Archive for Mark Teixeira
The Yankees spent an awful lot of money this winter to improve an offense that was their worst in two decades last year. They committed nearly $300M to a new leadoff man and two middle of the order bats, not to mention some complementary pieces for the bottom third of the lineup. A full season of Alfonso Soriano should help as well. They were pricey moves but also very necessary moves.
“I think we have a collection of very good hitters this year,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand last week. “I think our lineup is much deeper than it was last year from top to bottom. There’s more balance with some of the switch-hitters … I think there’s much more balance in our lineup. But as far as having that one guy that maybe you center the lineup around, I would say no.”
That last part about “having that one guy” to build a lineup around refers to the departed Robinson Cano. Girardi could fill out his lineup any number of ways this year but the team does lack an offensive centerpiece. That’s okay though. They lost one superstar but did upgrade at several other positions, so the overall result should be an improved lineup. They were never going to be able to replace Cano anyway. He’s the best second baseman in the game and that means he is irreplaceable by definition.
“Yeah, I think the great thing is, look at our lineup. We’re back to being the Yankees again,” said Mark Teixeira to Bryan Hoch yesterday. “Last year, we weren’t the Yankees. We had so many injuries and we had so many guys that should have been in there to be lots of anchors. That’s back. There’s not one guy that has to carry this team, but absolutely I expect to hit in the middle of the order, hit 30 homeruns and drive in 100 runs. That’s going to take pressure off everybody and help us win games.”
Teixeira, who will turn 34 shortly after Opening Day, is currently working his way back from right wrist surgery and will help further improve the offense. Lyle Overbay did an admirable job filling at first base last season but he’s no Teixeira and the Yankees will be better off at the position this year. No, we don’t know what to expect from Teixeira given the nature of his injury, but it shouldn’t be tough to improve upon the .229/.292/.397 (78 OPS+) the team got from the position last summer.
Now, even though the Yankees added some free agents and are getting some players back from injury, their lineup still isn’t as deep as it was as recently as two years ago. Kelly Johnson is a solid player but nothing more while Brian Roberts hasn’t been even an average hitter in three seasons. Derek Jeter is pushing 40 and coming off major leg injuries, so he is even more of an unknown than Teixeira. The bottom third of the lineup will be better than last season but still not very good.
Teixeira’s rebound is important simply to lengthen the lineup and give the team six above-average hitters rather than five. He’ll also be counted on to add some power to a team that still doesn’t have all that much and create matchup headaches by being a switch-hitter. Soriano, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann are expected to anchor the middle of the order, but adding even 2012 Teixeira level production (24 HR and 115 OPS+) could be the difference between a league average attack and an above-average one.
“I’d be lying if there wasn’t [lingering doubt about the wrist],” added Teixeira. “I said it this winter, everyone can go out after major surgery and go, ‘I’m fine, I’m going to be good as ever,’ but you don’t really know that until you go out there. For me, it’s just kind of two steps: make sure I’m healthy and that means taking full swings at a 95 mph fastball in a Spring Training game. And we have six weeks to figure that out. If that’s the case and I’m healthy and I can do that for a week straight, then it’s all about production.”
This will be Teixeira’s sixth year in pinstripes and he has gradually declined from offensive centerpiece to complementary player. He was still a really good hitter in his last healthy season — I think Teixeira’s decline is generally overstated, and I’m guilty of that — just not the hitter he was during his first year in New York. His importance to the lineup and the Yankees in general is easy to overlook, but he was missed last summer and that will again be the case if he and his surgically repaired wrist doesn’t rebound well this summer.
We’re only six days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Here are some injury updates in the meantime, courtesy of Kevin Kernan, Andrew Marchand, Wally Matthews, Matt Ehalt, and the Associated Press.
- So far, so good for Derek Jeter (leg). He just completed his third week of baseball activities and everything is holding up well. “I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’ve had a complete offseason to work out and strengthen everything … It’s been fun, but it’s been difficult because you’re starting over from scratch.”
