When Jeter goes down: a brief history

For the bulk of his career, Derek Jeter has been the paradigm of health. Outside of suffering a freak shoulder injury on Opening Day in 2003, he had, before this week, been on the disabled list just three other teams and had never missed more than the minimum. To reach 3000 hits and over 2350 games played, health is a requirement and a skill.

So far, the Yankees haven’t exactly missed Derek Jeter during his two games on the shelf. The club has scored 24 runs in the span, and Eduardo Nuñez, Jeter’s fill in, is now 4 for 8 with a home run and two RBIs. The Yanks’ leadoff hitters, meanwhile, are 4 for 7 with four runs scored and three walks. The numbers look gaudy both because they are and because Jeter is slowing down as soon-to-be 37-year-old middle infielders are prone to do, but in this small sample, the Yanks have survived without their captain.

Of course, replacing Jeter hasn’t always been so easy. They ran through a period of using a rogue’s gallery of short stops with Jeter out. As an exercise in nothing more than history, let’s see how they did it.

DL Trip #1: June 4 – June 19, 1998

It’s almost hard to believe Derek Jeter missed any time during the Yanks’ historical run in 1998. That year, he played in 150 games, hit .324/.384/.481, stole 30 bases, landed on his first All Star team and came in third in the MVP race. Yet, he missed time with a strained abdominal muscle suffered on a check swing in June.

During the 12 games that year which Jeter missed, the Yankees went 9-3 as Luis Sojo filled in less than admirably. The fan favorite managed to hit .180/.212/.200 over 52 plate appearances, and four of his hits came in one game against the Expos. Jeter’s return on June 19 was, needless to say, a welcome one.

DL Trip #2: May 12 – May 26, 2000

Two years later, Jeter found himself back on the DL with a strained abdominal muscle. Again, he would miss only the minimum, and again, it came in a year in which he utterly dominated at the plate. In 2000, he hit .339/.416/.481 and only came in 10th in the MVP voting. During his time on the shelf, Clay Bellinger, Alfonso Soriano and Wilson Delgado attempted to replace him. Each was worse than the last.

Bellinger, a cult favorite in the early 2000s, lasted four games at short, and he went 1 for 9 before the Yanks tried to plug Soriano into that hole. Sori made two errors on the nine balls hit to him over his four games and went just 3 for 16 at the plate. Delgado played three games at short during Jeter’s DL stint and went 4 for 12. That is the very definition of holding down the fort, but the Yanks went only 4-8 during Jeter’s absence.

DL Trip #3: March 23 – April 7, 2001

The three-time World Series Champion Yankees had to open the season with their short stop out with a strained quad. Jeter, who hurt himself in Spring Training, needed a few extra days to heal, and he had to started the season on the disabled list. This time, they opened the season with Luis Sojo at short and went 3-1 without Jeter. That .750 winning percentage, though, was no thanks to Luis who went 1 for 15. He never really was a very good hitter.

DL Trip #4: April 1 – May 13, 2003

Jeter’s injury on Opening Day in 2003 has a little bit of the “where were you when…” allure to it. I was a sophomore in college in the midst of jazz band rehearsal when I got a text message (on a phone which at the time looked a little bit something like this) from my parents freaking out about Jeter. I had no idea what had happened and quickly learned that Jeter might be out for four months. My heart sank, but the Jeter-less depression was short-lived. Luckily, that turned into six weeks, and Jeter came back in mid-May.

For the Yankees, his return that year wasn’t a moment too soon. In his absence, Enrique Wilson and Erick Almonte split time at short, and Almonte was, in a word, terrible. While playing 28 games with Jeter out, Almonte managed to hit a serviceable .272/.337/.370, and he even homered in his second plate appearance on April 2. Defensively though, he cost the team 7.4 runs in just 28 games. Enrique Wilson, with a .189/.211/.324, was a nothing on offense with Jeter out. Still, the Yanks went 25-11 before the Captain came back.

By and large then, good teams are still good teams when one of their better players lands on the DL. A well-balanced team can weather the storm of a short stop on the disabled list for a few weeks, and the Yankees have certainly proved that in the past when Jeter was a better player than he is today. It’s certainly remarkable that Jeter has gone since May 13, 2003 without being on the disabled list. Hopefully, this calf strain, suffered while he jogged off the field, isn’t a harbinger of age to come. The late 30s are not often kind on an athlete’s body, and Derek would be better served fully healing now than playing through the pain as he has done so often in his career.

