Table-setters behind (super) early offensive struggles

(Elsa/Getty )

(Elsa/Getty )

The only way to start a post like this is with a standard “it’s incredibly early in the season” disclaimer. Two games tell us so very little in the grand scheme of things — we would barely pay any attention to a pair of back-to-back losses in June or July — but because they happened at the start of the year it’s very easy to look too deep into things. We’re baseball starved and we want to see things that aren’t there. It’s only natural.

That said, the Yankees have had a problem on offense in their first two games. We knew the lineup wouldn’t be as potent as it has been in the past coming into the year, and nothing that’s happened the last three days makes me think otherwise. Robinson Cano has one single in eight plate appearances but that will change, he’s driven a number of balls to the outfield that were reeled in by nice defensive plays. Both Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis have shown promising signs and Travis Hafner has a hit in each game, so let’s cross our fingers and hope he stays healthy.

The lineup spots that have really killed the Yankees in these last two games are the 9-1-2 spots, the third of the lineup before Cano and the rest of the middle of the order bats. Here’s what that threesome of hitters has done in the first two games…

  • Monday: 2-for-11, 2 BB, 1 K
  • Wednesday: 0-for-12, 1 BB, 3 K
  • Total: 2-for-23 (.087), 3 BB (.192 OBP), 4 K

Yeah, that’s not going to cut it. I guess the good news is that those three lineup spots have worked the count well — 109 pitches in 26 plate appearances, or 4.2 P/PA — but that’s a small consolation prize. I mean, I generally consider it a win when bad hitters see a bunch of pitches and work an at-bat, but that was back in the days when the Yankees had a deep lineup and one black hole wasn’t a problem. These days they need some actual production, and a sub-.200 (!) OBP from the three guys hitting in front of Cano won’t cut it over any length of games.

Thankfully, this is just two games. Brett Gardner won’t have many 0-for-5s like he did yesterday and Eduardo Nunez is unlikely to go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts from the two-hole like he did on Monday very often. The schedule suggests the Yankees will see a ton of right-handed starters over the next two weeks or so, meaning Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki will have an opportunity to settle in and have the platoon advantage for the while. Hopefully that happens. It’s not a guarantee but history suggests it will.

The Bombers had an awful lot of trouble scoring runs these last two games (at least until Wells hit that garbage time three-run homer last night) and that woeful production from the 9-1-2 hitters is a big reason why. If Cano and Youkilis aren’t getting any opportunities to drive in runs, the Yankees won’t score. This isn’t a team that can generate offense from the 7-8-9 spots anymore. Hopefully Gardner & Co. get this stuff straightened out and soon, the Yankees will have a real hard time pushing runs across if they don’t.

Categories : Offense


  1. Monterowasdinero says:

    This team now reminds me of the era when Horace Clarke set the table.

    Slim pickins….

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      There needs to be some sort of drinking, or non-drinking game, around Horace Clarke mentions.

      Also, really, Chuck Cary mentions are always so much cooler, and don’t show that you’re about a month away from incontenence.

      • LarryM Fl says:

        If you watched Horace Clark play second base or reference his name to a lower expectation of the Yanks. Your are a month away from incontinence. Well your comment could be true. I for one hope not. Chuck Cary?

        • trr says:

          I was there when Horace Clarke played 2B, however I may be a long way from incontinence….He whas become the poster boy for those late ’60?s – early 70s teams I watched as a boy, somewhat unfairly. In truth he was just mediocre.
          When I read some of the posts here bemoaning the current state of the team, I gotta laugh. I’ve seen far, far, far worse. The current team is no powerhouse, and while I’m as disappointed as anyone over the first 2 games, better things lie ahead. Count on it-

      • jsbrendog says:

        i personally prefer alvaro espinoza references

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Yup. Wake me when Adam Warren’s the best pitcher in the rotation, and there’s no one better coming back. Then you’ll start approaching the early 90′s.

    • John C says:

      brilliant analysis after 2 games. Tell me, did they remind of you of that team last year after they opened the season with 3 straight losses?

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I asked the Easter Bunny for a killfile on anything referencing Horace Clarke. I guess it must be lost in the mail.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        That’s a nonsense comparison. That lineup had power. You actually think this lineup (as currently constructed) can go on any kind of a run?

    • dave says:

      The last two years the Yanks hitting when it counted or RISP was a joke and the main reason why they got bounced and that was with there regular lineup.
      GET USE to seeing box scores like the first two games.
      This team will not SNIFF the playoffs and there ability to score runs with this lineup will be downright laughable.

