2010 Season in Review: The Designated Hitter

The Yankees have had a looming designated hitter opening ever since Hideki Matsui‘s knees stopped working. After much unpopular speculation last offseason that the Yankees would forgo a permanent DH and rotate some of their aging superstars through the position instead, the team signed Nick Johnson.

Nick the Stick seemed like an ideal candidate. He was relatively cheap. He got on base better than just about everyone else in baseball (.402 career OBP), making him a perfect fit for the Yankees’ high-OBP, patient offensive approach. He was injury prone, so he wouldn’t have much leverage to push back if the team wanted to slot Jorge Posada or Alex Rodriguez at his position for a game or two.

Johnson disappointed immediately:

Johnson walked as much the team expected, probably more, in fact, but an abnormally low BABIP limited his overall value. If he didn’t walk, he was an automatic out in the month of April, and was reduced to a measly .305 wOBA.… Click here to read the rest

Pondering the non-tenders

Between RAB taking a look at the possible benefits of signing the recently non-tendered Scott Hairston, and the news this afternoon of the Braves non-tendering Matt Diaz, I wanted to take a look at whether any of the new non-tenders might be a worthwhile bench pickup for the Yankees.

In sifting through MLBTR’s tracker, the only other “name” hitter I came across was Ryan Church, although after a disappointing 2009 (.317 wOBA over 399 plate appearances) he was wretched last season, and it seems unlikely that he’ll return to being the .350-plus player he was from 2005-2007. Still, in the interest of comparing stats, Church at least seemed worth a look.

I also included Marcus Thames, who most Yankee fans would probably welcome back with open arms but who could be headed to Japan for a bigger payday than he’ll get stateside.

Though he struggled overall in 244 plate appearances in 2010, Matt Diaz is pretty clearly the class of this field, and still managed a .352 wOBA against lefties in 130 PAs.… Click here to read the rest

What about Vlad, and other Yankee DH possibilities

With yet another long-coveted (by me) hitter hitting the free agent market, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least broach the idea of the Yankees signing Vladimir Guerrero — who recently had his $9M 2011 option rightly declined by the Rangers — to be their DH, assuming the Yankees pass on my boy Adam Dunn. I know Mike Axisa threw cold water all over this idea the other day, but I think it merits further exploration. Vlad may have gone ice cold in the second half and postseason after a lightning-hot start, but there may still be some life left in that bat.

While I imagine the Rangers will try to re-sign him at a discount, it remains to be seen whether Vlad will have Johnny Damon/Hideki Matsui-itis and not be able to swallow his pride and return to his team at a lesser pay grade. At the very least it seems like it’d be worth seeing what it might take to get Vlad on a one-year deal.… Click here to read the rest

Questions for the Hot Stove and Beyond

The official start of the Hot Stove season isn’t until after the World Series, but friends, it is never too early to start thinking about it. Steve hit on the top ten things the Yankees must do in the offseason earlier, so I won’t rehash something like that. Instead, I’m going to offer up a few brief questions, give a few brief answers, and leave them for you all to talk amongst yourselves.

1. Brandon Laird is coming off of a career year and has a 1.002 OPS in the Arizona Fall League thus far. The way I see it, there isn’t much room for Laird on the big club in the near future. His trade value is never going to be higher than it is now, unless he hits well at AAA Scranton to start the 2011 season. I don’t know if that’s worth risking. The Yankees should look to shop Laird now, likely as part of a package, because I think he’ll add more value to the team going forward as a trade piece than he will with his own play.… Click here to read the rest

Johnny Again?

Yesterday, RAB tweeted that Johnny Damon said he was interested in returning to the Yankees in 2011 and didn’t like the sentiment. Friend of the blog Jamal Granger posited that Damon could be an okay DH/extra OF option for $5-6MM. Moshe agreed with Jamal. Another friend of the blog, Mike Axisa, then asked what role the Damon advocates could see him in. Finally, yours truly chimed in:

@mikeaxisa Not advocating for Damon, but he could platoon DH when Montero isn’t on the team. He DHs vs. RHP, Jorge vs. LHP?

Mike’s response was a good one: the Yankees will probably re-sign Thames, rendering my version of Damon useless.

So, now that we’ve finished with the background narrative, let’s jump into the possibility of Johnny Damon returning to the Bronx.

