Results tagged ‘ Xavier Nady ’

Yankees were right to pass on Abreu

abreu_250_021309.jpgWITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
A little while ago, I was complaining to my friend and colleague Jay Jaffe that I wanted to get through today’s entry without writing about Alex Rodriguez and steroids. He immediately came back with this question: “At the price the Angels paid, should the Yankees have brought back Bobby Abreu?”

It’s a heck of a question, though one that may be compromised from the outset, because we don’t know if the Yankees could have gotten Abreu to sign at the same price — one year, $5 million. We don’t even know if Abreu’s agent bothered to come back to the Yankees and say, “Give us $5,000,001 and we’re yours” before making their client a Los Angeles Abreu of Anaheim (or is that a Los Angeles Angel of Abreu?).

I’m going to say no. Here’s why: Abreu had a good year for the Yankees at the plate, but his indicators are all pointing in the wrong direction. His home run rate was nothing special, his walk rate was down, and his baserunning and fielding skills aren’t what they used to be, with the resultant give-back on runs severely denting his offensive value. While a one-year deal at a low salary represents a minimum of risk — the Angels are betting that Abreu at least holds his 2008 value for one more season — the danger here is not financial but to the winning effort. With even a smidge of further attrition, Abreu is going to be no fun at all.

Over the last three years, the typical Major League right fielder has hit .277/.347/.451. The PECOTA projection for Abreu for next season, which does not reflect his move to Anaheim (a good thing in this instance) is .282/.368/.436. Thanks to the high on-base percentage, that would be a better than break-even performance, but not one that’s a huge benefit. Nick Swisher should be able to approximate the on-base and slugging percentages while doing a better job of actually catching the ball. The Yankees are already paying him Abreu’s salary plus a little ($5.3 million this year), and there’s little reason to double up.

Now, Jay’s question would be a lot easier to answer if the Yankees only had Xavier Nady to play right field, because even a diminished Abreu is likely to out-hit him, especially in the key area (really the only area) of on-base percentage. PECOTA’s weighted mean projection for Nady is .270/.323/.444, which falls short of even the average right fielder.

Parenthetically, I know I’ve been like a broken record on the Nick Swisher-Nady stuff, but as we head into a Spring Training season in which the Yankees have few big decisions to make, right field stands out as a position where the Yankees can make a choice that will significantly impact the outcome of the season. Johnny Damon is almost certain to regress. The center fielder, whoever he, she, or it proves to be, will not be a major run producer, and maybe not a minor run producer. It will fall to right field to salvage the outfield production.

Sorting out who starts shouldn’t be difficult at all, and is being complicated by a lot of statistical noise from last season. Swisher had a bad year by his standards, Nady a very good one. However, extrapolating from either season is unwise; Swisher is unlikely to have suffered a complete breakdown at age 27, just as Nady is unlikely to have found new strengths at age 30. Even a bad Swisher drew 82 walks and hit a home run every 21 at-bats; even a good Nady drew 39 walks and hit a home run every 22 at-bats. We’re talking about a difference that comes down to a fistful of singles, and we know those tend to come and go for hitters. Throw in that Swisher is the superior defensive player, and this really shouldn’t be a discussion at all.

In summary, to round back to Jay’s question about Abreu, the differences between Abreu and Swisher, if any, will be small enough that had the Yankees been given the opportunity to top the Angels’ offer to the former by some small number of dollars, they would have been correct to demur. Regardless of the resolution to the battle, the Yankees have already gained one victory in saying “Nyet” to their California-bound alumnus: this year’s right fielder may not hit, but he’s certain to catch a few balls at the wall, something we haven’t seen a Yankee do in years. 

Let us review

nady_250_012909.jpgAt the risk of boring the more advanced members of the class, I want to revisit Xavier Nady one last time before midterms. Your grade, and that of the Yankees, depends on your ability to answer several true-false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank questions about Nady, so it’s imperative that we come to grips with the subject. Please open your text books/hymnals to page 355 and sing along to Buddy Holly’s classic “Maybe Nady” as we repeat together these key facts:

Nady is 30 years old and is a career .280/.335/.458 hitter. Despite his 89-game surge with the Pirates and brief hot streak with the Yankees, he is at this late stage of his career to be any better than those career rates in the future. He has never rated as a great glove. Per 162 games, he has averaged 30 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, and 34 walks.