  2. Eddard says:

    If we have a C- lineup vs RHP we have a D- lineup vs LHP. I love the 3 lefties at the top vs RHP because that allows Nuney to drop to the 8 hole and lengthen the lineup. You saw last night what Nuney can do from the bottom of the order. But Girardi needs to let him fly on the bases. He doesn’t have many advantages but speed is one of them. Gardner needs to get on base more so he can utilize his speed.

    And Cervelli should be playing 4/5 of the games not 1/2.

  3. jjyank says:

    There it is. Vernon Wells is the new Garbage TIme Guy. Problem solved. I’m sure Cuso appreciates it :P

    • Reggie C. says:

      hey … dont knock Garbage Time Guy too much.

      Wells can get lucky and put up some All-Star type numbers against lesser relievers and make his presence palatable looking solely at his production at season’s end.

      • jjyank says:

        I’m not, just joking around. I was a big Swisher fan (the original Garbage Time meme guy). I’d love for Wells to keep doing that, garbage time or not.

    • Cuso says:

      Haha! I was going through the comments before I posted to make sure I wasn’t making a stale post.

      But, yes. Yes, I definitely chuckled.

  4. Robinson Tilapia says:

    How many games did Brett Gardner play in last year? Should Eduardo Nunez be the #2 hitter in any sort of Plan A, or even Plan B?

    There is nothing hear that screams “ideal,” and its not surprising to me to see this struggle. I don’t think anyone has a clue, as of yet, how good, or bad, this current roster is going to play in the somewhat-short-term. I can only assume that, until the actual players meant to be in these roles are in them, this is going to be an extreme work in progress.

    Loved Wells’s HR yesterday. I was expecting nothing out of Hafner, so I do have to say I’m pleasantly surprised there. We’re going to need them, and then some. Cano and Youkilis can’t do all the heavy lifting this next month.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod says:

      Agreed completely with your second paragraph. It’s been two games and some “fans” are already sizing nooses for themselves. The team is going to be a work in progress for a while, and even if I get irritated and bitch about them sometimes, I’ll be along for the ride all season just like always.

      I actually thought Hafner would be relatively productive and was expecting nothing out of Wells. Once again, it’s only been two games but he seems to have regained at least a little bit of bat speed. Here’s to hoping both of them give Robbie and Youk a little support in the coming weeks.

      Also, I don’t hear anything ideal either, perhaps my office is just dull or maybe it’s time to get my ears checked? :-P

      • Jim Is Bored says:

        The nooses were out long before even the first game was played.

        The issue with Hafner was never his production, I think. Just how long he’ll stay healthy.

  5. Frank says:

    Spring Training – usually meaningless – I think revealed a truth about this team: The offense will struggle to score runs. Only the Brewers and Pirates scored fewer runs. Their only chance to keep their heads above water before reinforcements arrive is their pitching. Games 1 and 2 produced weak starting performances, and we haven’t been able to leverage our better bullpen performers.

    Starting with Pettitte, if we can get some quality starts, we’ll win some 3-2, 2-1 sort of games, and that’ll be the best we can expect, I think, before guys start making it back.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Yes, watching Addison Marucsak play half a game every day will reveal a lot about a team that just looking at a lineup that has Ben Francisco and Lyle Overbay on it won’t.

  6. Monterowasdinero says:

    I am concerned that the type of injuries Tex, Jeter and Arod have will linger/re-injure based on their skill sets, age, positions etc. I am not optimistic that any of these 3 will return to prior form at bat and/or in the field.

    Hope I’m wrong as Jeets has proved me (and others) in the past.

    • mitch says:

      I think Jeter will be fine. Tex may linger, but i think they’ll at least get a few good months out of him. I don’t think we’ll see Arod until 2014.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      Why would Jeter’s ankle injury linger?

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I don’t think you’re far off-base at all there.

      Even with Alex, what “prior form” are we even referring to at this point?

      Still, 80% of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira will be a massive upgrade over what’s out there now.

      • Vern Sneaker says:

        Certainly an upgrade, and I hope you’re right about the “massive” part. I’m really concerned about these two. Tex’s injury is a difficult one to heal to the point where we can expect the kind of production we need. Jeter seems as though he’ll be between SS and DH all year and we sure need another big “surprise” from him, even given his age and the demands of his position.

