Jeter not getting on base (and how it makes the Yanks offense more remarkable)

(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

We were prepared for a slow start from Derek Jeter. Given the new swing mechanics he worked on this spring, it seemed like an inevitability. Through the season’s first month we didn’t make any mention of Jeter’s performance outside of game recaps. In fact, the only post we’ve made all year that involved Jeter’s performance is this whimsical one by Mike. Unfortunately, this is the first of them.

Joe Girardi has said that they have to wait a while, specifically until 150 PA, until they start making judgments. Jeter is now at 175, and his numbers don’t look anything like a leadoff man’s should. Forget the batting average and slugging percentage. The most important number for a leadoff man is his OBP, and Jeter’s downright stinks. At .309 it ranks 133rd out of 192 qualified players. It also ranks eighth out of the nine Yankees who have 100 or more PA. That Jeter has more PA than anyone on the team further compounds the issue.

While the guy getting the most appearances making the most outs is a problem itself, it also causes problems for the rest of the lineup. Mark Teixeira is the biggest loser in all of this. He’s tied for fourth on the team with 22 RBI despite having the second most extra base hits. That’s because he’s not coming to bat with men on base. In 61.63 percent of his plate appearances he has seen a bases empty situation. That ranks 37th out of the 225 players who have 100 or more PA. The only Yankee who has seen more bases empty situations is the leadoff hitter himself.

(To be clear, he has seen the 37th fewest PA with runners on base.)

Part of that, of course, is that Curtis Granderson has done a good job of clearing the bases. But he’s hit only 10 homers in the two hole. Let’s be generous and turn all 10 of those homers into doubles. That would still put him at 109th in the league at 55.81 percent of his PA with the bases empty. This is not something you want to see for your No. 3 hitter. Even Alex Rodriguez at No. 4 hasn’t seen a ton of bases on PA. He has had the bases empty in 52.29 percent of his PA — and that’s with the benefit of Teixeira’s .378 OBP.

While the main issue here is of how ineffective Jeter has been atop the lineup, the secondary issue is of how highly this speaks of the Yankees offense. Despite the recent slump they’re still second in the AL in runs per game at 5.03. That they can do that while their leadoff man OBPs around .300, and while their second best hitter (performance-wise this season) has seen a great majority of his plate appearances with the bases empty, is a testament to the lineup’s depth. The Yankees can afford to continue the Jeter experiment, because they’ve scored runs. But as they showed during the winless skid, during which Jeter got on base in just five of 30 PA (.200 OBP), his presence at the top can hurt at times.

While Jeter can turn things around, even if it seems unlikely, he should have to do it from a lower spot in the order. If the Yankees want the most effective offense possible they need to have men on base when Teixeira and A-Rod come to the plate. To date they have not seen that. In fact, Nick Swisher has seen the most opportunities with men on base. (Which only makes matters worse, as things stand.) The No. 6 guys should see those opportunities, but not more than the Nos. 3 and 4 guys. That’s the inefficiency in the Yankees’ lineup. Make a change, and they could be even better. Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that one is coming.

The RAB Radio Show: May 18, 2011

A win! It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the day is when the Yankees did something good. Last night was not just a skid-breaking win, but it was also representative of almost everything the Yankees do well. Mike and I muse on the joys of winning well, and on the Orioles.

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

2011 Draft: Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 Prospects

In a free Baseball Prospectus piece, Kevin Goldstein posted his list of the top 20 draft prospects with pros and cons for each. He has HS RHP Dylan Bundy ranked first overall, UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole second, Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen third, and Rice 3B Anthony Rendon fourth. This is the first time I’ve seen someone besides Cole or Rendon ranked first. Make sure you check it out, it’s not often you get a free look at 20 of the best available prospects.

Elsewhere in draft news, Jim Callis weighed in bonus demands made by Bundy and HS RHP Archie Bradley, Rendon’s long-term prospects at the hot corner, and the top catching prospects. It’s all free, and it’s all worth reading.

Taking on the Sweater

Former WFAN radio personality and current My9 sports host Russ Salzberg, who is a client of my dad’s and a good family friend, has a new weekly web show. Every Wednesday from from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., Salzberg is taking calls and discussing sports right here on the Fox 5 website. Give him a listen and a call and tell him RAB sent you. The number’s 201-330-3466.

And Now Comes The Hard Part…

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

We all slept a little easier last night following the Yankees’ win over the Rays, but that’s all it was: a win. Singular. One win in a season that’s nowhere close to being over with a long stretch of terrible play not far enough away in the rear view mirror to rest easy. The Yankees have still lost ten of their last 14 games and are just as close to last place as first place (two games), so they’re not out of the woods yet. Last night’s win was a positive first step, but that’s it, nothing more.

Tonight’s series opener in Baltimore will be a tough challenge in more ways that one. First of all, the Yankees will definitely be without the services of Joba Chamberlain, who Joe Girardi said will sit tonight no matter what after pitching in each of the last three days as well as in four of the last five. David Robertson is probably a no-go as well; he threw 27 pitches last night and has thrown 119 pitches in five appearances over the last eight days. If the Yankees have a smallish lead late, there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to see Boone Logan and Luis Ayala do the heavy lifting. Furthermore, the Orioles are starting rookie lefty Zach Britton (who got pushed back after they got rained out last night), a sinkerballer that the Yankees have never seen before. We know how that usually goes.

The good news is that Camden Yards always seems to brings out the best in the Yankees’ offense. They scored 21 runs in two games there earlier this season, and last year this same cast of characters (give or take a catcher) hit a collective .289/.371/.446 in Baltimore, a 118 OPS+. It won’t hurt that the Orioles’ pitching staff has the fifth worst ERA (4.37) and fourth worst FIP (4.43) in baseball in 2011, the Yankees could certainly use all the help they can get at the moment. An offensive explosion, I’m talking double-digit runs and an unmerciful amount of homeruns, is what I’m hoping for this evening. I want them to Amaury Sanit-proof tonight’s game and early, we can all do without a nail-biter or hair-puller-outer for once.

Like I said, tonight’s game is just the next step in getting out of this slump. There are still some big time questions about the pitching staff and a whole lot of hitters still trying to right the ship, and it’s not all going happen at once. The Yankee have a favorable schedule coming up – eight of their next eleven games come against losing teams – but then again they didn’t exactly take care of business against the White Sox and Royals recently either. It can be very easy to overstate that one win, the one that got them off the schneid, but make no mistake about it, the Yankees still have a long way to go before they’re out of the hole they dug themselves this month. The process continues tonight.