The new designated hitter platoon

The Inflexible Roster
Cory Wade, Secret Weapon
Nope. (AP/Matt Strasen)

Jorge Posada is out. Before last night’s game the Yankees informed Posada of his new role off the bench, paving way for a DH platoon that will involve Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones for the time being. As Mike noted this morning, that leaves the Yankees bench fairly inflexible, especially since it’s only three men deep to begin with. That’s certainly one downside to the issue. But what about the other side? Will the Jones-Chavez tandem significantly outperform Posada for the rest of the season?

Updated projections can give us one sense of expected production. ZiPS updates its numbers constantly, adjusting its full-season and rest-of-season projections as the season progresses. This helps weed out some of the noise we get in partial-season samples. It’s quite optimistic about the final two months of Posada’s 2011, projecting him for a .334 wOBA in 126 PA. That amounts to about two runs above average, though that is below average production for a DH. That projection might seem overly optimistic, since Posada has produced a mere .299 wOBA to date. But he has produced much better against righties, a .341 wOBA (5.1 runs above average). There is a chance, then, that he could hit that .334 projection if given 126 PA exclusively against righties.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Taking over his role as the DH against righties is Eric Chavez. A foot injury has limited him to just 26 games and 76 PA this year, but he’s done a fine job filling in, producing a .368 OBP and a .336 wOBA. ZiPS has him on track for just 36 more PA this season at a .300 wOBA, which would mean below average production. The upshot here is that his ZiPS projection is based on the past few years, in which he played hurt and hardly played in general. There is reason to believe that he’ll beat that production if he remains healthy. Unfortunately, Chavez is a risk to get hurt at any point, making his projection even more difficult. It’s as easy to see him matching Jorge’s .334 projected wOBA the rest of the way as it is to see him produce nothing while on the DL.

For most of the season Jones has played the part of DH against lefties, though as I’ll describe in a moment it hasn’t always been a straight DH role. He’s apparently hitting right in line with his ZiPS projections: his .341 wOBA matches his rest-of-season and full-season projection. At his 87 projected plate appearances the rest of the way, that would work out to 1.9 runs above average. That makes for a decent right-handed part of the platoon, though again it’s not above average for a DH. The caveat is that with that kind of playing time, a couple of extra strikeouts could significantly downgrade his production, just as an extra homer can significantly upgrade it.

Given the projections it would appear that the former platoon of Posada and Jones would work out best. Chavez fits, because he’s hit this season and is expected to continue his current pace, rather than his projected one. But even then, the Yankees are looking at about four runs above average for their DH spot the rest of the season. With that kind of production, combined with the inflexibility that the arrangement causes, should give the Yankees pause. That might work as a quick-term fix, and if Chavez breaks out while getting regular playing time it might stick for a bit longer. But I suspect that this is merely a tide-over while the Yankees let the effects of the Posada benching dissipate.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

When the Yankees announced Jorge’s benching, the one name on everyone’s tongue was Jesus Montero. There has been talk of his promotion for weeks, and with Posada on the bench there appears to be a clear opening. There’s a chance that Chavez and Jones are merely a placeholder so that the Yankees don’t have to bring up Montero as Posada’s replacement, which would create additional and unnecessary tension and drama. Bringing him up to replace the Chavez/Jones platoon might be a bit easier for the organization to handle, though they could be losing out on potential production.

ZiPS projected Montero to produce a .358 wOBA in the 2011 season, a mark greater than any of the current DHs. If we project Montero to get 200 PA the rest of the way — which is in line with Robbie Cano‘s projected remainder — he would produce 7.3 runs above average. That’s nearly double what the platoon would combine to produce. It’s tough, of course, to project a rookie to produce at that kind of level, especially when he hasn’t even produced that well at AAA. But we know what type of talent Montero possesses, and we know he can go on a tear. If he goes on one with the Yanks, he’ll easily be their best DH option the rest of the way.

This DH platoon does afford the Yankees a bit of flexibility, especially after Alex Rodriguez returns from the DL. It will allow Joe Girardi to cycle through his players who might need a half day off, using them as DH and either Jones or Chavez in the field. That stands in contrast to Jorge, who can spell only Mark Teixeira at first. Chavez can do that, as well as handle A-Rod‘s duties at third, while Jones can take over for any of the three outfielders (with Gardner going to center when Granderson gets a day). That should help keep everyone fresh as the Yanks play 30 games in 30 days, including a doubleheader.