        • jjyank says:

          Obviously the amount of an upgrade Tex will be depends on how his wrist heals, but I feel safe saying that he’s a pretty sizable upgrade over Lyle Overbay.

      • jjyank says:

        Obviously A-Rod will never be a beast again. The thing is with him, I think, is that he was so good for so long that his diminished skills seem worse than they are. When fans were shitting all over him the last couple of years, some seemed to forget that he was still a productive player. If he can get back to his 2011-2012 self (125 and 114 wRC+, respectively), I think most of us would take that in a heartbeat.

    • JRod says:

      On the other hand, none of these guys can last out a full season at this point in any case. Jeter’s return to form last season was brilliant, but he’s going to be 39 in June. We had to expect this eventually. Even Tex has had so many sub-acute, chronic issues, aside from more than his share of actual injuries. (The bubonic cough early last season, in late 2011 I think we found out he’d been playing with a broken finger for months,) So basically they’re on a shortened season, Clemens type plan by default, and maybe when they do return they can stay fresh and keep from wearing down late.

    • Preston says:

      I have no worries about Jeter’s bat, I don’t think he’s going to be able to play the field too often for a while though (he’s be a big upgrade as a DH vs. LHP though). A-Rod is a wild-card and I have no idea when or what we’ll get from him (although any contribution would pleasantly surprise). I am worried that they are rushing Tex. From looking at other people with the same injury he probably should have had surgery. However if he comes back and has no set-backs, he’s probably still going to be sapped of a lot of his power. Even so, his defense and ability to take a walk would still be an upgrade over the Lyle Overbay/Jason Nix mix we’ve seen in the first two games.

  7. SeventhAce says:

    Well the 9 hole is going to be a ton of suck if Chris “I’m a defense 1st catcher” Stewart is occupying it for anywhere near 1/3 of games played. Not saying Cerve is the most amazing hitter, but Stewart really inspires 0 confidence when he has a bat in his hands.

    Will Joe Girardi continue to march Stewart out there until he gets a hit and then polish his nails saying “told ya so”.

  8. Patrick says:

    It’s way too early to panic folks.

    I’m not thrilled with some of the things I’ve seen thus far(and haven’t seen),but keep the faith Yankee fans.

    Just checking the standings–10 teams have played 3 games thus far and NONE of them are 3-0.

    What does that have to do with the Yankees? Not much except that everybody loses games- so don’t overreact to a few losses.

    The Rays started 1-7 two years ago and still made the playofs.
    Though there are some valid concerns with the Yankees, I will give this team at least 20 games instead of 2 before I panic.

    • Vern Sneaker says:

      Not saying this specifically about you, because there’s no way for me to know, but my guess is that with some people the “don’t panic” and “Don’t be doom and gloom” and “It’s only two games” comments are actually their way of trying to calm their own uneasy feelings. There’s no panic in pointing out valid and obvious team weaknesses. They exist whether we win a game or two soon or not. What we’re aiming for over a long season is enough wins to make the playoffs and I don’t see this roster doing that, even with the DL guys coming back. Hopefully management will figure out ways to make the necessary upgrades.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        You can also not be hopeful in the short term and not panic at the same time, though.

        It doesn’t all have to be graverolling and claiming the new stadium is cursed. You can take a deep breath, then vote your 5 or 6 on the confidence rating.

      • MannyGeee says:


        The people I know who are calling out bridge jumpers are legit not buying that the Yankees will not, contrary to popular belief, go 0-162. And those same people were here last April when the Yankees were never going to make the playoffs, just like April 2011 & April 2010 & April 2009.

        So NO. Not everyone is panicking and a certain few are choosing “duck on a pond” as a coping mechanism.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      A whole lot of this is more a reaction to the names on the lineup card than the actual production. You can’t judge a damn thing on two games.

      Yankee fans either have never experienced this sort of uncertainty and adversity, or haven’t experienced this degree of it in a while. This is how the other half lives.

      • Jim Is Bored says:

        It helps to root for shitty teams in other sports.

        University of Maryland college athletics, I’m pointing at you.

  9. MannyGeee says:

    Slightly off topic, but I believe that Wells will show enough this month to take ABs away from Gardner and Ichiro. Like, a legit amount of ABs.

    Whether he can maintain that shine once he has taken those ABs away or not is a different conversation.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      He’s more than welcome to take them away from Ichiro, if he’s performing.