Yankees break out the C lineup, whoopin’ sticks in win over Rangers

This Wednesday night’s lineup was announced before the game, most of us were left scratching our heads. Nick Swisher at leadoff? Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez and Frankie Cervelli in the lineup? Yikes. It certainly qualified as the C lineup, but a few hours later it did not matter. The Yankees won big again, which is all they seem to do these days.

Two, two two-run homers. Ah ah ah.

Player of the Game: RoboTex

For all the (deserved) love we’ve given Curtis Granderson this year, Mark Teixeira has been right there with him all season, homer for homer. After falling behind two-zip in the top of the first, Tex knotted the game back up with a two-run shot to deep left field after the Grandyman took a breaking ball to the back. Derek Holland tried to get a fastball inside but it just wasn’t far enough inside, so it ended up right in Tex’s wheelhouse. That erased an early deficit and then five innings later Teixeira put it out of reach. New York was up 6-4 in the sixth and Nick Swisher was standing on first when Mark Lowe tried to squeeze a fastball inside. Tex pulled his hands in and hooked it to right field, this one much more of a no-doubter than the first.

Two homers and four runs driven in are a good week for most players, but that was the first six innings of Teixeira’s Wednesday night. He also singled in the eighth and made a beautiful unassisted double play on an Adrian Beltre line drive to end the seventh. All told, Tex went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and the two long balls, tying him with Jose Bautista and Granderson for the Major League lead with 21 homers. This was the 11th time Tex homered from both sides of the plate in the same game, tying him with Chili Davis and Eddie Murray for the most in baseball history. Isn’t that something? I’m surprised Mickey Mantle didn’t have like, 25 or 30 games like that in his career. Crazy. Also, his 296 homeruns are the most by a switch hitter in his first nine seasons in history. Again, crazy.

Rakin' Ramiro is back in the bigs. Hide your daughters.

Honorable Mention: Eduamiro Penunez

Day Two of the Derek Jeter Is On The Disabled List era went even better than Day One. Eduardo Nunez did make a boneheaded error on a not so routine but not so difficult ground ball to start the fifth, but he also hit his second homer of the year in the fourth inning, a solo shot off a hanging breaking ball to knot things up at four. He also had a single, a walk, and two stolen bases. Not a bad day for the birthday boy (he turned 24). Nunez is now 4-for-8 in two games as Jeter’s temporary replacement.

His partner on the left side of the infield for the night was Ramiro Pena, who was giving Alex Rodriguez a half day off as designated hitter. I noticed two things about Pena almost immediately when he came to the plate for the first: his batting stance is different (reminded me of Carlos Guillen’s) and he’s a little bulkier. Not fat, I mean like he filled out some. Whether the changes are real or I have a bad memory doesn’t matter, because Rakin’ Ramiro brought his hot streak from Triple-A Scranton to the Bronx with him. He went 2-for-4 on the night, clubbing his second career homerun in the sixth, an absolute no-doubter into the right field bleachers off a 97 mph fastball from Lowe. Insane, you knew it was gone right off the bat. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I like it.

Shaky Nova

Ivan Nova‘s relationship with his starting rotation spot is a love-hate one. He alternates brilliant outings with bad ones and merely acceptable ones, and this game probably falls into that third category. The Rangers hit several balls hard off him, Ian Kinsler (a leadoff single in the first and a leadoff homer in the third) in particular. Josh Hamilton also clobbered a ball to dead center for a double over Grandy’s head, and a few other guys made hard hit outs. All told, Nova walked three and allowed seven hits in his 5.2 IP of work, though he did get 13 of his 17 outs either on the ground or on strike three. I thought Joe Girardi pulled him at exactly the right time, right before he faced Kinsler (for what would have been the third time) with two men on in a two run game. Nova’s job is safe now that Bartolo Colon is hurt, but his inability to get the strikeout or consistently retire left-handed batters will be a season-long battle.

Frankie made a good.


Luis Ayala replaced Nova in that sixth inning, giving up a single back up the middle to Kinsler. Granderson made a gorgeous throw from center and Cervelli did a nice job of blocking the plate to simultaneously keep Yorvit Torrealba from scoring and end the inning. Bad job by Ayala, great job by Grandy and Cervelli in what was just a two run game at the time.

Speaking of Yorvit, did you catch him mouthing off to Andruw Jones because he thought he was stealing signs in the fifth? I’ve never considered stealing signs or location that heinous of a crime as long as it stays on the field. If you start getting into stuff where guys in the bullpen use binoculars and relay signs or something like that, well that’s not cool. But the runner on second? Fair game. Do a better job of hiding your signs.

