On the heels of the Yankee recent offensive troubles, many fans and some sportswriters have painted this recent slump as a sign of something larger more fundamentally wrong with the Yankee team. Age, injury and bad off season decisions have conspired to hamper the team that won the World Series last year. Our own EJ Fagen was kicking around the idea yesterday of a lineup change to shake things up. I’ll address a recent column by Joel Sherman, and then make the case to call for some perspective on the matter. Here’s Joel Sherman’s take from yesterday:
“You can’t jump off of a bridge,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the recent slump. “You have to look at the big picture.”
This was the Yankees sound bite after the game: That these three games are a small sample size and that over the long season the offense will be a wrecking ball. But there are issues that are not three-game problems that make you wonder about just how devastating this offense will be.
Jeter’s groundball tendencies are more dramatic than ever. Teixeira’s pull-happy slump is now at three months. Rodriguez still is stuck on just eight homers. Curtis Granderson is so impotent against lefties that Girardi started baseball anonymous’ Chad Huffman against the southpaw Takahashi. Francisco Cervelli is hitting .220 this month, returning to an offensive form familiar to his minor league career at a time when the Yankees want to play him more because of their distrust of Jorge Posada’s catching. And the Yankees still are searching — rather futilely — for an acceptable second-place hitter to replace Johnny Damon.
With all the talk about Cliff Lee, it appears the Yankees might have to fixate more on adding a hitter between now and the July 31 trade deadline.
Jeter slumped badly in May and we later found out that he was dealing with a leg injury. Given how well he hit before and after that (.333 before May 2nd/.304 since May 22nd) I’m not overly concerned by Derek in that department. A better argument might be his career low .334 OBP which is his lowest since his .352 mark in 2004. But looking at his game log, his OBP plummeted along with his BA in May, so I’ll just chalk that up to the injury as well.
Alex (like most HR hitters) tends to hit them in bunches. Look at his monthly splits from his last full season in 2008. He had 7 HRs on June 1st, then hit another 16 in June and July of that year, finishing the year with 35 dingers. Also, we tend to compare every year Alex has to his monstrous 54 HR 2007 campaign. But that was a season for the ages, especially for a Righthanded batter in Yankee Stadium. He’s averaged 36.8 HRs in his 5 other seasons with the team, and one good month (or one big week) will put him back on that pace.
As far as the #2 hitter goes, more and more it appears that job will be going to Nick Swisher. He’s batting .294/.379/.506 and everyone has noticed his new, quiet batting stance at the plate. Johnny Damon, by contrast, is batting .287/.375/.409. I’ll also take Brett Gardner’s defense in Left Field and 1.6 WAR over Johnny’s 1.2 WAR for 2010. I think Nick Swisher and his extra 100 points of OPS represents “an acceptable second-place hitter to replace Johnny Damon” and the only futility is in Sherman’s argument.
As EJ noted yesterday, The Yanks are #2 in Runs Scored, 1st in OBP, 2nd in OPS, 1st in walks in all of Baseball. They are 1st Run Differential, which reflects not only their ability to score runs but their ability to suppress them with a 3rd best AL Team ERA and a vastly improved defense (1st in AL defensive efficiency). I think Brian Cashman has done a terrific job of re-balancing the team from the all-hit/no-pitch teams of 04-07 to the team we see today that excels in every area of the game. I also suspect that most of Baseball wishes they had the same ‘problems’ the Yankees do.
NOTE-A very happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. If you’re a father, a son, daughter or just a Yankee fan I would highly recommend this Steve Serby Sunday Q&A piece with Derek Jeter about his relationship with his dad. Terrific, very moving stuff, and to think that all this time I thought Derek was a mama’s boy.
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