Feb
24

Concerns with Yanks run up the middle

By

One reason I love the Curtis Granderson acquisition is the offense he provides at a premium position. As they currently stand, the Yankees have above average hitters at all four up the middle positions. It means they can afford to have average players at other positions. The Yankees have done this in the past, with tremendous results. Many of their championship teams and dynasties have been built around premium up the middle players. As Jay says:

Historically, the two most decorated positions on the Yankees are center field and catcher. With the exception of the 1920′s dynasty when they had both Ruth and Gehrig, when they were at their best, the Yankees have featured great players in both positions. Dickey and DiMaggio; Berra/Howard and Mantle; Munson and Murcer; Posada and Bernie. Add to that Rizzuto and Jeter at shortstop and the Yanks have a storied history of finding excellent talent at premium defensive positions.

He’s responding to an article wherein Rob Neyer claims that the Yankees might have a weakness growing forward. That weakness, strangely, is that Mark Teixeira might be their best player. He doesn’t play a premium position, so Neyer’s reasoning goes that the Yankees could be weaker because of it. I agree with Jay that I understand the point Neyer’s trying to make. I just don’t buy it.

The Yankees have put an emphasis on catcher recently, drafting and signing many young players in hopes that one or two pans out. They also have relatively young players at second base and center field. Neyer bases his case on 2011, when both Granderson and Robinson Cano will still be young and should still outproduce most of their peers. By that time we might see the first of Jesus Montero and perhaps Austin Romine. It appears shortstop is the only weakness in this equation, though it appears the Yankees are in no hurry to replace Derek Jeter.

Could the Yankees face issues in the future with up the middle talent? Sure. Any team can. But I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness that Teixeira might be their best player for the next few years. The talent is there, and as we’ve seen the team will do what it takes to reload.

In closing, I’d like to address one self-answered question in Neyer’s post:

Is there anyone now on the Yankees’ roster with a decent shot at being the best player in the American League in 2011? One of the five best players in the league? I don’t think so.

So Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira don’t have a decent shot at being a top five player in the AL in 2011? No, I think they very much could rank among the best five AL players next season, and I don’t see any reason right now to think why they wouldn’t.

Categories : Offense

104 Comments»

  1. Chip says:

    CC Sabathia, Curtis Granderson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero could all very easily be one of the top 5 players in the AL as well.

    Also, in 2007 Granderson was the third most valuable player by WAR in the AL and he wasn’t even in his “prime” yet.

    • Dalelama says:

      Chip I admire your optimism when Hughes and Joba havent even proven they can handle a starting role…Granderson can’t hit lefties and Montero hasn’t even had a major league at bat.

  2. I’m a big Neyer fan, but this seemed to me to be more of a “look at me!” post than anything.

    • This hasn’t been Rob Neyer’s finest year so far.

      Perhaps the Dayton Moore administration has finally caused him to snap and he’s lost his normally firm grip on dispassionate rationalism.

      • bexarama says:

        Personally I think it all started when he ranked JD Drew over Mariano Rivera.

        But, yeah, Neyer is writing way more stuff that makes me facepalm than usual.

      • Hey ZZ says:

        It is not really that his articles in general have been off-base recently. It is that he throws in these 1 or 2 line clunkers that leave you thinking, What the hell is this guy talking about?

        The premise of this article was not bad just like the article where he wrote the Yankees do not care about defense.

        • Steve H says:

          he wrote the Yankees obviously do not care about defense.

          Even worse.

        • radnom says:

          I think people took that line WAY too literally.

          His overall premise in that article was solid, and is the reason that Granderson is in CF this year. I would be surprised if he meant it that way.

          • I think people took that line WAY too literally.

            Then he shouldn’t have written it, or he should have indicated with bright f#$%ing neon signs that he was kidding.

            • radnom says:

              Oh, I don’t think it was a joke.
              It was definitely a mistake.

              But when I see one line of insanity in an overall solid article, I’m inclined to let it slide. When you write every day a few stupid lines are going to slip in.

          • Hey ZZ says:

            When you use words like obviously or clearly it is hard to argue that is not exactly what he meant.

          • His overall premise in that article was solid,

            Meh, “solid” is an overstatement. His overall premise is rooted in truth but is highly subjective and poorly delineated.

            and is the reason that Granderson is in CF this year.

            No, it’s not.

            • radnom says:

              I hope you don’t think I meant that Cashman read Neyer’s article and was swayed to start Granderson in center.

              In which case, you are dead wrong.

              Gardner’s competition not being elite CFers and not wanting to move Granderson around long term are exactly the reasons Cash supplied when he announced Granderson in center.

              • radnom says:

                Not to mention, this is also why Granderson in center is the right move – for this year and long term.

                You sacrifice a small amount of defense (presumably) in return for insurance against Gardner’s bat and positional stability for one of your best young players.

