What Do You Do With Four Outfielders?

Finally, a good problem. There are obvious deficiencies at every offensive infield position that’s not second base, and the outfield has grown in to one of the Yankees’ few areas of strength., but with Curtis Granderson‘s return to the Yankees, the organization and manager Joe Girardi will be faced with the obstacle of keeping all four productive outfielders in the mix.

outfieldNot only have Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells hit, but they’ve also saved runs with their gloves. Now that Granderson is making his way back, the Yankees get to add his bat and glove to an already excelling trio. His homeruns were undoubtedly missed, but some fans are worried about the strikeouts and questionable defense that Granderson will contribute. From my stand point, the strikeouts mean very little, and are much more favorable to say the ten double plays the current three have grounded into this season. His glove is also a mystery. Some of the more popular defensive metrics have hated his defense in center field, while other metrics actually loved him. The Yankees have given him reps at the corners during his rehab, and it looks like Girardi plans to play him in left field or right field.

Three of the four outfielders are more than capable of playing all three positions, while Wells could also probably play a sub-par center field. This gives the team a ton of options with how they’ll line things up, but we still have a problem with fitting all four bats into a lineup that has four inferior infield bats.

In a normal season, the Yankees would have no problem DHing one of these guys, but Travis Hafner has already claimed that spot, and his bat has prevailed. Against left-handed pitching, Vernon Wells could fit in as right-handed DH, but that then takes Ben Francisco, or any other right-handed bat, out of the lineup in favor of a left-handed outfielder. Knowing Girardi, there’s little chance he’ll play one of his regular left-handed outfielders when he can gain a right-handed platoon advantage. Though Wells will get his reps in the outfield, it’ll be one of Gardner, Ichiro, or Granderson that lose time in the outfield against left-handed pitchers.

That leaves us with what the team will do against right-handed starters. Though they haven’t had a huge problem hitting right-handers, Vernon Wells has been a contributing factor to that success. He’s been more effective in roles against lefties, but his 118 wRC+ against same-side pitchers can’t be overlooked when Ichiro owns a 51 wRC+ and Gardner an 87 wRC+ against them. Obviously Granderson will see every at bat he can against right-handers, assuming he stays healthy, but what do you do with the other three?

A number of questions pop up. Do we pay attention to the small amount of data from their 2013 season? Over their careers, Wells and Gardner have only been league average against right-handers, while Ichiro’s 106 wRC+ is only slightly better. You’d probably take Ichiro and Gardner in this case, since they both add better defense to the team. But Gardner is coming off an injury, Ichiro is 39, and Wells has a new swing that’s working. What do we make of career numbers in these cases? Is the six weeks of data enough to say Wells is worth a start over Ichiro or Gardner despite weaker defense and a clear platoon split?

It’s a question that only time can answer, but I expect Girardi to start resting his outfielders this week. Granderson, Wells, Gardner, and Ichiro will probably all see some time off in the next couple of weeks to give everyone a breather before the dog days of summer open up. Maybe something during that time will indicate who deserves more playing time over another, but we’ll probably just continue to see an outfield rotation between Wells, Gardner, and Ichiro. It’s unfortunate to lose one of these bats when Jayson Nix, Chris Nelson, and Lyle Overbay are playing nearly everyday, but I hope we don’t see Wells starting at third base anytime soon.
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Yankees vs Mariners: Pitching match ups

Here are the pitching matchups for this week’s series against the Seattle Mariners.

Tonight
CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.23) vs. Felix Hernandez (5-2, 1.53)

Wednesday
Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74)

Thursday
Andy Pettitte (4-2, 3.83) vs. Aaron Harang (1-4, 7.30)

And here’s my bold-ass prediction for these games:

The Yankees will shock everyone and beat the guys with sub 2 ERA’s but will be baffled by the guy with an ERA north of seven.
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It’s May 14 and the Yankees are 24-14

If you predicted that this ragtag, seems to have been formed by flinging excrement at a wall team of lovable rejects would be 24-14 at this point in the season, you are a lying liar who lies.

With that said, seeing these Yankees atop the American League East standings at this point in the season is still extremely satisfying. I know it’s still early and that anything can happen but for the moment, these Yankees are definitely must see TV.

