The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Archive for January, 2010

Ken Singleton being honored Tuesday01.29.10

Here’s the press release, passed along by the YES Network.

As a kick-off to Black History Month, McDonald’s New York Tri-State Area Restaurants is once again celebrating the achievements and talent of Black Media Legends at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the unveiling of the 2010 Faces of Black History poster. For the past 7 years, this annual Black History campaign has been an extremely successful event. Faces of Black History was proudly created to salute and honor Black History makers throughout our community and our country, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks to present day heroes.

The 2010 honorees are Black Media Legends who have impacted the Black community through their achievements and positive examples. This year’s honorees include James “JB” Brown – CBS Sports, Art McFarland – WABC 7, Bill McCreary – (formerly of) Fox 5, Ken Singleton – Yes Network, Dari Alexander – Fox 5, David Ushery – WNBC 4, James Ford – WPIX 11, Cheryl Wills – NY1, Michael Coleman – News 12 Long Island, Ken Grimball – News 12 Long Island, Charles Hobson – PBS, Ed Lover – Power105.1 FM, Bob Slade – 98.7 KissFM, Gerry Luke – Fox 5, Tracy O. Emory – CBS 2, Carl J. Brinson aka “Tiny Prince” – Trend Publishing Co, Inc, Don Thomas – New York Beacon, and Thomas H. Watkins – The Challenge Group.

During the ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, February 2nd from 12-3pm, we will unveil the 2010 Faces of Black History Poster featuring our 18 honorees. These free commemorative posters will be given away during Black History Month, with no purchase necessary, at the more than 600 McDonald’s restaurants throughout the Tri-State area. The posters are enjoyed in homes and classrooms alike.

———

• The Marlins have signed former Yankees reliever Jose Veras to a minor league deal. They also got former big league closer Derrick Turnbow and infielder Danny Richar, who I’ve seen play pretty well in Triple-A. Nothing fancy, but a solid second baseman.

• The Pirates — of course — have signed Doug Bernier to a minor league contract. Bernier had a terrible year with the bat last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he’s a very good defensive player and I always got the sense that Dave Miley loved having him around. He had a bad year, but Bernier knows what he’s doing out there.

• Now that Gustavo Molina has signed with the Red Sox, Jose is only one catching Molina left on the free agent market. Gustavo, by the way, is not related to the three Molina brothers.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 133 Comments →

Yankees “close to done” with minor league deals01.29.10

The Yankees have yet to release a full list of non-roster invites, but we already know most of the names. Reid Gorecki, Jon Weber and David Winfree in the outfield, Mike Rivera at catcher, Royce Ring and Zack Segovia out of the bullpen.

“There’s always a chance in the final weeks that you’ll see somewhere out there that could help you,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “I wouldn’t say we’re done, but probably close to done.”

Outfield depth was the most obvious need in the upper levels of the system, and the Yankees addressed that with three free agent signings, plus their trade for Greg Golson. They have enough in-house candidates to fill the Triple-A infield, and Newman said that, as of right now, the Yankees have not signed a Cody Ransom-type veteran to add to that mix. He did acknowledge, though, that the Yankees aren’t as deep at third base as they are up the middle.

• Newman on the Golson addition: “Big run and throw tools. Who knows? We’re going to work at it. When we traded Austin Jackson, we lost our plus run tool at Triple-A.”

• Newman on David Winfree: “We think Winfree has significant upside. We think he’s a prospect. We think he’s still in the growth phase as a player.”

• I get asked a lot about the idea of moving one of the team’s premier catching prospects to the outfield, so I asked Newman about it. “Sometimes if you have depth at a premium position, and quality depth, you can turn those guys into another player by trades,” he said. “Sometimes that’s the way it works out. But I don’t see that with any of our guys because we’re going to need catching in the big leagues.”

• Speaking of catchers, Newman said Gary Sanchez is already hitting and working out in Tampa. “What a tool package,” Newman said. “Wow. Arm strength. Power.” I told Newman that I’ve heard him get excited about Sanchez before. “He’s better now,” Newman said.