While the new DH platoon does pose some risks, it does provide a number of benefits. Chavez, while not projected to hit well, has produced while healthy. Posada has actually produced similar numbers as a left-handed hitter this season, but apparently the Yankees feel that Chavez is the better bet going forward. The gained flexibility is also a major benefit, since the Yankees are rather inflexible as currently constructed. The plan comes with a ready made backup, too, as Montero can slide into that spot if it becomes necessary. This move probably won’t pull the Yankees out of the bottom half of the league in DH production, but it figures to be something of an improvement over the current arrangement.

The Inflexible Roster
Cory Wade, Secret Weapon
  • Xstar7

    Yo quiero Montero.

  • JobaWockeeZ!/TimMcCarver/status/100621178552590337

    Enjoy the laughs. Anyways I’m fine with the Chavez/Jones platoon for the time being. They are absolutely not getting any production from the DH spot. But there’s the injury risk factor for Chavez so can Jesus come soon? Please?

    • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

      TimMccarver has/knows what Twitter is? I must say I am genuinely shocked.

      • FIPster Doofus

        It’s not actually him.

        • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

          Yeah, I just read some of his other tweets.

  • Pasqua

    But if Chavez / Jones is being used as a transitional DH platoon in order to smooth-out Montero’s introduction, how long does the team wait to bring Montero in? One week? Two weeks? End of August? I see the logic, but if Montero can theoretically outperform all other DH’s, when does production outweigh media scrutiny?

    • Tim

      You know who else could “theoretically outperform all other DH’s” on the current roster? Me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.

      Those projections appear to be pretty worthless to me. Anyone who looks at Posada and Chavez and thinks Posada will outperform Chavez the rest of the way spends too much time in front of a computer and not enough time actually watching baseball games. And how on earth can you project what Montero will do? This has become a pet peeve of mine with all these calls for Montero. Don’t get me wrong – I would love to see him come up and perform as much as the next guy. But it seems to me that many people on this forum expect he’ll come up and rake. Well, what happens if he doesn’t? Have any of you even seen him play a game live? What if he comes up and struggles out of the gate? He’s only a kid, and projecting his performance over a short sample immediately after promotion to the show seems like a pretty reckless thing to do.

      The way some of people talk here, they can only be disappointed when Montero comes up.

      • The Fallen Phoenix

        Projections are not subjective predictions. You’re beating a strawman not present in Joe’s post.

      • CP

        how on earth can you project what Montero will do?

        Well, you can look at all of the players that have hit similarly in AAA and then look at how they did in the majors later that season. If you add in things like how he performed in previous seasons (at the same and lower levels) as well as his age, handedness, and other factors you can get an even better picture of the players skill level and projected production.

        • Sayid J.

          Not to mention, I’m guessing he can outperform what we had been getting from our DHs so far this season, which wasn’t much.

        • Mike R. – Retire 21

          I think what he meant was how dare we attempt to use our mundane formulas to try and predict the performance of the son of Mo.

        • Tim

          No you can’t. These are human beings, not robots or numbers in a book. Sometimes we forget about this. Looking at some other player’s performance last year will no better give you information on how Montero will perform than pulling numbers out of a hat. Any statistician would cringe at hearing this. This is the reason why “The Book” is a seriously flawed tome – in some cases, past performance can be a useful indicator of future performance, but when you are talking about different people, on different teams, playing in different stadiums, against different pitchers, etc, etc, etc…

      • Pasqua

        No. You could not theoretically outperform all other DH’s. You could HYOPTHETICALLY do it, but not theoretically. So, let’s not play the semantics game. My point remains the same.

      • Pasqua

        “But it seems to me that many people on this forum expect he’ll come up and rake. Well, what happens if he doesn’t?”

        But what if he DOES? Someone who wants to see Montero rake should not be criticized because he might NOT rake. That’s not a counter-argument.

        And, yes, I’ve seen him play several games live. But that doesn’t make anyone’s opinion of him any more or less valid.

  • Boo Radley

    With all due respect, Posada’s finished and anyone watching the games can see that. You can’t really put up Chavez’s numbers and say that’s definitive proof of why he shouldn’t take Jorge’s ABs. It’s not big enough of a sample. The right move was made to phase our Jorge. That’s what happens to people who get old, they fade away.