Last season, the average Major League right fielder hit .276/.347/.451. In 2007, the average right fielder hit .281/.351/.453. In 2006, the rates were .277/.347/.460. In the American League East, the standard is a bit higher, given that the competition lists the J.D. Drew/Rocco Baldelli combo, the Matt Joyce/Gabe Kapler combo, Alexis Rios, and Nick Markakis. Only one of the four, the Rays’ Joyce-Kapler mélange, may not exceed the averages. Should Nady play every day in right field and snap back to his 2006-2007 .334 on-base percentage, the Yankees would be operating at a significant deficit relative to the competition.

Now, Nady is not without value, because Johnny Damon is getting old and Nick Swisher has his limitations, and when most teams have to bench a starting corner outfielder due to injury or fatigue, they tend to wind up with Reggie Abercrombie out there, and the road to hell is paved with Reggie Abercrombie. The road to the postseason is paved with having a substitute like Nady. He’s not quite good enough to be a starter on a winning team, but overqualified to be a reserve. The smart teams will hold him to 300 at-bats or so and/or flip him to a team whose starter is even further below average than he is.

In short, Nady is not the kind of player a championship-caliber team plans on starting unless they have no other alternatives. The Yankees have alternatives. It could be Swish Nicker, who has comparable power to Nady and will out-walk him by 50 or 60, so his batting average need not be better than .250 to surpass X-marks-the Sub, or it could be a player we kicked around in yesterday’s installment, like Adam Dunn. They Yankees can flip Nady or not. They can pay the freight on keeping him and have themselves a very positive role player. The one thing they shouldn’t do is mistake his little contribution as something worthy of a starting role.

Review complete. Close your notebooks. You can play silent ball for the rest of the period.

SHOW THREAD: BACK IN THE BUNKER TONIGHT

I’m off to the Death Star-like YES HQ for another stay in the Dot-Com Bunker on the Hot Stove show. If you’ve got any comments, I’ll be checking the comments right up to and even during show time, so get ’em in. Any topic is fair game, including Bob Lorenz’s haircut — but only in a constructive way. Bob is the most tenderhearted regional sports network host you’ll ever come across. Those calloused NESN guys can’t touch Our Bob for generosity. It’s very difficult to see unless you have a top of the line high-def set, but on every Yankees postgame, Bob has a dish of candy out on the desk just in case any of you happen by the studio. He’s that kind of guy. See you at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Another note on Posada

posada_250_012109.jpgSpurred on by Buster Olney’s mention of this same topic in his blog posting today (I shan’t link; Olney is, shall we say, persnickety about who he links to, so I shall be the same). Olney writes: “If [Jorge Posada] can’t catch, he will have to get the bulk of his at-bats as a designated hitter, compelling the Yankees to press for a trade of one or two veteran hitters, among Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui.”

Seems like they’re working on the latter anyway, as well they should given the declining value of two of the three. As for the designated hitter part of the story, let’s examine that. Last year, the aggregate rates for the DH position were .256/.339/.435, with a home run hit every 24.4 at-bats. The previous season they were .268/.355/.447 with a home run every 25 at-bats.

Parenthetically, the DH numbers always seem to be less than you would expect. The American League as a whole hit .268/.336/.420 in 2008. As a group, the players whose sole job it was to provide offense weren’t a whole lot better. It’s tempting to conclude that AL managers aren’t doing a very good job of designating good hitters, but it that wouldn’t be completely fair; the family of designated hitters had a rough year. Aubrey Huff and Milton Bradley were great, and David Ortiz was good when he wasn’t hurt.

Then there were some rude surprises. Jim Thome struggled early, pulled it together for three months, then slumped again. Matsui was off to a great start when his knees began affecting his production, and his post-injury hitting was even worse. Billy Butler and Jonny Gomes didn’t hit up to their abilities (Butler turned it on in the second half, but it was too late to save his overall numbers). Frank Thomas and Jose Vidro hit the end of the road, and Gary Sheffield hit the Last Rest Stop Before the End of the Road.

