Had you asked me a few years ago to rate Brian Cashman as a General Manager, I would have said he was better than average. If you ask me today I’ll say he’s one of the best, for the simple reason that the man can see a reclamation project better than any other GM. Whether it was buying low on Nick Swisher or giving chances to Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, over the past few seasons Cashman has done an incredible job of spotting talent in baseball’s scrap heap. In 2010 one of Cashman’s most highly praised moves was signing Marcus Thames for $900K (or, what the Yankees spent last week on coffee). Thames hit .288/.350/.491 (with help from a .345 BABIP) producing a .365 wOBA and a 126 wRC+ in limited duty. If Thames’ performance was seen as a success last year, then it is time to recognize what a tremendous pick up Andruw Jones has been this season.
In 164 plate appearances this year, Jones has hit .254/.354/.514, which is better than what Mark Teixeira is batting in all three metrics. Jones has produced a .378 wOBA and a 137 wRC+, both of which rank him up with Robinson Cano in terms of his rate of production. Fangraphs says that Jones has been worth $4.2 million for the Yankees already, a tremendous value because the team will only pay him $2 million for the year. With this kind of success, one has to ask where the love has been for Jones?
There are three reasons why Jones hasn’t gotten the praise he’s deserved this year. The first is that unlike Thames last season, who had a .354 wOBA versus lefties and a .382 wOBA versus righties, Jones has been a true platoon player in 2011. He’s murdering left handed pitching, with a .399 wOBA against them, but he’s just a .316 wOBA hitter against righties. This leads directly to the second reason why Jones hasn’t gotten much attention. The Yankees really can only play him against lefty pitchers, which means he hasn’t played on a regular basis. Thames was called upon to replace injured players last year, and then surprised everyone with his performance against righties. He accumulated 237 plate appearances in 2010, a total number Jones is unlikely to match. Finally, playing Jones often means that Joe Girardi is platooning Brett Gardner, which fans legitimately hate (Gardner has a .340 OBP versus lefties this year and a .351 OBP versus righties, so there is no need to take his speed off the field against a lefty). While these reasons explain why Jones’ surprising success this year hasn’t gotten much praise, his performance is undeniable. When Jones is in the lineup against a lefty-pitcher the Yankees effectively have another bat as hot as Curtis Granderson‘s on the offense. That is top value production which should be applauded.
The 2011 Yankees have surged to the third best record in all of baseball on the backs of players left for dead. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia legitimately deserve most of the attention for their come back seasons. Injuries aside, each of them has stepped up to give the Yankees legitimate production as starters, something no one thought possible earlier this year. But Andruw Jones’ performance shouldn’t be over looked. As a platoon player his impact is legitimately reduced, but when he’s in the lineup the impact he’s had has been exemplary.