Poll: Which player have the Yankees missed the most this season?

The Yankees need all the wins they can get at this point.  On Tuesday, they managed to grab two against the Blue Jays.  Around the fifth or six inning of the second game in the doubleheader, Michael Kay sparked a discussion about who the Yankees missed most this season.  The players to choose from were Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, or Kevin Youkilis.  Now upon hearing this question, the answer seemed fairly obvious to me – that is to say, Derek Jeter.  Of course, that didn’t stop Michael Kay from picking a different (and rather unexpected) option, Mark Teixeira, and sparking a conversation between me and several others on Twitter.  So here we are; let’s dissect.

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

Derek Jeter

Jeter has been the Captain of this team for quite some time, and for a reason.  He’s been a historically great player, and even in his sunset years still remains a legitimate upgrade over the other options accessible to the Yankees at this time.  To put this in perspective, last season, Derek batted .316/.362/.429 (.347 wOBA, 117 wRC+) over 159 games.  As a bonus, he provided the team with 15 homeruns and a 3.1 fWAR season.  The Captain is known for putting the ball in play and has a reputation for timely hitting (though that concept is a discussion for another day).  The fielding metrics are generally unkind to Jeter, and depending on which metric you prefer, they can be downright ugly.  That’s not a surprise though.  I think everyone views Jeter as a “bat first” type of shortstop.  For what it’s worth, ZiPS had Jeter producing a .703 OPS (.311 wOBA, 1.7 fWAR) over 120 games played this season.  Obviously, it’s a moot point now.

In any event, compare Jeter’s numbers from last season (if you’re feeling optimistic) or the ZiPS projection for this season (if you’re feeling more bearish) to the alternatives, Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix.  Both Nunez and Nix have their moments (Nix as recently as Tuesday), but one would be hard pressed to make the case that either player should be a full time starter, let alone a sufficient replacement to Derek Jeter. Neither player is even in shouting distance of Jeter if he replicates his 2012 numbers.  Nunez has the slight edge over Nix (+12 in wRC+), but is still about 45 points lower than what Jeter was last year.  Jeter would still have to fall approximately 25 points in wOBA, if his 2013 ZiPS projection ended up being accurate, to match Nunez’s current contributions. Even in Jeter’s 2010 campaign, which was a terrible year by his standards, Nunez still falls short by about 20 points of wRC+.  Now to be fair, one stat is not the end all of player analysis (nor should it be), but I think some of these metrics offer a convenient snap shot of the offensive gap between a fill-in shortstop against what we, as fans, have been used to seeing on a daily basis for the last decade or so.

So if the currently-injured Nix and Nunez can’t hit like Jeter, perhaps they make up the difference in runs defensively.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.  Unfortunately for Nunez, defensive metrics tend to rate him basically as gruesomely as they do the Captain.  Nix on the other hand, is a bit more positive in this regard.  Are the runs prevented by Nix enough to offset the difference in runs created by Jeter though?  Not really.

Kevin Youkilis

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

If you don’t want to vote for Jeter, I see the logic in voting for Kevin Youkilis, at least from a more macro level.  We’re all aware of how dismal the Yankees third baseman have been this season (and for a brief period, Youkilis contributed to those shortcomings).  Despite A-Rod’s contributions over the past couple weeks, the team still ranks in the bottom six of all Major League Baseball (-0.5 fWAR collectively) in terms of production from this position.  The group of fill-ins for A-Rod have shown very little patience at the plate (6.1 BB%) and have struck out often (24.9 K%).  The Yankee third basemen have produced 8 (!) home runs all year.  We’re talking .259 wOBA, 56 wRC+ bad.

Hypothetically, if we pretend Youkilis wasn’t injured all year (which in itself involves a stretch of the imagination) and performed similarly to last year (which I’m also dubious about given how fried he looked when he was playing early on this season), that would still represent a definitive upgrade over what the team has had.  Over 509 plate appearances in 2012, Youk smashed 19 long balls, walked 10% of the time and struck out 21.2% of the time.  More importantly though, his offensive contributions were basically league average overall (103 wRC+) despite his noticeable splits.  League average isn’t necessarily a desirable or complimentary trait, but it sure as hell wins out over the abysmal production the Yankees have experienced — especially considering it was a last minute desperation move in the offseason.

