Daily Archives: September 20, 2012
Lineup vs. Blue Jays:
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Russell Martin C
Curtis Granderson CF
Casey McGehee 1B
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Jayson Nix 3B
RHP Phil Hughes
When Brian Cashman was assembling the 2012 Yankees in the offseason, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez were two of the last pieces to be added. Their roles were to essentially serve as a DH platoon with occasional starts in the OF. However, when Brett Gardner was injured in early April, they both became the recipients of added playing time. At first it seemed like Gardner’s injury was fairly minor so it was thought that Jones/Ibanez could fill-in for the short-term. Gardner had 2 set-backs in his recovery but wasn’t deemed to be essentially done for the season until mid-July so the Yanks stayed with Ibanez as his primary replacement until Cashman added Ichiro. But Ichiro’s arrival also coincided with an injury to Nick Swisher and subsequent injuries to ARod, Granderson & Teixeira. So playing time for the 2 veterans just kept popping up.
Ibanez and Jones did a yeoman’s job for much of the first half. Ibanez cracked a Grand Slam on Opening Day and continued his hot hitting thru April and May with a .268/.318/.543/.861 line, 9 HRs and 28 RBI in the first 2 months. Jones was also doing a solid job filling in for most of the year and his season was highlighted by his huge 4 HR outburst in a 3-game series at Fenway in early July. When that series ended Jones’ season numbers stood at an impressive .244/.326/.535/.862 with 11 HRs in 144 PAs. So, while neither of them supplied great average, they drew some walks, supplied a ton of power and held their own in the OF defensively. Both players are to be commended for their early season contributions and their ability to handle expanded roles. I admit I was not on board with the Ibanez signing as I thought the team needed a better bat. But Ibanez surprised me with his strong start and despite his defensive shortcomings, he always tries hard and hustles on the field.
However, both players have fallen off a cliff in recent months. Since June 1st, Ibanez has hit .191/.278/.330/.608 with just 6 HRs in 234 PAs. That’s more than half a season of games with an OPS barely over .600. Terrible numbers for a DH/LF who’s only asset is his bat. Lately, he has been even worse with just 4 hits in his last 55 ABs (.071 BA & .330 OPS). He is clearly not the same player he was the first couple of months. The popular theory is that he is worn out from playing the OF so much. That may be true but he has always been a streaky hitter and his overall season numbers are nearly identical to what he put up last year in Philly. Last yr he hit .245/.289/.419/.707 and this year he’s at .222/.294/.415/.708.
Jones’ decline has been even more pronounced. It seems like he sold his soul to the devil to get that huge series in Boston because since then he’s hit .137/.250/.225/.475 with just 2 HRs in 120 PAs. He’s misplayed fly balls in the OF and has had awful at bats.
Due to injuries and Girardi’s dual-love of veterans and platoon splits, both have still been trotted out there to get regular playing time. Yesterday, however, Joe finally left Jones on the bench vs a LHP and it payed off big as Ichiro won them the game. Did Joe play Ichiro because he had a .360 career BA vs Romero and Jones had a career .154 BA against him? Or has Joe finally realized that Jones & Ibanez are shot and he needs to go in another direction? Unfortunately, I think it was more a case of the former but with Ichiro’s success maybe he’ll make it a permanent change.
With players coming back from injury, Girardi finally has other options. Eduardo Nunez is clearly a better option right now than Ibanez/Jones and should be a factor the rest of the season including the playoffs. Against a LHP, Nunez & Jeter MUST continue to split SS & DH. There is NO excuse to play Jones over Nunez right now. If you figure McGehee at 1B until Tex returns, it leaves you the choice of Ichiro, Jones or Steve Pearce in LF. The Yankees have not used Pearce in the OF although he played 20 games there with Baltimore this year and 3 with Houston. Pearce isn’t really hitting anyway so I think the clear choice is to go with Ichiro over Jones. He’s swinging a hot bat over the last month at .351/.365/.468/.833 with 2 HRs and 7 SBs in 99 PAs. He brings speed and defense to the table every day in addition to a hot bat. He & Nunez need to play over Jones the rest of the way.
The Ibanez situation is a bit more cut and dry. When Tex comes back, it becomes academic with Chavez and ARod sharing 3B & DH vs RHP and Swisher and Ichiro as the Corner Outfielders. It basically comes down to Chavez vs Ibanez and that’s a no-brainer. Chavez has hit .296/.353/.522/.876 with 13 HRs vs RHP in 249 PAs. But until Tex returns or IF Tex returns, there’s no clear alternative to Ibanez. Swish will play 1B so there is need for another corner OF. The alternative is to go with Chris Dickerson. Dickerson started the first 3 games after his September call-up and went 2 for 7 with a HR. Since then he’s been only a defensive replacement with 2 scattered PAs – a Walk & a SO. The only other possibility is rookie Melky Mesa or to go with McGehee or Pearce at 1B and Swish in the OF. For now, I’d give the playing time to Dickerson. He plays a great OF, has a little speed and has hitting ability. He had a great year in AAA with a .316/.417/.515/.932 line with 7 HRs and 17 SBs in 321 PAs. Give Dickerson the chance.
What do you all think? Should the Yanks be giving time to Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro the rest of the way or keep trotting out Ibanez & Jones despite their pathetic recent numbers? The Yanks swept a DH yesterday without hitting a HR thanks to good fundamental baseball, productive outs, some key hits and stealing some bases. Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro can definitely help in those categories. The upside with Jones/Ibanez is the potential to hit a HR which have been few and far between lately. So which way do you go for the last 2 weeks of the season and into the Playoffs?