When the Grandy-Man Returns

Game 38: Let's Split Two
Monday Night Open Thread
(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

The return of Curtis Granderson is imminent. The forearm has apparently healed well. His bat seems to be rounding into form (.412/.412/.588, 185 wRC+ during his time with AAA). This is great news. It also puts Joe Girardi in a bit of quandary in terms of lineups. He’ll have to figure out how to delegate playing time to Granderson, Brett Gardner, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki. Although Ben Francisco is technically still in the mix at this juncture, I’d have to assume his days are numbered as a Yankee barring something unforeseen.

Brennan Boesch hasn’t been particularly effective through a limited number of opportunities thus far (.205/.244/.436, 77 wRC+), and he was sent down this afternoon in favor of another pitcher. That is not a surprise. He was used sparingly as a platoon option, which was fine. Exactly as it should be.

Here’s how Gardner, Wells, and Ichiro have fared so far:













































I suspect Girardi is going to be forced into keeping Wells in the lineup, whether as an outfielder or DH, as long as his bat is above-average. This isn’t a bad thing by any means as long as he’s productive. Of the three outfielders listed above, he’s also the only who will really hit for any power.

As far as Gardner and Suzuki are concerned, I basically view them as the same guy. Neither are slouches defensively. Both are quick around the bases (though Ichiro may have the better base stealing instincts). Offensively, they both will look to get on base via the single (usually of the slap variety) the majority of the time. Ichiro will likely maintain the higher batting average, while Gardner will take a few more walks and allow a few more strike outs. One difference between the two, however, is that Ichiro has a much more noticeable split.

If I were the manager I would probably start Wells in left, have Gardner remain in center, and place Granderson in right (which would mitigate bad defensive routes). This would also place power bats in both OF corner slots while allowing Gardner to maximize his defensive value. Girardi could then substitute Ichiro into the game in the later innings as a defensive upgrade in right when necessary. I suppose the caveat here would be that the occasional platoon would still be utilized if specific matchups warranted it or the occasional off day was needed for a particular guy.

Should Girardi elect to keep Granderson in center, then I suppose I would shift Gardner to left where has has plenty of experience, and push Vernon to right. For what it’s worth, Granderson has been rehabbing at all three outfield positions apparently, so hopefully that’s a precursor to him playing a fair amount of games at the corners despite it being contrary to Girardi’s statements on the matter.

Game 38: Let's Split Two
Monday Night Open Thread
  • CG

    Do you really think that Girardi will bench Ichiro that often, given the contract he’s on especially? Or were you thinking that Wells or Granderson could DH often to allow Ichiro to play somewhat often?

    • http://riveraveblues.com Matt Warden

      I would hope the Yankees would use Ichiro in appropriately — as a fourth outfielder — regardless of what he’s being payed. Whether that actually happens though is another question altogether. Injuries or the inevitable Ichiro hot streak could change that.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t believe he deserves to be a starter at this juncture. Also, the problem with DHing the other guys with frequency, is that the more often you do it, the more often you then take Hafner’s bat out of the lineup. And when Pronk is healthy, you want his bat.

      • Preston

        Ichiro has a reverse platoon split both this season and for his career. Hafner isn’t useless vs. LHP by any means. But given his frailty he could definitely use some days off, even as a DH. Wells at DH and Ichiro in LF is probably the best lineup against LHP. I don’t think the money plays any part in it and even if it did I don’t know why Ichiro would get preferential treatment. Ichiro and Wells are both owed 13 million over the next two years, and both are accomplished veterans. As for Gardner, he is the only true CF at this point in time, I just don’t see them restricting his playing time unless he is substantially worse than the others at the plate.

      • hornblower

        Four players three spots how hard is that? Each plays 3 of 4 days. Anticipate a lefty so Wells faces them all. It’s not rocket science.

        • Laz

          So you want to give everyone equal playing time regardless of how good they are?
          This isn’t t-ball, this is mlb, better players play more.

      • Laz

        I agree, and even if it is shifting grandy to dh, putting hafner in vs lhp is better than ichiro vs lhp.