                • None of what you just said, though, is related to Neyer’s article.

                • radnom says:

                  Did you read a different article? I was all but paraphrasing.

                • I did read the article. The article said that great teams, including the dynasty Yankees, were great because they had great offensive players at defensive-intensive positions (C, 2B, SS, CF).

                  You then said

                  His overall premise in that article was solid,

                  which is true(ish)

                  and is the reason that Granderson is in CF this year.

                  No, it’s not. The reason Curtis Granderson is or is not in centerfield this year is not because the Yankees want offensive-plus players at C/2B/SS/CF.

                  The reason he’d be in centerfield (if he is) is because he’s a centerfielder and the other moving pieces (Gardner/Winn/Hoffmann/Thames) is a mixture of CFs and LFs and the team doesn’t wish to unseat him in CF if said unseating is non-permanent.

                  The reason he’d NOT be in centerfield (if he isn’t) is because the other centerfielder we have–who hits FAR WORSE than him, mind you–is a better defensive centerfielder and we believe that arrangement would represent an incremental upgrade.

                  Neither of those things have anything to do with anything in Neyer’s article, which is utterly irrelevant to the Granderson/Gardner/Winn/Hoffmann/Thames decisionmaking tree.

  3. Mike HC says:

    This article seems more suited to last offseason than this one. With Cano bouncing back and trading for Granderson, it takes some pressure off Jeter and Posada who have been doing it for the past 15 years or so.

  4. Steve H says:

    Best player for the 2008 Phillies? Utley
    Best player for the 2007 Sox? Ortiz or Manny
    Best player for the 2006 Cardinals? Pujols
    Best player for the 2005 White Sox? Dye or Konerko
    Best player for the 2004 Sox? Manny
    Best player for the 2003 Marlins? Derrek Lee or Mike Lowell……maybe Pudge
    Best player for the 2002 Angels? Garrett Anderson

    Yeah, not an issue.

    • WIlliam says:

      I completely disagree with Nyer, but I don’t ge your point. Are you trying to say that being the best on the WS team makes you a top 5 player? I’de say the top 5 batter this year were Pujos, Maur Texiera, Braun, Hanley (not using league, or else Jeter would be in there), but only one, maybe two were on either WS team.

    • That’s what I was about to say.

      Allow me to re-quote the quoted Neyer article, adding one more sentence that Joe left out (not maliciously, simply for the sake of brevity). Emphasis mine.

      Is there anyone now on the Yankees’ roster with a decent shot at being the best player in the American League in 2011? One of the five best players in the league? I don’t think so. Which probably won’t matter much.

      While Derek Jeter (up the middle), Bernie Williams (up the middle), and Jorge Posada (up the middle) were most definitely in the discussion for “one of the best players in the league” during the late ’90s run, you could also argue that neither of them were, in fact, ever one of the five best players in the AL from 1996-2000.

      It didn’t matter much. Even if they were not actually top-five in any given year, they were still damn good, and combined with great production from Tino (not up the middle) and Paulie (not up the middle) and Fielder (not up the middle) and Strawberry (not up the middle) and Justice (not up the middle) and the starting rotation (not up the middle), the team was the balls and won many a title.

      Quoting Neyer again:

      Again, it probably won’t matter.

      Us >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> everyone else

  5. WIlliam says:

    So Mark Texiera won’t be a MVP caliber player in 2011. I guess at 32, players magically fall off the charts. And god knows Arod won’t make it. The astronomical difference from 35 to 36 is well known. If there is one thing the Yankees learned from 2009, its that veterans don’t perform well at all.

    Pecota’d

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      A-Rod looks like a first baseman!!

      /Olney’d

      • WIlliam says:

        The cards, Phils, red sox, yankees must have had horrrble offense. I mean, when Pujos,Youkillis, texiera and Howard are your best players, your team must suck. I mean, lets disregard that you guys like jeter, arod cano, rollins, utley, werth, granderson, martinez, ortiz, pedroia and holliday, all of who are perennial all stars, and some, one of whom is arguably better then his teams 1st baseman. If your best player is at first, you must suck. Just ask the yankees of the late thirties. I mean, with no ruth to overshadow gehrig as their best player, that 1st baseman dominant offense must have been horrible. I mean, just 4 world series in the 4 years gehrig was the leader, really? The yankees will not tolerate, that, I mean, just once a year?

        /Sarcastic rant over

  6. Andy (different one) in chilly NYC says:

    Isn’t it nice that we can worry about what might be a weakness years down the road, rather than actual weaknesses in multiple positions right now, like fans of most teams?

  7. DP says:

    In fairness, Neyer basically admits throughout the article that he’s nitpicking, and that all this stuff is a “small chink in the armor.”

  8. Jake H says:

    Teix and A-Rod could easily be both in the top 5 next year.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      But that goes against the writer’s list of what not to do. Don’t credit the Yankees or its players.

