- Derek Jeter is in Tampa and has started “functional exercises.” He’s scheduled to resume baseball activities later this week, and Joe Girardi told reporters that the team hopes to have him when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list next Wednesday. It’s unclear if he’ll play in a minor league rehab game (or two) before then.
- Eric Chavez took batting practice on the field and also fielded some ground balls in Tampa yesterday. His running is still limited to a treadmill though. He’s not eligible to come off the disabled list until July 5th.
- Rafael Soriano has reported to Tampa after spending “considerable time” with a physical therapist in New York. Last we heard, he hadn’t been cleared to begin a throwing program, but the hope was that he’d be able to this week. Just going to Tampa is a good sign, though he isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list until after the All-Star break.
- Bartolo Colon
has not yet been cleared to start a throwing program, Joe Girardi said to reporters yesterday. If Colon is to come back from his injured hamstring after the 15-day minimum, he will have to start throwing today or tomorrow. With this delay, he will likely miss some extra time.Scratch that. According to the AP (via Bryan Hoch, Colon started a throwing program today. He should be back near or at the minimum 15 days if his hamstring holds up OK.
Via Bryan Hoch, Eric Chavez’s bone-bruised left foot is getting better, but the infielder is still no closer to returning to the team. “He’s still not where he needs to be to run,” said Joe Girardi yesterday. “He is getting better, though, but he’s still not there yet.” According to the official site, Chavez is now on the 60-day disabled list, presumably to make room on the roster for recently claimed Jeff Marquez. That means he’s not eligible to be activated until July 5th at the earliest. Le sigh.
Via Jack Curry and Dom Amore, Alex Rodriguez did not have his surgically repaired him examined today as scheduled. “We’ve had a lot of late nights,” said Joe Girardi, who indicated that Alex will have the joint looked at another time. A-Rod feels fine and the exam is just a routine check-up, so there’s no urgency. He wouldn’t be playing if it was something to worry about.
In other news, Marc Carig reports that Eric Chavez is making progress on his way back from a deep bone bruise in his foot, and hasn’t walked with a limp in days. That’s good news, but he’s still a ways off from returning. With all due respect Chris Dickerson, get well soon, Chavy.
Via Dan Barbarisi, Eric Chavez’s injured foot isn’t fractured, he just has a really deep bone bruise. The fracture doctors saw in the x-ray was an old fracture from when Chavez was a kid; apparently he had a condition in which he was born with fractures in both feet and had to wear casts as a child. It sounds weird but it happens, I was born with bone spurs in both my ankles for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to wear casts though. Anyway, no fracture is good news, though Chavez is still 2-3 weeks away from rejoining the team,
Update (3:28pm): Chavez has a small fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, which is the bone adjacent to his little toe. No idea how long he’ll be out, but it’s obviously a disabled list thing. Maybe they’ll call up a utility infielder that can actually make a throw to first.
Just FYI, Ramiro Pena has not played since fouling a ball of his foot on Monday, though Triple-A Scranton hasn’t played in either of the last two days because of a rain out and a scheduled off day. If he’s not healthy enough to come up, the other 40-man roster options are Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo, but neither has done much with the bat this year (.230 and .224 wOBA’s, respectively).
Original Post (2:07pm): Eric Chavez left today’s game with an apparent left foot injury after legging out an RBI triple in the fourth. He pulled up lame about halfway to third and called the trainer out. After a consultation that focused around Chavez’s left foot, the Yanks’ medical staff had to help Chavez off the field. Alex Rodriguez replaced him at third base. We’ll update with more as it comes.
One of the downsides to Wednesday’s rainout against Minnesota in New York was that fans were prevented from getting their first glimpse of the new Yankee bench, particularly Eric Chavez. Fortunately Chavez got the nod today at DH and took advantage. As of post time, Chavez was 3 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run. Brian Cashman signed Chavez this offseason to be a backup infielder, and his role on the team is to stay healthy and spell Rodriguez at 3B whenever Alex needs a day off. He can also DH, a role he took on today against Boston. When the Yankees signed Chavez, some criticized the move based on his extensive injury history. It’s hard to argue with these critics. Click here to navigate to Baseball Prospectus’ player card for Chavez (free for non-subscribers), and scroll down to his Injury History. It’s incredible. Regardless, no one can deny the fact that Chavez managed to stay healthy throughout Spring Training and now occupies a role on the 2011 New York Yankees. Indeed, not only is Chavez healthy but Mark Prior is currently healthy as well. Cats, dogs, living together as one. Presuming Chavez can stay healthy enough to play 1 or 2 games a week an interesting question arises: are the Yankees better on the days in which Chavez plays 3B and Rodriguez DHs than they are on the days in which Rodriguez plays 3B and Posada DHs? The answer is no, but it’s probably closer than most realize.
