For the better part of two months, Joe Girardi has stuck with Stephen Drew even as his batting average kept getting worse and worse. But today is the second day in a row with Drew on the bench, and while Girardi won’t name Jose Pirela the new second baseman, he did acknowledge that Drew’s might benefit from some time out of the lineup.
“I told Stephen, continue to work,” Girardi said. “He’s trying to work on some things offensively. I’ve always said, whenever you play it’s an opportunity to open someone’s eyes. Pedey, I thought swung the bat pretty good last night. I’m going to run him back out there. Stephen has played a lot and been a little banged up at times. I’ll give him another day and we’ll go from there.”
I’m reminded of 2010 when the Yankees shut down Curtis Granderson for a few days to tweak his mechanics and try to get himself sorted out. Granderson came back from the down time like a new hitter, but he wasn’t hitting .157 like Drew is.
“I’ve said all along, it just seems like when he hits the ball hard, he doesn’t get rewarded for it,” Girardi said. “I think every hitter could go look and say, during the course of 150 at-bats, if six of those swings would have kind of went my way and I wouldn’t have lined out, then you’re not talking about it. But when that doesn’t happen, then you have to talk about it. He’s working hard in the cage, and I still think this guy’s too good of a player not to hit. We’ve seen him hit a grand slam. We’ve seen him hit three-run homers. We’ve seen him hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’ve seen him impact the baseball.”
I don’t think of Drew as a guy who’s hitting the ball hard and simply running into bad luck, but there does seem to be at least some bad luck involved. His batting average on balls in play is .164, which is absurdly low. Against righties — the guys he’s definitely supposed to hit — Drew’s BABIP is an almost comical .105. FanGraphs says Drew’s line drive percentage is definitely lower than in his best years (roughly 15 percent this year, more like 20 percent when Drew was in Arizona), and it seems those missing line drives have become fly ball outs and popups. Balls classified as “soft contact” are slightly up and “hard contact” is significantly down.
The numbers suggest some luck has played a part in Drew’s struggles, but can luck really account for the worst batting average in the big leagues? Can it really explain a full year of hitting like this?
“I bet you could go find in his stats where he has 10 hard outs,” Girardi said. “People will talk about batted balls in play, what happens. He has not really had a whole lot of luck. … To me, eventually it’s got to even out.”
• Chris Martin has been activated, but he’s also been optioned to Triple-A. Why not put him on the big league roster? “We want to get him back on a roll, then we’ll go from there,” Girardi said. “At the end (before the injury) it was a little bit of a struggle for him. We’ll see if we can get him back on a roll, and then if we need him, we’ll call him.”
• Four of Martin’s first five appearances this season were pretty overwhelming, but he hadn’t been nearly as good leading into his disabled list stint. Opponents were hitting .294 in his past 10 outings.
• Also of note regarding Martin: “We’re going to a place where there’s a lot of left-handers we’re going to see,” Girardi said. “So we’re going to keep the left-handers.”
• Brendan Ryan has started a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa. “Obviously he’s got to get some at-bats because he really hasn’t had a spring training,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure what day he’s eligible to come off, but he’s going to need some at-bats, be able to play a couple days in row, lengthy games, because you never know when you’ll be pressed into action, for three or four days.”
• Girardi wasn’t asked about it, but it seems safe to assume red-hot Brian McCann has a day off because it’s a day game after a night game, and this is what usually happens with catchers. Murphy also caught Warren’s gem against the Royals last week (McCann had caught his two strong starts before that).
• Girardi on Warren: “He’s pitched really well the last couple of weeks, and I think he’s learning how to get quicker outs. His stuff has been sharper, and I think he’s been stronger. When you’re in the bullpen, you don’t necessarily have to think about, I only want to throw 14 pitches this inning on an average so I can get deep in games. I’ve got three outs to get, and if I need 27, 28 pitches, it doesn’t matter; I’ve got three outs to get. I think he’s improved on that, and I think you’ll continue to see improvements.”
Associated Press photos