This same logic applies to Alex Rodriguez as well, now that he has returned.  Drama aside, he’s basically an average third baseman at this point (though he does account for 25% of the team’s home runs this season among third basemen after only 12 games played).  No one expected a return of Alex’s MVP days, but even a replacement level third baseman marks a huge upgrade in terms of production over the course of a season compared to what the team has had.  If the Yankees had had Jeter or A-Rod all year, the offensive boost would be fairly substantial considering they were going from basically nothing at all to something that is closer to resembling acceptable big league production.  We’ve witnessed over the past few days how the lineup has basically felt completely different; it’s transformed into something much more formidable.  It’s much deeper now than it has been all season and the results speak for themselves — a two run deficit is no longer instant loss.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Mark Teixeira

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I do believe Tex is a superior player to both Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds — both offensively and defensively — despite the fact that his stats have been on the decline for the past few seasons.  That said, Overbay has been an adequate fill-in this season, generally speaking.  Over 409 plate appearances, Overbay has hit 13 home runs and batted .254/.304/.421 (.317 wOBA, 96 wRC+ — good for a 0.5 fWAR).  He’s had some timely hits and appears competent with the glove.  With Reynolds complementing the first base platoon now, the offensive production from this spot in the lineup is that much more complete.

The 2012 season was probably Tex’s worst year professionally since his debut year with the Rangers, and most certainly was his worst season with the Yankees since he joined the team in 2009.  Even still, he managed to hit 24 dingers, walked 10.3% of the time (patience that would be highly desirable in this year’s lineup) and produced a .345 wOBA (116 wRC+).  Additionally, his glove is somewhere in the average to very good range depending on which metrics you trust.  He’s better than what the Yankees have deployed these past several months undoubtedly.  But the gap in total production just isn’t as severe.  Going forward, perhaps it could become as severe as the gap between the shortstop and third base replacements compared with the respective starters if Overbay and Reynolds both slide in performance, but right now that seems to be the least of the priorities.  Perhaps one underrated point for Teixeira is that he (sort of) theoretically eliminates the need for another platoon combination on the roster which enables other possibilities.

In any event, I think rather than asking, “Which player does the team miss the most?,” perhaps the question should be, “Which supstitute replacement player(s) marks the biggest drop off?”  What do you think?

Which player have the Yankees missed the most this season?

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Injury Updates: Jeter, Youkilis, Nuno, Hensley

Tired of using Jeter photos for injury update posts. (J. Meric/Getty)
Tired of using Jeter photos for injury update posts. (J. Meric/Getty)

Got a bunch of injury updates courtesy of George King, Zach Braziller, Howie Rumberg, and Vince Mercogliano:

  • Derek Jeter (calf) played catch over the weekend and will hit off a tee and soft toss today. The Cap’n is still a few days away from running, however. Joe Girardi said he expects Jeter to go down to Tampa to continue his rehab when the Yankees start their quick little three-game road trip on Friday.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) has “been rehabbing away, nothing fun, no baseball things yet.” He is roughly eight weeks out from surgery and was originally expected to start taking dry swings after 8-10 weeks. Youkilis remains unlikely to return this year.
  • Travis Hafner (shoulder) is not yet ready to start baseball activities, according to Girardi. “He feels better,” said the skipper while also making it sound like the team’s rehab DH is unlikely to return this season.
  • Vidal Nuno (groin) started a throwing program according to his Twitter feed. Brian Cashman recently said they don’t expect him back this year, but I wonder if he’ll progress enough to come back as a short reliever when rosters expand in September.
  • Ty Hensley (hip) also started a throwing program according to his Twitter feed. He’s coming off hip surgery and is expected to miss the entire season. Obviously the Yankees will be very conservative with last year’s first round pick. Hensley is unlikely to see a real game until next season.