Swisher went 1-for-3 with two walks from the leadoff spot, meaning that the leadoff hitters have gone 4-for-7 with three walks in Jeter’s absence. Not coincidentally, the Yankees have scored 24 runs total in those two games. A-Rod drew a pair of walks and both Jones and Cervelli picked up a single and walk. Sadly, that means Frankie will remain on the roster for the foreseeable future. Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 with a garbage time homer off Neftali Feliz, so all four members of the infield homered in this game. I can’t imagine that happens much, especially when the two future Hall of Famer aren’t playing the field for various reasons.

It doesn’t mean much now given the final score, but a big moment in the game (at the time) was Kinsler failing to tag A-Rod as he ran by in the fifth. Alex walked with one out in the fifth, then managed to scoot by the Rangers’ second baseman on a Cano ground ball. Jones singled him in one batter later to break a four-all tie and make it 5-4 Yankees. Again, not all that important given what happened later in the game, but it looked like a huge play at the time. Oh, and to just wrap up the offense, the Yankees also pulled off a double steal not once but twice. A-Rod and Cano did it in the first, Nunez and Cervelli in the seventh. Only one of those four runners came around the score though.

How about Cory Wade? Granted, it was a total garbage time appearance, but he went right through his three batters quickly and effectively in the eighth, showcasing his money making curveball to strike out Torrealba to end the inning. There’s a non-zero chance he works his way into some leveraged work, so it was nice to see his Yankees’ career get off to a good start.

And finally … Al Leiter’s real name is Alois? Huh, I always assumed it was just Albert. Well, you know what they say, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

The Yankees will go a for the sweep Thursday afternoon, a getaway day before the NL leg of interleague play begins in Chicago. Brian Gordon will make his Yankees’ debut against C.J. Wilson at 1pm ET.

Zoilo homers again in Tampa’s walk-off win

Dante Bichette Jr. is very close to becoming a Yankee, or at least that’s what his Twitter feed says. Meanwhile, Baseball America’s Draft Database (subs. req’d) says that 8th rounder Phil Wetherell ($112,5000) and 9th rounder Zach Arneson ($20,000) have both signed. Both have big arms (up to 95, 96) but work-in-progress secondary pitches. Arneson didn’t have much leverage as a college senior. Robert Pimpsner says the Yankees also signed Wes Wilson, and he’s referring to this guy as an undrafted free agent.

Austin Romine, by the way, has not yet resumed baseball activities following his concussion, so it’s safe to say he won’t be back anytime soon. That’s fine, you don’t want to rush anything with head injuries.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off  day.

Double-A Trenton (6-1 loss to Harrisburg)
Corban Joseph, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 3B – 12 for his last 38 (.316) with six doubles, a triple, and a homer
Jose Pirela, SS: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
Everyone Else: combined 0 for 22, 2 BB, 7 K
Dellin Betances, RHP: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 6-1 GB/FB – 58 of 95 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he was sitting right around 93 on the gun … 55-27 K/BB in his last 51.2 IP
Brad Halsey, LHP: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB
Fernando Hernandez, RHP: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 0-1 GB/FB
Grant Duff, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB

[Read more…]

Game 66: A different kind of lineup

(Photo Credit: Flickr user BrainNY08 via Creative Commons license)

Apparently unimpressed by Brett Gardner‘s a) 3-for-4 with a walk performance last night, b) his .364 OBP against left-handed pitchers this year, and c) his .361 OBP against left-handed pitchers in his career, Joe Girardi is sitting his regular left fielder tonight in favor of Andruw Jones against southpaw Derek Holland. With Derek Jeter on the disabled list and Gardner on bench, tonight’s leadoff hitter is … Nick Swisher. Swish is hitting .356/.438/.576 against lefties this year and did spend some time batting leadoff for the White Sox a few years ago, so it won’t be completely foreign. Plus it’s not like he has to change his game, he’s just got to keep doing what he’s been doing against lefties this year, that’s all. Don’t change a thing. Here’s the rest of the lineup…

Nick Swisher, RF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C
Ramiro Pena, 3B

Ivan Nova, SP

The weather has been gorgeous all day and will remain that way this evening. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and it can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Transaction Updates (6:40 p.m.) The Yankees made a flurry of pre-game transactions this evening. The club announced they have signed Cory Wade to a Major League deal and added him to the 25-man roster. Kevin Whelan has been sent down to AAA, and to make room for Wade on the 40-man, Rafael Soriano has been moved to the 60-day DL. He will not be eligible to come off until July 12.

