What Went Wrong: Lyle Overbay

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The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the replacement level replacement first baseman.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The Yankees acquired their 2013 starting first baseman with only six days to go in Spring Training. Mark Teixeira suffered a wrist injury in early-March and at the time he was expected back in mid-May, so the team only needed a stopgap for six weeks or so. The Red Sox gave their lefty bench bat spot to Mike Carp and cut Lyle Overbay loose with a week to go in camp, which is when New York pounced. He was the best available option.

Much like most of the team’s veteran retread pick-ups, the 36-year-old Overbay was quite productive for the first 50 or so games of the season. He wasn’t exactly hitting for average or getting on-base, but Lyle hit for a surprising amount of power and had a knack for big, late-inning hits. During an 86 plate appearances stretch in early-to-mid-May, Overbay hit .269/.318/.526 with eight doubles and four homers while pacing Robinson Cano for the team lead in runs driven in. Many of those runs he plated came in crucial situations:

  • April 28th: Two-run homer against R.A. Dickey to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead in the seven inning.
  • May 10th: Overbay went 4-for-5 with five runs driven in against the Royals, including a sixth inning run-scoring double that broke the tie and gave the Yankees the lead.
  • May 20th: Solo homer against Orioles lefty Troy Patton to break the tie and give New York a lead in seventh inning lead.
  • May 25th: A solo homer off Rays righty Josh Lueke gave the Yankees the lead in the 11th inning.
  • May 28th: Broke a scoreless tie with a run-scoring single against Matt Harvey.

From the start of the season through the game with that single against Harvey, Overbay managed a robust 0.928 WPA, meaning he chipped in close to a full win of value with timely hits despite having a mediocre .251 average overall. His numbers with runners in scoring position (.268/.367/.415 in 49 plate appearances) were okay but he was a monster in situations defined as “close and late” (.286/.407/.714 in 27 PA), though sample size caveats apply. “Close and late” plate appearances come in the seventh inning or later with a one-run lead or the tying run at least on deck, plus anything in between.

Overbay played well enough in the first two months that even after Teixeira returned from his wrist injury at the end of May, the Yankees kept his bat in the lineup by sticking him in right field, a position he had not played since rookie ball in 1999. The right field experiment lasted four games and was mostly a disaster defensively. Well, not mostly. It was an outright disaster. No one could blame Overbay though, the team was desperate for offense and he was one of their most productive players, so Joe Girardi & Co. did what they had to do to help the team win.

Teixeira re-injured his wrist during a series against the Angels in mid-June and eventually needed season-ending surgery, allowing Overbay to reclaim the first base job outright. He hit an acceptable .266/.346/.415 with five doubles and three homers in 28 games between Teixeira’s injury and the All-Star break, which was fine production for an offensively starved team. Overbay carried a .251/.307/.436 (101 wRC+) batting line into the break. He was also playing strong defense, which is pretty much his calling card.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The second half is when things went really south. Because Kevin Youkilis was hurt in addition to Teixeira, the Yankees did not have a proper right-handed platoon partner for Overbay. He was out there everyday, against righties and lefties, and it completely exposed his weakness against southpaws. It also might have worn him down physically. Lyle closed out the month of July by going 10-for-42 (.238) with no walks, three doubles, and a homer (.381 SLG) in 12 games.

August was slightly better — .250/.307/.324 (72 wRC+) in 20 games — though he did have a stretch of 18 straight plate appearances without a hit towards the end of the month. September was just brutal — .163/.250/.245 (36 wRC+) line in 20 games — and by the middle of the month he’d lost his starting job to Mark Reynolds, even sitting against righties. Overbay started just ten of the team’s final 19 games and four of their final eleven games. He’d hit his way out of the lineup.

That .251/.307/.436 (101 wRC+) batting line in the first half was broken down into .272/.330/.485 against righties (224 plate appearances) and .198/.247/.309 (89 plate appearances against lefties). Overbay hit just .220/.272/.314 (58 wRC+) in the second half, including .234/.292/.339 (137 plate appearances) against righties and .171/.194/.229 (36 plate appearances) against lefties. His overall season batting line was .240/.295/.393 (93 wRC+) with a huge platoon split: .258/.316/.430 (103 wRC+) against righties and .190/.232/.284 (35 wRC+) against southpaws.

Overbay is perfectly symbolic of the 2013 Yankees. He was asked to be play everyday and hit near the middle of the order after being cast aside by a contender because they didn’t even have a spot for him on the bench. The only reason he got the job was because the Yankees don’t have any internal solutions for, well, almost anything. Lyle did an admirable job in the first half of the season and had a bunch of big hits, but his performance was below-average overall and well-below-average compared to the typical first baseman. Stepping in after being signed less than a week before the start of the season is not easy, but Overbay was a net negative in 2013 and the very definition of replacement level (0.0 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR).

