Monthly Archives: September 2012
Right around the corner is the most exciting time of the year for any team—the postseason. While there are teams that have clinched their spot in the postseason, there are teams like the Yankees that are so close to clinching that they could taste it. However, they still have to battle to stay in 1st place in the American League East. While it is almost certain that the Yankees will be in another postseason, the Yankees have other things on their minds as in after they clinch a spot. What will they be doing? They will be preparing their 2012 ALDS roster (if they are in first place by the end of the season). After observing the Yankees for a while, I decided to compile a list of who would make the 25-man roster for the ALDS series against what looks to be the Detroit Tigers. (Statistics are as of the morning of September 28, 2012).
Derek Jeter (2012 Season: .318 AVG, 15 HR, 57 RBI): Of course, you cannot be in the postseason without the Captain Derek Jeter. Jeter has had a phenomenal year and will end the year with an average over .300. The last time Jeter finished with an average over .300 was in 2009. How did that end out for the Yankees? Jeter had silenced the critics and had done his thing, but can he continue into the postseason and lead the Yankees to another championship?
Robinson Cano (2012 Season: .300 AVG, 30 HR, 82 RBI): Robinson Cano is one of the best second baseman in the game and he knows how to hit. While Cano has been up and down this year, he has been consistent defensively and can help Yankees pitching by preserving runs and getting double plays with a flick of a wrist. He makes that pivot to first base better than any second baseman than I have seen. Cano was one of the very few Yankees who had a hot bat during last year’s ALDS (along with Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner respectively), so it would be nice to see Cano get on a tear.
Mark Teixeira (2012 Season: .255 AVG, 23 HR, 81 RBI): Comparing Teixeira’s numbers from 2011 and from this year, this year has not been Teixeira’s best. But can you blame the guy? He has been sidelined with a Grade 1 strained calf. While he will make the roster for the play-offs, I doubt he will be 100 percent healthy. Teixeira also is one of the few culprits that seem to mysteriously lose his hitting talents in the play-offs. He needs to have a hot and consistent bat in the play-offs or else it could be an early exit for the Yankees—again.
Alex Rodriguez (2012 Season: .276 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI): Now, if the stats were for another player say maybe Eduardo Nunez, Chris Dickerson or Brett Gardner that would be a hell of a year. Unfortunately, it is for the guy that the Yankees gave a lucrative contract that last for another 5 years and did not hit the way that the Yankees were expecting. A-Rod is going to make the roster…but all season he has looked terribly lost at the plate. He is also another culprit that has not hit in the postseason in recent years (no, I am not counting 2009). A-Rod needs to get his act together and very quickly or else…you know. A first round exit for the Yankees.
Russell Martin (2012 Season: .209 AVG, 19 HR, 49 RBI): So this hasn’t been Russell Martin’s best year offensively (the 19 HR’s make the .209 AVG look less hideous) but the reason he makes the postseason roster is because of his defense. He also has been heating up at the plate as of late which means he could be on a tear any day now. He also was the only one that did not look lost during the ugly 6-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday night, cranking 2 hits off Morrow. Martin could add to the offense, which could be something that the Yankees need.
Vitals: Born 10/28/1988 Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″ 180 lbs. Bats: Left Throws: Right Drafted in the 4th round (140th overall) in 2008 and signed for a $207,000 bonus
Numbers: Corban made his debut in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and got off to a rocky start, but managed to finish the year with 159 AB’s and hitting to the tune of a .277/.359/.434/.793 line, good for a .359 wOBA and 118 wRC+. His plate discipline was already apparent as he walked 10.9% of the time while striking out at a 13.1% clip. The following year he played for the RiverDogs, and saw his isolated power (ISO) take a slight dip, but increased his batting average to .300. This brought his wOBA up to .368 and his wRC+ up to 130 despite the drop-off in HR’s. After another promotion in 2010 Jospeh maintained his batting line in Tampa which prompted another bump up the ladder, landing him in Trenton at the age of 21. He scuffled a bit in his first 130 PA’s in Trenton, and hit to the tune of .216/.305/.342 with a .298 wOBA and 79 wRC+.
