No less than a week ago, I wrote about Andruw Jones’ declining bat speed. It appears that all that extra play in the outfield had an adverse effect on his bat. His counterpart, Raul Ibanez has been equally terrible. The Yankees essentially forced their aging designated hitters onto the field to cover for Brett Gardner, and hoped these players wouldn’t tire out. The plan didn’t work.
Since the All Star break, Jones is hitting just .139/.252/.228 in 119 plate appearances, with just 2 homeruns. Then there is Raul Ibanez, who’s hit .194/.291/.347 in his second half. Over the last month, with 260 plate appearances, they’ve combined for just 10 hits, a 22% K rate, had just 2 extra base hits, and haven’t hit a single homerun.
Before we overreact and demand a releases, I think we have to appreciate what both players did before the allstar break. They combined for 22 homeruns, and did a great job of covering the offensive production that the team lost with Brett Gardner’s injury. With that said, these two hitters don’t deserve a single important at bat until they show some sort of life. The problem is, they’ve consistently been handed some of the most important at bats.
One major contribution to the current trouble with runners in scoring position is what the bench has done pinch hitting. Whenever there is some sort of platoon advantage in an important spot, Joe Girardi doesn’t hesitate to use Jones or Ibanez. In these games, he’s pulled Eric Chavez, Chris Dickerson, Steve Pearce, and Casey McGehee in favor of his two slumping designated hitters. Not only does it take the bat out of capable hitters for the simple purpose of a platoon advantage, but it also severely weakens the defense.
If Jones and Ibanez ever regain their hitting ability, they could have a huge impact in the playoffs, assuming they even make the playoff roster. Releasing them now would totally forfeit this possibility, but giving them more at bats in high leverage situations hurts this team. Perhaps the best option is to rest them at the moment and find playtime in blowouts. There is a bench full of eager young players that want to show off their bat while slumping veterans hurt this team in huge situations. I don’t have many issues with how Girardi manages, but this isn’t the time to try and fix slumping players, these games have serious playoff repercussions.
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