- Mark Teixeira (wrist) has started taking batting practice against live pitching. He has gradually worked his way back from surgery, first by taking dry swings and then by hitting off a tee and soft toss. “There’s plenty of guys that come back from injuries come back way too fast and get reinjured,” he said. “That’s not in my plans this year.”
- Scott Sizemore (knee) feels good as he works his way back from his second torn left ACL in the last two years. “I’m feeling pretty good, getting back on the field feels great and I haven’t had any issues with the knee,” he said. “Obviously, two serious knee injuries, doubts crept into my mind if I was ever going to be able to play again. Nothing’s given.”
- Manny Banuelos (elbow) is completely rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and on a normal throwing program right now. “[The elbow] feels normal, just like before surgery. I feel ready to go,” he said.
Seven months ago today, Mark Teixeira had surgery to repair a torn ECU tendon sheath in his right wrist after a rehab regime failed to strengthen the joint. The Yankees were without their first baseman essentially all of last season and the result was a whopping 86 wRC+ from the position, fourth worst in baseball and by far the worst in the AL (Twins were next at 93 wRC+). The timing of the injury — Teixeira got hurt in early-March during pre-WBC workouts — left them with few alternatives at first.
Teixeira, who turns 34 just after Opening Day, has been rehabbing for months and recently started some light hitting off a tee and soft toss. He had been taking dry swings for weeks and is slated to start hitting against MLB quality velocity (90+ mph) sometime this month. Game action will follow in March. Teixeira acknowledged the wrist is still stiff — “I’m expecting until June, and maybe even through this entire season, it’ll be a little tight,” he said to Dan Barbarisi recently — which isn’t uncommon even this far out from surgery.
The Yankees do not have an obvious backup for Teixeira but I suspect that will work itself out something before Opening Day. My biggest concern right now isn’t necessarily a setback that shelves Teixeira for a few weeks or months, but his actual performance. That’s the great unknown. Will the wrist hamper his power production? Will his left-handed swing be hindered while his right-handed swing is fine? How long will it take to shake off what amounts to a full season of rust?
“My entire career, April has not been my optimal baseball performance,” said Teixeira to Barbarisi. “Then throughout the year, I get stronger, I get better, and that’s the goal, to have 162 good games, not 30 good games … Am I going to go out and say, ‘OK, I’m going to hit this, have so many home runs, this many RBIs in April?’ I have no idea. Nobody has any idea.”
As Barbarisi noted in his article, both David Ortiz and Jose Bautista suffered similar injuries and saw their performance slip the following year. Ortiz did not have surgery for a partially torn ECU tendon sheath late in 2008 and then had the worst year of his career in 2009, with reduced power (.224 ISO) and overall effectiveness (100 wRC+). It wasn’t until 2010 that he got back to being the .260 ISO, 150 wRC+ monster he usually is. Bautista went from .322 ISO and 165 wRC+ from 2010-12 to a .239 ISO and 134 wRC+ in 2013 following surgery late last year. He was still obviously very good, but there was a dip in performance.
Wrist injuries are known for sapping power for several months even after the doctor says the player is healed, though only heard that about broken bones (hamate, specifically). Ortiz’s performance in 2009 and beyond fits that timetable and we’ll just have to wait and see how Bautista rebounds this summer. The issue with Teixeira is that his performance had been in decline even before the injury (wRC+ from 2008-12: 152, 142, 128, 124, 116), though his power production was consistently in the .240 ISO range. Given his declining batting average (and subsequently declining OBP), power is Teixiera’s redeeming offensive quality and if that is compromised because of the wrist, he won’t be of much use to the Yankees at the plate in 2014.