• Speaking of power, here’s a name to remember: First baseman Reymond Nunez hit 10 homers in 59 Dominican Summer League games last season. He’s 19 years old, and Newman said he hit a home run a few days ago at the minor league complex that bounced onto the Dale Mabry Highway. For those who have never been out there, trust me, that’s insane.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 189 Comments →

Looking for a place to land01.29.10

A version of this post appeared on the blog for about four minutes on Wednesday, then the Randy Winn news broke and it became clear we would be talking about Johnny Damon, but not in this format.

Now that it’s clear the Yankees have moved on — and now that Winn has been discussed at length – where will Damon end up? New teams seem to be added to the mix all the time. The A’s were mentioned this weekend. The Rays were rumored on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Blue Jays admitted to internal discussions.

Here’s a list of all 30 teams. How many have an opening, and how many make no sense whatsoever? How many teams could get into the bidding if the price drops low enough? The field is fairly small.

Rumored targets (7)
Aside from the Yankees, seven teams have gotten most of the offseason attention in connection to Damon. 

Atlanta Braves — The Damon-to-Atlanta rumors have been quiet for a while now, but the Braves still don’t have an obvious lead-off hitter, which is a running theme among these rumored teams.

Cincinnati Reds – No longer seems likely now that the Reds GM has said he doesn’t expect to sign Damon. Young Chris Dickerson – coming off a .370 OBP last season – is the likely starter in left field.

Detroit Tigers — The Tigers could rotate Damon, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez between designated hitter and the outfield corners. Detroit could use a lefty hitter, and a lead-off hitter.

Oakland Athletics — The rumor of the weekend, the A’s have a lot of young outfield options but not many veteran hitters. They got aggressive with this week’s Ben Sheets signing.

San Francisco Giants – Might have fallen out of the mix with Mark DeRosa signed. In theory, DeRosa could move to right and leave left field for Damon.

Tampa Bay Rays — Carl Crawford is in left and Pat Burrell at designated hitter, but reports indicate the Rays might be willing to give Damon the bulk of the DH at-bats and leave Burrell as an expensive platoon player.

Toronto Blue Jays — Maybe they could put Travis Snider in right field, keep Adam Lind at DH and sign Damon for left. Damon could replace Marco Scutaro as the lead-off hitter.

———

Could be an opening (4)
I don’t remember these teams being linked to Damon, and it most cases it’s a stretch to think there could be a connection, but it might be possible.  

Cleveland Indians — Right now, the Indians have a pair of young outfielders — Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe — set to fight for playing time in left field.

Minnesota Twins — The Twins have only four outfielders — plus Jason Kubel — on the 40-man. Delmon Young is hardly a slam dunk as an everyday left fielder.

San Diego Padres — They need a lot of things, including a left fielder. Damon seems highly unlikely, but I guess you never know with a team like this.

Washington Nationals — Fumored to be interested in trading left fielder Josh Willingham, and they did grab Adam Dunn late last winter.

———

Would require a serious change of plans (6)
Indications are that these teams have absolutely no need for Damon or any desire to sign him.

Baltimore Orioles — With Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold, the Orioles are set in left field and at designated hitter.

Chicago White Sox – There is already a corner outfield/designated hitter rotation in place. Jim Thome might have made more sense as a left-handed veteran.

Colorado Rockies — There are already a ton of left-handed hitters on this team, including three left-handed outfielders.

Los Angeles Angels – Signed Hideki Matsui to be their designated hitter, and already have Juan Rivera in left. Willing to eat most of Gary Matthews contract because they don’t need an outfielder.

Seattle Mariners — Taking a chance on Milton Bradley in left field, already have lefty Ken Griffey Jr. as their primary designated hitter.

Texas Rangers — Seem ready to move forward with Julio Borbon as their everyday center fielder, moving Josh Hamilton to left. Borbon, Hamilton and David Murphy are all left-handed.

———

Clearly heading a different direction (4)
Under different circumstances, Damon might make sense as an outfield upgrade for these teams, but it doesn’t seem likely this season.

Arizona Diamondbacks – When they signed Adam LaRoche to play first base, left field became the only place for Conor Jackson. Dumped Eric Byrnes, suggesting no desire for another outfielder.

Kansas City Royals — Signing Rick Ankiel probably completed the Royals outfield, which already has a left-handed hitter at all three spots.

New York Yankees — You know the story.

Pittsburgh Pirates — Seem to be working on their pitching this winter, content to take their chances on Lastings Milledge, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.