In his first full season playing for the Thunder Corban turned his performance around settling in to hit for a .277/.353/.415/.768 batting line with a .346 wOBA and 113 wRC+. While his average dropped a bit in AA from his previous highs in A-ball, his walk rate remained solid at a 10.5% clip, and his BB/K rate was very similar to his previous season where he walked 58 times and struck out in 107 AB’s. He started out the 2012 season repeating AA, but that didn’t last long; after just 23 games he was sent to AAA where he continued to show off his ability to control the zone as well as realize a spike in power. He put up his best overall numbers, a .374 wOBA and 133 wRC+ along with a 13.7% walk rate and 14.8% K rate. His ISO took a big leap, going from a ~.130 over his previous 4 seasons to a .208, hitting 25 doubles and 13 home runs, both career highs.
Skills: After reviewing the raw data, the thing that jumps out the most is his ability to work the count and look for a pitch to drive. If it’s not there Joseph will gladly take his base. I’ve seen it mentioned that Corban is one of the systems best pure hitters; between his plate discipline and his quick compact swing and his ability to drive the ball to the gaps, the only thing that was missing was a power stroke. That became apparent in his 2012 campaign as he bested his career power numbers. He wasn’t hitting the “just enough” home runs either; this kid can put a hurt on the ball. Earlier this season he recorded one of the longest home runs playing in LeHigh Valley. He also hits a ton of line drives, ranging between 19-22% in his minor league career. The onset of power, his already excellent ability to choose his pitch and make solid contact along with a high line drive rate bode well for a major league career.
On the other side of the plate is where Joseph falls short. While he does have good athleticism and arm strength for the position, he lacks that quick first step and reaction times for a second baseman. He’s spent the majority of his tenure at second, but has also been positioned at 3B, as well as LF, possibly in the hopes that he can be used as a utility player for the big club as second base is currently occupied in the BX. While he may never be an above average defender, his bat could more than make up for an up the middle guy. Corban doesn’t possess incredible speed and will never be a stolen base threat, but he’s good enough on the bags that he isn’t a liability either.
Overall: Drafted as a shortstop and quickly moved to second base, Co-Jo will never amaze anyone with his glove; it’s his bat that will carry him to the majors and from what i’ve seen so far that’s a real possibility. One of the things I noted in researching Corban was his work ethic and his neverending pursuit of improving himself at the plate. It’s one of those “skills” i’ve come to value rather highly; you can’t teach certain things, and #want is one of them. He’s been known to spend hours in the video room looking for ways to improve at the plate, and preparing for his next matchup.
With second base likely locked up for several seasons by some guy named Robinson Joseph will end up a utility player or trade bait in the next year or two, barring injury or the slight chance that the Yankees let Cano walk. If by rare chance Cano does leave the Bronx, Joseph could find himself manning the position alone, or as a dangerous end of a platoon split with David Adams. He absolutely raked against righties this past season, posting a .299/.401/.560/.961 line hitting all of his HR’s (13) against opposite handed pitchers. He also walked more than he struck out (43/38), which is pretty awesome. A five time All Star between the MiL org. lists, EAS, FSL and SAL, Corban made a big step forward by adding power to his already impressive work at the plate. He likely won’t be in line for any Gold Gloves or turning heads over at The Fielding Bible awards, but his stick should be enough to carry him through a big league career. Afull time future in the Bronx would certainly be dictated by what happens with Cano, but a possible utility role is not out of the question. If not the hope is that he could bring a decent return in trade, as his skill set could net him a sarting job elsewhere.
The Yankees do not have a true AL MVP candidate this year, even though people are trying to make Derek Jeter into one. Jeter, who is obviously one of the most popular players in team history, is having a fabulous year, but is not a true AL MVP candidate because he is not even the MVP of his own team. That title still goes to Robinson Cano, despite the notion that he is only having an average year.
A lot of the views on this have to do with expectation. People thought before the season that Cano would be competing for the AL MVP. While he is not doing that he still should be solidly in the top 10 of the voting and is a borderline top five candidate. At minimum he is still the team MVP by a good margin over Jeter.
This is not to discredit Jeter’s season at all. The fact that we are even having this discussion about him this season is stunning. However, the facts remain that Cano has had the better season. The only advantages Jeter has over Cano are batting average, which is wiped out by the fact that Cano has a higher OBP, and that he has hit in the clutch better. Cano should have way more than 82 RBI, but he has a .762 OPS with RISP, while Jeter has a .788 OPS with RISP, so it’s not that big of a difference to make up for the fact that Cano basically leads everything else.