  • trr

    Wells needs to keep playing, Granderson’s power element means he needs to play all games except agaianst the toughest LH pitchers on the road. Ichiro/Gardner split the remaining games. And if (dare I say it?) someone gets hurt, well there you go, “problem” solved

  • Thomas

    You have to keep Wells in the lineup for right now. Ichiro is the odd man out for now. There is a way to keep all of them involved. You can rest Wells against RH pitchers. Against a LH pitcher, you could take turns until someone gets supper hot. Wells could be the DH at times also.

  • TSag

    I’ve got the perfect answer…Take a 12 game sample with 4 lefty starting pitchers and 8 righties. 4 games Verno DH with Grandy, Brett and Ichiro in OF. The other 8 games use Travis as DH, and give each of the 4 OFers 2 games off out of the 8, maximizing matchups however Girardi sees fit. So, the 4 outfielders play 10 of 12 games with enough play time to stay sharp and enough rest to stay fresh. Agreed ?

  • Eddard

    Gardner stays in CF, Granderson in LF, Wells in RF. Ichiro will be the 4th outfielder unless Wells turns into a pumpkin. Ichiro can be a defensive replacement and a PR. Depth is a good problem to have.

  • CG

    Sounds good. What about when Tex/Jeter/Arod/Youk return from the DL? What the F is the team going to do about these hobbled old folks who have legitimate bats but are huge injury risks if played every day?

    • CG

      The yankees will be wishing there were 3 or so DH spots when they all come back, because OF+Hafner alone already clogs the spot up with bats that we don’t want taken out of the lineup.

      • Preston

        I doubt that it will ever be a problem. When Jeter comes back he’s the starting SS. Overbay has done an admirable job for us in limited time, but if Hafner, Teixeira, Youkilis and Rodriguez are all healthy he’s gone. In order for there to be any conflict for playing time all four have to be healthy, which is highly unlikely. If they are healthy it’s four guys for 3 spots (1B, 3B and DH) and three of those guys are at a point in their career that they could definitely use some days off. Hafner would DH vs. RHP, with Youk/A-Rod against LHP, Youk/A-Rod would split time at 3b and Youk would back up Teixeira at 1B. They’d all get a healthy amount of AB’s and it wouldn’t be a problem.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Matthew Warden

    Well, let’s see all those guys come back before we worry about finding playing time. That’s a good problem to have for a manager. Of course, it’s hard to bank on any of those guys getting healthy, let alone at the same time.

  • Kramerica Industries


  • Dan in Athens

    Just move Wells to 3B. (Kidding of course)

  • Gonzo

    How long does this Wells renaissance last though? I’m curious if people think this is just SSS or something than can sustain over the season. Either way, ride it while it lasts, right?

    • Preston

      I’m on the Vernon Wells train. I believe that he’s for real. He was a very good player as recently as 2010, and even though everyone thought the Angel’s trade was terrible there was no reason to expect him to fall off a cliff the way he did at age 32. He’s only 34 now and if you look at his numbers in Anaheim he maintained his contact rate and his power, but had a drop in walk rate and BABIP. I honestly think that there is something going on with the Angels systemically that caused this problem. Maybe they encouraged him to be more aggressive, causing him to swing at more pitches and induce weak contact, and maybe they’re doing the same thing with Josh Hamilton now. From what I can see, Vernon Wells is the same player he was in 2010, and there is no reason he can’t continue to play like it.

    • Mouse

      It better last. We have him for another year.

  • Tipsie

    Girardi’s strengths, in my opinion, are the management of both the bullpen and the aging / diminishing players’ need for rest / days off. He’ll figure it out; and inevitably, someone will get hurt for a while, providing clarity.

    Good to see that he may be inclined to riding Gardner in CF. Let him log a full season there to see what he really brings to the table (average stuff thus far). He was the only one to play 18 innings in the field today (I think), and he’s young enough to be able to do that.

    Sitting Granderson against the occasional lefty will be a decent idea, too, especially if he’s in one of his KKK funks, with no ability to pick up that LHP’s breaking ball.

  • Michael

    The problem with this analysis is the point that Gardner tries to slap the ball. He does not. He generally takes a big cut, and he is not a very effective hitter as a result. Ichiro 2013 is not the Ichiro of old, but he is still a high quality hitter. No way would I put Ichiro on the bench, especially against a quality right handed pitcher.