———

No place to play (9)
Aside from some sort of injury, it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Damon ends up with one of these teams.

Boston Red Sox – Jacoby Ellsbury. David Ortiz. Both left-handed.

Chicago Cubs – Alfonso Soriano.

Florida Marlins — Chris Coghlan.

Houston Astros — Remember when they paid Carlos Lee a bazillion dollars to be their left fielder? They’re still doing that.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Manny Ramirez.

Milwaukee Brewers — Ryan Braun.

New York Mets — Jason Bay.

Philadelpiha Phillies — Raul Ibanez.

St. Louis Cardinals — Matt Holliday.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 129 Comments →

A window to the past01.29.10

Everyone knows about the Yankees place in the history of the game and so it’s fitting in a lot of ways that they’re the only team left that does a full-blown Old Timer’s Day every year. I thought Mark did a great job this morning talking about the magic of Old Timer’s Day, and I think his suggestions on how to rejuvenate it were spot on – the idea of returning legends from other teams would absolutely make it even more amazing than it is now.

He’s right, too, about the lackluster turnout. I know it may not seem like a big attraction to the younger fans, but I’d offer that it’s worth it to come and see the Old Timers at least once. If only for the stories you’ll hear from folks who remember how it used to be.

I remember going to Old Timer’s Day in 2004 and, in particular, watching Bobby Murcer play. What stands out most for me though, isn’t what he did on the field. It was earlier that day, when I had a long conversation with Murcer about Thurman Munson, specifically about how the Yankees had kept Munson’s locker unchanged (and, literally, untouched) at the old Stadium.

Murcer was close to Munson and got emotional when he talked about the locker, and he mentioned a story that I then confirmed with a clubhouse attendant.

Normally, no one went near Munson’s locker – not the maids when they vacuumed, not the clubbies when they were doing laundry, not the players when they were looking for somewhere to drop some fan mail or a box of bats. Everyone just stayed away from the shrine.

But sometime in the middle of the 2003 season, a bouquet of flowers appeared one day on the bench in the middle of Munson’s locker. No one knew where the flowers came from. The equipment managers asked around, but no one had any idea. For days, and then weeks, the flowers lay there even as the smell became overwhelming. No one wanted to go in and take them out. It just wasn’t done.

Finally, as the odor became noxious, the flowers were removed by an attendant who literally tip-toed into the locker and grabbed the rotting stems. “It was strange because they just were there one day, and no one admitted to putting them there,” one attendant told me for a story in the Daily News. “And we all knew we should throw them out, but it was like, ‘What do you do? Just go pick them up?’ No one wanted to do it.”

I loved that story and so did Murcer, and I’ll always think of it when I think about Old Timer’s Day. I’d imagine that’s how most fans are, too: The best part about Old Timer’s Day is the memories.

Posted by: Sam Borden - Posted in Miscwith 292 Comments →

Pinch hitting: Mark Braff01.29.10

Our next pinch hitter is Mark Braff, who has the background to give an educated evaluation of a Yankee Stadium tradition: Old Timer’s Day.

Mark is a lifelong Yankees fan and the president of Braff Communications LLC, a public relations firm based in Fair Lawn, NJ. He counts among his greatest Yankee thrills seeing Mickey Mantle hit two home runs in the regular season game that followed the 1968 Old Timer’s Day event.

For more on that day, here’s Mark’s post.

———

On July 4, 1939, the Yankees honored their dying captain with Lou Gehrig Day. A crowd of nearly 62,000 watched as an assemblage of past and present Yankees paid tribute to Gehrig, whose words that day still resonate as “Baseball’s Gettysburg Address.”

Beyond Gehrig’s poignant remarks, the day is memorable for another reason as it is generally regarded as the catalyst for a Yankee Stadium tradition, Old Timer’s Day.

The first “official” Old Timer’s Day was held several years later, in 1946, and has continued as an annual celebration ever since. Other teams have held similar events over the years, but today the Yankees stand as one of the few that continue the tradition. That’s as it should be, since the history of the Yankee franchise is so deeply intertwined with the history of baseball itself.

There is just one problem. The Yankees are killing Old Timer’s Day.

