Oct
25

What Went Right: Andruw Jones & Eric Chavez

By

The world's wealthiest ball boy. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees were left with a bunch of money in their pocket after Cliff Lee decided to rejoin the Phillies last offseason, and that money was spent in a variety of ways. Part of it went to Rafael Soriano, part of it went to Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, and part of it went towards the bench. For the first time in a long time, the Yankees sought out viable reserve players during the offseason rather than wait until the trade deadline to shore up their bench.

Andruw Jones

It was going to be tough to fill Marcus Thames‘ shoes following his big 2010 season as the team’s designated lefty-mashing outfielder (.354 wOBA vs. LHP, .365 overall), but the Yankees were counting on Jones to not just match that production, but exceed it. They signed him to a one-year, $2M contract in late-January, and watched him hit a homerun in his first very at-bat of the season. Andruw was getting the occasional pinch-hitting appearance and spot start in left field, and aside from a two-homer game on May 25th, he struggled through an unproductive first half. He headed into the All-Star break as a .195/.278/.356 hitter overall and a .231/.315/.446 hitter against southpaws.

While off for the All-Star Game, Jones got some unsolicited advice from his mother, who suggested that he go back and look at old tape from when he was raking with the Braves. He widened his stance to feel more comfortable at the plate, and the results came immediately. Jones hit a pair of homers in his first game after the All-Star break, drove in another run in his next start, then ran off a stretch of five hits (including a double and another homer) in three starts after that. At one point in late August, he went deep four times in the span of 16 at-bats.

Andruw turned his season around with his mother’s help, and hit .291/.416/.612 with nine homers in 125 second half plate appearances. He annihilated lefties, tagging them for a .344/.452/.639 batting line after the break. That performance raised his season numbers to .247/.356/.495 overall (.371 wOBA) and .286/.384/.540 against lefties (.400 wOBA), so on a rate basis he did manage to outperform Thames, by a not small margin either. Jones only got one playoff plate appearance against the Tigers right-handed heavy pitching staff (a sac fly), and late in the season we learned that he was playing through a small tear in his left knee that had to be drained multiple times. Kinda makes his second half surge that much more impressive.

Eric Chavez

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

It’s easy to forget now, but not only was Chavez in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring, he was competing for a roster spot against Ronnie Belliard. Mini-Manny showed up to camp out of shape and suffered a leg injury shortly thereafter, effectively taking him out of the race. The job was Chavez’s to lose at that point, and he responded by hitting .395/.422/.558 and staying generally healthy (there were some calf spasms, but nothing crazy) during Spring Training. He opened the season as the backup corner infielder/left-handed pinch-hitter.

Chavez got just one plate appearances through the team’s first seven games of the season (he reached on an error), but he made an impact in his first start in game eight. He went 3-for-5 with two doubles off the Green Monster in Fenway Park, filling in at DH. He started the next day at third base and picked up another hit, then started to earn more and more playing time. The power production wasn’t really there, but Chavez was hitting .303/.410/.424 with six walks and just three strikeouts on May 5th, when the inevitable happened.

While legging out a triple against the Tigers, Chavez came up limping at third base and was immediately removed from the game. He was originally diagnosed with a small fracture in his left foot, but that was later changed to a really deep bone bruise. He dealt with setback after setback during his rehab, and didn’t return to the lineup until July 26th, 72 team games after suffering the injury. Chavez stepped right in and played a healthy amount of third base when he came back because Alex Rodriguez was on the shelf, picking up 11 hits (including his first homer) and a walk in his first 33 plate appearances post-injury. He also started to take some DH at-bats away from Jorge Posada.

Chavez ended the season in a bit of a slump (.213/.255/.298 in his final 51 plate appearances) that dragged his overall numbers down (.263/.320/.356 in 175 PA, a .294 wOBA), but he was a monster with men on base (.379/.447/.561) and in scoring position (.415/.468/.537). Despite the years of injuries, he was surprisingly good on defense, flashing some of that old Gold Glove caliber ability at the hot corner. I don’t think many of us expected much out of Chavez, so he exceeded just about every expectations. He’s reportedly “leaning heavily” towards retirement, which is understandable after the injuries. He was a nice veteran guy to have on the bench, someone still capable of putting together quality at-bats and having value in the field.

Categories : Players
  • nsalem

    Hope Andruw returns.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Me too

    • Nick

      i think he will go somewhere where he gets more playing time

  • vin

    Two great pickups by Cashman. I wouldn’t mind seeing both guys return, but it almost certainly won’t happen, for different reasons.

    (I’d still rather have signed Lee ;))

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    I saw Andruw smiling once after a loss.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      Blasphemy!

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      That is what I don’t like about Jones. He hits into a double play and comes back smiling. He strikes out and smiles. He sometimes does not hustle. I cannot stand players like that. It shows how little they care. If I were GM I would not bring him back.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      That is what I don’t like about Jones. He hits into a double play and comes back smiling. He strikes out and smiles. He sometimes does not hustle. I cannot stand players like that. It shows how little they care. If I were GM I would not bring him back.

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

        Who gives half a shit about facial expressions? I’ve seen Jeter smile after grounding into double plays. Facial expressions have no impact on what happens on the field.

        • Jose M. Vazquez..

          Granted, I am not a Physiognomist but I try to read whether a player cares or not by his actions and Jones to me shows that I don’t give a damn attitude.

          • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

            He should hurl his bat at someone, Delmon Young style, after every out. That’ll show everyone he cares.

            Seriously. How about players not getting overly upset about an out because of confidence in their peers behind them, or being able to see both the forest AND the trees?

            • Ted Nelson

              This is a good point. In the game of baseball you have to be able to deal with failure, because you’re going to fail the majority of the time. Different people will deal with failure differently, I suppose. I don’t know if the smiling method, the anger method, or somewhere between is preferable or if it’s just a case-by-case thing.

          • Ted Nelson

            The not hustling does bug me a little bit because if the infielder bobbles the ball or the 1B has to come off the bag for the throw you could get on base and you could get an extra base on a dropped ball in the OF or something maybe. It’s marginal, but it’s tangible.

            Overall, though, I think we have to look at the results. If someone else hustles but is worse than Andruw Jones, I want Andruw Jones. On the margin I’ll take the guy with the same expected production who hustles. And if I’m in an org I might want to get rid of a guy who is a real jerk. As a fan I just look at production.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    Say Andrew Jones doesn’t comeback. Who becomes the Designated lefty masherâ„¢?

    • http://Twitter.com/Jmarlowescully Scully

      Derek Jeter :D

    • Monteroisdinero

      Jorge Vasquez.

      El Hombre.

    • Ted Nelson

      Juan Rivera could be a free agent option.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    Chavez, when batting, still reminds me of Donnie Baseball (as seen in the picture). Both he and Jones had great seasons compared with what was expected of them. I also wish they’d both come back, but don’t expect it to happen.

    • Greg C

      Whenever I see that pic of Chavez, I think it IS Mattingly. I have a poster of Mattingly that looks just like that.

      • Seth

        And both had their power sapped and stardom derailed by back injuries. I wonder if that’s just coincidental.

  • BK2ATL

    A tip of the hat to Cashman is definitely required for these two signings. If they were to return at minimal financial cost, I’d have no issue with that.

    Along with the Martin, Colon and Garcia signings, Cashman is being very underrated as a GM.