Wade, who will wear number 53, has thrown well for AAA this year. In 38.1 innings with the Rays’ Durham franchise and Scranton, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.17 ERA. He has struck out 35 and walked just six. The 28-year-old last pitched in the Majors in 2009. In parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, he threw 99 innings with a 3.18 ERA and struck out 69 while walking 25. If anything, he’s likely to throw more strikes than Whelan and provides the bullpen with some much-needed depth.

Rafael Soriano ‘not quite there’ in his rehab

Via Brian Heyman, Rafael Soriano played catch on Tuesday but has not yet been cleared to continue a throwing program. “He’s close, but he’s not quite there,” said Joe Girardi in his pregame press conference, adding that the righty will continue to get treatment and try throwing again next week. Joba Chamberlain‘s injury has suddenly made Soriano very important, though it sounds like the chances of him returning before the All-Star break are dwindling.

This is not normal: the David Robertson edition

Relievers are tricky little buggers. Their appearances are by nature short and frequent, and they accrue statistics in drips and drabs. As a result, even the most overused relievers typically have statistically insignificant samples of data by this point in the season, and within those samples of data sometimes we see a little bit of crazy. That’s what’s going on with David Robertson so far in 2011. Four things in particular stand out:

6.2 BB/9 rate, 87% LOB rate, 0.0 HR/FB%, .368 BABIP

Regression is a word that gets tossed around quite a bit, but it’s reasonable to expect Robertson to experience some regression in each of these areas. Some of this will work in Robertson’s favor, and some will not. Let’s start with the good.

“Good” Regression

6.2 BB/9 rate. Robertson’s control hasn’t always been the best at the major league level, but in the minors he averaged 3.6 BB/9. This is a good mark, although he was an advanced college arm when he came into the system, so perhaps the most relevant marks are his 4.4 BB/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in his two final years at Scranton. David has struggled with his command in the big leagues, averaging about 5 batters walked per nine innings throughout his career. For most relievers this would be intolerable, but David frequently makes up for it by preventing subsequent batters from putting the ball in play by striking them out. Regardless, Robertson probably isn’t a 6.2 BB/9 guy going forward unless something’s wrong with him. We can probably expect him to cut down on the walks just a bit, which is always a plus.

.368 BABIP. Most people are familiar with BIP theory so we won’t go through the primer. A .368 BABIP is not normal, and there’s no good reason to expect Robertson to sustain a batting average on balls in play this high. The Yankees defense isn’t horrific – it’s rather good in the outfield – and Robertson is clearly a major league pitcher capable of getting guys out. Robertson can’t be a pitcher good enough to sustain a very high strikeout rate, which he clearly is, and simultaneously be so hittable so as to render his BABIP of .368 normal.

Batted ball profile aside (and it checks out just fine), I ran a Play Index query seeking single season totals for pitchers with over 100 IP, a K/9 of over 9 and a BABIP of over .350 from 1919 to 2011 and came up with two pitchers: Darryl Kile in 1996 and Randy Johnson in 2003. If you set the parameters for just relievers and a lower the minimum IP require to 50, you net 50 pitchers with a strikeout rate of over 9 and a BABIP higher than .350. In other words, it’s very rare, the stuff of flukes, and likely to sort itself out over time if given a long enough runway. Robertson has always been a high BABIP guy, but .368 is a touch too high, even for him. Figure that fewer balls in play will be converting to hits, and figure that Robertson will get better results in this regard. Count this one as a plus.

“Bad” Regression

Not enough home runs: 0% HR/FB, 0 HR/9, 0 HRs, however you’d like to put it. Robertson’s isn’t a particularly ground-ball heavy pitcher as it is, which means a fair amount of batted balls are going into the air when he’s pitching. Eventually, these fly balls are going to leave the park. From time to time pitchers have been known to go a long time without yielding home runs. In fact, since 1901 33 pitchers have thrown at least 50 innings in relief without yielding a single home run. This sounds like a decent number until you realize that in that time frame there have been 3,835 pitchers to throw at least 50 innings in relief. Those 33 pitchers are well into the 99th percentile of home run rates, and only 1 of those pitchers ever repeated his feat (Greg Minton, who didn’t allow a single home run between 1979-1981 pitching as multi-inning reliever for the San Francisco Giants).

Robertson has given up roughly 8 home runs for every 100 fly balls throughout his career, which means he should have given up at least one by now (1.44 to be exact). Spitballing it, he’s likely due for 3 or 4 HRs by the time the season concludes if his HR/FB ratio regresses to normal and he continues getting FBs at a 35% rate. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it likely will happen and it likely will happen with inherited runners on base, given that that’s usually when he’s brought in. Count this one as a minus.