Take yesterday’s doubleheader for example. Even though they dropped the first game, these guys made me want to keep watching. I got to see Corban Joseph make his MLB debut, David Phelps pitched a great game even though he picked up the loss in the first game and even going into the top of the ninth, I felt like they could possibly make a comeback.

Alas, it was not to be but I wasn’t too disappointed because there was a second game to follow.

And when that game started, I was excited to see Vidal Nuno make his MLB debut as a starter and to see what he could do. He also didn’t disappoint, throwing five innings of scoreless ball. Vernon Wells collected two more RBI, Lyle Overbay had another extra base hit and the aforementioned Joseph picked up his first MLB hit, a double. And he was driven in by Austin Romine who picked up his first MLB RBI. Even Alberto Gonzalez, who was called up just before the doubleheader, got in on the fun and got two hits in that second game.

I also can’t forget about young Adam Warren, who came in to relieve Nuno, got a four-inning save while only allowing two hits and striking out four.

Last year on May 13, the Yankees lineup looked like this:

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The Grandy Man Returneth

Curtis Granderson - Candy Man

After the Yankees made a roster move to add a pitcher for yesterday’s second doubleheader game, speculation started almost immediately about what it meant.  Brett Marshall was added as extra bullpen insurance, insurance that wasn’t needed, but Brennan Boesch getting sent down to clear a spot was the real story because it could mean only one thing.  Curtis Granderson was ready to come back.

Joe hinted at it in his postgame presser, Donnie Collins added fuel to the fire with his report, and Granderson himself all but confirmed it last night on Twitter.  He’s on his way to New York to meet up with the team today, and with Corban Joseph having to go back down to Triple-A immediately after yesterday’s game the expectation is that C-Grand will be activated off the DL to fill that roster spot and will be in the starting lineup for tonight’s game.

If that’s the plan tonight, then it couldn’t be happening at a better time.  The Yanks have just completed a successful but taxing road trip, their bench is painfully short, and the lineup as a whole is starting to show a little bit of that “all or nothing”-ness that was expected before the season.  The return of C-Grand to the lineup and the locker room should serve as the little shot in the arm this group probably needs right now to keep their momentum going and as the first reminder to everybody that the cavalry is still coming.

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Welcome Back The Grandy Man

grandy

In the middle of today’s doubleheader, the Yankees optioned left-handed outfielder Brennan Boesch to Triple-A Scranton. Considering all the right-handed starters the Yankees will see against the Mariners, the Yankees will want as many left-handed bats as possible. There was some speculation that this could mean that Curtis Granderson will return.

After the second game, Joe Girardi indicated that the Yankees were considering calling up Granderson depending on how he felt following tonight’s game. According to Donnie Collins, the outfielder gave the Yankees the thumbs up a few minutes ago and could be playing as soon as tomorrow. So it’s unofficial at the moment, but I’d imagine that Granderson’s word is as good as anyone’s Continue reading Welcome Back The Grandy Man

It takes more than just money

In mid-May, the baseball season is far, far from over, but we’ve also logged enough games to have a sense of which teams are competitive and which teams are not. This season in particular there are several ball clubs that stand out because they are not competitive. Specifically, the Dodgers, the Angels and the Blue Jays are struggling to win, after entering the season with high expectations. The teams are 14-21, 14-22 and 14-24 respectively. Of the three, the Dodgers stand out as the most egregious failures. Only the Yankees will spend more this season. A team doesn’t take its payroll above $200 million to finish last. The Angels are only moderately better. Over the past two seasons they’ve added Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at exorbitant cost only to watch them struggle. Of the three the Blue Jays aren’t quite as profligate spenders, but they too made some ill-advised, splashy moves this offseason only to watch them backfire.

The big surprise is that these mistakes have been made at all. At this juncture of the game, Baseball has already seen just about every financial mistake a team can make. The Alex Rodriguez contract should have been a warning not to sign Albert Pujols to a mega-mega-deal when he was clearly in decline. Jose Reyes‘ own history of injuries should have been a warning not to trade for him. The entire history of the players the Dodgers added should have been warning not make those moves. Despite this, these teams went ahead and made these moves anyway, confusing splashy moves for smart moves.

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