  • mike

    I think the “phantom” DL for someone is likely – the Yanks have a ton of games coming up, including a double-header, so they likely will want the 13 man staff, thus limiting the bench.

    would Posada intentionally DL himself for the good of the team….not likely in light of previous behavior.

    there will need to be two moves made soon – Arod and Montero, and i dont see where they will get two spots on the 25 for them bith

  • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

    I may be alone here, but I think that Nunez should DH and Chavez should play the 3B 3 of 5 days until ARod comes back. That way, we minimize the defensive time for Eduardo Scissorhands, and can keep Jorge out of the lineup. Having Nunez play every day in the field until ARod comes back is just asking for trouble.

    • vin

      “I think that Nunez should DH”

      Everytime someone says that, Axisa dies a little bit.

      • Jesse

        It kinda makes sense because he sucks defensively, but something just tells me he’s better out in the field.

      • Mike R. – Retire 21

        Let me tell you how that story goes.

        Day 1 – Chavez @ 3B, Nuñez @ DH
        Day 2 – Chavez @ 3B, Nuñez @ DH
        Day 3 – Chavez goes to the DL with a (insert name of body part here) tear.

        • MannyGeee

          well then, Nunez will be well rested by day 3. so there’s that.

        • Louis

          Day 4- Jesus Montero gets called up to replace Chavez. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • Zach

    How long will it take Chavez to become injured if he plays 4 days a week?

    • MannyGeee

      2.5 days

  • mustang

    “ZiPS projected Montero to produce a .358 wOBA in the 2011 season, a mark greater than any of the current DHs.”

    Can ZiPS give me this week Powerball numbers that would be much more helpful.

    • mustang

      “It’s tough, of course, to project a rookie to produce at that kind of level, especially when he hasn’t even produced that well at AAA.” Reality!

    • Tom

      And, back in May, what would Zips HAVE PROJECTED for Posada for the period since the All Star Game?

      These computer projections range from the amazingly useful to worthless. People who watched the games in April and May and predicted Posada’s washed-upness may have APPEARED TO BE embarrassed by Jorge’s June. However, since the ASG, their early pessimism seems to have been correct. He’ll have the hitting equivalent of “lucid moments” from time to time until season’s end, but that’s about it.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Understanding these projections so you can make a valid opinion is so much better than bitching and crying about not watching the game or some shit. It’s the most annoying argument. No shit we’re fucking watching baseball why the fuck else are we talking about the game?

      • mustang

        “These computer projections range from the amazingly useful to worthless.”

        To me they are even more worthless when they are trying to predict the production of someone who has never played in the league!

        I agree with Joe’s theory that the Yankees maybe trying to make the switch from Posada to Jesus easier. I also believe in Jesus’ offensive talent, but the minute people start throwing Zips projections on how much better a unproven talent would be compared to MLB players that when I get off the train.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      ZiPS has been pretty accurate for the 2011 Yankees so far but please continue with unwarranted bitching.

    • MikeD

      Projection schemes are generally good when looking at all players over the course of a season. They are no good when broken down to the individual player, and they are extremely poor when trying to project a month or two of production.

      The Yankees are making this move based on talent evaluation right now, and probably also to transition to Montero. It’s the human element that the manager has to worry about, but fans and projection systems don’t.

  • MannyGeee

    If we project Montero to get 200 PA the rest of the way — which is in line with Robbie Cano‘s projected remainder — he would produce 7.3 runs above average

    Does that 7.3 include his glovework, or is that a DH only WAR projection?

    • yoo-boo

      I believe it is everything but how could we compare DH/C to 2B?

      7.3 from Montero himself is very good whether he plays defense or not.

      • yoo-boo

        It is RAA not WAR. RAA is for defense or pitcher only which is pffttt.

        BRAA or any sabermetric with “batting” will do the tricks.

        • yoo-boo

          not pitcher only. sorry.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      No defense at all. That’s only an offensive projection.

    • pat

      That’s runs above average. 10 Runs = 1 WAR

      • MannyGeee

        my bad. I suck at life.

  • yoo-boo

    Forget Phantom DL crap. Posada should be retired as a player and becomes a coaching staff and a mentor for Montero. That may be hurt for Posada but he actually helps the team.

