It took a while, but the Yankees finally have something resembling a Major League lineup

Hale: Kuroda is still undecided about plans for 2014
Heathcott and Montgomery placed on minor league DL
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

With an assist to the impossibly bad Angels bullpen — seriously, how awful is Joe Blanton? — the Yankees scored a season-high tying 14 runs on a season-high 19 hits last night. During one span from the fifth through seventh innings, 14 of the 21 men they sent to the plate reached base. It was, by far, the best the offense has looked since April.

“It felt more like the old days,” said two-homer man Alfonso Soriano to Chad Jennings after the game, referring back to his first stint with the Yankees in the early-2000s. “We scored 14 runs today, so I hope we can do that more often. I know it can’t happen every day because the other team gets paid to get us out, but I hope we continue playing like we played tonight.”

Even with last night’s 14-run outburst, the Yankees are still only averaging four runs per game with a team .249/.324/.383 (94 wRC+) batting line in August. That’s a bit below-average but way better than what the offense did during the disaster months of June and July: 3.58 runs per games with a team 72 wRC+. The Yankees spent two hot summer months in a hitter friendly home ballpark hitting — as a team (!) — like consummate fifth outfielder Endy Chavez (72 wRC+). Think about that.

The Yankees have hit eleven homeruns in their last six games and 13 in August overall, more than they hit in July (ten) and the same number they hit in their previous 31 games combined. Not coincidentally, Soriano joined the lineup along with Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez recently. Soriano has hit five homers in 19 games since returning to the Yankees and Granderson has hit two in his eleven games back. A-Rod, who many believed would never play again as recently as last month, has even gone deep once in his seven games back.

Those three, even with all their flaws, represented massive upgrades to the lineup. The bar at third base, in left field, and at DH had been set so low that even league-average production would have been a huge step up. More A-Rod means less Jayson Nix (62 wRC+) and David Adams (45 wRC+). More Granderson means less Vernon Wells (79 wRC+). More Soriano means less Travis Hafner (87 wRC+), who wound up on the DL anyway. Guys like Nix and Wells moved back into roles more suitable for their abilities rather than be asked to play everyday. Add in the recently productive Austin Romine taking at-bats away from Chris Stewart and the Yankees have upgraded four lineup spots in the last three weeks or so.

The lineup Joe Girardi ran out there on Sunday and Monday…

  1. Brett Gardner
  2. Ichiro Suzuki
  3. Robinson Cano
  4. A-Rod
  5. Lyle Overbay
  6. Soriano
  7. Granderson
  8. Eduardo Nunez
  9. Stewart

…is the deepest lineup the Yankees have had this season. Yeah, Granderson and Overbay should be flipped and Romine should be in there for Stewart, but you get the point. Six of the top seven spots are filled by hitters who should be league average or better offensive players, whereas a few weeks ago the Yankees were trotting out a lineup with just two such hitters. There’s power, speed, and batting average to be found in that lineup. They were lucky to get one of three in June and July.

All of this offensive improvement is probably too little, too late though. The Yankees have just a small chance of making the postseason — 4.6% according to Baseball Prospectus — in part because the lineup was so bad for so long. They needed to go out and get a bat or three in early-June, right after Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis (remember him?) suffered their long-term re-injuries. That didn’t happen and the Yankees are where they are. Such is life. At the very least, they now have a lineup capable of being competitive in a daily basis. That wasn’t the case for much the year.

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Hale: Kuroda is still undecided about plans for 2014
Heathcott and Montgomery placed on minor league DL
  • dkidd

    which would you prefer: 84 wins and “respectability” or 74 wins and a better draft pick?

    i vote for the pick

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      I’ll take the 84 wins, which actually seems a little conservative to me.

      Personally, I like watching the Yankees win, because of the whole “being a Yankees fan” thing.

      • Wez shud be sellerz

        No we need to lose so that we can win, don’t you see it’s the only way. Look at the Pirates! All you have to do is lose for 20 straight years then you get to be a playoff contender again! Even though we’re a playoff contender right now. Wait, I forgot what we were talking about, I’m going to take my meds now.

    • Bo Knows

      I want them to win, besides there are plenty of really good players available in the 16-20 range(which is where they are slated to pick)at least a few will probably be top 10 talents with issues that caused them to fall; hell that’s how the Cards got Miller, and Wacha just to name a few.

    • Mike HC

      I’ll take 85 wins, because, you know, 84.5 was the Vegas over/under I bet on, if gambling was legal.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      If 74 wins means fewer trolls on RAB…nah, still no.