I guess the good news, if you want to take it that way, is that the team’s first basemen were so very bad last year that Teixeira almost can’t help but be an upgrade even if the wrist injury saps his power. A perfectly league average hitter will be a big step down for Teixeira but an improvement for the team at first base overall. Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann were brought in to solidify the middle of the lineup (a full year of Alfonso Soriano will help as well) so even without Robinson Cano, the Yankees won’t need Teixeira to carry the load as the cleanup hitter. There are enough bats in the lineup to bat him sixth if his production warrants it. That said, the team can’t afford a half season of Lyle Overbay-esque production at first base either. Teixeira is an important part of the team but it’s impossible to know how much he can contribute this year.
During a recent YES Network interview (video link), Mark Teixeira acknowledged still feeling some stiffness in his surgically repaired right wrist. “Right now, I’m six months out of surgery. Will I be 100% day one? I hope so,” said Teixeira. “Even my doctor said ‘it’s going to keep getting looser, keep getting stronger’ … I’m a little anxious about the way I’m going to feel, but I know that as long as I’m doing what I’m told, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, that I should be fine.”
Teixeira, 33, missed all but 15 games last year due to wrist trouble, eventually having season-ending surgery in early-July. During the interview he said he has been taking dry swings for two months and just recently started hitting off a tee. Hitting against 90+ mph pitches is on tap for next month with game action to follow in early-March. Hearing Teixeira still has some stiffness in the wrist is disconcerting, but there is still a long way to go before Opening Day. The Yankees improved their offense this winter but they’re still going to need their first baseman to remain healthy and productive.
During a recent appearance on the YES Network (video link), Mark Teixeira laid out his rehab plan as he works his way back from season-ending wrist surgery. He’ll be performing strengthening exercises through the end of the month, start swinging a bat in January, start hitting 90+ mph pitches in February, then resume full workouts when Spring Training begins. He will be a bit behind the other position players in camp but hopes to get into his first Grapefruit League game during the first week of March.
“That first game, against Justin Verlander in Lakeland, he throws me a 95-mph fastball on the inside part of the plate, I want to drop the head (of the bat) on the ball. Even if I don’t get a hit or get a homerun off it, I want to know that I can make a really strong, quick move on an inside fastball at 95 mph, and have no pain, no tightness. Once I do that, then I’ll know that I’ll be fine for the season,” said Teixeira. The 33-year-old missed all but 15 games of this past season with wrist problems. Jose Bautista rebounded well from the same wrist surgery, which is a positive sign, but the Yankees need Teixeira to come back and have an impact in the middle of their lineup this season. The upgrade he represents over Lyle Overbay is significant but not guaranteed until he’s actually healthy and out on the field.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with former ironman who has been anything but recently.
When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira following the 2008 season, part of the appeal was his durability. A quad strain cost him a month in 2007, but otherwise he appeared in at least 145 games in five of his first six seasons. That includes 157 games during his walk year in 2008 and the full 162 games in both 2005 and 2006. He was an ironman.
That held true during Teixeira’s first three years in pinstripes as well, when he played in at least 156 games each season and 470 of 486 possible games from 2009-2011. That changed last season, when a nagging cough and a calf injury limited him to a career-low 123 games. With an offseason of rest and treatment, Teixeira figured to be as good as new come 2013.
When Spring Training opened, everything was fine. Teixeira was healthy and he played in five Grapefruit League games before heading to Arizona to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. During batting practice on March 5th, Teixeira felt some discomfort in what was first reported to be his right forearm but was ultimately his right wrist. He was shut down immediately and pulled from the tournament.
Teixeira went for tests the very next day and they confirmed a strain in the wrist, and injury that would sideline him for 8-10 weeks. He was going to be out of the already depleted Yankees lineup until at least mid-May. It was later revealed to be a tendon sheath problem, the same injury that derailed Jose Bautista and Mark DeRosa for extended periods of time in recent years.
Brian Cashman acknowledged there was only a 70% chance Teixeira would be able to avoid surgery, but things were going well during his rehab. His checkups went as expected and there were no problems reported during his minor league rehab assignment, so he returned to the team on May 31st, just a little later than expected.