      Gardner though, no. Just, no. And a tiny hopeful part of me wants to believe Girardi sees Gardner’s value in the field and on the basepaths and won’t bench him outside of a regularly scheduled rest day.

  10. LarryM Fl says:

    It’s way too early to write the Yanks off. It does seem everything is going the Red Sox’s way especially two out hits. A swinging roller or whatever aiding their run production.

    Yes this lineup would be better with Jeter, Teix. and Granderson providing some spark both emotionally and offensively but this will not occur for some time. I do not see any of them getting back before the warm days of May in some other part of the country. Because I have experienced many Memorial Day picnics freezing my a$$ off on LI. It is what it is? The games will get better as Girardi figures out under regular season conditions where guys belong.

    I do not see Nunez in the two hole. He’s way too much of a free swinger and needs more work with the strike zone. I know if he was playing for Boston. He would be a phenom just like Mr. Bradely Jr. Nunez needs to progress slowly or without undo pressure. Bat him 8 or 9. Leave him alone. Go play shortstop and get dirty, have fun.

    Adam Warren showed much more than expected. I still think that
    Hafner, Wells and Overbay are going to help this club with some regular at bats.

    We have officially played .0123456 of the season. So I’m still bullish on the Yanks getting 86 wins or better. I have tickets for 4/22 in Tampa where Girardi should have more knowledge of his club and how to get some production from the lineup.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I was happily impressed with Warren last night. I’ve been very low on him. Perhaps he really does take that next step this year and becomes something akin to what Phelps did for the team last year.

      An effective Wells could do a TON for this team in short-term. Cano/Youkilis/Wells isn’t Tex/Cano/Alex, but they could do more damage than you’d think if things are running on all cylinders.

      • jjyank says:

        I’ve never really been high on Warren either, but you never know. I wasn’t high on Phelps when he first came up either.

        I didn’t watch the game last night, but you gotta think that was a huge confidence booster for the kid. Remember his only other MLB appearance was the shellacking in that spot start last year. Hopefully he can build on that.

        • Jim Is Bored says:

          I really think that shellacking had a pretty big effect both on him and the team’s opinion of him(unfair, IMO).

          If yesterday’s outing had been what he’d done in his first outing, I bet he would have seen more ML action last year.

          • A.D. says:

            If yesterday’s outing had been what he’d done in his first outing, I bet he would have seen more ML action last year.

            Probably very true, that said neither outing should be that indicative, even Kei Igawa came out of the pen due to an injury and shut down the Sox once upon a time, and we all know how that ended.

            • Jim Is Bored says:

              Right, I’m speaking mostly about the short-sighted nature of most MLB teams, mid-season.

              I think his minor league track record should give him the leeway to stick around for a while before anyone writes him off or stamps his name into the rotation/pen for years to come.

      • Jim Is Bored says:

        I’ve never really understood why people didn’t think Warren could be a reasonable 5th starter/mop up guy, and maybe a 3/4 in the most ideal outcome. He has OK stuff, has always located pretty decently, and held his own in the minors long enough that it’s warranted a look-see in the majors.

  11. trr says:

    Watching him last night, I was impressed with Well’s ability to still turn on a fastball. It may be he’s still got something in the tank after all…

  12. Monterowasdinero says:

    Did we forget Jake Gibbs in the catcher comments above?

    Horace Clarke the continent thread starter

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Yer killin with these catchers before they even wore the Steve Yeager, dangly, “that thing’s really supposed to stop be from getting impaled?” things under their masks.

    • trr says:

      OMG, Jake Gibbs!

      OK, 2 words: Ross Moschitto

  13. VAN says:

    The Yankees had problems with their offense in their first two games?

    The Yankees have problems with their PITCHING, giving up 8 runs on Opening Day and 7 runs last night.

    Four runs by the Yankees are good enough to win any game.

  14. DerekJetersBUMAnkle says:

    The real problem for Yanks is the loss of Derek Jeter.

    And the fact he did not fare too well in spring training reveals that his stint on DL will take longer than expected.

    I do not think Yankees fans will see Jeter at all this year.

    Which means…..LAST PLACE!!!!

  15. YankeeUnderground says:

    Time to rid the team of those who regard themseves and their own sefish interests ahead of the team’s true immortals and glorious history. Exhibit A – the Steinbrenner plaque.

  16. Pistol Pete says:

    17 of 18 yrs in the playoffs, it had to end. There will be a fire sale at the deadline like you’ve never seen with all the veterans on one year. Nobody save Jeter and Mo ahold be spared.

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