Tuesday, Brian Cashman turned Chad Qualls into Casey McGehee and $250,000. It was a win-win for both teams, with the Yankees dumping a struggling relief pitcher, and the Pirates dumping their struggling corner infielder. In 2012, McGehee has slumped to a .230/.297/.377 triple slash, which is actually slightly better than his 2011 numbers. This 29 year old wasn’t always OPS’ing in the .600’s. From 2009 to 2010, and between 1064 plate appearances, McGehee hit .291/.346/.477 with 39 homeruns for the Brewers. The once rookie of the year candidate has struggled mightily over his last season and a half, but I think it’s fair to hold on to hope with his bat.
When comparing McGehee’s BABIP through his first two seasons, the numbers appear in line with his batted ball profile and xBABIP, but in the last two seasons the BABIP is far lower than the expected results. For 2012, his 16.4% linedrives, 50.7% groundballs, and 32.9% flyballs amount to a .307 xBABIP. Currently, the infielder is 40 points lower than his batting profile suggests, hitting just .266 on balls in play. The culprit is a low batting average on groundballs. It’s estimated that slightly less than 30% of groundballs end up hits in baseball, but McGehee only sports a .171 batting average in this circumstance. Considering groundballs make up 50% of his hits, and he isn’t the slowest baseball player ever, there are a ton of groundball singles he’s been robbed of.
To add to the bad luck, McGehee has played in one of the leagues worst run scoring parks for half the year. In 2012, PNC Park currently ranks 27th in homeruns and 28th in runs allowed. At home he posted a triple slash of .215/.289/.314, and hit only 1 homerun. His numbers on the road are far better, hitting .243/.304/.431. Getting him out of Pittsburg and into Yankee Stadium should help fix his home/away splits. While Yankee Stadium isn’t exceptionally friendly to most right handed hitters, McGehee is not just a pull hitter, he has 140 of his total 468 career hits to the opposite field. He also has his highest career batting average on balls hit to right field, batting .336.
Although he doesn’t own a career platoon split, his numbers in 2012 have inspired much more success against left handers. Against same side pitchers, McGehee is hitting just .222/.275/.341, but against lefties he sports a .250/.344/.463 triple slash. With Eric Chavez manning third base on days against right handed pitchers, McGehee should see the bulk of his at bats against lefties, which certainly can’t hurt.
Much to my dismay, he’s not Chase Headley, however he can put up some serious offensive numbers in his new ballpark, platooning, and waiting out his BABIP luck. On top of the upside bat, he can cover third base and first base well according to UZR, two areas the Yankees will need injury replacements in August. In a pinch, McGehee can also play second base, and he’s actually had a good amount of experience catching in the minors.
If he does hit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the organization give him a chance in right field next year. Perhaps most importantly, he’s considered to have strong makeup and a reputation as a good clubhouse guy. With three more years of team control, Cashman turned Qualls, a DFA candidate, into a low risk/high reward utility player for the future. If McGehee starts hitting as his history and statistics suggest, he could spend the next few years in pinstripes.