Teixeira had an almost immediate impact after returning to the lineup. He hit a grand slam in his fourth game back, a three-run homer in his fifth game back, and then a solo homer in his seventh game back. The power-starved Yankees suddenly had one of their top power hitters in the lineup and it wasn’t a moment too soon.
A rough eight-game slide — 3-for-31 (.097) with nine strikeouts — following the three homers in four games binge, and while that was sucked, the worst came on June 15th, when Teixeira left the game with discomfort in his wrist. Initial tests showed only inflammation but about a week later surgery was recommended. Soon after that, Teixeira went under the knife. His season was over.
In between wrist injuries, Teixeira hit .151/.270/.340 (58 wRC+) with those three homers in 63 plate appearances spread across 15 games. That’s it. On the bright side, the World Baseball Classic paid for Teixeira’s salary during the first DL trip, which saved the team something like $8M. Unfortunately, almost all of that money went to Vernon Wells. Because he was activated off the DL before having surgery, the Yankees were the only hook for his salary during the season DL trip. They did recoup some through insurance, reportedly.
Teixeira’s performance has slipped these last few years, but the Yankees were almost always able to count on him to play every single day. That has changed these last two years, especially now given the uncertainty of a wrist injury. They can sap power for several months even after being medically cleared and returning to the field. For the first time in his career, Teixeira will come to Spring Training as a question mark next season, on top of already being a declining player. That’s not a good combination but it’s all too familiar for the Yankees.
The 2013 season is over and we’ve had a week to catch our breath. It’s time to review the year that was, starting with the Yankees’ significant injuries. They pretty much defined the season.
Every single team deals with injuries every single year. It’s impossible to make it through the full 162-game season without losing players to injury, either nagging or severe. Injuries come with the territory and the Yankees had a lot of them in 2013. They didn’t use a franchise record 56 players out of the kindness of their heart — they lost roughly 1,400 man games to injury and used the Major League DL a ridiculous (and MLB-high) 28 times this season. If you wore pinstripes this summer, chances are you got hurt at one point or another.
For the most part, we can fit every injury into one of two categories: predictable and unpredictable. A player rolls his ankle running through first base? Unpredictable. Not necessarily surprising, it happens, but not something you’d expect. But a pitcher with a history of arm problems blowing out his elbow? Yeah that’s predictable. Some guys are so injury prone it’s a matter of when they’ll get hurt, not if. You want to think this is the year they’ll stay healthy — remember when being a full-time DH was supposed to keep Nick Johnson healthy? — but it very rarely is.
The Yankees had a ton of injuries this year, some more devastating than others. We’re not going to focus on the nagging day-to-day stuff or quick 15-day DL stints in this post. We’re going to look at the long-term injuries — both the predictable and unpredictable ones — meaning the guys who missed most or all of the regular season. I’m leaving Alex Rodriguez (left hip) out of this because we knew coming into the year he would be out until at least the All-Star break. I want to focus on the players everyone expected (or hoped) would be on the roster come Opening Day.
Predictable Injury: Derek Jeter
It all started last September, when Jeter fouled several pitches off his left ankle/foot and played through a bone bruise late in the season. In Game One of the ALCS, the ankle finally gave out and fractured. The Cap’n had surgery in October and the initial timetable had him on track for Spring Training and the start of the season. He’s Derek Jeter and he works harder than everyone, so he’ll make it back in time, right? Wrong.
Jeter’s progress in camp was deliberate as he nursed the ankle, and it wasn’t until mid-March that he appeared in his first Grapefruit League game. He played five exhibition games before needing a cortisone shot in the ankle and being ruled out for Opening Day. Here’s the timeline that followed:
- March 31st: Yankees place Jeter on 15-day DL.
- April 18th: Yankees announced Jeter suffered a setback — a second (and smaller) fracture in the ankle. He was not expected to return until the All-Star break.
- April 27th: Jeter is transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vidal Nuno.
- July 11th: Yankees activate Jeter off DL. He goes 1-for-4 in his first game back but suffers a calf strain running out a ground ball.