Having attended every Old Timer’s Day since 1968, I have witnessed first-hand how the Yankees have slowly but inexorably scratched away at the luster of the event. Yes, it is still a special day at The Stadium, but there is no denying that it is a shell of what it once was, and the sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way — especially, and perhaps ironically, now that the Yankees are in their new home.

I remember being in awe at my very first Old Timer’s Day, when I entered the big ballpark and looked up at the Yankees’ World Series championship banners and American League pennants hung from the frieze (more commonly known as the “façade”). The banners stretched all the way from the 1923 flag in right field to the 1964 flag in left. I imagine that sight was as impressive to the Yankees players and the Old Timer’s in attendance as it was to me, a 12-year-old kid.

The Yankees-Twins game was preceded by a star-studded event that featured former Yankee players as well as those from opposing teams. From the opposing team alone there were – get this – 11 current and future Hall of Famers: Luke Appling, Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, Frankie Frisch, Pie Traynor, Joe Cronin, Goose Goslin, Early Wynn, Joe Medwick, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella. The Yankees were represented by the likes of Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Earle Combs, Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Phil Rizzuto and Waite Hoyt—Hall of Famers all.

I know these HOFers were there, not from memory, but by looking at the souvenir pamphlet, an inexpensive 11×17, one-color, folded keepsake that the Yankees gave to every fan in attendance. The souvenir reminds me that Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians entertained fans before the ceremonies began.

Unfortunately, Lombardo might as well have played Auld Lang Syne since Old Timer’s Day was on the verge of having its heartbeat stopped.

Here’s how it happened.

Somewhere along the line, in the 1980’s or so, the Yankees decided “we don’t want their kind” when it came to inviting players from opposing teams. Old Timer’s Day became a Yankee-only affair.

After moving into the renovated Yankee Stadium in 1976, the Yankees for a time hung a few select championship banners on the outfield fence during Old Timer’s Day, something they started doing during their two-year stint at Shea Stadium in 1974 and ’75. A short time later, the banners disappeared into the same netherworld as the opposing stars.

And, so, today we have an all-Yankee Old Timer’s Day featuring an inordinate number of old bench and role players along with some stars. And, of course, no banners.

Now, let me be clear in saying that I like Jim Mason, Phil Linz and players of their ilk as much as the next guy, and in fact have fond memories of their time in pinstripes. But, seriously, do we need 15 “Jim Masons” every year?

Things have gotten so bad that thousands of ticket-holders do not even bother to attend the Old Timer’s festivities, choosing instead to arrive in time to only witness the regular season game. It saddens me to see a half-empty ballpark staring back at the players as they are introduced.

It’s time to restore Yankee Stadium Old Timer’s Day to its rightful place as a premiere event; indeed, the largest gathering of Hall of Famers outside of Cooperstown. And here’s how:

First, now that the frieze (façade) is once again a signature element of Yankee Stadium, it’s time to haul out the banners for at least this one day every year. At this point, the American League pennants can be kept in storage since 27 World Champion flags should stretch nicely from right to left field. Imagine the sight!

Second, back when Old Timer’s Day was a big deal, every year had a theme, whether it was the 25th anniversary of this, the 40th anniversary of that, etc. For weeks leading up to the event, Yankee broadcasters would talk about the theme and mention that so-and-so “just accepted his invitation to attend this year’s event.” This would build for a few weeks; the list would grow and fans had something to get excited about. Today, the advance promotion is basically this: “July 19 is Old Timer’s Day. Come join us for this special occasion.” Pardon me for yawning. Let’s get back to having a theme.

Third, let’s acknowledge that there were great players on other teams and invite some of these stars to the event. How great would it be to see all-time Yankee opponents like Sandy Koufax, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Boog Powell and the like emerging once again from the third base dugout at the “home office of baseball?” And, yes, let’s invite Bill Mazeroski back too.

These three simple steps would restore the grandeur to a Yankee tradition. The Yankees spent great treasure on building a new ballpark that evokes some of the signature elements of the original, pre-renovated Stadium. The easiest things to replicate are the ones they ignored: A few banners and the players – for and against — who gave the fans so many great moments and thrills over the years.

Oh, and one more thing: Is it asking too much to be given a cheap keepsake program?