      As many wins as possible. Always.

    • Frank

      Not only would I prefer the higher pick, but better yet, a top 10 pick. This way, pick is protected when it comes to signing a big name FA. This likely won’t happen to Yanks, unless they just completely tank.

      • lightSABR

        Agreed completely. I don’t think the no. 12 pick is enough better than the no. 17 to make tanking worth it, but a protected no. 10 pick would totally be worth it.

        But to get that protected pick, they’d probably need to finish with 73 wins, or at most 74. To do that, they’d need to go 13-31 from here out. Not gonna happen.

    • Elton Cod

      84 wins.

      I am a Yankees fan. This means I watch the Yankees. So, I’d prefer them to be watchable.

      They probably won’t make the playoffs, but it looks like there’s a chance that they will be watchable the rest of the season.

      Strategic tanking is fine but it only makes sense in the right situation. There’s not much added value from the 84-win draft pick to the 74-win draft pick. It won’t make any difference in rebuilding, especially given the general unpredictability of prospect development.

      There is significant and tangible added value in fielding a respectable team that fans actually want to watch. They might fuck things up for Boston/Baltimore/Tampa a little.

      Even full-on tanking for a #1 draft pick is never a sure thing. Just ask Sam Bowie.

      • lightSABR

        Well, the real reason to tank isn’t to get from the no. 17 pick to the no. 12 pick. It’s to get to the no. 10 pick or better so that you can sign a top free agent and still get a first round pick at all. I ran the numbers a few days ago, and 73 or 74 wins is what it looked like the Yankees would need for that. (At this point, not going to happen.)

        Other than that, I agree with you.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I have to say that one of the great joys this past week is reading when folks whose comments don’t normally ellicit positive feelings from me assert their fandom in the face of adversity. We need a hell of a lot more of that on here.

        • dkidd

          what’s great is how many ways there are to be a fan. this is a “hinge year” and has me thinking about the future. for the first time in forever, i wouldn’t mind losing individual games if it helped the overall direction of the franchise (better draft pick, playing some kids, getting hal to smell the coffee etc)

          this is predicated on my belief that we’re not making the playoffs and my lack of interest in playing “spoiler”

        • Elton Cod

          Aw, thanks, Dad.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            i(actually)etc

    • Kramerica Industries

      Cannot possibly vote for the draft pick.

      If the Yankees keep winning, they have a (small) chance at the playoffs, where they would have a (small) chance of doing something.

      Meanwhile, the odds are that whatever marginally better player they picked in the draft would never reach the Majors anyway.

      Pretty easy choice for me.

    • Get Phelps Up

      13-31 (47 win pace in a full season) the rest of the way? No thanks, I’ll take the wins over a lottery ticket draft pick.

    • hogsmog

      Average (career) WAR of 1st round draft pick: 4.65

      (http://orioles-nation.com/2011.....th-anyway/)

      So, no, I wouldn’t give up ten wins for one. Also, yeah, I like to see my favorite team win.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      84 wins, and it didn’t even take half a second to consider.

    • trr

      More wins.
      Always.

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

      A-Rod, Soriano, and Granderson don’t make a ten-win difference. You’re talking a four or maybe five win difference if everything breaks right. The better draft pick point is a small concern, there’s no real difference between say, the #14 pick and the #17 pick. Couple grand in bonus pool money, nothing worthwhile.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Jeter’s clutchiness and determination, however, will definitely get us to the playoffs!

      • Deathstroke Heathcott

        Baseball is also absolutely the last sport to tank in. Makes no sense.

      • RetroRob

        I guess I should have read the responses before I responded below. A few extra wins or losses will not have a tremendous impact on the quality of draft picks available.

    • RetroRob

      I have thought about that too, although the difference in the quality of picks between 84 and 74 wins may not be much as many think. Now if they could get down in the 60s in wins and could pick in the first half of the first round, then they might nail a pretty sure (nothing is sure) impact player. That’s how Mr. Jeter showed up on the team.

      • vicki

        of course a modern derek jeter would never fall to sixth with the new cba.

        • RetroRob

          A good point, although Jeter wasn’t viewed as the top pick in the draft, just one of several front-end guys. Even with that, though, he probably wouldn’t have made it past #4.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        They could always go back and lose games they won already. 1899 Cleveland Spiders FTW.

        • RetroRob

          Not for nothing, but the Cleveland Indians should immediately begin transitioning to the Cleveland Spiders name. I much rather have a team name the Spiders than the Blue Jays or Orioles. Females, though, probably think different!

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    And at some point Jeter will come back, too!