If Damon does indeed return, there’s no way I see him getting a starting job. Brett Garner put up over 5 fWAR in LF this year, Curtis Granderson is a great defender and good hitter, and Nick Swisher is a three to four win player as well.… Click here to read the rest

Hughes brilliant in first career postseason start, tosses seven shutout innings as Yankees sweep Twins in ALDS for second straight year

So that Phil Hughes kid can pitch a little bit, eh?

Phil was everything the Yankees could’ve hoped for and more in his first career postseason start and the Yankees’ 6-1 American League Division Series Game 3 clinching victory, tossing seven shutout innings of four-hit, six strikeout ball. Hughes was actually perfect through three before surrendering a leadoff base hit to Denard Span, but Span was quickly erased by a double play. In what was his third-best outing of the season in terms of WPA — .294 — Hughes came up aces, turning in the best outing of the Yankees’ three starters (who would’ve thought CC Sabathia would record the shakiest turn?) and significantly easing fears that the team’s playoff rotation was “Sabathia and pray for rain.”

On the offensive side of the ledger the Yankees attacked early and often, getting on the board in the second inning after Jorge Posada knocked in Robinson Cano — who had tripled — with two outs; in the third after a Mark Teixeria knocked a Nick Swisher double in; and in the fourth, on a Marcus Thames two-run bomb to right-center that put the Yankees ahead 4-0 and may well have been the kill shot to the Twins’ 2010 season.… Click here to read the rest

Berkman's Mechanics Against Lefties

When the Yankees traded for Lance Berkman, many wondered whether they would give him a chance to hit against left-handed pitching, considering his deterioration in that area over the last few seasons. With a lefty-mashing player in Marcus Thames at his disposal, Joe Girardi has answered that question with an emphatic “no.” It seems pretty clear at this point that Berkman is unlikely to see any important at-bats against lefties in the postseason, as he will platoon with Thames and be pinch hit for if a lefty reliever enters the game. In fact, Joe has shown that if a lefty is on the hill, he would prefer to substitute Thames for Berkman even if it means that the opposing manager will change pitchers and bring in a righty to battle Thames.

Being that Lance had always been adequate against left-handers, some have been searching for a way to explain his inability to hit them over the last few seasons. At the request of friend-of-the-blog Jamal Granger (@JamalGr), I reached out to Steve Carter (@SteveCarterPP), senior scout at Project Prospect, to ask if he could see anything different in Berkman’s swing from the right side.… Click here to read the rest

Second-guessing the manager

Less than a day after writing a post absolving Joe Girardi of any wrongdoing in the Yankees’ 8-7 win, last night came another tough one-run loss featuring a handful of moves — or really, non-moves — by Girardi that were questionable.

This time the primary issue revolved around pinch-hitting, or the lack thereof. In the eighth, Girardi elected to pinch-hit for Lance Berkman, who would’ve been forced to turn around and bat from his far inferior right side, for Marcus Thames. As bad as Berkman is from the right side (.247 wOBA), and as unexpectedly good as Thames has been against righties (.398 wOBA), lifting Berkman in this situation made zero sense considering that the utterly useless Austin Kearns and Colin Curtis — who, as noted in the recap, combined to go 3-21 against Tampa, including 1-8 last night with five stranded baserunners (and in reality it was actually 10 when you add up their cumulative stranded baserunner total) — would each be coming to the plate one hitter later.… Click here to read the rest

Home Run Javy does his thing, but Marcus Thames and the bullpen beat the Toronto Extra Base Hits 7-5

The Yankees extended their win streak to an impressive eight games. Despite injuries to Nick Swisher, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are the hottest team in baseball at just the right time. The best action happened in the 7th inning. Jose Bautista proved my long-held suspicion that he’s a jerk. He suffered a ‘roid rage break down and argued a called third strike vehemently in the top of the inning, and was deservedly ejected. The pitch was a ball, but Bautista responded to the call the way Jorge Posada did on Wednesday and was given the hook. In the bottom of the inning Marcus Thames hit a no-doubter off the Zales Diamond sign in the Yankee bullpen to break a 5-5 tie and give the good guys the lead. Mariano Rivera was Mariano Rivera in the 9th.

Javier Vazquez deserves to lose his rotation spot after today. He labored to get through 4.2 innings, ultimately allowing five runs to score.… Click here to read the rest