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 175 Comments →

PECOTA predicts a third-place finish01.28.10

Not the most bullish Yankees prediction coming from the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA system, which predicts a third-place finish for the Yankees at 93-69. PECOTA actually predicts the Rays as the American League East winners at 96-66.

Interestingly, PECOTA predicts that the Yankees lineup will actually score more runs (917) than last the team scored last season (915). It’s the pitching staff that PECOTA thinks will take a hit, with the Yankees predicted to allow 789 runs, 36 more than last season and 60 more than PECOTA predicts for Tampa Bay’s young staff.

The Yankees are predicted to easily score the most runs in baseball and finish with the third-most wins. It just so happens that the Rays and Red Sox are predicted to have the most and second-most wins.

Some other interesting predictions: The Nationals finishing better than .500, the A’s beating the Mariners for the American League West and the Twins winning the AL Central with just 82 wins.

A few other news and notes from around baseball…

• Hard to say whether this is a big story or a small story, but USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says Kevin Towers will join the Yankees front office. No doubt that’s a good baseball mind joining the mix, but it’s hard to say how much impact Towers could have.

• Maybe Chien-Ming Wang won’t wait until May to sign after all.

• Former Yankees spot starter Dan Giese, fresh off Tommy John surgery, has signed back with the Oakland A’s.

• Speaking of former Yankees, Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett each cleared waivers and will go to spring training as NRIs with the Pirates.

• The latest minor league transactions lists just one Yankees signing: INF Fu-Lin Kuo from Taiwan. It’s actually not an especially new signing. More information on Kuo right here. The only other name that stood out from the minor league transactions was former Yankees minor league infielder Kevin Howard, who signed with the Cardinals. It’s old news, but Shelley Duncan’s brother Chris has signed with Washington.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 200 Comments →

The shirts off their backs01.28.10

The good folks with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are auctioning some game-worn jerseys from last season. Right now there are nine available — including Francisco Cervelli and Alfredo Aceves — and more will be added daily.

All jerseys come with a letter of authenticity from the team.

Here’s the link to the eBay auction.

Right now the Aceves jersey has the highest bid, the Cody Ransom jersey has most bids and the Amaury Sanit jersey is at the bargain basement price of a little more than 15 bucks.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 225 Comments →

Lots of lists01.28.10

We interrupt this 24-hour outfield news cycle because we also happen to be in the thick of the prospect ranking season.

Back when I began covering the Yankees Triple-A team, I posted my own prospect rankings, but I hated the process and the result. The process is all about opinion, and often about personal preference. I generally prefer a minor leaguer who’s almost ready for the big leagues, even if his ceiling is slightly lower than a guy who’s still in A ball. The result is nothing but frustration because everyone thinks differently about these things, and it seems to be taken personally when we disagree.

For example…

MLB.com’s  Top 50 prospects
Jesus Montero ranked 19th
This list has Montero out of the top 10 and ranked behind two other catchers, Buster Posey (4) and Carlos Santana (11). MLB.com wrote that Posey has the “best, and most advanced, hitting approach” in the minors. He also throws out a lot of runners and got to Triple-A last season. Santana led the Double-A Eastern League in slugging and was second in on-base percentage. Montero is younger than both, but MLB.com noted the usual concerns about his ability to stay behind the plate. To me, it’s personal preference which of these you’d want. I’d put Montero ahead of Santana, but I have no real problem with Posey being ranked higher.

ESPN.com’s Top 100 prospects
Jesus Montero ranked 10th
Manny Banuelos ranked 96th

On this list, Montero is in the Top 10, but he’s still ranked behind both Santana (3) and Posey (4). Like MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Keith Law notes concerns about Montero’s ability to stay behind the plate. For lists like this, those defensive concerns are a slight downside.  It’s not often that a player hits well enough to be ranked this high on his bat alone. As for Banuelos, Law conceded that he could easily have gone with Zach McAllister instead, but he’d rather have the Banuelos upside. Again, personal preference.

AOL Fanhouse Top 100 prospects
Jesus Montero ranked 5th
Manny Banuelos ranked 41st
Austin Romine ranked 45th
Zach McAllister ranked 76th

This list puts Montero ahead of everyone except Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Michael Stanton and Desmond Jennings. Posey ranked seventh and Santana ranked 16th. I’ll say it again, personal preference and opinion. That’s what these lists are providing. This time, Romine makes the list ahead of what I generally consider to be bigger names like Aaron Crow, Mike Moustakas and Tim Beckham.