    It has to happen eventually, right?

    • Darren

      Yes, probably Monday or Tuesday.

  • In Mo We Trust

    Mike, do you think the Yankees should take a chance on Paul Konerko? He was out on waivers, and if the White Sox has a fair price he could be a good righty platoon with Overbay. Better than getting Reynolds who looks like a righty Travis Hafner since May.

  • Rolling Doughnut

    Like wins are good, losses are bad. Right? That was easy.

  • LarryM Fl

    As Mike indicated the lineup is getting stronger as players have returned from the DL and the Soriano pickup. Too bad Girardi has not seen fit to insert Romine in the lineup more often. Romine has shown to be an upgrade over his previous play. I understand that the catching position is more than physical. It’s pitcher management along with strategy but if you can take the chance with Eduardo Nunez playing shortstop then you can take the chance playing Romine. If Girardi is slowly moving him toward more playing time? I would prefer the faster approach.

    As far as less wins and a better draft pick. Professionals are paid to win every time. As a Yankee fan there is no other way to play but to win.

  • JGYank

    Imagine if we had Jeter cano granderson tex cervelli arod youk Gardy and soriano in the lineup at the same time? Now that looks like a good offense to me. (Not in order of course)

  • Tom M

    More Wins. The Yankees don’t play for draft picks. Let’s sack up people. WE PLAY TODAY, WE WIN TODAY DAT’S IT! Whats past is past.

    Sure, there are teams in front of them, but Cleveland and KC are only two games ahead…and really…they are Cleveland and KC. Yanks need to play .650 against their remaining games in AL EAST.

    I like thinking about the symmetry of the Mo Era beginning and ending with a Mad Dash to the playoffs (1995 and 2013), and if we can sneak in….good luck beating The Hiro in the 1 game playoff.

    • CS Yankee

      This…a 1000 times!

    • JGYank

      Cleveland and KC get to beat up on the White Sox and Twins while Texas and Oakland can beat up on the Angels, Mariners, and Astros. All we get is the Blue Jays and three legit contenders. And even the Jays have a ton of talent on paper. That gives them a huge advantage and I didn’t even mention we are behind them. I hate our damn division.

  • vicki

    how many times is trevor plouffe going to make the last out of the inning?

  • ExitCashman

    Gee… wouldn’t this season have been great if the Yankees had actually done something productive with their offseason instead of signing Youkilis and Hafner and counting on Diaz, Rivera and Francisco to be our righthanded power? Maybe lining up a major league catcher? Not counting on Vernon Wells to save the season?
    I will give Cashman credit for Shawn Kelly, who looks like a great find, but he also gets the blame for screwing up this offseason royally.

    • Get Phelps Up

      Diaz, Rivera and Francisco were all minor league signings. I don’t think Cashman counted on them for anything. All teams sign those types of guys to maybe catch lightning in a bottle.

      • Anderson Silva

        They also sign or trade for good players who can help them win. Cashman forgot this part.

  • HireJerryJones

    Man, you certainly shed light on confusing situations.

    • HireJerryJones

      ^ExitCashman

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Just win, baby.

  • Darren

    Scratching and clawing. That’s what this is about from now on.
    That’s what LIFE is about sometimes.

    And just for the record, I think you have to aim high. Let’s topple the Red Sox. I mean, look at what happened to them 2 years ago. Sure it’s unlikely that it’ll happen to them again, but it certainly CAN happen. Maybe that’s our Impossible Dream.

    Let’s get a ring for Travis Ishikawa, Reid Brignac and of course, Ben Francisco.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      +28

  • Tim

    I don’t know – maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t see it as a huge longshot for this team to finish really strong and maybe even get to 90 wins. Every team in this division is flawed. The Yankees, for all the beating they’ve taken for not improving enough at the ASB, have a SIGNIFICANTLY improved team right now with all the guys coming off injury, and a line-up that can be actually pretty scary. 29-15 the rest of the way gets it done, and the best part is those wins are basically all against AL East foes. Sweep the White Sox at home and Astros in Houston and you are looking at 23-15. C’mon – this team as it is now constituted can go 23-15 against Boston, Tampa, Baltimore, Toronto and San Francisco. MAKE IT HAPPEN.

    • Kiko Jones

      Also, if I’m not mistaken all the division rivals except the Sux are in currently a multi-game slump. So…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      What seems most daunting to me is overtaking all the teams ahead in the WC standings right now than the number of games. If everyone remains healthy the rest of the way, guys like Curtis and Alex are going to get the rust off at the right time and a run isn’t out of the question. It just going to take some cooperation from other teams as well, and that’s something the Yankees have no control over.

