Taking inventory, offense edition

Before I get started, a quick analysis of the pitching is in order. The team ERA is 3.43 and the team WHIP is 1.20. Those are good enough for 4th and 1st in the majors respectively. If Javier Vazquez comes around then all five starters will be performing at or above expectations, at least to start the season.

The offense is no slouch either. The team ranks somewhere between 1st and 3rd place in the majors in Avg, Runs, OBP, SLG, OPS and Steals. Tampa Bay is as good as advertised, or the Yankees would have a 2.5 game lead in the AL East.
Despite that, I’m concerned about the offense. The team’s recent run drought didn’t surprise me one bit, not when our two best offensive players, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, have combined for only 4 home runs. So far the opposite has surprised me. I’m pleasantly surprised the team is producing so many runs when it’s 2 and 3 hitters are both well shy of the Mendoza Line.
Without further ado, here’s a position by position breakdown:
C
Jorge Posada – .320/.393/.580
Francisco Cervelli – .500/.571/.583
Rumors of Jorge’s demise have been exaggerated, and how! Posada is off to a quick start, quicker than last season’s April line of .275/.366/.493. Furthermore, the performance appears sustainable. Jorge’s April numbers are up, but they’re not dramatically higher than his .285/.363/.522 line for all of 2009. Keep it up Jorge!
Joe Girardi seems set to give a fair number of starts to Jorge’s backup, Frankie Cervelli. I’ve always believed that Girardi platoons as often as he does because he himself was a career backup and he wants to give players he sympathizes with a shot. Who knew Cervelli would step up so much with the bat? He’s come up with big hits in two of the games so far this year. He won’t continue his great start, but it’s encouraging to see him force pitchers to get him out. It means that even when Girardi puts up something other than the A-team opposing pitchers don’t get to thrive on a dead spot in our lineup.
1B
Mark Teixeira – .123/.269/.262
Oh, wait, there’s that dead spot. It’s best not to look at Tex’s line directly. We all know that Tex is a slow starter. The way the Yankee press corps beats a hackneyed memo to death we all may be hearing about how Tex is a slow starter until he hangs ‘em up and starts announcing. This, however, is a slow start even by Tex’s standards. Through 17 games last year Tex was hitting .235 with an OPS of .854.
Ol’ .123 is under-performing badly. I’m now officially concerned that the numbers won’t be there at the end of the season. I’m hoping for that breakout game, something akin to a 2 homer performance that will mean the team’s All-Star first basemen is back. I’m concerned it will be a while coming.
2B
Robinson Cano – .369/.411/.646
Did you know that Robinson Cano is going to win a batting title some day? Cano earned himself a reputation as a slow starter because he got off to such poor starts in 2007 and 2008, and also because he’s been the best 2nd half hitter in baseball the past few seasons.
Last season Robinson vowed to get off to a quick start, and he did, batting .366/.400/.581 in April. That line is eerily similar to his 2009 April start, which may not be a good thing. In May and June of 2009 Cano’s OPS’s were .762 and .718 respectively. Let’s hope the offense’s number 1 weapon doesn’t have a slump looming on the horizon.
3B
Alex Rodriguez – .313/.421/.547
I’m not sure what to make of A-Rod’s start. The slash line is great, something I’d take from a full season of Alex in a heartbeat. The problem is his relative lack of power. It’s not that the extra base hits aren’t there – that’s a higher slugging than he had in all of 2009 – but that the homers aren’t there.
I myself have pointed out that A-Rod came one wall shot in Boston and one wall shot in Tampa shy of starting the season with 4 dingers, and another warning track shot in Oakland away from having 5. It very well may be that he got unlucky recently and the power numbers will be there once the season is more mature. Until they come I can’t help but be concerned that our biggest bat isn’t playing to his strengths.
SS
Derek Jeter – .333/.368/.500
So far, Derek is proving the baseball prognosticators who annually predict his demise wrong, at least for one more month. Derek is off to a solid start, and had 2 hits yesterday. The discipline numbers, however, are concerning.
Larry already pointed this out, that Derek has only drawn 3 walks on the season. Usually when his average is this high his OBP is above .400. Fortunately, this appears only to be a case of impatience. Derek’s BABIP currently sits at .333. For his career he’s a BABIP .360 hitter, so there is no reason to believe the batting average is artificially high. Hey Captain, I know you’re swinging the bat well, but do us all a favor and take a pitch.
LF
Brett Gardner – .340/.436/.404