Baseball America’s Top 10 (Jim Callis version)
Jesus Montero ranked 4th
Scroll down to 2:45 in the linked chat and you’ll see that Callis announced his personal top 10 prospects. He has Montero ranked fourth behind Strasburg, Heyward and Stanton (I actually thought those might be almost universal as the game’s top three prospects). More Baseball America writers will announce a full top 50 ranking in the prospect handbook.

Bottom line, opinions vary. I think it’s good to read and see various sources, if only to get a feel for the other players who are out there. None of this — whether Montero is ranked fourth or 19th — changes the fact that the Yankees have one of the top hitters in minor league baseball. Whether the Yankees system as a whole is ranked directly in the middle of the pack or among the bottom third doesn’t change the status of the organization as system with a lot of high-ceiling, high-risk talent. Take the lists for what they are, a series of opinions.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 255 Comments →

Does Gardner need a platoon partner?01.28.10

Even with switch-hitter Randy Winn in the mix, the Yankees might not be finished with their outfield shopping. Brian Cashman has previously said he’d like to add a right-handed bat to complement the lefties Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, and there are still some right-handers out there who might come cheap. Minor league deals might not be out of the question.

Granderson has the worst career splits against left-handed pitching of all the Yankees outfielders. He’s hit just .210 against them in his big league career, but the Yankees expect Granderson to be an everyday player, and are apparently hoping Kevin Long can get some things straightened out. Nick Swisher is a switch hitter who’s splits are fairly insignificant — better OBP one way, better SLG the other – and Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann is a right-hander who hit .308/.432/.542 against lefties in the minors last season.

That leaves Gardner, and as Doug mentioned in his guest post this morning, Gardner’s career doesn’t suggest a platoon partner is necessary.

Gardner actually hit better against lefties than against righties last season. His vs. LHP splits were outstanding (.291/.381/.400) and his minor league numbers suggest it wasn’t a fluke. Gardner hit .292/.361/.406 against lefties in the minors. His on-base percentage was higher against right-handers — almost .400 — but his batting average and slugging were better against lefties. In 2008, Gardner hit .327/.410/.500 against Triple-A left-handers. Just like his career numbers, his on-base percentage was better against right-handers, but his average and slugging were better against lefties.

“I like facing lefties,” Gardner said earlier this month. “I don’t know why that is. My first year or two in pro ball, I didn’t do too well against lefties. The last few years, I’ve actually hit lefties pretty well. I see the ball good against them. It doesn’t really matter to me, lefty or righty.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 245 Comments →

Pinch hitting: Doug Waage01.28.10

Next up in the Pinch Hitters series is Doug Waage, who looked at the numbers and saw Brett Gardner as more than an acceptable everyday outfielder. He saw him as an obvious starter for the Yankees.

Doug is a 34-year-old, lifelong Yankees fan living in Jersey City and working in Manhattan. His post has been scheduled for weeks, and it just happens to run the day after Johnny Damon was eliminated from the Yankees’ left field mix.

Doug first emailed about Gardner way back in December. He wrote, in part, “Why would the Yanks even consider any of the outfielders on the free agent market when they could possibly get 5.25 WAR out of a guy they are paying about $500,000?” He wanted to make his case on the blog, and here’s his argument.

———

To a lot of fans, starting Brett Gardner in left field is totally crazy. They view Gardner as a weak offensive player at a position where most teams stress offense over defense. Here are Gardner’s actual stats (first chart) and pro-rated stats (second chart) over 626 plate appearances (which is the number of plate appearances that Johnny Damon had in 2009).  For good measure, I’ve also included stats for Melky Cabrera, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Curtis Granderson.    