    • Hey ZZ says:

      I would add Cano to that list as well. Between Tex, Alex, and Cano I cannot how not one of them will be in the top 5 in 2011.

      Mauer and Longoria are safe bets. Who else?

      • bexarama says:

        Miguel Cabrera? The guy is really beastly and pretty young too.

      • andrew says:

        Miguel Cabrera probably a pretty good bet also.

        But then after that it’s mostly second tier names. Carl Crawford, Morales, Ichiro, Markakis, Adam Lind.
        And I would say that ARod, Tex, Cano, and Jeter would all be in that range as well. (And this is being generous to Neyer’s statement, ARod and Tex are definitely a step above those names.)

        • bexarama says:

          Absolutely. I don’t see how Teixeira especially is going to fall off a cliff by 2011, he’s under 30 right now. As much as I hate Youkilis, he’s probably up there too.

        • Hey ZZ says:

          I would throw Choo in there over Markakis

          • andrew says:

            Of course, Choo, Youkilis, Sizemore, Upton. Probably a good chance Adam Jones and Weiters ascend to that 2nd or 3rd tier status in another year or two.

            But after that, the names really thin out. Granderson, Abreu, Zobrist, Hill, Kinsler, Roberts, Butler, Pena, Hamilton, Beckham.

      • Dalelama says:

        Crawford we hope!

  9. A.D. says:

    Neyer pretty much alludes to this article as just being pure filler with:

    Again, it probably won’t matter. But if you’re desperate for a reason to avoid picking the Yankees to win the World Series every year for as far as we can see …

    But otherwise this is fairly dumb, the Cards could essentially acquire anyone to play up the middle, and he still wouldn’t be the best player on the team, is that a bad thing? No.

  10. Kevin says:

    Also, with players I don’t think you should autmatically look at their age and think they’re going to decline. Yes age should be looked at but more importantely is how they produced the last few years. For a-rod and jeter the last few years except for maybe jeter 08 have been very good years. I can see both beeing top players in 2012 even.

  11. Reggie C. says:

    I’m sure if Neyer asked the same question about the RS, Neyer would’ve rolled out the following five as tops in baseball: Casey Kelly, Pedroia, that Iglesias wunderkid, Adrian Gonzalez, and General Westmoreland BEFORE naming a Yankee player in constituting the creme of 2011.

  12. The bad news: Looks like we found a controversy. Our quiet, restful Spring Training is over.

    2010 Spring Storyline: The Yankees might maybe soon eventually not have awesome amazing future Hall of Famers at a few arbitrarily selected spots on their roster, forcing them to lean on the awesome amazing future Hall of Famers they have at all the other not-mentioned spots on the roster, lowering their expected forecast from a projected 113 wins per season to a projected 107 wins per season (if a few worst case scenarios all happen, of course).

  13. rbizzler says:

    Me thinks Neyer’s editor encourages him to post about the Yanks and Sox to drive up page views.

    Sometimes that necessitates finding something inane to write about if nothing else suitable appears.

    Yankee fans (myself included) are a little sensitive to his tone sometimes because, as much as Neyer and other Yankee haters might despise it, the Yanks FO has gotten much more shrewd since Cash took control and began wielding his ninja-like powers.

    Plus, he often enjoys an extra large serving of Theo Brilliant Idea IPA (secondary h/t to TJSC).

    • bexarama says:

      EAST COAST BIAS!!!!

      I agree, writing about the Yankees and the Sox drives up page views. But as others have pointed out, this article is basically pointless because he said that he’s just writing it to look for the one possible weakness of the Yankees. It’d be cool if I saw an article that was like, “The Sox aren’t the greatest team ever with the greatest pitching ever and the greatest defense ever.”

      Also, every idea Theo has ever had is brilliant, what are you talking about.

      • rbizzler says:

        Thanks for reiterating exactly what I said.

        A) Neyer’s boss wants him to write about the Yanks/Sox

        B) No Yankee news exists so he makes up something that is only kind of relevant

        C) He is an unabashed Yankee hater and openly roots against him

        D) He thinks that Theo is clever and enjoys the supposedly novel approach that he takes to building a baseball team

        E) Neyer got his dream job from Bill James so it is highly unlikely that he would criticize any decision that his mentor was part of

        • bexarama says:

          Thanks for reiterating exactly what I said.

          Ouch.

          I don’t think he’s so much an unabashed Yankee hater, for the record. Or maybe he is, but he’s generally able to keep it out of his columns enough that he’s not one of those writers that I go in expecting to see dumb things written about the Yankees on a regular basis.

          • rbizzler says:

            My apologies for being blunt as that was not my intention.

            Neyer is definitely not a fan of the Yankees, but he is also not an idiot who is going to spout mindless and ignorant drivel.