Strand rate: 87.2%. In his career Robertson has been a 77% strand rate pitcher, meaning he’s stranding about 10% more this year than in the past. Relievers don’t normally maintain strand rates north of 85%. It’s very rare. Mariano Rivera comes in around 80%, as do Joe Nathan, Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez. Plenty of pitchers sit lower.

Robertson is a very good pitcher with the ability to get loads of strikeouts, so his ability to maintain a high strand rate is in some sense believable. At the same time, he’s not likely to maintain this high of a rate for the remainder of the season or the entirety of his career. Could he? Sure. Anything could happen. Robertson could also throw another 25 innings with a BB/9 over 6, a K/9 over 14 with a BABIP of .350, even though only one other pitcher in baseball history has managed to pull that off before (Kenley Jensen, this year) and no pitcher in baseball history has ever done it over 50 innings. But in the absence of some intervening explanation as to why we should expect this to happen, I’m far more comfortable going forward with a reasonable expectation of regression based on probability.

Scouting The Trade Market: Erik Bedard

Early on in the offseason, I declared Erick Bedard one of four players the Yankees shouldn’t even think about signing over the winter. It had nothing to do with Bedard as a pitcher because there’s simply no denying his performance, instead it had everything to do with his health. He had two shoulder surgeries in 2008 and made just 30 starts total from 2008 through 2010, including zero last season. There was every reason to be skeptical this past winter.

Through the first two and a half months of the season, Bedard hasn’t just stayed healthy, he’s stayed healthy and performed well. His 3.80 FIP is almost exactly league average, and he’s striking out 8.36 men per nine innings while walking just 2.96 per nine, the same kind of numbers he put up in his prime. Given the Yankees perpetual need for pitching, it’s worth seeing if Bedard would be a fit in the Bronx…

The Pros

  • When you’re talking about a strikeout heavy lefty, the upside is obvious. Bedard’s strikeout rate has been north of eight per nine for years now, covering both healthy seasons and those impacted by injury.
  • He misses bats with one of the game’s best curveballs, a pitch that drops more than ten vertical inches and sits in the high-70’s. Bedard’s fastball velocity is surprisingly good given the shoulder issue, sitting right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seamer. A changeup and cutter rounds out a solid repertoire, though that last pitch is just a show-me offering.
  • Bedard has a slight platoon split but nothing crazy: righties have a .323 wOBA off him this season, lefties .290. The good news is that Yankee Stadium is tougher on right-handed hitters, and Bedard’s split plays right into that.
  • Not only is Bedard’s salary dirt cheap (just $1M), the extra $6.35M he could earn in incentives is reasonable as well.

The Cons

  • I already talked about the big one, the injuries. One of those two shoulder surgeries repaired a debridement and removed a cyst, the other took care of a torn labrum. Bedard also missed time with a quad strain (2009), hip inflammation (2008), an oblique strain (2007), a knee strain (2005), and Tommy John surgery (2002). All but the quad required a DL stint. That’s some serious stuff.
  • Bedard was a ground ball guy once upon a time, but over the last few years he’s around 42% ground balls. That’s not awful, but it does lead to a lot of homeruns. He’s given up nine in 70 IP this year (1.16 HR/9) and 26 in 234 IP as a Mariner (exactly one per nine). Remember, Safeco Field is not exactly hitter friendly.
  • Bedard has a reputation of being very rude and standoffish when dealing with the media, occasionally blowing them off entirely, something that absolutely won’t fly in New York. He’s also made it no secret that he prefers to play in smaller markets after growing up in the small town of Navan, Ontario (outside of Ottawa).

The wrench here is that the Mariners are actually within striking distance of the AL West crown. They’re just two games back of the Rangers in the loss column and have won 16 of their last 25 games. Justin Smoak has developed into a strong hitter, Dustin Ackley‘s promotion is right around the corner, Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda are fronting the rotation … there’s a non-zero chance Seattle hangs around long enough and goes for it rather than sell off parts.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of stuff to like and dislike about Bedard. He’s shown ace caliber performance in the past but his medical file would make Carl Pavano blush. He doesn’t like big cities but he also carved up the AL East when he was with the Orioles. He’s left-handed and matches up well particularly well against the Red Sox but he’s also homer prone. The money cost is low but I can’t imagine the prospect cost will be given his overall performance. I try to just present the facts for discussion purposes and not give a definitive yes or no in these posts, but I’m breaking my own rule and saying “no” to Bedard. That health track record is scary, I’d much prefer a surer thing (if one exists when it comes to pitchers) even if the potential performance isn’t as exciting.