Player

PA

Ave

R

HR

RBI

SB

OPS

Gardner

284

0.270

48

3

23

26

0.724

Damon

626

0.282

107

24

82

12

0.854

Melky

540

0.274

66

13

68

10

0.782

Holliday

670

0.313

94

24

109

14

0.909

Bay

638

0.267

103

36

119

13

0.921

Granderson

710

0.249

91

30

71

20

0.780

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

PA

Ave

R

HR

RBI

SB

OPS

Gardner

626

0.270

106

7

51

57

0.724

Damon

626

0.282

107

24

82

12

0.854

Melky

626

0.274

77

15

79

12

0.782

Holliday

626

0.313

88

22

102

13

0.909

Bay

626

0.267

101

35

117

13

0.921

Granderson

626

0.249

80

26

63

18

0.780

Gardner is the speed demon of the bunch, but he is definitely the worst hitter. Now, if these six players were DH candidates, we’d have nothing to talk about. In the outfield, though, defense is a very large part of the game, especially considering the Yankees’ spacious left field. 

To determine the value of each player’s defensive ability, as well as the number of incremental wins he adds over a replacement player, we need to look at each player;s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and its components (UZR among them).  See Beyond the Box Score and FanGraphs for the definition and application of these stats. 

Here is the raw 2009 and pro-rated data (626 plate appearances) for all six players: 

Raw Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Batting

UZR

RAR

WAR

Value

2010 Salary

“Free” Value

Gardner

2.4

7.2

20.6

2.1

$9.3

$0.4

$8.9

Damon

25.3

-9.2

30.1

3.0

$13.6

$13.0

$0.6

Melky

1.6

-1.6

15.9

1.6

$7.2

$3.1

$4.1

Holliday

36.0

5.7

56.8

5.7

$25.6

$17.0

$8.6

Bay

33.7

-13.0

34.9

3.5

$15.7

$15.0

$0.7

Granderson

6.0

1.6

33.8

3.4

$15.2

$5.5

$9.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pro-rated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Batting

UZR

RAR

WAR

Value

2010 Salary

“Free” Value

Gardner

5.3

15.9

60.8

4.6

$20.8

$0.4

$20.4

Damon

25.3

-9.2

18.0

3.0

$13.5

$13.0

$0.5

Melky

1.9

-1.9

11.5

1.9

$8.3

$3.1

$5.2

Holliday

33.6

5.3

59.1

5.3

$23.9

$17.0

$6.9

Bay

33.1

-12.8

23.0

3.3

$14.6

$15.0

-$0.4

Granderson

5.3

1.4

31.2

3.2

$14.2

$5.5

$8.7

Now there a lot of numbers here, but focusing on WAR, it’s clear that Gardner is best of the bunch outside of Matt Holliday. Gardner might not give you as many extra runs on offense, but he saves you a ton on runs on defense. Given that Damon is 36 and in the declining part of his career, and Gardner is only 26 and likely to improve, the case for Gardner is only stronger.

The final nail in the coffin for the idea of Damon in left field is cost. If you had a cheep in-house option like Gardner who could generate a 4.6 WAR in 2010 (comparable to Teixeria’s 5.1 WAR in 2009 when he was 2 nd in the MVP voting), what would you do?  I’d do what Brian Cashman did: Offer Damon a fair $7M – $10M a year to be the DH (where his defense can’t hurt the team) and play Gardner in the outfield. After Nick Johnson signed, I wouldn’t have gone after Damon for the outfield as his defense kills the team, nor would I have gone after Holliday or Bay, as the $15M-$16M in extra pay each year would lead to one more win at best. 

So, the Yanks should start Gardner in left, right? Actually, no. After spending this entire post explaining why Gardner is the best left field option for the Yanks, I think Gardner should be the team’s starting center fielder, not left fielder. Gardner ran circles around Granderson in center field in 2009, and while I expect Granderson to start the season in center, I believe he’ll end the season in left.  I think Cash agrees with me on this one.  Why else would Cash say that “Granderson is penciled in at center field” but that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making an adjustment, and that Gardner could play every day? Similarly, why would Granderson say that he’s “willing to play anywhere in the outfield” if Cashman or someone else hadn’t already discussed such a possibility with him?

Oh, and for everyone who thinks that Gardner needs a right-handed platoon mate like Reed Johnson because he can’t hit lefties, take a look at Gardner’s MLB and minor league splits, and then do the same for Granderson. Gardner hits lefties just fine.  We need someone like Johnson to platoon with Mr. Automatic Out vs. Lefties, Curtis Granderson (0.484 OPS vs. lefties in 2009), not Gardner (0.781 OPS vs. lefties in 2009).

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 208 Comments →

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