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  • Pego

    I feel like you’re being a bit harsh toward Lyle. I mean he might have been replacement level, but relative to what we were probably expecting from him, he did a perfectly adequate job.

    I wouldn’t say he belongs in “What Went Right” but maybe there’s something in the middle. “What Went Adequately”.

    • Joe

      “What Went as Reasonably Expected”

    • http://www.draftstreet.com/register.aspx?r=Jedile Jedile

      I was thinking the same thing. Lyle should fall under the “What Went Okay” category. Lyle had some key hits and scores some runs for us. I for sure wasn’t expecting him to come in here and hit 30 hrs, 100 rbis and hit 275. I was looking for something along the lines of 15hr .250 and 50 rbis.

      • mitch

        Agreed. What went wrong was that he was needed in the first place. Once he got here he did what was expected.

      • D$1184

        “What Went ……Ehhh”

      • MannyGeee

        “What just sorta…. went”

        Nailed it

    • James

      Was just about to post a very similar comment. The true “What Went Wrong” was the tex injury. For a scrap heap pickup at the last minute, Lyle produced exactly replacement level WAR with a few timely hits and decent defense. What more could you really ask of declining veteran in desperate need of a platoon partner. The true problem is the yankees lost their above average starting first baseman, and didn’t acquire a suitable replacement

    • James

      Was just about to post a very similar comment. The true “What Went Wrong” was the tex injury. For a scrap heap pickup at the last minute, Lyle produced exactly replacement level WAR with a few timely hits and decent defense. What more could you really ask of declining veteran in desperate need of a platoon partner. The true problem was the yankees lost their above average starting first baseman, and didn’t acquire a suitable replacement

    • Kai


    • Cool Lester Smooth


      If anything, this article should be titled: “What Went Wrong: Lyle Overbay Getting 485 PA”

    • Laz

      And your not being harsh enough.
      It all has to do with the position he was playing.
      The only 1B worse offensively last year with 400+ pa was Konerko.
      He was not adequate by any measures. .240/.295/.393 is adequate for ss, actually somewhat similar to Nunez, but he plays most offensively minded position, and added absolutely nothing on offense.

  • Donny

    I would say that given the circumstances, Overbay more accurately fits the description: what went right. He did the job that was initially asked of him and he even attempted to get some extra credit when Tex’s season ended; his skills just didn’t fit the job description. A more accurate way to put it is: What Went Wrong: Yankees Start Overbay at First Base for Way Longer Than Any Team Should.

  • mike

    It actually shows what went right – much like vernon and Hafner – where if they were given 200-250 selective AB’s they would be perfect veteran depth for a contending team at no real cost, and help bridge the gap in the lineup due to injuries or horrible platoon splits among the starters.

    what went wrong was once it was apparent that Youk, Jeter, Tex, Granderson, Nix, Cervelli etc were either not coming back at full strength or not to be counted on at all, that the cubbard was bare and these guys were hung out to dry, allowing their glaring weakness to be exposed and dragging down the whole team

    • Mandy Stankiewicz


  • JGYank

    Could of been much worse. Overbay was decent and had some very clutch hits. He was much better than the other replacements we had like the ones at 3B and SS. Not as good as Tex, but he didn’t do a bad job. If we had found a platoon partner for him earlier he could of been even better.

  • Darren

    What went wrong: we had not one player in the minors that the front office thought was worth testing out at first to spell Overbay (cf: Dan Johnson).

  • Frank

    Overbay helped save the Yanks this season. They remained in the race for a playoff spot until the last 10 days. He wasn’t great, but he held his own and more importantly, remained healthy. What would have happened if he had gotten hurt early on with Tex already out for the season and Youk already gone? Definitely not fair to Overbay. He gets a pass in my book.

  • Kosmo

    I think this fits more into the category of NY not finding Overbay a platoon partner at 1B. What went wrong with the FO is more to the point.

    Overbay wore down after the ASB. He did hit around .290 at YS3 contrasted to a below .200 AVE on the road.

    A nice round of applause for an adequate if not admirable job filling in for Tex. Happy trails.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    We do need a new category:

    What was going right until the collapse of the Yankee system forced him to play above his head and get completely exposed, a situation for which we have statistical data and therefore will not blame said player personally.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A career in advertising is not in your future.

      Volvo: They’re boxy, but they’re good.

      What movie?

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        They’re safe.


      • Rooting for U.S. Steel

        Crazy People, with a cameo by the absolutely necessary Floyd Vivino.

  • Gonzalo Hiram

    This is ridiculous, Overbay can’t be in the went wrong side.

    You’re talking about a guy who came to the team the very last minute, he was supossed to a 1 month bridge to have Teixeira and Youkilis.

    He isn’t an MVP caliber player, we got more than expected from him.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Know what would have been worse? Not having a guy who went out there every day at first base like Lyle did. He played strong defense and, yeah, was replacement level.