Injury Updates: Jeter, A-Rod, Phelps, Grandy

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

Got a plethora of injury updates courtesy of George King, Chad Jennings, and Josh Norris:

  • Derek Jeter (quad) fielded ground balls hit right at him and made throws to first base yesterday, his first time doing any real baseball activity since getting hurt. He also hit off a tee and soft toss. The Cap’n is expected to take regular batting practice and run today.
  • Alex Rodriguez (quad) is down in Tampa but will have to rest for a few days before resuming any kind of baseball activity.
  • David Phelps (forearm) will make his first rehab start for Double-A Trenton tonight. Brian Cashman has already confirmed Phelps won’t automatically re-enter the rotation when he’s ready to come off the DL.
  • Curtis Granderson (hand) took three at-bats in a simulated game yesterday. “I’m getting there. I definitely need some [at-bats],” he said. Granderson will be re-evaluated after getting more simulate game at-bats today and tomorrow.
  • Kevin Youkilis (back) started rehab work about two weeks ago following his surgery. His agent said it is “early in the process,” but Youkilis said he expects to return to the team this year. The original 10-12 week timetable put him on track to return in September.
  • Jayson Nix (hamstring) had six at-bats in a simulated game yesterday. He is expected to go out on a minor league rehab assignment at some point soon.
  • Austin Romine (neck) has been limited by some stiffness. “I planned on catching him [Sunday], but he got to the ballpark and couldn’t turn to his left,’’ said Joe Girardi, who added Romine is getting better by the day.
  • Frankie Cervelli (hand, elbow) has been participating in catching drills but has yet to do anything more than take dry swings. He said batting practice is “coming soon.”

2013 Midseason Review: Grade F’s

We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s while I covered the D’s. Let’s wrap this up with the F’s and incompletes.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Every championship-caliber team has a group of individuals who go above and beyond, who perform incredible feats in incredible moments. These are the players who carry the team on their shoulders through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the players listed in this post are not those guys!

No, instead we’re going to discuss the “F” team. These are the retreads. These are the players that we, as fans, wish we did not have to watch on a daily basis. These guys are the ones who make us cringe, curse, and grind our teeth for three hours or so a night on a daily basis.

The Shortstops
Ah, yes, the shortstops. Jayson Nix. Alberto Gonzalez. Luis Cruz. Reid Brignac. Eduardo Nunez*. You’ve all been awful. For simplicity’s sake, let’s refer to the old table.

2013 NYY SS

It’s sad, really. The Yankees shortstops have collectively posted a .241 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (-1.2 fWAR). Relative to the rest of the league, this production (or lack there of) is ranked second worst in all of baseball.

While power is certainly a bit of a rarity from the shortstop position, it is both saddening and mildly surprising (at least to me) that this group, together, has only managed two (!) homeruns thus far. Hell, even the Marlins have three (though to be fair, the Cardinals and the White Sox both have one, and the Rangers none). I think, more than anything, what this tell us is a) how fortunate the Yankees are to have had Derek Jeter all these years, and b) how even a super-star in decline (like Derek Jeter or A-Rod perhaps) can still be a really preferable option to the alternative much of the time.

If the Yankees expect to reach the playoffs, they’ll need more from these guys, plain and simple. We’re not talking Troy Tulowitzki production (though that would be okay too), they just can’t be well-below replacement level. Right now, the shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup and it’s noticeable.

* I was a little torn about whether Nunez belonged in the “Grade F” group or with the “Incompletes.”  At the end of the day I chose to throw him in with this lot which is probably a bit unfair. Nunez had a really great opportunity to prove his valuable to the team early on when it became obvious that Jeter would not be available for much of the year, and simply has not capitalized on his opportunity. Anyway you look at it, Nunez’ season has to be deemed a disappointment thus far. Of course, if you feel it’s unfair to give him a letter grade given his limited playing time, that’s fine too.