- July 23rd: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL after the calf doesn’t respond to rest and treatment.
- July 28th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays five games before the calf starts acting up again.
- August 5th: Jeter is retroactively placed on the 15-day DL (again) as rest and treatment doesn’t do the trick (again).
- August 26th: Yankees activate Jeter. He plays 12 games before his surgically-repaired left ankle becomes sore.
- September 11th: For the fourth time, Jeter is placed on the 15-day DL. The moved officially ends his season. Three days later, the Yankees transferred him to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for David Phelps.
Four DL trips for what amounts to three different leg injuries. Jeter appeared in only 17 of the team’s 162 games and looked pretty much nothing like himself, with little impact at the plate and close to zero mobility in the field. He was never the rangiest defender, but it was especially bad this season. When a 38-year-old shortstop — Jeter turned 39 in June — has a major ankle surgery, you have to expect there to be some delays and complications during the rehab process, even when he has a full offseason to rest.
Unpredictable Injury: Mark Teixeira
Up until last season, Teixeira was an iron man. He was good for 155+ games played a year every year, but various injuries (cough, wrist, calf) limited him to only 123 games in 2012. With the cough behind him and an offseason of rest for the calf, Teixeira was expected to be as good as new for this season. Then, while with Team USA preparing for the World Baseball Classic, he felt some discomfort in his right wrist and had to be shut down.
The soreness turned out to be a tendon sheath injury, which can be pretty severe if not allowed to heal properly. Teixeira and the Yankees opted for rehab because there was no reason not to — surgery, which was always a realistic possibility, would have ended his season anyway, so might as well try the rehab route first. He did the rest and rehab thing before rejoining the team on the final day of May. Teixeira appeared in 15 games before the wrist started acting up again. On July 3rd, he had the season-ending surgery. No one saw the wrist problem, which was described as a “wear-and-tear” injury, coming.
Predictable Injury: Kevin Youkilis
When it became official that A-Rod needed his hip surgery in early-December, the Yankees had to find a replacement everyday third baseman. The free agent market had little to offer, especially once Eric Chavez decided to move closer to home in Arizona. New York signed Youkilis to a one-year, $12M contract to replace Rodriguez despite his history of back problems.
Not counting four separate day-to-day bouts with spasms from 2008-2010, Youkilis spent time on the DL with back problems in both 2011 and 2012. That doesn’t include some nagging day-to-day stuff between the DL stints either. Sure enough, 17 games in the season, Youkilis’ back started barking. He missed a handful of games with tightness before aggravating the injury on a feet-first slide into first base on a defensive play. That sent him to the DL with a bulging disc. Youkilis returned in late-May and managed to play another eleven games before needing season-ending surgery to repair the damaged disc. For their $12M investment, the Yankees received 118 mostly ineffective plate appearances. Backs don’t get better, then just get worse.
Unpredictable Injuries: Curtis Granderson
Aside from Jeter and A-Rod having surgery in the offseason, the parade of injuries started in the first home game of Spring Training. On the fifth pitch of his first Grapefruit League at-bat, Granderson took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm. Just like that, the Yankees had lost their top power hitter for three months with a broken arm. They’re lucky (in a sense) that the injury occurred so early in Spring Training and Granderson was able to return in mid-May, not much later in the season.
After returning from the DL in the team’s 39th game of the season, Granderson appeared in eight games before another errant pitch sent him to the sidelines. This time it was Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos who did the deed. The pitch broke Granderson’s left hand and would keep him out ten weeks even though the initial diagnosis called for a six-to-eight week recovery time. Curtis returned to the team in early-August and wound up playing in only 61 of the club’s 162 games. Hit-by-pitch injuries are the definition of unpredictable injuries.
