The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Pinch hitting: River Avenue Blues

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Jan 01, 2009 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

January is traditionally a slow month for baseball news. So for the second year in a row, we will showcase other blogs with a series of pinch hitters.

First up are the guys from River Ave. Blues. Ben, Mike, and Joe started their blog in 2007 after years of going it alone. Since then they’ve built a community of passionate fans who discuss everything Yankees. As they say, it’s sometimes even-handed, sometimes insane, but never dull. Here’s their post:

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Johnny Damon is awesome. Save for two horrendous months in 2007, he’s been everything the Yankees could possibly have expected when they signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract in the winter of 2005. In fact, it’s quite funny to think that the Red Sox thought Coco Crisp could prove an adequate replacement. Covelli might have the advantage on defense, but when it comes to the lumber in general and hitting leadoff in specific, Damon reigns supreme. In two of his three seasons with the Yankees, Damon has put up numbers on par with his career best. In 2006 he hit a career-high 24 home runs and put up a stat line of .285/.359/.482. While his OBP might seem a tick low for an ideal leadoff guy, only seven teams had a better OBP from their top spot, though that’s really only six because the Yankees are one of those seven.

In 2008 he tied his career best in OPS+, 118, hitting .303/.375/.461. Only one team, the Marlins, had a better OBP from the leadoff spot. They got that mostly from Hanley Ramirez, who should probably be hitting third or fourth considering his 30-homer power. Still, we could reasonably call Damon the best leadoff hitter in the American League in 2008. He was a bright spot in an offense that didn’t live up to expectations. In 2007 his slash stats and his OPS+ might suggest he was a bit below average. But as we mentioned above, it was due to two particularly bad months. In April he hit .229/.349/.329 while dealing with calf problems. After a strong May he fell back off in June with a .226/.286/.333 line. After that he finished off the season with three strong months, and posted a post-All-Star break line of .296/.364/.450. Only Boston had a higher team OBP from the leadoff spot in the second half of that year. As Damon said himself at the start of 2008, “When I go, this team goes a lot smoother.” That’s really true of any leadoff man, and Johnny has been one of the best, if not the best in baseball since coming over to the Yankees. With plenty of question marks in the five through nine slots in the batting order, the Yanks sure could use one more season of reliable Johnny Damon to keep the offense running smoothly.

Who’s to say, though, that Johnny only has one more season in him? Because his contract expires after the 2009 season, it seems like many fans assume he’ll be elsewhere in 2010. However, as we’ve all noted this winter, the Yankees have just one outfielder under contract for 2010. If Johnny has a quality 2009 campaign, the Yankees should certainly consider bringing him back. The problem, of course, is in Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, who will surely shop the outfielder in hopes of finding a multi-year deal. Even so, the Yankees need to seriously ponder the question of Damon’s value to this team. He might be one guy we sorely miss come 2010.

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Thanks to the RAB guys. They’ve been a great addition to the Yankees blog universe. Coming tomorrow: Respect Jeter’s Gangster.

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