The Third Basemen

2013 NYY 3B

Next stop on the depressing infield tour is third base. It’s ugly. Really ugly. The good news is that the Yankees third basemen ranked higher relative to the league than their shortstop counterparts. The bad news is it’s not by much. They rank fourth worst in all of baseball with only the Twins, Blue Jays, and Brewers trailing. The group has managed to hit six home runs collectively (over 625 plate appearances) and has batted to a .219/.279/.295 (.256 wOBA, 56 wRC+) line. They haven’t taken many walks (6.2 BB%) though they have struck out at fair pace (25.8 K%), and as already mentioned, power has been a scarcity.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The culprits hear are pretty obvious. Kevin Youkilis was the super non-durable (and super desperate) backup plan to Alex Rodriguez. Even prior to his back injury, which ultimately sidelined him for the year, he looked pretty shot. He was getting an awful lot of weak ground outs down the third base line.  His patented patience never really surfaced and he basically looked uncomfortable at the plate from moment one. I suppose if you’re generous you can give him a pass if you want to call his season “incomplete” too. I’m not that generous though. He’s getting an “F” in my book.

From there you can talk about Nix, who really has been used way more than he probably should be in an ideal scenario. Frankly, he was getting exposed out there. He’s an adequate fill in on occasion, but he’s not a starter. If the Yankees keep throwing him out their day in and day out, they should expect below replacement level production. As for Adams, I wrote a while back that we should temper our expectations. Well, our expectations certainly have been tempered. After an impressive hot streak following his big league arrival, he’s basically looked lost at the plate for months. There was a pretty clear reason why was he was optioned to AAA.

Austin Romine
I hate seeing the young guys come up and struggle even though they do it most of the time. I mean, it has to be tough making the transition. After a lifetime of hard work, a prolonged stay in the Majors simply doesn’t pan out for many. For others, it’s a precious window that closes quickly. Very few stick around for an extended period of time, and even fewer make a big impact. That’s not to say Romine won’t enjoy a successful MLB career, but he’s had a pretty rough start.

At this point, Romine has batted .160/.182./.213 (.176 wOBA, 0 wRC+) and has been worth -0.4 fWAR.  He’s taken basically no walks (1.3 BB%) and has struck out 22.8% of the time. This includes zero home runs. Of course, he’s only had 79 plate appearances. Joe Girardi‘s been unable to play Romine because he’s been awful in limited opportunities. It seems like this has probably been fairly detrimental to Austin’s confidence (and the team’s confidence in him). Romine, on the other hand, really hasn’t been able to bounce back because he rides the bench almost full-time. On the plus side, when he is in the game, he puts forth solid defense for the most part.

When I think about Romine’s predicament, I ultimately arrive at one point: the Yankees were not adequately prepared at catcher, and Romine was probably not ready to be a big leaguer when he was brought up. He missed substantial time during his minor league development due to back injuries in 2011 and 2012, and really never had the chance to progress at a typical pace. He was thrown onto the big league roster when Francisco Cervelli went down, and backup catcher Chris Stewart became the primary backstop. Maybe we should be apologists for Romine. Maybe we shouldn’t be. Either way, he’s been pretty abysmal through the first half.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joba Chamberlain
It appears as though the Joba Chamberlain saga is finally coming to a rather inglorious end. The once heralded prospect turned elite setup reliever, turned failed starter, turned back into not-quite-so-elite reliever will likely be gone by the trade deadline, or if not, most certainly by the off-season. Although Joba spent some time this season on the disabled list with a strained oblique, there were no massive setbacks to deal with like Tommy John surgery or an ankle dislocation.

As for Joba’s pitching stats, they speak for themselves (negatively). Through 22.1 innings pitched, he’s produced a 5.24 ERA (5.03 FIP). Joba’s strikeout rates are definitely respectable, as they generally are (8.87 K/9), but he’s given up way more walks (4.3 BB/9) than normal. He’s also seemed way more prone to the long ball (1.61 HR/9) than he has in the past. While I’m sure Joba wasn’t delighted about losing his eighth inning gig to David Robertson a couple seasons ago, I’m sure he’s been pretty disheartened this year about losing the seventh inning job as well. In fact, he’s no longer really being used in any high leverage situations, mostly just mop up duty at this point. Instead of responding to the challenge positively, Chamberlain has taken a step backward. As David Cone noted on Sunday afternoon’s brutal loss to the Twins, he looks like isn’t throwing with any conviction.

