Nov
01

What Went Right (and Wrong): Nunez, Cervelli, and Logan

By

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

As we get close to wrapping up our season review, we’re inevitably left a few players that don’t fit into our rather vague What Went Right/What Went Wrong categories. Unsurprisingly, these guys are bit pieces, essentially spare parts on the roster.

Eduardo Nunez

After a brief cameo in September 2010, the Yankees handed Nunez their utility infielder’s job out of Spring Training in 2011. The off-day and rain-out heavy April kept Nunez glued to the bench during the season’s first month (just six plate appearances), but he started to get more and playing time as the weather warmed up in May. He had five hits (including two doubles) in his first three starts of the season, but he carried a weak .214/.254/.339 batting line into mid-June, though that covered just 61 plate appearances.

Nunez became a pretty important piece of the Yankees’ puzzle in mid-June, after a calf injury shelved Derek Jeter for more than three weeks. The backup infielder had two hits in each of his first two games as the starting shortstop, and he ended up hitting a robust .339/.381/.525 in 65 plate appearances as the Cap’n’s replacement. When Alex Rodriguez hit the shelf with a knee injury before the All-Star break, Nunez was again pressed into everyday duty, this time at third base. He hit .252/.310/.336 in 117 plate appearances while filling in for A-Rod.

All told, Nunez hit .265/.313/.385 in 338 plate appearances, swatting five homers and stealing 22 bases in 28 tries (78.6% success rate). That’s pretty much what you expect from a utility infielder. His defense was atrocious however, specifically his long-time problem with making the throw to first base (from short or third). He committed 20 errors (almost all throwing) in 789.2 defensive innings, which projects to about 37 errors over a full 162-game season. Nunez had his moments, and I figure he was the Yankees’ best backup infielder in quite some time.

(Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Frankie Cervelli

Reportedly, the Yankees were holding an open competition for the backup catcher’s job in Spring Training, though it stood to reason that Cervelli had a leg up over Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Gus Molina just because he was the incumbent. A broken foot (suffered on a foul ball) delayed the start of his season by a month, but he came back with a bang. In his third game of the season (May 8th), Cervelli swatted a grand slam to dead center off Cody Eppley to turn a 6-5 game into a 10-5 game, helping put an end to an ugly four-losses-in-five-games stretch.

Cervelli played pretty regularly as CC Sabathia‘s personal catcher throughout the summer, and carried a .274/.333/.340 batting line into a late-August series against the Red Sox. After hitting just two homeruns in the first 541 plate appearances of his big league career, Frankie went on a tear and clubbed three homers in the span of eight days as August turned into September. I also remember one ball that looked like a no-doubter off the bat, but was caught at the wall after being knocked down by the rain and wind in that ugly, rainy 11pm ET start game against the Orioles. No idea where it came from, but Frankie was showing some serious pop late in the summer.

Unfortunately, a concussion ended Cervelli’s season in early-September. He was involved in two collisions at the plate on September 8th, giving him his third concussion in the last four seasons. That forced Romine into backup catcher duty, and makes Cervelli a bit of a question mark going into next season. Concussions are nothing to sneeze at, especially several of them in a relatively short period of time. The late power surge raised Frankie’s season batting line to .266/.324/.395 with four homers in 137 plate appearances.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Boone Logan

The Pedro Feliciano signing managed to turn into a disaster before Opening Day, which meant Logan was the team’s sole left-handed reliever for the majority in the season. He struggled early in the year, carrying a 5.40 ERA into mid-May. Even worse, lefties were hitting .364/.440/.591 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in their first 26 plate appearances against him. Logan received some advice from A-Rod during an interleague series in mid-June, at which point same-side batters were still hitting .300/.391/.425 off him.

The pep talk marked a bit of a turn around for Boone, who held lefties to a .234/.286/.484 batting line the rest of the way. He did a much better job of getting them out, but he was giving up far too many extra-base hits. After surrendering just one extra-base hit (a triple) to lefties in 2010, he gave up 12 in 2011 (seven doubles, one triple, four homers). That’s the same number of extra-base hits they had off Sabathia, who faced more than twice as many left-handed batters. All told, Logan finished the season with a solid 3.46 ERA (9.9 K and 2.2 BB/9), but lefty specialists don’t get judged by overall numbers. Left-handers hit .260/.328/.462 in 118 plate appearances against Boone this season, and that’s simply not good enough for the primary lefty on a contending team.

Categories : Players
  • CP

    The pep talk marked a bit of a turn around for Boone, who held lefties to a .234/.286/.484 batting line the rest of the way.

    The pep talk may have marked the turning point, but I would guess that the work with Larry Rothschild to drop his arm angle was much more important in actually causing the improvement.

    • the Other Steve S.

      I heard that Andruw Jones’ Mom called him.