Wow! I’m speechless. I know it’s early in the season, but no one predicted this. Gardner is off to a great start, entirely due to hustle. I forget which, but in a recent game he had 3 infield singles, none of them gimmies. The dude can flat out run, and it’s helping him keep his OBP numbers high. Getting on base is allowing him to lead the league in steals, with 9, and rack up the runs, with 12.
Can Crazy Legs sustain this performance? Gardner doesn’t have a long big league resume to look at for evidence of a trend in either direction. His BABIP is .381. Some of that may be luck and some of that may also be because he recently out ran a cheetah on his way to buy groceries.
These numbers are probably hig
her than where they’ll be at season’s end, but maybe not by that much. Gardner’s minor league numbers have BABIP around there as well. Last season it was .311. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but that means he is in a position to help the team. And his defense rocks.
Carl Crawford is currently batting .319/.372/.536 with 7 steals. Those numbers are good, but they’re not as good as Gardner’s, particularly in the Yankee lineup where a speed guy doesn’t need too much power. I’ll return to this story throughout the season, but I’m not sold on Crawford. So far Gardner is proving that we can get comparable production for a fraction the price.
CF
Curtis Granderson – .259/.358/.466
Curtis is mired in an awful slump after busting out of the gate. Over the last 7 days he’s hitting .067/.333/.067. Ouch. The higher OBP tells me that he may just be getting unlucky. So far the slump hasn’t hurt the team.
Color me impressed one month into the Curtis Granderson experience. He hits for power. He runs out ground balls. He plays excellent center field. The only knock on his game is that he appears to be streaky, but this is a really small sample. He drew 2 walks yesterday. Hopefully he’s about to pull out of it.
RF
Nick Swisher – .236/.354/.455
Speaking of coming out of slumps, Nick appears to have righted himself after struggling a bit during the homestand. For the season his OPS+ is at 124, versus 129 last year. It’d be nice if the average were a bit higher, but I’d be happy with a full year of OPS+ 124 baseball from Swish.
DH
Nick Johsnon – .135/.375/.231
Nick the Walk is torturing me. I love the OBP. I LOVE IT! I salivate thinking about the point in the season when his troubles are behind him and he’s stroking a sweet .275 with an OBP up around .415. I know he can do it. I want him to do it. But he’s not doing it.
Johnson’s BABIP is .182 so far in 2010 versus .309 for his career. (For fun, Mark Teixeira’s BABIP is .128 so far in 2010 versus .306 for his career.) This means that there is compelling evidence to suggest that Johnson will break out of it (and Tex too). The question is when.
For my part, I believe that BABIP is a great way to know if good performance is overly due to luck (Austin Jackson) but not so much bad performance. When a player gets a hit on a ball in play it could be because he smoked a line drive or it could be because a fly ball fell in between the fielders. The latter isn’t sustainable, but it counts towards a higher BABIP.
When the BABIP is bad, however, it could be because hits are going right to the defenders, or because the hitter is consistently making weak contact. In this case, the latter could pose a problem. I’m seeing a lot of both with Tex and Johnson. Johnson’s Ground Ball – Fly Ball ratio is 0.73 this season, versus 1.27 for his career. My impression is that he’s popping out a lot. The question is why. Is it timing? Is it because he’s not seeing the ball well? Is his back hurt? It may take a while for any one of these issues to be resolved.
Moving to Tex, his Ground Ball – Fly Ball ratio is 1.16 this year versus 0.99 for his career. Once again I’m not surprised. He seems to rolling over a lot of pitches weakly, but he also appears to have hit some rockets right at opposing defenders. I don’t have data to support this, but he appeared to do something similar during his slow start last season.
These two guys are the missing pieces (A-Rod’s power numbers might not end up in the 40′s, but I believe that by the end of May no one will be concerned about how many homers Alex will have – I keep telling myself). If Tex and Johnson come around the Yankees will be unstoppable. I don’t believe the question is if they come around, but I do believe the question is when.

3 thoughts on “Taking inventory, offense edition

  1. Tex is KILLING my fantasy team, but I obviously can't let him go.

  2. If Arod maintains that triple slash line, why should we care if he only hits 10 home runs all year? If he's producing, then he's doing his job. It doesn't matter how he does it.

  3. I agree in theory, but my concern in principle is that the team may struggle to produce runs if it loses its largest home run threat. I can't imagine A-Rod maintains that line if he turns into a doubles hitter. I also believe all of this is purely, early season hypotheticals.

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