Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hitter Needed

The best and most complete lineups in baseball could struggle against Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, easily two of the top 10 pitchers in baseball, and at least one, maybe both, in the top 5. This is not merely a reaction to the last two nights, because that would be ridiculous. However, the last two nights are part of the analysis. They didn't just lose to these two pitchers, they got absolutely dominated. Back to back complete games is just not something that should be happening. Not against the type of offense the Yankees want to have.

One of the great things about looking back on a World Series is you see just how much it took to get there. There are probably some people that think the Yankees walked to that title, but they couldn't have been watching too closely. Multiple games in the ALCS and World Series hung in the balance, and the Yankees got them in part because they were a better team and in part because the ball bounced their way. The former you can control, the latter you cannot. Even taking out these last two games, the Yankees offense is not in a position to take control of being better than other teams.

That's a problem, but it really shouldn't be surprising. You replace Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera with Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Brett Gardner. Pretty safe to call that a wash. But with Nick Johnson on the DL for most of the season, they have been replacing Hideki Matsui with below average production. Forget any over or under performances, because those will typically balance each other out. Any team is going to take a hit going from Matsui to below average.

And that's a big part of why the Yankees aren't able to get to where they want to get on a consistent basis offensively. Most notably working pitchers, because they have 1-2 easy-ish outs in their lineup every night. You might tell me that even with those outs the Yankees offense is still better than most, and you'd be correct. But the Yankees don't have the same expectations as everyone else.

They want to win the World Series. A big reason why they did that last year was because their offense was ferocious, 1-9 attack as I like to call it, not just very good. This year they are just very good. Not just in terms of results, but approach. The 2009 Yankees might have gotten locked down pretty good on back to back nights by two pitchers of Lee and Hernandez's caliber, but they probably wouldn't have gotten back to back complete-gamed because they worked counts and scrapped too much. Again, this issue is not isolated to these two games. They did it early. They aren't doing it anymore. That's largely because their lineup lacks it's typical depth. To get to where they want to be, they are going to need a bat. Not a great bat, just one that can be a presence and make some things happen. They're pitching is better than last year, but their offense is worse. Considering what their goal is, how much they had to scratch and claw to win the World Series last year, and how difficult it will be just to make the playoffs out of the AL East, being a similar team to last year in terms of total talent may, or may not, be good enough. It isn't their fault they've been hit by injuries, but now they have to adjust. The lineup is the most obvious place to do so.

8 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

It's pretty safe to say that the biggest disappointment has been Johnson and how the hell a DH injures himself so early in the season is maddeningly mind boggling. It's also absolutely inexcusable that Cashman had an oft injured DH being backed up by a platoon of washed up outfielders and fringe major leaguers. I don't know who we can trade for, but with Johnson not coming back till August it's gotta be someone.

On a more positive note, it looks like finally Arod and Teixera are starting to pick it up and despite all the injuries we still have the best record in the league albeit by a margin that's slimming by the day. I can only hope the team heats up as the season progresses.

Anonymous said...

PF

I don't know that Gardner/Johnson/Granderson is a wash for Damon/Matsui/Cabrera. Looking at the OPS+ numbers for last year the latter were at 126, 131, and 99. The former, this year, are at 125 (have to be tickled with that by the way), 93 and 102. And Johnson has been hurt to boot. So, really, the Yankees have been experiencing a major drop in production this year from those three spots and that may well explain whatever offensive inconsistencies (I'm very reluctant to call them "struggles") the Yankees have had.

Also, it is no coincidence that since leaving the friendly proportioned Yankee Stadium, Matsui and Damon have come back to earth in terms of production. All power numbers are down and OPS+ hovers right around average for both (103 and 101).

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Pat,

Good post. Which available player do you think could fit the Yankees' needs? You thinking a DH type? Dye is still a free agent, and I bet you could get Hafner on the cheap (well, that's partially because he's not good anymore). I heard some chatter about Adam LaRoche, I think on NoMaas. You might be lucky enough to get .394 hitter Coco Crisp if you'd want to move Swisher to DH. He works counts.

I'm blown away by the back-to-back CGs too, mostly because this team used to work counts. We've talked about it before, as recently as yesterday. A philosophical switch may have happened with Damon gone and Johnson on the DL.

Anonymous said...

"It's pretty safe to say that the biggest disappointment has been Johnson and how the hell a DH injures himself so early in the season is maddeningly mind boggling. It's also absolutely inexcusable that Cashman had an oft injured DH being backed up by a platoon of washed up outfielders and fringe major leaguers. I don't know who we can trade for, but with Johnson not coming back till August it's gotta be someone.
"

It's hard to understand why we can't get that kind of rant out of Kaplan on a consistent basis. He would feel better, and I would enjoy reading it.

bandi

Anonymous said...

"Also, it is no coincidence that since leaving the friendly proportioned Yankee Stadium, Matsui and Damon have come back to earth in terms of production. All power numbers are down and OPS+ hovers right around average for both (103 and 101)."

Sorry to make two separate comments, but I just noticed this. Thank you Gunn for pointing this out. Not surprisingly PF has not responded to this yet. He's probably busy scouring baseball-reference.com for obscure sabermetric numbers that will make Yankee stadium look comparable to other parks as opposed to the launching pad that it is. They might as well be playing baseball on the moon.

bandi

Ross Kaplan said...

Well Jon, these days it's been difficult for me to find time to rant about the Yankees on this blog

Anonymous said...

Ross

Have you fired up "No Easy Way Out" yet?

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Bandi,

Pat has not yet responded because he has a sore neck and therefore can't comment today or write most days.

As for Ross's comment, I have been around the banking industry--a place where "I'm very busy" is uttered a lot--long enough to know that "it is difficult to find time" means "I have a sore neck too."