  • Anchen

    Logan was surprisingly effective vs RH batters as opposed to LH. Not that bad a place to be in…if there was another actual lefty specialist in the pen. Versatility of being able to bring him in vs a LH and have a reasonable shot of getting him out (but also getting hit big potentially) balanced by not being unusable vs righties is not a bad tool to have in a bullpen. It’s just that we didn’t have a feliciano/marte to do the other half of the role…

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Yeah, if he can be more consistent vs. lefties and keep it up vs. righties, Logan can be a very effective guy in the pen. I don’t really think the Yanks need a specialist vs lefties, as SoRoMo can handle the big lefty in from the 7th inning on. Logan may be all we need to get the big lefty out in the 5th or 6th.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    nunez did play pretty well overall, but every time he threw the ball i had to hold my breath. it is pretty amazing how bad he was at throws to first. has he had that issue in the minors?

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, he had a 40 and two 33 error seasons.

      http://www.baseball-reference......nez-002edu

      Only had 14 in 118 games in AAA (10 in 101 games at SS), so there’s some precedent of lowering the errors for a sustained period.

      • CountryClub

        The problem is that the good stint in AAA is the only good stint he’s ever had. Hard to not look at that as an aberration.

        • Ted Nelson

          Guys tend to, you know, get better as they rise through the minors.

        • Ted Nelson

          His High A season in 2008 wasn’t too bad. 19 Es in 94 games. Similar to Barry Larkin in the minors.

          Guys tend to, you know, get better as they rise through the minors and spend some time in the majors.

          Jeter had 21 Es in 57 games, 56 Es in 126 games, 25 errors in 138 games, and 29 errors in 129 games in the minors. He never even had that one good season.

          Ozzie Smith had 23 Es in 65 minor league games at 22 years old.

          Granted he was a teenager, but Roberto Alomar had 36 Es at 17 and 19.

          • LiterallyFigurative

            Don’t mess up a good rant with historical precedent and evidence, Ted. This is the internet (in case you forgot).

  • Nick

    Is the Cervelli flyball your referring to the one Matt angle dropped?

  • Darren

    For all ARod does wrong (Madonna, sunbathing, kissing himself, 4.5 years of choking in playoffs), he does seem to be a really involved player and a big fan of the game, which is nice.

    It’s funny how devalued Jeter’s defense became by most sabermetrics analysis. And then all you need is a few months of Nunez’s throwing – atrocious at worst, inconsistent at best – before you realized why Jeter’s consistency and steadiness MORE than makes him for his lack of range.

    And unlike Jeter getting better in the minors after his 56 error Greensboro stint, I think Nunez is what he is. He is what we thought he was.

    • Monteroisdinero

      I disagree with the last thought as Nunez got better with more playing time. He has mostly been a SS and most of his errant throws were from 3B. He was very frustrating but I still think he will be better than what he has been. I also love the pop in his bat.

      I think he is a very valuable Yankee, with an old SS and 3rd baseman, going forward.

    • Ted Nelson

      There are other SS out there to compare Derek Jeter to besides Nunez… Saying “he’s better than the worst defensive player at the position last season” isn’t a complement.

      Jeter’s minor league error totals were high throughout the minors and he really sliced his error totals down only a few years ago.

    • LiterallyFigurative

      GitEmOuttaHea!

      /JeromeFromManhattan’d

      Seriously though, I don’t see what Nunez (or Cervelli) really costs the Yankees over the span of a season. They are young players who’ve mostly gotten inconsistent playing time in their MLB careers.

      They have provided some sparks and aggressiveness in their play and gave 97 win team a useful boost. Do they need to get better? Yes. Is that any different from 99.9% of any other rookies or second-year players? No. Nunez played better in the field once he got more consistent burn.

      It’s funny that Jeter could improve, but Nunez can’t.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Nunez got some big hits and he is the kind of guy whose mistakes can be overcome with our team. The youth, health, 475K cost, speed and pop in the bat at the bottom of the order is very useful. He is not afraid to fail and will attempt to steal almost everytime he has a chance.

    He is only 24. A keeper for me.

  • J Scott

    My guess is the Yankees will be watching Mustelier very closely and, given his age, will be looking to fast track him for that utility role.

  • Stan the Man

    Just because a guy is a lefty doesn’t mean he is a lefty specialist. If Logan can get righties out in addition to lefties than he isn’t a specialist and is more useful in a role that allows him to pitch to more than one batter. His overall numbers are good so he shouldn’t be viewed as a specialist anymore.

    • Anchen

      He shouldn’t be viewed as a specialist (although he did pretty well in the role in 2010). But we used him as a specialist by need and based on 2010 where he was quite competent in the role. Of course we run the risk of him regressing against righties and still not being lights out vs lefties…or he could figure it all out and be a premiere lefty reliever.