    • Preston

      Yes the guy who is hitting .221/.294/.325 against RHP (and has a negative platoon split against RHPs for his career) MUST be in the line-up to face quality RHPs. Because everybody knows that all LHBs hit better against RHPs.

      • Michael

        He is career .318 hitter against righties. And if you watched the game in addition to reading Baseball Reference, you would note that Ichiro has much more bat control than Gardner.

        There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

        — Mark Twain.

        • Preston

          The point isn’t that he hasn’t been productive against righties for his career, he has. The fact is he’s been worse for his career against righties than lefties. A trend that has continued in his decline. He is in decline, and he is worse against righties than lefties. Yes he makes more contact than Gardner. He’s one of the greatest contact hitters of all time. But he hasn’t made good contact and he’s unlikely to. A pithy saying doesn’t make it so, and Twain was talking about statistics on complicated matters with many variable. Baseball lends itself to statistics. If you want to continue to bury your head in the stand and prattle on against strike outs as the great evil, then be my guest. You’re entitled to being wrong.

      • Michael

        Another thing. If you watched the playoff games last year against the Tigers(sans Jeter), you probably felt that the whole lineup had no chance against their excellent right handed pitchers –except Cano and Ichiro. Cano, alas, was in a slump. Ichiro? He hit .353 against the Tigers. Gardner? He was coming off an injury, but his career post-season average is .215.

        • Preston

          Ah, so you only disbelieve stats that disagree with your point. Ichiro has 77 ABs against RHPs this season which give a far better indication of his current skill level against RHPs then a handful of ABs in the playoffs. He will probably be better than this against RHPs going forward. You should always expect regression to the mean. But the evidence is clear that Ichiro is no longer a good hitter against RHPs, and he’s probably not a good hitter in general. His value now is almost completely tied to fielding and base running.

          • Michael

            Sabermetrician is another word for nerd.

            Sorry. But stats are a useful tool, not the end-all of analysis. All good baseball people know that watching the game is probably more important. That’s why guys like us are not hired by teams as scouts. Except Bill James.

            As Derek Jeter adamantly said when then Yankees got Ichiro: “Ichiro can hit, man.” He’s the greatest Japanese player ever to play in America, and I love watching him hit. To say he has no value in hitting is silly, and wrong. Ask a person who has actually played the game at a high level, or a person who has to pitch to him. Ask a real baseball man, like Jim Leyland. Or ask Ichiro’s manager, a smart man who values a player who can hit a difficult pitch over a player who cannot hit a difficult pitch. You see — really good pitchers can get their curveballs and sliders over the plate. That’s why they make the big money. Batters in the playoffs have to be able to hit those pitches. Unlike the regular season, they can’t just take and take and try to walk or hope to get a fastball. No wonder Gardner, Teixeira, Granderson, and Swisher do not hit in big spots. (None of them could hit the Tigers last year; I know Gardner was hurt).

            Girardi, love the man, will keep Ichiro in the lineup at least 3 of 4 games, just watch.

            • Preston

              I haven’t even touched on a stat that was anywhere near a sabremetric. The idea of sample size isn’t nerdy. It’s common sense. I fully understand that you can’t trust stats in small samples and that scouting might tell you that a player is doing better than his batting line suggests. You are not a scout, you’re no more qualified to scout Ichiro than I am. My eyes tell me he’s done, your eyes tell you he’s fine. His batting line agrees with me, and the last 356 games of below average production are not a small sample. Players are notoriously bad at assessing both their own skills or the skills of others, so quoting Jeter is pretty silly. And Girardi is very much into the “nerdy” stats that you abhor, so I’ll watch Ichiro sit most days when Grandy returns.

  • Chesser

    Is anyone else shocked that Ichiro’s K% is below 11? He has taken some swings this season that are among the worst I’ve ever seen (non-pitcher division). I would’ve guessed his K% was north of 25%.

    • Preston

      That’s Ichiro, he’s made a career out of being able to make contact with just about anything.

  • Neil

    I’ve always liked Gardner but he seems to have leveled off on his growth as a hitter and not made progress on his base stealing. And striking out at a 20% rate is way too much for a singles hitter.