Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What is wrong with the Yankees?

Currently the Yankees are 5.5 games behind the Rays for the Wild Card. While they don't have Tampa looking over their shoulders yet they can still make up this gap. Theirs a few problems though. Unlike last year when the Yankees run differential was much greater than the record would indicate their run differential is pretty much exactly what you would expect out of a team with a record like the Yankees. In this sense they haven't been unlucky. They just have to start playing better. Do they need to add somebody at the trade deadline?

Their bullpen is surprisingly a strength. Rivera is having one of the best years of his life, Veras has emerged to take Joba's spot, Farnsworth has been better than anyone predicted, and we haven't missed Joba there at all. If Bruney can come back he`d be an another weapon. Latroy Hawkins has to go though.

The top three pitchers in the rotation are fine. However, Ponson is just awful. Rasner has been okay. He`s suffered from a high BABIP but I`d much prfer to have him as a 5th starter than a 4th. The injury to Wang was absolutely crippling. The difference between him and Ponson is huge. Theirs no way they can survive with Ponson in the rotation so they need another pitcher. Wang won't be back until maybe September and Hughes won't be back until August. Pavano is not even worth hoping for. If I where the Yankees I`d give Ian Kennedy another chance after the break. At the trade deadline its time to decide what to do. If he does well than fine leave him in there for the rest of the year. If he`s terrible than you have to make a move for another pitcher. If he does poorly but not terribly (by this I mean ERA in the high 4's or maybe even lows 5's) maybe you should just leave him in there and cross your fingers. It also matters where they are in the standings obviously.

Oddly the team's biggest weakness is their offense. A-Rod is hitting like normal and Giambi has surprised everyone by returning to all star type levels. Unfortunately, those are the only two guys on the team with EQA's over .300. The next two highest are Damon and Matsui. Today we`ve heard news that Matsui will probably need season ending surgery. Damon is also hurt but will be back much sooner than that. After that everything falls off. Posada has an EQA of .269 which is fine for a catcher but right now he`s the third best hitter in the lineup and you don't want that. Abreu and Jeter come next. Both of these guys are expected to be among the Yankees' best hitters but they`ve been pretty much exactly average. After that we have Chad Moeller and Justin Christian. The only two starters we have left then are Melky and Cano. Melky has an EQA of .229 while Cano's is even worse at .218. Earlier in the year I wrote about Melky's power starting to develop and how I thought he was going to end up a very good player. Its starting to look like I was wrong. Not only this but while Cano's defense has remained very very good Melky's defense has clearly fallen off. They have no other options for Cano and he has been a better second half player so he could salvage his season. However, Melky has shown much less potential over the past few years and it is possible to get another outfielder. Brett Gardner's has also been awful in his time up here. Other than his one big game against Boston he hasn't hit at all and to telly ou the

So here`s a list of the Yankees underperformers or just problems:
  • Latroy Hawins
  • Derek Jeter
  • Bobby Abreu
  • Melky Cabrera
  • Brett Gardner
  • Robinson Cano
  • Sidney Ponson
  • Wilson Betemit

Hawkins isn't a huge deal. Girardi never uses him but their are a few better options in AAA.

Jeter is untouchable and hasn't been terrible at the plate just very average. I`m confident he`ll start hitting in the second half as well. However, the team just can't take his defense anymore. Defensive stats aren't great but when they all reach the exact same consensus and that agrees with what most fair-minded people see then they`re usually right. Baseball Prospectus' Rate 2 has Jeter costing them 16 runs over the course of the year. Meanwhile Cano has been amazing at second base getting balls up the middle the shortstop is supposed to get. Its well past the time to switch the two of them.

Abreu is another guy that hasn't been truly awful but only average. Abreu is nothing special on defense either. His arm is good but his range is poor. He should start hitting better in the second half. If he doesn't theirs not really anything they can do about him.

Melky got off to a good start but has basically collapsed. While his defense is still excellent they can't handle his bat being in the lineup. Same thing for Gardner. He had the one big hit against Boston but other than that nothing but speed and defense. They won't be making a comeback with an outfield like this. I`ll come back to these guys a little later.

All you can do with Cano is hope he continues his trend of doing better in the second half. Their are no second baseman available to replace him with and its hard to forget the promise he has shown at times.

Ponson should be replaced by Kennedy immediately. I realize Kennedy was pathetic early on and hasn't been great in his starts in the minors since coming back but at least he has potential. Ponson is a timebomb waiting to explode with his low K/BB.

Betemit is the Yankees best option for DH right now and that`s a problem. I`ll come back to this a little later.

So basically what the Yankees need is another pitcher, another hitter, and for some of their "stars" to start playing at the levels they should.

Pitching, as usual isn't widely available. A.J. Burnett is the best option out there and the Blue Jays aren't trading him in division. They`re going to have to look within the organization and try Kennedy. The other option is to pray Ponson can hang in their until August when Hughes should be getting back.

It might be easier to find another hitter to solve their LF/CF/DH problems. We`ve heard a few guys rumored to be available. Here's a few different options the Yankees have:

  • Just hang on and hope everybody starts playing the way they should and hope that's enough.
  • Sign Richie Sexson and plattoon him with Betemit.
  • Trade for Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, or Xavier Nady.

I don't think the Yankees are going to make the playoffs if they just use the first option.

The second one is more interesting. Betemit has always been better against righties and Sexson is awesome against lefties. They may be able to get some solid production out of these two guys.When Damon gets back he can take his place in LF and you can handle whatever combination of Melky/Gardner/Christian in CF. If Matsui comes back then its not hard to bench Sexson and Betemit.

The third one is probably the most the most unlikely. Cash is reluctant to give up any good prospects. However, its an interesting idea. First of all, the deal would probably happen closer to the trade deadline. This means Damon could be back by this time so they would be the DH. A move like this would really help the lineup. If Nady were the person they traded for then next year he could take over for Abreu and Matsui could become a full-time DH.

No matter what happens they`ll have to swallow a weak CF unless Melky magically start hitting again. If I were Cashman I would sign Sexson tomorrow and see how a plattoon of him and Betemit work out before trying a trade for another outfielder. If that were to happen than I think Nady might be the best target as they might be able to get him without giving up Kennedy (who they need for the rotation) and he could also take over for Abreu next year.

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