I do believe Joba is a better pitcher than what we’ve seen this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned things around in the second half whether with NY or somewhere else altogether. Not to bludgeon a dead horse much further, I also believe the Yankees have mishandled Joba for a few years now, which in turn has hindered him to some degree. Ultimately though, Chamberlain needs to be accountable for his production, which has been pretty lousy. Basically, this seems like a sad ending to what otherwise could have been a promising career in pinstripes. In any event, I think the relationship between Joba and the organization has soured, which is a shame.  Such is life.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Incompletes
Mike and I were originally thinking of dedicating a separate article to the walking wounded. This includes Derek Jeter (ankle, quad), Mark Teixeira (wrist), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), A-Rod (hip), and Cervelli (hand, elbow). What is there really to say though? Injuries have decimated this team.

Would the Yankees be six games back out of first place if these guys weren’t all injured? Maybe. I have to believe though they’d be much more formidable. I suppose it’s appropriate to throw Zoilo Almonte into the mix as well. While he’s been a breath of fresh air offensively with all the quality at bats, he hasn’t been around all that long. After a torrid start, he’s since cooled somewhat, and who knows what he’ll happen from here (though if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll turn back into the AAAA guy I expected).

The team could have absorbed extended injuries to one or two of these guys perhaps. Having them all out basically all season has been a nightmare though. Who knows how long Jeter will be sidelined with this most recent setback, or whether A-Rod will face a big suspension. Granderson’s basically a non entity at this point. All we do know is that the guys who have been brought on board to supplement the production of these big names aren’t getting it done. While we can’t grade these players on game performance, I think we can say it’s been a very disappointing season for them (and the team) in terms of injuries.

Yankees claim Travis Ishikawa off waivers from Orioles

The Yankees have claimed first baseman Travis Ishikawa off waivers from the Orioles, the team announced. I assume he’ll join the big league team to give Lyle Overbay a proper backup and Joe Girardi a left-handed bat off the bench. Kevin Youkilis was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. I’m guessing David Adams will go back to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot.

Ishikawa, 29, went 2-for-17 (.118) for Baltimore earlier this year. They called him up after he exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league contract. Ishikawa hit .316/.413/.525 (156 wRC+) in 208 Triple-A plate appearances this year, including a .331/.434/.568 line against righties. He’s a career .260/.324/.399 (93 wRC+) hitter in 857 big league plate appearances, which is broken down into .262/.330/.409 (97 wRC+) against right-handers and .244/.281/.322 (61 wRC+) against lefties. Ishikawa is out of options and can not be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Finally, a usable bench bat.

Kevin Youkilis out 10-12 weeks following back surgery

Kevin Youkilis will miss 10-12 weeks following surgery to correct a herniated disc in his back, the team announced. He will have the procedure on Thursday. There’s a decent chance we won’t see him again this year or in pinstripes ever again.

Youkilis, 34, hit .219/.305/.343 (77 wRC+) with two homers in 118 plate appearances for New York this year. He has missed a bunch of time back trouble this year (one month), last year (two months total), and the year before that (three weeks). This isn’t surprising at all. Backs rarely get better. The three-headed replacement level monster of David Adams, Jayson Nix, and Reid Brignac will continue to rotate around the left side of the infield for the time being.

Roster Moves: Youkilis, Neal, Bootcheck, Warren

The Yankees announced a series of roster moves this afternoon, so let’s recap:

  • Kevin Youkilis has been placed on the 15-day with a lumbar strain. That’s the same back injury that send him to the DL earlier this year. He woke up with numbness in his right foot and will see a specialist. Not the most surprising news in the world, hopefully the injury explains his lack of production.
  • Thomas Neal and Chris Bootcheck have both been called up from Triple-A Scranton. We heard both moves were coming earlier today. Neal will primarily DH against lefties while Bootcheck gives the bullpen a fresh long reliever.
  • Adam Warren has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He threw 85 pitches across six innings in yesterday’s 18-inning marathon, so he was the obvious send down candidate to clear to a roster spot for a fresh arm.
  • To clear spots on the 40-man roster for Neal and Bootcheck, the Yankees have transferred Eduardo Nunez to the 60-day DL and outrighted Cesar Cabral to Double-A Trenton. Because Cabral cleared waivers, the Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply and he is officially Yankees property with no strings attached.
  • Obviously, David Adams remains with the team with Youkilis hitting the DL.