hit 6th on the Twins.

    • Mike Pop

      Bo, you’ve been ridiculously positive lately.

      Me gusta.

  • VA Yank

    Melky’s numbers are superior to Delmon Young’s, the Twinkie’s second worst/eighth best hitter.

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  • Rob in CT

    The Yankees have the worst worst hitter in the playoffs: Jose Molina. I think this is madness, but at this point I can only hope that Jose’s defense and work-with-Burnettness makes up for it.

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