            It is fairly evident he does not root for their success, but begrudgingly will admit when they make decisions that he agrees with.

            • bexarama says:

              NP, I guess he is like Posnanski in that way. Though honestly, Posnanski’s article after the Yankees won the WS just left a really bad taste in my mouth that has been very hard to get out (yeah yeah, TWSS).

              • rbizzler says:

                Yeah, that is one of the things that is annoying to deal with as a baseball fan who is also a Yankee fan: that some of the baseball writers who you respect actively and fervently hope for the failure of the team that you root for.

                I have been a displaced Yankee fan for a few years now and I mostly refuse to wear anything Yankee related out in public because I don’t want to deal with the largely unimpressive Yankees suck/Yankees buy their championships crowd.

                /not complaining

    • Plus, he often enjoys an extra large serving of Theo Brilliant Idea IPA. (secondary h/t to TJSC).

      Hat tip not accepted. Pinstripe Brewery™ would never make, market, or be affiliated with such a vile, disgusting abomination to beercrafting. Such a beer would taste and smell like gorilla piss.

      We have standards, sir. This is NOT Samuel Adams. I suggest you take your lowbrow swill elsewhere. I will say good day to you.

      • rbizzler says:

        Wow, you are such an elitist that you are turning down a secondary h/t. Plus, it wasn’t a hat tip per se, but more of a nod to you for (I think) coming up with the concept.

        I will enjoy my lowbrow swill (and craft-brewed goodness)in my dive bar of choice while we systematically deny entry and proper customer service to you gentrifying infidels.

        /intentionally trying to push your buttons

  14. Hey ZZ says:

    Tex is going to be 31 throughout the 2011 season.

    Isn’t 31 part of the “typical prime years” for a hitter?

  15. Bill says:

    Tex and ARod are currently 2 of the 5 best players in the AL. Jeter is also in the conversation. Tex is still young enough where there’s no reason to believe he’ll fall off much and certainly will be in contention if not a likely candidate. ARod could fall out, but his 09′ numbers were the result of injury so even with a dropoff in production he’s still probably as good as he was this year in 2011. I’d guess better.

    My current top 5 in the AL:
    Mauer
    Longoria
    Tex
    ARod
    Youkilis
    Honorable mention: Miguel Cabrera

  16. pete says:

    So…the marlins are better than the yankees, b/c their best player plays SS? yah i guess that makes sense.

  17. Kered Retej says:

    I just want to echo TSCJ in that Neyer’s “rhetorical” question at the end was poorly worded. I think he intended to say that no one on the roster at an up the middle position (C, 2B, SS, CF) will be either the best player or a top 5 player in the league. I don’t necessarily agree even with that statement, but I think that’s why A-Rod and Tex don’t count.

    Still, all the other points seem pretty on point. Anyone remember when ESPN was good?

  18. Ted Nelson says:

    Haven’t read through all comments, but here’s my take on the post:

    1. I feel 1B is somewhat of a premium position, or can be. Sure, you can shove a Giambi type with a strong bat but no other position there, but a good firstbaseman can not only make plays on his own but also save hits and (more importantly) runs by picking up errant throws from other infielders.
    That’s my subjective analysis. Anything quantitative out there that either contradicts or supports this?

    2. Did the most recent dynasty have many top 5 players? In ’96 Bernie was 17th in MVP and his OPS was right around there. Some would have called Jeter the 4th best SS in their AL at times, which would make it hard to be a top 5 player in the whole league. So, my point is: who cares? This is not the NBA and you don’t need a top 5 player to win it all.

    3. Question: How much more important are the up-the-middle position defensively? Any studies/metrics out there quantify this?

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Does he mean top 5 at their position, or overall?

    • bexarama says:

      Up-the-middle positions are the most important defensively by far. It’s important to have a 1B that can get errant throws, but they don’t get nearly as many balls hit to them as, say, the shortstops. If balls hit into play are constantly getting by your shortstop, that’s a problem. You can generally get away with having an absolute butcher on the field as a first baseman. This is why a lot of guys who can hit the crap out of the ball and are very very bad fielders are often stuck at 1B. Teixeira is not one of these very bad fielders, however.

      I agree with your #2.

  19. Ted Nelson says:

    Thanks. I do understand the logic/conventional wisdom, I’m just wondering if it shows quantitatively and to what extent. Basically… what % of throws might Teixara save vs. Giambi + the number of more plays he makes, compared to a good vs. bad SS.
    It also seems like for the most part SS who get through the minors at that position are good defenders, so maybe the difference between x standard deviations from the defensive mean at SS ends up having the same impact on the team defense as at 1B. Maybe even more in a sense if the average SS is a good fielder and the average 1B was stuck there b/c he has no glove.
    Then again, I guess conventional wisdom is often conventional because it’s right.

  20. Matt says:

    A-Rod is 33 not 50.

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