As Yankee fans rub the sand out of their eyes this morning, many must be wondering if last night was a crazy dream. Did the moribund Yankee offense actually score 4 runs in an inning, much less the 9th? Did Raul Ibanez actually do it again? That’s not possible, right? And lastly the invincible Yankee captain, known to shrug off serious injuries that would sideline mere mortals and still perform at a high level, did Derek Jeter actually sustain an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the playoffs? As you know, the answer to all of the above is yes. As expected members of the New York media (the usual suspects) are already throwing dirt on the Yankee season, saying this too much for the team to overcome. Some of them I’m sure were just grumpy after tearing up their original copy and putting in a late night thanks to the last minute heroics of Ichiro and Ibanez. But I’m here to make the case that the Yanks can get through this, and perhaps this is just what this team needed.
First, as great a talent as Jeter is, let’s not overstate his impact in any individual game. Look at his stats vs his replacement for the season. You’re substituting a .316/.362/.429 (.791 OPS) player in Jeter with a .243/.306/.384 (.690) player in Nix. That’s 100 points of OPS, or roughly 1 base of production every 2 games. Further, we all know that Derek Jeter’s range leaves much to be desired. Fangraphs has his range at -15.2 UZR this season while Nix is at -5.6 UZR for his career at SS. If Nix can make one extra play every two games, converting a single to an out, the difference in offense is wiped out completely. Were dealing in a small sample of games, as little as 3 or as many as 6, so stuff like this isn’t asking too much.
Next, this may just be the wake up call the Yankee lineup needs. this post season the Yankee lineup has had more no-shows than players that have actually produced. A-Rod gets all the attention, but with the exception of Jeter/Tex/Ichiro every other Yankee regular has been disturbingly quiet. As Buster Olney tweeted this morning Cano, Granderson, Rodriguez, Swisher and Chavez are a combined 10 for 104 (.096) with 37 strikeouts in the 2012 post season. If just one of those players wakes up and has a big game, you more than make up the difference between Jeter and his replacement.
So take heart Yankee fans. Jeter is a huge star, the Yankee captain and the team leader both on and off the field. But this isn’t as bad as it would be if, say the Yanks lost Sabathia or the Tigers lost Miguel Cabrera. Minimizing the loss of Jeter isn’t wishful thinking, its a matter of understanding the difference between an everyday player’s impact over the course of a long season and the difference between him and his replacement in a smattering of games.