Bombers hitting into double plays too often

BY GEORGE
We open today with a Steinbrennerism. Though many of the Yankee owner’s most acerbic comments have been well publicized over the years, this one is more obscure. Criticizing an umpire’s calls in July, 1979, the Boss said, “He’s with an excellent crew, but he fits like a $3 bill in the cash drawer.” I dedicate this Boss bit of wisdom to Angel Berroa, whose strange reign on the Yankees roster as a non-utile utility player may come to an end later today, when Cody Ransom comes up from Scranton.

angel_062409.jpgIn 14 games in Pennsy, Ransom has done his usual Ransom-y job, batting .250/.346/.477 with two home runs while striking out an unsustainable 12 times in 44 at-bats. Ransom is a fun guy to root for (this seems like a necessary qualifier to issue each time this subject comes up, while also having the benefit of being true), and he’s certainly a more useful player than Berroa, but at 33 years old his problems are ossified, calcified, and calcareous, set in stone and bone.  He has power but has problems making contact, with the result that maintaining a functional rate of reaching base becomes an insurmountable problem. With the Yankees anticipating more time off for Alex Rodriguez in the future, and Rodriguez playing like he needs it, the club needs a more viable substitute. That player is not currently in the organization. Whatever trading chips the Yankees are hoarding, they would be better spent on an infielder with some two-way bona fides than on yet another reliever.

DOUBLE PLAYS REVISITED
With Derek Jeter doing some decisive GDP damage the last couple of games, it’s time to check out the double play percentages for Yankees’ batters. The first thing to know is that in the American League, batters are hitting into double plays in about 11 percent (specifically, 10.9 percent) of opportunities. The Yankees as a team are hitting into twin killings a little more often, 11.5 percent of the time. Last year, the average AL team had about 1210 possible double play situations when hitting. This year’s average rate would result in 132 double plays. The Yankees’ rate would result in 137 double plays, which doesn’t seem like much but might matter in a close race — quite recently we’ve seen key double plays by Jeter and Robinson Cano kill the Yankees in close games.

robinson_062409.jpgRobinson Cano has been the player causing the Yankees the most trouble so far, knocking into a double play nine times in 42 chances, a rate of over 21 percent. With his double play on Tuesday night, Jeter also brought his rate up to 21 percent. Other Yankees who require Joe Girardi to give their baserunners a flying start include Alex Rodriguez (17 percent), Nick Swisher (14 percent), and Melky Cabrera (13 percent). Surprisingly, the very slow Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui have above-average performances in this category, hitting into double plays in nine and five percent of their chances, respectively.

One argument for giving Brett Gardner more playing time is that, particularly if he’s batting ninth in front of Jeter, might limit the team’s exposure to the double play in some situations. With Jeter hitting ever more balls on the ground — he’s grounding out three times for every one fly out, a career high — this is going to continue to be a problem where the Captain is concerned.

PARENTHETICALLY, A-ROD

A look at the Yankees ground ball ratios reveals that there’s a reason that A-Rod has such a high double-play rate: he’s hitting more balls on the ground than he has at any time in the last ten years. His offensive problems may or may not be caused by fatigue, but there might also be a mechanical component to the problem.

AN ORPHANED LINE ABOUT PHIL HUGHES

It might be time to give him something more challenging to do.

ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT OF BRETT GARDNER
The average AL center fielder is batting .260/.327/.403. Gardner is now hitting .285/.361/.401. His defense has been impeccable, as has his baserunning. If he can just keep doing what he’s doing, he doesn’t need to improve. Sure, improvement would be good, but the offense would be sufficient to support the other aspects of his game. While Gardner could still stand to be protected from the occasional lefty — one senses with Gardner that at some point more would likely become less — the ratio of playing time in center field should shift dramatically, from 75-25 in favor of Melky Cabrera towards Gardner. Plus — and this is no small thing — he’s the only guy on the team actually performing right now.  

4 Comments

Good article, but I want to make one point…Melky should not be taken out in favor of Gardner. Swisher should. He plays awful defense and is a terrible baserunner. Since both he and Melky are slumping, those other two categories have Swishy beat.

Swish is a useful player but he should be platooned. He’s exposed playing every day.

Swisher does NOT play awful defense. He plays incredibly UGLY defense, but he’s actually quite a good defender. His UZR/150 is above average as is his range factor per game.

Don’t confuse ungraceful and lumbering for bad.

Why is everyone getting all puffed up about Swisher? He is what we thought he was. An average player who has occasional double power. He’s not the one making $21 million this year.
The individual that is making $21 million this year and who has seemingly started his MLB retirement tour is media darling and fan favorite Derek Jeter.
I always thought the Yankees should construct a statue in his honor but it looks like they already put it out on the field.
Most over rated player in MLB history. Is basically an opposite field singles hitter with the range of a diseased donkey at the short stop position.
It also seems as if he couldn’t care less what’s going on with the team or when he ends a rally by swinging at the first pitch and hitting into a double play. And this is supposed to be the captain?
I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PAST!! I live in the now. Even when they were winning Championships Jeter had very little to do with that. I’ll tell Mrs. Jeter he’s simply an average player who everyone got way too excited about.

The problem is that Yankee Stadium has made them all homer happy and they take that on the road with them. Hitting into a double play is what happens when you try to smack everything out. Pitchers are throwing a lot of sinkers and changeups to them and they are just swinging over the top and pounding it into the ground. They have to stop trying to hit home runs and concentrate going up the middle and hitting line drives.

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