There are two questions that must be answered. The first is how much value the club receives, if any, by replacing Rodriguez on the field with Chavez. Chavez has long had the reputation of being a defensive wizard. As Mike noted when the Yankees brought him to camp on a minor-league deal, his best days in Oakland were days of double-digit UZRs at the hot corner. Now, whether some of this defensive skill has eroded over time due to injury, age or loss of flexibility remains to be seen. It’s logical that he won’t be as agile as he’s been in the past, or have the same arm strength. He at least has the pedigree. Rodriguez, on the other hand, doesn’t grade out particularly well at 3B. He’s shown increased mobility this spring, likely due to his hip injury finally healing all the way, but even before that they only time he showed a positive UZR at 3B was in 2004. Every year since then the grades have been below-average. This isn’t a case in which the defensive metrics disagree with what fans see, like how UZR and fans disagree on Teixeira. Most fans would likely agree that Rodriguez’s defensive pedigree is more or less average. Certainly none would label Rodriguez a plus defender. In the past, Chavez has been a plus defender. If he’s able to regain some of that defensive form at third, it’s likely going to be a bit of a defensive upgrade when Chavez is in the game.
The second question is how much value the club loses, if any, by replacing Posada at the plate with Chavez. In his heyday, Chavez was a very productive hitter. From 2000 to 2004 (arbitrary start/endpoint alert) Chavez hit .280/.357/.513, averaging exactly 30 home runs per year. Unfortunately, his offensive production and his ability to stay healthy started to decline after that. In 2005 and 2006 Chavez put together an OPS of .791. This would be the last time Chavez would play over 100 games, and since then his inconsistent health has prevented him from getting back on solid offensive ground. He is fully healthy, for now, but it remains difficult to know what to expect from him offensively. His playing-time adjusted PECOTA projection is .231/.300/.379, a line that not-coincidentally mirrors his 2010 line of .234/.276/.333. Marcel has him at .237/.292/.365. Given how these systems are constructed, weighting past performance heavily, such a pessimistic projection isn’t at all surprising. Yet, there’s considerable upside there. As Mike put it back in March, the number one question is the health:
His 3-or-3 effort in yesterday’s game bumped his admitted small (18 PA) spring line to .471/.500/.529, and based on the radio broadcasts, many of his outs have been hard hit as well…
Anyway, as good as the early camp stats are, the bat really isn’t the question with Chavez. I mean yeah, it kinda is since he’s hit just .233/.290/.399 in 628 plate appearances spread out over the last four seasons, but the biggest challenge he has to overcome is his health.
Chavez has a gigantic platoon split. In his career against lefties he has batted .237/.305/.392, but he’s hammered righties to the tune of .279/.359/.514. While no one expects him to regain his .875 OPS form, if he’s used exclusively against righties it perhaps wouldn’t be a surprise to see him settle in around .750. For his part, Jorge Posada can likely outproduce that by a decent margin. He’s a lifetime .855 OPS hitter and doesn’t have to bear the physical toll of catching this year. Posada can focus exclusively on his craft. He’s slumping right now, and spent today’s game on the bench, but would anyone be surprised if he cleared his 2010 OPS of .811 in 2011? It’s a reasonable bet that Posada will outproduce Chavez at the plate this year. By how much largely depends on proper usage (Chavez should face only RHP), whether the two of them will stay healthy, and whether Chavez’s lefty swing can take advantage of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium.
Ultimately this is a moot point. It’s not as if Chavez is going to suddenly supplant Rodriguez as the every day third baseman, forcing Rodriguez to the DH position and Posada to a bench role. However, thanks to his past defensive prowess and skill against right-handed pitchers Chavez has the potential to be better than your average defensive replacement. Yankee fans have become accustomed to bench players who either can’t hit (Pena, Nunez) or can’t field (Thames). In Chavez the team has a guy with the potential to do a little of both. Of course, potential has always been and will always be the operative word with Eric Chavez. But hey, hope springs eternal.