    This could have been tons worse. You weren’t thrilled with first base, but you weren’t really worried about it either.

    Finding even this two days before the season started? “What Went Right.”

  • Dick M

    He got lots of huge hits and is a better hitter than Tex against right handed pitching.

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

      Based on what? Overbay hit .258/.316/.430 against righties this year. Awful and declining Tex hit .239/.331/.438 against righties in 2012.

      • Dick M

        Well stats wise it’s not too compelling either way which says more about Tex than Overbay. Tex’s numbers in 2011 were 224/325/453 by the way vs righties.

        I go by what I see as much as anything though. I my opinion, Overbay got more big hits in 2013 than Tex generally gets in the course of a year. His mechanics and at bats are generally better (against righties). And in a big spot I’d rather have him up there. Factor in the opportunity cost of Tex’s contract and yeah, I am really down on him. He is awful and declining.

        It’s a moot point cause we are stuck with Tex for 3 more years. I do gotta admit he’s a decent right handed hitter. For 22 mill you should get a whole lot more though.

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

          I go by what I see as much as anything though.

          I prefer facts, not make believe.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          So you’re saying he was also way better against righties in 2011?

  • 461deep

    Overbay did a fine job on defense and adequate on offense with an nice number of HR’s and clutch hits. Probably got worn down after July. Team got what they paid for and more. You could not expect him to hit like a regular 1st baseman. I’d keep him to spell Tex next year unless a better player comes along or decide to keep Reynalds but he could be used to trade for a pitcher.

  • LK

    Essentially every post so far has made the exact same point – that the real problem was Tex’s injury and the lack of a platoon partner/replacement for Overbay once the season wore on, not Overbay himself.

    There’s definitely some truth to this point, but I think it’s getting overstated. He was replacement level; he performed to the caliber of someone who should be shuttling between the minors and MLB. It’s true that it would be tough to expect more, considering he got cut in Spring training, so maybe putting him in What Went Wrong is harsh. But there’s just no way he should be getting consideration for What Went Right. A team of Lyle Overbays is the 2013 Houston Astros. If you want to mentally make a new category called “What Sucked But Should’ve Been Expected To Suck So We Can’t Say It Went Wrong Because Then His Feelings Would Be Hurt” and throw him in there, go for it.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      He would have been at about 1.2 WAR if he didn’t have those 125 PA against lefties.

      He had a 35 wRC+ against lefties this year.

      35. He was worth -8.3 wRAA, which comes out to roughly -12.5 RAR.

      It’s actually hard to express just how terrible he is against lefties.

  • Reuben Sierra’s Chains

    OT – Sorry, but I won’t be around tonight, probably thankfully, for Game 6 so I wanted to post this here. Did the Sox win this thing already? Is there some sort of thing I missed?

    Jonny Gomes is out on the field waving to people, he has his camera in hand taking pics. Sox players are all smiling and laughing congratulating one another. The City of Boston has festivities planned tonight for after the game.

    I mean REALLY… C’mon Cards, pull an Ashton Kutcher and Punk the Shit out of that team and that city. Pleeeeaase!!

  • AllyinCt

    To me, his performance seemed like something out of a Disney movie…maybe Bad News Bears or Mighty Ducks…something like that. I think that he gave it everything he had. Lyle Overbay: I salute you. :)

  • Peter North

    Mike, you forgot Overbay’s July 31 winning hit at Dodgers. Against a lefty!

    • Peter North

      Pinch hitting! With 2 outs! In the 9th!

  • RetroRob

    I understand why some people don’t want to put Lyle Overbay in the “went went wrong” category, but in reality the fact that he was playing all the time, and he was just replacement level can only mean he falls into the “what went wrong” bucket.

    If your favorite team has to pick up their starting 1B’man off the scrap pile days before the season starts, well, it’s going to be a challenging season.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      We’re just saying that the “what went wrong” is his playing all the time, rather than his not playing well.

  • csonk

    So, Overbay hits for basically the same average that Texiera would but ‘he went wrong’? He was streaky – so is Tex. He wasn’t supposed to hit vs. lefties but got forced into too much time which also wore him down physically. He was an adequate defensive replacement (not many can pick it like Texiera).
    Texiera may well be one of the very best defensive 1B in the game but his attitude toward hitting (especially in the stadium) and continually diminishing average have made him one of the biggest disappointments in Cashman’s checkbook driven era. Can’t wait for that .240 bat in the clean-up spot next year.

  • Repo Man

    I don’t understand why so many people think that getting replacement level production from first base qualifies for What Went Right or What Went Ok. Sure it isn’t like Overbay played worse than expected, so it is not a personal shot at him. But when you look at the Yankee season, getting replacement level production at first base is clearly something that went wrong, regardless of the context.