The Yankees have had a looming designated hitter opening ever since Hideki Matsui‘s knees stopped working. After much unpopular speculation last offseason that the Yankees would forgo a permanent DH and rotate some of their aging superstars through the position instead, the team signed Nick Johnson.
Nick the Stick seemed like an ideal candidate. He was relatively cheap. He got on base better than just about everyone else in baseball (.402 career OBP), making him a perfect fit for the Yankees’ high-OBP, patient offensive approach. He was injury prone, so he wouldn’t have much leverage to push back if the team wanted to slot Jorge Posada or Alex Rodriguez at his position for a game or two.
Johnson disappointed immediately:
Johnson walked as much the team expected, probably more, in fact, but an abnormally low BABIP limited his overall value. If he didn’t walk, he was an automatic out in the month of April, and was reduced to a measly .305 wOBA. Nick didn’t sniff much of May, but when the calendar changed months Johnson began hitting, immensely, until he got hurt. He wouldn’t pick up a bat again in 2010.
The Yankees didn’t sign Marcus Thames to be a backup for Johnson. They essentially signed Thames as a reserve, with the idea that he might occasionally platoon with Johnson, even though The Stick had never shown much of a split during his career against lefties. However, Thames had. He owned them. When Johnson wasn’t resting to make way for an older superstar, he’d be resting so Thames could put the hurt on a southpaw. When Johnson went down, Marcus stepped up.
Most of Brian Cashman’s offseason moves last year backfired, save one: Marcus Thames. A series of injuries early in the season brought bench players into the spotlight in the Bronx. Although Thames was about as bad with a glove as an outfielder can be, he was the Yankees’ biggest surprise with a bat, posting a .365 wOBA on the season, just about what the team got from A-Rod and Mark Teixeira in terms of average production.
Thames had an uneven season. A ridiculous .750 BABIP thrust him out of the gate in April. He regressed to the mean in May and ran over a bat in June, taking him out of commission. He was excellent in July, but superhuman in August. At a time when the Yankees were struggling, and A-Rod had gone down with an injury, Tex and Thames simultaneously became Nuclear Explosion-level hot, and carried the offense. Marcus cooled in September, but his work was done.
Mid-season, the Yankees traded for Lance Berkman to step in the box against righties, even though Thames actually hit righties even better than lefties in 2010. The team probably could have saved themselves some cash on Berkman and kept one of their better bats in the lineup in the process. Instead, the Big Puma found himself in pinstripes, and he mostly stunk.
Once upon a time Berkman was one of the best hitters in the National League, but those days are long past. Berkman showed up in a Yankee uniform and proceeded to stink up the joint. After posting decent numbers as an Astro, Berkman mysteriously lost all his power in the Bronx. He was supposed to be a solid option against righties, but all he managed to do was take the bat out of Thames’ hands. A month of solid hitting at season’s end wasn’t enough to overshadow a .314 wOBA as a Yankee. However, Berkman absolutely raked in the postseason, including a mammoth home run in Game 2 against Minnesota, so all is forgiven.
All in all the Yankees managed to get decent production from the DH spot for the season (a .348 wOBA), despite having their first choice for the job go down with an injury. Unfortunately Thames has probably earned his way out of pinstripes next season. According to Baseball-Reference, Thames has only made about $5.5 million in his career, gold dust to ordinary folk like us, but roughly the exact pay cut Derek Jeter is refusing right now. His solid production has earned him the right to a bigger paycheck and more of an everyday role, two things the Yankees can’t offer him. According to RAB, a Japanese club may be looking to fill that void. In all probability, expect Thames to be gone next season.
This isn’t the loss that it seems. While the idea of a rotating DH wasn’t palatable after a 2009 season that saw all the aging Yankees avoid the DL, 2010 was a different story. A-Rod, Jorge, Tex, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson all went down with one ailment or another. As bad as a replacement level bat is, it’s much worse to have A-Rod pull a hammy play
And the Yankees don’t plan on having a replacement level bat in the lineup all that frequently anyway. Jorge Posada has already been told that he’ll be getting most of his swings as the DH in 2011, in part to give phenom and heavy hitter Jesus Montero a puncher’s chance of making the team. If Montero continues to build on the amazing promise he has thus far in his young career, Yankee fans may eventually forget Posada ever even existed, allowing the Yankees to rotate the DH without taking much of a hit to the offense.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- Brand bc on Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- http://2804lasela.wordpress.com/ on TYA Predictions: Bold predictions for 2012
- the tao of badass pdf on What about Austin Romine?
- Joey Parkhill on Dante Bichette Jr’s Swing
- lululemon factory outlet on Contact Us
- Cary on Will R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball Succeed In A Domed Stadium?
- Brenna on Links: Prospects, Support for A-Rod, Mariano is Love and Who’s in Center?
- Louis Vuitton Outlet Sale Singapore on The Monthly Prospector: April Edition
- Authentic Louis Vuitton Outlet Store on The Monthly Prospector: June Edition
- Louis Vuitton Outlet San Diego on Banuelos to Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Yankees Prospectors to Undergo Grief Counseling
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees