Elijah Dukes?

Baseball Prospectus’ latest article for ESPN lists their top breakout hitting candidates for 2009. There are three Nationals listed, one of whom is Elijah Dukes. Here is what they had to say about him:

Elijah Dukes, Nationals, OF (.278/.386/.486, 4.0 WARP, 54 percent breakout rate)

Dukes was dumped by the Rays due to some scary off-field problems, but the Nationals took a chance by buying low, and their reward was the team’s most productive hitter last season, at least when he was available. Unfortunately, Dukes made three separate trips to the disabled list and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, but he showed excellent power (13 homers), plate discipline (one walk for every 6.7 PA), and speed (13 steals in 17 attempts) in 81 games, while establishing some order in his life beyond the diamond. Forecast to match last year’s .302 EqA, the highest among qualifiers, he should provide a much-needed jolt to the Nationals’ offense, though as you’ll see, he’s not alone here.

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Flipping Damon and Jeter

The comments to the previous post (h/t Steve) brought up an issue that I felt deserved its own time in the sun. For much of the last two seasons, Derek Jeter’s penchant for hitting into double plays has prompted me to contend that he should be moved out of the 2 hole to the lead-off spot, with Johnny Damon sliding down a notch. Looking at the numbers this morning, I think the statistical evidence supports the idea.

I am making a few assumptions about lineups to make this point. You want your better OBP player to bat first, with a better contact hitter batting second. You would also prefer to have your more powerful hitter batting second rather than first. I am also assuming that Jeter and Damon are equally skilled bunters, such that the ability to move a runner over does not come into play here.

When considering these factors, it seems obvious that a switch should be made. The one element that supports keeping things as they are is Damon’s speed, as he is a much better base stealer than Jeter at this point.… Click here to read the rest

Johnny Damon: Stealth Power?

I saw an interesting mention of Johnny Damon in a Fangraphs article yesterday, and was hoping to get some opinions on what the data may mean:

Two other interesting players are Johnny Damon and Garret Anderson. They have identical .161 ISOs over the last three years, but Anderson has seen the fewest fastballs of any hitter in the sample (48.9%) while Damon is up near the top (67.5%). Do pitchers perceived Damon as a slap hitter, due to his frame? Or perhaps Anderson just really struggles against breaking balls, and pitchers are exploiting this? Maybe both?

Damon always seemed like a bit of a slap hitter to me, which may be why his performance in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS was so shocking. When he came to the Yankees in 2006 and hit 24 homers, I’m fairly certain that he outstripped any expectations for him in that category. Damon’s swing looks like it should not generate much power, but he has a way of really getting into the balls that he pulls and actually hits some fairly long home runs.… Click here to read the rest

Sunday Reads: CC, Swish, A.J., Kelleher

Here are a few interesting reads to kick off the day:

1. Steve Serby of the NY Post has a nice Q & A out with the big lefty, CC Sabathia. Apparently, CC really likes President Obama, Jay-Z, Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan. That’s certainly a nice group.

2. Wallace Mathews (Newsday) brings us a good read on the versatile Nick Swisher. Swisher’s personality could be characterized as “highly vibrant.” He’s enjoying his time with the team and has brought a bit of craziness that was thought to be gone with Jason Giambi’s departure. Hopefully the Yankees keep him around.

3. A.J. Burnett is very aware of his injury-prone past and is looking to stay out of the trainer’s room and off the DL in 2009. Burnett attributes much of his development (over the past 3 seasons, in particular) to Roy Halladay, who essentially served as a mentor of sorts and taught A.J. how to stay healthy between starts.

4. Finally, Mick Kelleher, Bobby Meacham’s replacement, sounds like a very nice guy and should connect with the guys in the clubhouse.… Click here to read the rest

Swisher’s role

From Tyler Kepner (NY Times):

With Damon entrenched in the leadoff spot, Girardi is left with Swisher or Nady for right field. Girardi could opt for a rotation of sorts, using Swisher’s versatility as a switch-hitter who can also play first base, but he said he would rather not do that.

“I’m not anticipating that,” Girardi said. “I would really like to have the same lineup as many days as possible as we can. We had a hard time doing that last year.”

Girardi’s admission — that he will attempt to put the same product out on the field for every game — means that Nick Swisher will likely be the Yankees’ fourth outfielder, as the team has demonstrated a commitment to Xavier Nady after last season. Here’s Swisher’s take on the situation.

“I don’t mind doing whatever,” Swisher said. “I just want to be a part of what we’re doing over here. And if this team comes together, I think we have a chance to do something very, very special.”

While I’d like to see Swish get as many AB’s as possible, he’ll essentially serve as a bench-bat.… Click here to read the rest