Note: I’ve had this post in the hopper all week. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m well aware that it probably looks like I wrote it in the past hour after Chavez’s big day today. You’ll just have to take my word for it :)
Once the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee, they shifted into salvage mode and grabbed what they deemed to be useful players on the cheap. Among that group was fifth starter Freddy Garcia, long man Bartolo Colon, bench players Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez, and reliever Mark Prior. As each signing trickled in, a familiar wisecrack was bestowed from the masses: “they’d win if it was 2003!” The joke came in various forms, but the one constant was 2003 for whatever reason. People were fixated on that year. So, naturally, the question becomes: what’s so special about 2003 anyway?
This is a convenient place to start since it’s Prior’s first (half) year in the bigs. He came up in late May and pitched to a 3.16 FIP in 116.2 IP, striking out 11.3 batters per nine. Colon was in the middle of a six-year stretch of 4-5 fWAR seasons, splitting a 3.73 FIP in 233.1 IP between the Indians and Expos. Sweaty Freddy was already a vet at age 25, with 87 big league starts to his credit. His second straight Opening Day assignment was followed by 223.2 IP of 4.01 FIP pitching. That’s a fine three-man pitching staff right there.
Jones’ .377 wOBA was the second highest of his career at the time, and the 15.6 runs he saved on defense (!) was then the lowest full season total of his career (!!) by eight runs (!!!). Chavez was a young buck just coming into his own at the time (24 years old), but his .364 wOBA was his third straight year in the .360’s. He also saved nine runs with the glove, down four from the year before.
Prior zoomed right past Beast Mode and went straight into F*ck Sh*t Up Mode this season, giving the Cubbies 211.1 IP with a 2.47 FIP. Over the last eight years, there have been only five instances in which a pitcher has posted a FIP that low in a single season (min. 180 IP). He was, as they say, redonkulous. Garcia had one of the worst full seasons of his career with a 4.82 FIP in 201.1 IP, and Colon was rather ordinary with a 4.11 IP in a crazy 242 IP. That’s the sixth most innings thrown in a single season by a non-Roy Halladay pitcher over the last eight years. Jones had another phenomenal year (.361 wOBA, 18.4 runs saved) but Chavez slumped with the glove, costing his team 5.2 runs defensively. He did provide another .360-ish wOBA (.365 to be exact), the fourth straight year. This is the year everyone keeps referring too, though Prior and Jones were the only real standouts.
Things started to go south for Prior in ’04, but he still managed a 3.53 FIP in 118.2 IP. Colon had the worst full season of his career (4.97 FIP in 208.1 IP), but Garcia had the second best of his career (3.67 FIP in 210 IP). Once again, Andruw was a monster, saving 24.3 runs defensively with a .351 wOBA. That’s his worst offensive performance in this here “study.” Chavez, meanwhile, had the best offensive season of his career thanks to a .383 wOBA, and he also saved eight-and-a-half runs at the hot corner. The Prior injury and Colon’s poor season really drag this group down.
Jones stole the show this season, clubbing 51 homers and registered a .382 wOBA at age 28. He also saved 24.3 runs in center, resulting in an 8.3 fWAR effort that was second only to some guy named Alex among all position players. Colon won the Cy Young this year, but a 3.75 FIP in 222.2 IP is more really good than Cy worthy. Garcia (4.05 FIP in 228 IP) and Chavez (.342 wOBA, 7.1 runs saved) were solid but not brilliant. The ’05 season was Prior’s last hurrah, a 3.85 FIP in 166.2 IP. He made nine appearances in 2006 and hasn’t been back to the show since.
* * *
Now that we have an idea of what each player did during this completely arbitrary four year stretch, let’s recap it all using everyone’s favorite catch-all stat, fWAR…
While this fivesome did some fine work in 2003, the 2005 season is where it’s really at. Each player was worth at least three wins, and four topped at least 4.3 wins. The star-level performances aren’t there after Jones, but one star and four other above-average contributors is a recipe for success. So the next time someone says the Yankees would be doing great if it was 2003, make sure you point out that they’d be doing even better if it was 2005.