    Bringing Montero up means there is no future for Martin so thus Martin should take some ground balls at 3b so that way Pena will be with triple A team once he becomes active.

    Having Martin back up Arod will require less activity on field for Chavez. It should be easy for Chavez’s bum back but I can’t say about his feet. fingers crossed.

    DH roles: Chavez vs RH; Jones and Montero vs. LH.

    C roles: Cerveill for Sabathia; Martin for Burnett and Colon; Montero for Garcia, Hughes and Nova.

    I think this suggestion will work just fine with 6 SP and light bench. Nova and Hughes will take alternative in bullpen replacing Noesi. Hotter one stays in the rotation and colder one goes to bullpen.

    • Jetrer

      no way Girardi lets Montero catch that much until he proves he can handle the job at the big league level. For better or worse, Martin will almost definitely remain primary catcher for the rest of the season (and maybe next season as well). Probably the most Montero will catch this season would be taking Cervelli’s role as CC’s catcher, and maybe they let him catch Colon once in a while.

    • Jedile

      I agree with this statement. I believe Posada should do what is best for the team and actually retire now. Maybe he can apply for a vending job at YS3. He’d be a favorite!

      • MikeD

        Jorge will do what’s best for him, which is exactly what he should do. He’s not walking away from a couple million dollars and the Yankees aren’t going to ask him to do that when the rosters expand in about three weeks.

    • MannyGeee

      I agree with the 1st sentence… aaaaaand thats about it.

      – Martin will finish at least this season as the primary catcher… Nothing short of Joe Mauer walking through that door is gonna change that.

      – Chavez/Nunez will be A-Rods back for at least this season. Nunez has the backup IF job on lock…(until he doesn’t that is)

      – too many moving parts, I would imagine Martin takes his 4 days a week and Montero gets the rest (or Cervelli gets the rest and Montero DH’s)… Assuming Montero comes up soon.

  • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

    What I’d like to see:

    Send Noesi to AAA, bring up Montero. I’d guess A-Rod is still at least 2 weeks away, but if he does come back before rosters expand send Cervelli to AAA for a week or two.

    • Jorge

      I say 13 pitchers is too much (even though it wasn’t enough last night and, for some reason, a starter pitched the 10th). Noesi is the easiest one to option at this point. Yes, option him down. That’s life as a rookie.

      Bring up Montero, though? You bring up whoever will help the bench the most, both offensively and defensively. If that is Monter, great. If it’s, say, Chris Dickerson, then it’s him. Montero will be up by 9/1. The World Series will not be decided on whether Jesus Montero came up three weeks later.

      • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

        “The World Series will not be decided on whether Jesus Montero came up three weeks later.”

        Oh yeah, totally agree… The irrational fan in me just wants to see Jesus get some hacks at the major league level sooner than later.

        But at the same time, I really don’t see anyone else helping more than Montero possibly could. He might be an improvement on the current DH situation. Dickerson might play what, 3 innings and get a couple AB’s if he’s lucky? Same for Laird or any other AAA options.

  • Klemy

    Even if there is a problem with Posada when Montero is called up, Jesus will forgive him. It has been written that it is in his nature.

    • Klemy

      Mark 2:5
      When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic Posada, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

  • chaz

    If Posada is not going to catch or DH he has no role. As a pinch hitter? Who exactly would they send him up for. Nunez? I don’t think so. Cervelli? Maybe, but then they would have to put in Martin on his day off and waste 3 guys on one move.

    Piniella, Murcer and Rizzuto were all either released or forced to retire midseason, and given other jobs in the organization. What’s the problem? I mean he’s still going to get his check. What’s he going to do burn down the clubhouse?

    • JohnnyC

      We don’t need to see Jorge as a color commentator on YES.

      • Lazy Bones Andruw Jones

        Jorge and Kay would be TV gold!

        • Jorge

          I don’t think he’d be a good color guy. I think he’d fluster easily.

          When he did the book signing at Montclair St. about a year ago, he got very flustered after about 5-6 books when they started speeding the line through. Laura handled it like an absolute champ. I actually have his mispelled autograph on a book because of it.

    • MannyGeee

      as a pinch runner…


      • Monteroisdinero

        This is the match race I want to see.

  • fallen earth hack

    It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.