Cano has double the home runs Jeter has, his WAR is 6.2 compared to Jeter’s 3.5, he has an .890 OPS compared to Jeter’s .800 OPS and he has an .377 w/OBA compared to Jeter’s .350 w/OBA. Jeter’s game isn’t based on power, but again his advantage in average is washed out by the fact that Cano’s OBP is higher. Cano holds a huge edge in all the power and slugging numbers, which is a big deal. Also, we have not even gotten to the difference between them defensively.
Cano absolutely blows Jeter away in the field. Cano is one of the best at his position defensively, while Jeter is one of the worst. Jeter may make all the routine plays, but his range is awful at this point. You can even see the difference in range when Eduardo Nunez has been at shortstop lately. Cano has a great 6.1 UZR and his 4.67 range factor ranks 2nd in the AL among second basemen. He turns the double play as quick as any second baseman in the league with his amazing arm, great footwork and a lightning fast transfer. Also, he can make throws falling away from first base that no other second baseman can. Jeter on the other hand is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Jeter’s UZR is an egregious -13.4. UZR is not everything in determining range, but if you watch Jeter you can tell his range is very limited at this stage in his career. The Yankees can live with it because Cano and Mark Teixeira are elite defenders and Alex Rodriguez is above average.
The point of this article was not to discredit Jeter at all. It is amazing to watch him put up this season at the age of 38. He is a legend and as the captain is still the unquestioned leader of the team. Nobody could have seen this coming and watching the legend play this year has been one of the highlights of the season. However, the numbers don’t lie and they say Cano is the MVP of this team despite Jeter being the one mentioned in MVP talks. The Yankees have been very fortunate to get this kind of offense from their middle infield. Nobody else can really compete with them. However, despite the perception, Cano has had the better season out of the two of them.
Lineup vs. Blue Jays:
Derek Jeter SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Russell Martin C
Raul Ibanez LF
Jayson Nix 3B
Ivan Nova RHP
In many years this question would have a cut and dry answer but this year’s staff has seen a lot of fluctuation. A couple of weeks ago, Pettitte seemed like he may not be ready following his broken ankle, but now he’s pitched brilliantly. In the course of the same couple of weeks, Nova went from a forgotten starter on the DL, to a likely playoff starter and back to limbo.
The opponent and ballpark may sway the decision to go with a certain pitcher and will surely affect the order of the starters. For instance, Phil Hughes 11-4, 3.74 era – 1.18 whip at Home and severe problems with RH hitters will likely have Girardi looking to start him in the Bronx. But, who is going to be the odd man out in the likely 4-man playoff rotation? Sabathia & Kuroda have to be 2 definites as they have been 1 & 2 in the rotation for most of the year. CC went through a rough stretch upon coming off the DL but his last 2 starts have been fantastic. Kuroda has not had a good September but was a rock from May through August.
Andy Pettitte’s only question is his health. And so far, in his 2 starts since coming off the DL, he looks great. He’s yet to give up a run, throwing 75 and 88 pitches, respectively. He’s only scheduled to get 1 more regular season start but that should be enough for him to get the green light for the playoff rotation. Andy’s only made 11 starts on the season but he seems to provide a spark to the team when he’s on the mound as they are 8-3 when he pitches. His playoff experience, guile and determination make him a must-start in my opinion.
That leaves Hughes and Nova. Nova looked like a brand new man on Sept. 15th. He unveiled a new motion, increased velocity, crisper breaking pitches and much improved command. But he threw it all away by getting knocked out after 2.1 innings in his next start. He still has time to prove himself with 2 starts remaining but can he do enough to pass Hughes? Phil has had a respectable year and leads the team in victories. Unfortunately, his propensity to give up HRs and his odd reverse platoon splits might make him a bad matchup against a team like Baltimore with a lot of RH power.
There’s a lot more to consider and as we have seen recently, a starter’s stock can plummet or rise with one performance. Often we are swayed by the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-attitude but usually looking at a pitcher’s complete season gives you a better idea of his value. Who would you use as starters in the playoffs and will it depend on the matchups? Has Pettitte shown enough to play his usual Game 3 starter role? If Nova pitches like he did on 9/15 over the next 2 starts, is he in the rotation? Does the fact that Hughes has a history as a lights-out relief pitcher make it smarter to start Nova with Hughes in the pen? All things to consider and comment on below……let’s hear it.
Gardner. Granderson. Swisher. How often have you heard those names said together? Too long, is my guess.
