The Nunez plan

My biggest problem with the idea is that it’s yet another decision being made on the basis of the largely unsupported theory theory that penciling A-Rod/Jeter into the DH slot more frequently will reduce the wear and tear on their bodies over the course of the season. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the problem with this theory is that, while it makes sense on the surface, it ignores the fact that the act of hitting (and running the bases) puts a lot of strain on the body and presents plenty of chances for injury. More obviously, despite the fact that the Yankees tried this last year, Jeter wound up straining his calf while batting, and A-Rod managed to play in just 99 games. You would think that this rather straight forward lack of results might cause us to rethink the premise here, no?

Of course, the other problem with this strategy is that it means less playing time for Gardner, with a good chunk of that time reallocated to Nunez. Gardner’s game isn’t flashy or eye-catching, and he has certain tendencies that make me want to pull my hair out at least once a week, but however he does it, he’s established himself as one of the most valuable players on the Yankees’ roster over the past two years. Nunez, on the other hand, doesn’t do much of anything particularly well, and though there have always been some people who have been high on his potential, he was a below replacement level player in 2011 according to Fangraphs. Maybe it’s just me, but taking playing time away from one of your best players and giving it to one of your worst players in order to facilitate a playing time plan that doesn’t even clearly work does not sound like a run maximizing strategy to me.

That said, in the spirit of Opening Day I’ll give it a chance. Gardner has exhibited a platoon split in his career, and Jones is both a very competent outfielder and a vastly superior hitter of southpaws than Gardner, so there’s no concern there. If Nunez can improve his game either defensively or at the plate against lefties, he might even make the change a neutral one at least, considering the relatively small number of plate appearances this plan will affect. The real question, however, will come if Nunez does not play well on these days, or if Jeter and/or A-Rod gets hurt anyway. If that’s the case, will Girardi and the Yankees abandon the plan, or will they stick with it even longer? Either way, we’re over three hours away from first pitch, and I’m already annoyed with Joe Girardi.

Welcome back, baseball.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

14 thoughts on “The Nunez plan

  1. I'll never get the Nunez-love he gets from Girardi. It reminds me of Joe Torre's fascination with Jeff Weaver. Agree with all your points here.

    • Given that he’s apparently spent the spring dreaming up new run suppressing strategies, I fear he’s itching for another Manager of the Year award.

  2. I still don't understand the love for Gardner. And honestly I dont think I ever will he's a great fielder but he plays one of the least important positions in the field and his bat is barely any good.

    • I'm kind of in your camp on that one. But he does run the ball down better than anyone and sets up well for throws at the plate. Hate him as a hitter.

    • Gardner only plays one of the least important positions in the field because Girardi is somehow convinced that Granderson is a better CF.

      • Yes, I agree with you on that but consider that the fielding WAR ratings that Gardner's supporters point to as evidence of how valuable he is are relative to the other guys that play his position. As a CF Gardner's WAR for fielding would still be good but not quite as impressive as his numbers as a LF.

    • He's had a wRC+ of 120 and 103 over the past season, so to say his bat is "barely any good" doesn't exactly mesh with the actual results.

      As for the relative value of left field, I think it gets a bad rap in general, but as to the Yankees specifically you shouldn't underrate a) just hot damn good Gardner is out there and b) the way his elite range allows Granderson and Swisher to account for less ground, making the rest of the outfield defense (especially Swisher) look better in the process.

      He's also a tremendously good baserunner, which certainly isn't nothing for a guy with above average on base skills.

      • I think Gardner's abilities have been overblown. I still think he's an average player but having in or out of the lineup is a non-event for me. Honestly, I think I would rather give maxwell the chance to play and see what he can do. Gardner can come off the bench as a defensive upgrade or pinch runner when needed.

      • He's had a wRC+ of 120 and 103 over the past season

        Well, you mean over the last two seasons – but that aside there was some non-trivial regression in Gardner's OBP between 2010 and 2011 as the league adjusted their pitching patterns and defensive positioning. Gardner had a BABIP of .340 in 2010 but that regressed to a more believable .303 last season. I attribute his 2010 number to many bloop hits and infield singles of which there seemed to be significantly fewer of last year and I don't think it was just luck as Gardner's GB% was about the same. His IFFB% did go up quite a bit though and his walk rate regressed by 4%. I think it's a reasonable argument to say that Gardner was luckier in 2010 than he was unlucky last year and that the league has definitely adjusted to him.

        I agree that saying his bat is "barely any good" is unfair and contrary to the facts but I think you're overstating Gardner's case in the opposite direction by calling him one of the" most valuable players on the Yankees". He's a good player and a nice complementary piece for a team of mostly sluggers but he's not nearly among the most valuable players on the team.

  3. Brien, you must be an absolute joy to hang out with in real life. Just enjoy Opening Day

  4. The first true sign of spring is Brien complaining about Girardi. It's like hearing the umpire cry "Play ball!"

    (Do umpires still say "play ball!" before the first pitch? I've been boycotting McCourt's Dodgers for so long I can't remember.)

  5. I don't like this move very much. But then again, I'm in favor of Gardner playing everyday and having a great hitter at DH who can handle both lefties and righties. That would mean not having Jones or Ibanez at all and Nunez resting the left side of the infield. That way you have Gardners speed and defense the whole season. I won't mention my choice as that pure hitter DH as that would open a whole new can of worms.