Predictable Injury: Michael Pineda
Thanks to last May’s labrum surgery, Pineda was expected to miss the start of the 2013 season but be a factor in the second half. He started an official minor league rehab assignment in early-June and exhausted the full 30 days before the Yankees determined he was not big league ready. They optioned Pineda to Triple-A Scranton in early-July and less than a month later, he came down with shoulder tightness. Although tests came back clean, the tightness all but assured we wouldn’t see him in pinstripes for the second straight season. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman said during his end-of-season press conference they shut Pineda down as a healthy player after more than a year of rehab and pitching just to get him rest. Given the nature of the injury, it was no surprise the right-hander was slow to return and ultimately a non-factor in 2013.
Unpredictable Injury: Frankie Cervelli
Thanks to some throwing improvement in Spring Training and the fact that Chris Stewart can’t hit, Cervelli took over as the team’s everyday catcher early in the season. He started 16 of the team’s first 22 games, but in that 16th start, Rajai Davis fouled off a pitch that hit Frankie square in his exposed right hand. His suffered a fracture and was expected to miss at least six weeks … until he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab. The stress reaction supposedly stemmed from a change in his throwing motion to compensate for the hand injury. Cervelli was suspended 50-games for his ties to Biogenesis in August but that really didn’t matter; the elbow injury had ended his season anyway. Catching is brutal, but a broken hand on a foul tip is still not something you can see coming.
Predictable Injury: Travis Hafner
You name it, and chances are it sent Hafner to the DL at some point in recent years. Most notably, he missed almost the entire 2008 season due to right shoulder surgery. The same shoulder started barking this summer, first in mid-May and then again mid-July. It’s probably not a coincidence his production completely tanked after the first bout with soreness. Hafner was placed on the DL in late-July and missed the rest of the season, for all intents and purposes. He was activated for the last few games of the season but only played in one. Pronk visited the DL seven times from 2008-2012, so it’s no surprise he wound up there in 2013.
Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon and, unsurprisingly, there were no announcements made. Not even a minor one. He fielded questions for about an hour and in typical YankeeSpeak, the GM said a lot of words that had little substance. The team’s higher-ups have a knack for dodging questions and giving vague answers while talking a whole bunch. Anyway, let’s recap the presser:
On Joe Girardi
- Cashman confirmed he met with Girardi “for a while” yesterday and will meet with agent Steve Mandell tomorrow to continue talks. “After tomorrow, I think I’ll get a real good feel for where we’re at,” he said. “I think he likes it here. We’re going to give [Girardi] a real good reason to stay.”
- “His effort and his efforts in pre-game preparation for each series and how he runs Major League Spring Training … he’s been consistently tremendously at it,” said the GM while also crediting Girardi for working with such a poor roster this season. “[His] job as a manager is to make sure these guys compete on a daily basis … I thought he did a great job, him and his staff.”
- Cashman would not comment when asked if the Cubs (or any other team, for that matter) had contacted the team to ask for permission to speak to Girardi. His contract expires November 1st.
- Cashman closed the press conference with a preemptive “no comment” about how things go (went?) with Mandell tomorrow. He told the media not to bother to reach out for an update because he won’t give one. It was kinda funny.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Which player have the Yankees missed the most this season?
11:21am: Teixeira was transferred over to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for Eduardo Nunez, in case you were wondering.
11:04am: Phelps has been placed on the 15-day DL with a slight forearm strain, the team announced. He had an MRI yesterday and won’t throw for ten days. I would have preferred an option to an injury, arm trouble is never good no matter how minor it appears.
10:41am: The Yankees have activated Eduardo Nunez off the 60-day DL. He is with the team and in this afternoon’s lineup at shortstop. New York
already had an open 40-man roster spot, so no problems there has to clear a 40-man roster spot for Nunez, but Mark Teixeira or Kevin Youkilis can be transferred to the 60-day DL without a problem.
No official word on the corresponding roster move yet, but David Phelps is no longer listed on the lineup card and the Tuesday starter for Triple-A Scranton is listed as TBA. That is Phelps’ day. Sure sounds like he was sent down after posting a 6.25 ERA (~3.95 FIP) in his last eight starts, but again, no official word just yet.