Those three guys have been the starting outfielders for New York since the beginning of the 2010 season. Nick Swisher in fact has been saluting bleacher creatures on a daily basis since the 2009 campaign.
All of them have done more than the Yankees could have ever asked when they first arrived in the Bronx. Gardner has become one of the top defensive players in the game, as well as a lightning rod on the bases. Curtis Granderson, as predicted found his power stroke in Yankee Stadium and has now put up back-to-back 40 home run seasons. And Nick Swisher continues to prove he was worth way more than Wilson Betemit – the player the Yankees had to give up to get him. He’s now put up four consecutive 20+ home run, 80+ RBI seasons, recording his 90th RBI today in Minnesota, the first time he’s done that since 2006.
Clearly, this Yankees outfield is one many teams would only dream of having. But to me, this should be the final year those three man the outfield together. Here’s why:
Granderson = Dunn – Maybe Chicago should ask for me to apologize for that Wilson Betemit joke. This season, Curtis Granderson has truly evolved into a strikeout or home run hitter, a la Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn. He gets his share of doubles, but more often than not he’s heading back to the dugout, bat in hand and shaking his head. 40 home runs are nice, but not as nice as a high batting-average or on-base percentage, something Grandy has never really accomplished in his career, besides batting .302 for Detroit in 2007. Also, his defense is some of the worst among center-fielders, as he constantly is letting balls sail over his head or fall in front of him. As you know I’m no saber-metrics bust, but whatever stat there is for runs allowed, he was high up there in 2011 and once again is in 2012. The Yankees should look to trade Curtis for pitching, be it a #2 starter or a number of solid pitching prospects. Many teams will overlook the many flaws of Granderson to bring in a 40 homer hitting center-fielder. Because the saying does hold true – chicks still dig the long ball.
Melk, anyone? – Call me crazy, but I think the Yankees should strongly look into bringing back the original Melk man, Melky Cabrera. No doubt he has become one of the more idiotic players in recent memory, as he was suspended for 50 games for testosterone and tried to cover it up in the days prior to his suspension. But using PEDs or not, a return to New York could work wonders for him and the Yankees. Certainly, he must have learned his lesson, and if not he’ll be disciplined and put in his place by the Bombers. There’s no fooling around if you’re a Yankee, and a reunion with close friend Robbie Cano could inspire him to do his best and play hard, without cheating. Moving Gardner to center and Melky to left would greatly improve the defense and allow both of those guys to finally play in harmony on baseball’s biggest stage.
Stick it to the Red Sox – If that Melky Cabrera return frightens you too much, how about signing a guy like Cody Ross? That’s what I mean by sticking it to the Red Sox. Have the Yankees bring this guy in (they’re already reportedly very interested) and make him your starting left fielder. This year, in the AL East mind you, so no “can he produce in the division” talk, he’s hit .270 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. He also can play right field and a little bit of center, so he’s also a very flexible option in the outfielder. Most importantly to me, this guy has played in the postseason for the Giants, and came up big as the World Series MVP. Whether that’ll transition to New York is a question, but to me he’d be a solid option as the new left fielder as well, all considering Gardy moves back to center.
Swish needs to stay – As mentioned above, Nick Swisher has been arguably the most consistent outfielder in baseball the past four years. The energetic, always positive Swish has been a fan favorite and a very productive hitter, whether near the top or bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. He seems to just complete it- without him, there’s a hole in the order. The Yankees seem to have their sights on moving on from Swisher this offseason, and going younger or bringing in a cheaper option to fill his void. Which could happen and work, but to me, Swisher is essential to the Yankees’ chances next season. He’s still in his prime and simply is a Yankee if I’ve ever seen one. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a lock again for 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, and being a leader in the Yankees clubhouse for 2013. A three-year deal may be what Cashman will need to give him, but it’ll all be worth it if Swish just continues to do what he’s done for the Yanks since 2009.
So that’s my opinion. A Yankees outfield of Ross/Melky in left, Gardner in center, and Swisher in right is young enough and fresh enough to lead to even more production in 2013. Granted, Grandy probably won’t go anywhere and Melky may not be back in pinstripes, but Ross is a very likely option, and keeping Swisher should become a no-brainier for Cashman following this year. No matter what happens, one thing’s for certain – the Yankees outfield will still be one of the best in baseball in 2013.
What do you think the Yankees should do with their outfield? Should it change, or stay the same? Sound off in the comments below…