      I root for playoffs until there’s zero chance. This “root to tank” thing shouldn’t be a part of any fan’s vocabulary.

  • http://toyankeesbaseball.wordpress.com/ Matt

    If they keep this kind of play up, might have a shot at the postseason

  • CS Yankee

    Win, win, win, lose with Hughes and win again. A massive 12 game win streak would make things real exciting heading down the stretch.

    It also seems kinda ironic to me that Arod needed 13 homers to get his first milestone this year and i’m thinking that if he gets to finish this season it just may save next years 189 plan and free up some cash.

    • RetroRob

      I am hoping A-Rod reaches that milestone this season, even though I realize it’s unlikely. He would have to hit HRs at a pace that would be 35+ over the course of a full season. At 38, coming off surgery, all the missed time, etc.? Seems unlikely, yet all he needs is a good hot streak with the long ball. Not impossible, but not likely either.

      Unfortunately, that means he will get close to 660 making him a lock to hit the milestone next year. And, yes, I do believe A-Rod will be playing at least part of next season, even if it’s only 30-60 games. I expect his penalty to be reduced. So I’ve gone from wondering if we had seen the last of A-Rod as a Yankee if not the end of his career, to the realization that he will be around not only this year, but some of next. That means the Yankees will have allocate $10-15M toward A-Rod next year factoring in that $6M bonus. Have a great finish this year A-Rod!

      • Winter

        To be fair, maintaining a 35 HR pace for two months is a lot more likely/realistic than doing it over a full season.

        • RetroRob

          Yes, agreed. It takes a properly timed hot streak with the long ball.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    HOTTEST TEAM IN BASEBALL!!!*

    *last 3 days only

    • Winter

      NO TEAM IS HOTTER THAN THE YANKEES RIGHT NOW!

  • matt b

    Too little, too late, and two small a sample to get a real handle, but always fun to play. The below is making two pretty big assumptions on Jetes – first, that he’ll ever be back as a regular this season (I have havE, and need him playing SS against lefties – I also have him playing SS against righties, but more wiggle room there), and in terms of wRC+, I’m taking his splits, averaging the last three years, and knocking them down ten percent. Equally arbitrary I’m taking Grandy and Arod’s numbers as they are – on Alex, I think they’re reasonable, Grandy I think will show more of a split (showing none now. But you do have the workings of a real offense here, especially IF – and it’s a big one, though they tried it once before – either Alfonso or Vernon Wells is halfway capable of standing at 1B when the Yanks face LHP. In that case, I’d do something like this (including Jetes)

    In any event:
    V. L
    Jeter SS (137)
    Suzuki RF (129)
    Arod 3B (112)
    Cano 2B (101)
    Soriano DH/1B (123)
    Granderson LF (127)
    Wells DH/1B (119)
    Stewy C (55)
    Gardner CF (92)

    v. R
    Jeter SS (76)
    Gardner CF (113)
    Cano 2B (151)
    Arod 3B (101)
    Grandy LF (127)
    Soriano DH (88)
    Overbay 1B (118)
    Romine C (61)
    Suzuki RF (63)

    *ironically, major change from the start of the season, club is weaker against righties – if Jetes needs to DH, I simply slide Soriano into Ichiro’s spot in the outfield and stick Nuney, at short, in the nine whole.

    Based on the above numbers, the lineup against righties averages WRC+ of 99.7 (round to league average) and 110 against lefties.

    I’m with Mike in hating platoons, certainly if you have to platoon more than one spot, but at this point, I believe they’ve gotta squeeze everything they can, and that includes having Wells in the lineup against lefties. The whole Jeter situation has been such a drag on roster construction, while understanding that Nunez is only supposed to play SS, I feel like Nix is such a redundancy on the roster – forever they had no righty bats, now they may have too few, wish that there was a magical lefty who could handle a bit of infield work and at least fake the outfield.

    • JGYank

      That’s why we got Hafner to DH but he’s on the DL and has done anything since April anyway. You might want to DH him in your lineup against lefties but I’m not sure when he gets back. Youk also may come back in September but who knows what he has in the tank and it may be too late by then. Maybe he could be the platoon with Overbay we’ve been looking for and he can give Arod a day off now and then. I don’t think Cervelli will be back at all. Maybe in the playoffs if we make it.

      • JGYank

        *hasn’t done anything
        **DH him against righties.

  • vicki

    relegate minny.

  • Darren

    WHY DON’T WE SIGN MANNY?