The previous year had Ortiz having a monster year, as well as productive seasons from Thome and Jack Cust. There were also some real disasters. I had blocked Shea Hillenbrand out of my memories of the 2007 Angels. He hit .238/.258/.320 as a designated hitter. Whichever team executive thought of Hillenbrand and let him putter on for a quarter of the season should have been cashiered. As planning goes, handing your team a Hillenbrand for its DH is not too dissimilar from those Civil War supply officers who sent their soldiers into battle wearing shoes with soles made out of old cupcake wrappers held together by cat spit.

In the Olney scenario, the Yankees wouldn’t be going with Hillenbrand, or Monty Meigs at DH, but Posada. The question is, if Posada is restricted to DH, can he give the Yankees average or better DH production, something along the lines of the league rates we’ve seen — let’s say a .270 average, .350 on-base percentage, and .440 slugging percentage?

If we go by Posada’s career rates, the answer should be an easy yes. He is, after all, a career .277/.380/.477 hitter. Yet, we’re talking about a Posada that is now 37 years old and is coming off of an injury which affected his swing. As such, Posada’s future is something of a black box. We can look at projections like those at compiled at Fangraphs — Bill James’ system figures .277/.378/.455, CHONE forecasts .266/.363/.434. Posada will hit .285/.374/.466 in Marcel’s prognostication. We should also add PECOTA to that. I can’t tell you exactly what it says just yet, but I will say that it’s a good deal more pessimistic than the rest. It’s also the most conservative on playing time. The projection systems, in the order that I listed them, see something like full-time play, almost full-time play, something like 60 percent play, and, last, PECOTA with something like half a season of playing time.

In Sabermetric circles there is often debate about the relative accuracy of these systems; as a BPer and the co-author and editor of a book which bills itself (tongue in cheek) as the home of the “deadly accurate” PECOTA forecast, I have to dance with the forecaster that brought me. Yet, in this case, I would be prepared to throw it all away, because everything Posada does depends on how he comes back from the surgery. None of these systems know that, although PECOTA has taken last year’s reduction of playing time into account. Posada could do it all, or nothing at all. And suddenly we’re invoking old Frank Sinatra tunes, so it’s probably time to move on.

More on the center field merry-go-round

damon_250_010809.jpgJon Heyman of SI.com had an interesting tidbit in a recent posting about the Yankees shopping Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady:

Johnny Damon isn’t in the trade mix, as the Yankees need him to be their leadoff hitter and part of a center field rotation. The other in-house candidates for center field are Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner.

That’s interesting, though not in the basic meaning of it — even though Damon is in the last year of his contract and is coming off something like a career season, it seemed unlikely the Yankees would try to move him, given the two roles he plays on the team, leadoff hitter, as Heyman mentions, as well as defensively overqualified left fielder. Many observers tend to focus on Damon’s poor arm, but his speed makes for a corner outfielder who can cover an unusual amount of ground.

Now, if you think about it, the most potent offensive outfield the Yankees could field next year would be Nady in left, Damon in center, and Swisher in right, rather than the presumed alternative, Damon in left, some combination of Gardner and Cabrera in center, and Xavier Nady in right — and Swisher playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, or Hamlet’s Father, or something. The problem with doing that, beyond the misuse of Swisher, is that at Damon’s current stage of the lifecycle, he’s better off not being overtaxed. Further, while his speed still does wonders in left, it’s not quite as spectacular in center — Damon had already slid off his peak the position before the Yankees moved him.

That said, being part of a center field rotation, as per Heyman above, makes all kinds of sense in that it gives the Yankees a great deal more flexibility in being able to waltz other players in and out of the corners. The more positions a star can play without compromising the defense, the better off the team is, because the club begins to close off openings for the replacement-level players that are so damaging to the winning effort. Similarly, Joe Girardi needn’t be married to any one center fielder.

There is yet another hand, which is that the Yankees might want to get married to a center fielder. Damon is in the last year of his contract, and as good as he was at 34 and may be at 35, asking him to keep it up at 36 and 37 will likely be pushing it. Given that the class of free agent center fielders next winter is going to be no fun, the Yankees will be in much better shape going into 2010 if they have the next center fielder lined up now. That could mean getting Gardner established, finding some way to electrify Melky, or even giving Austin Jackson a shot in the second half of the season, should his work at Scranton demand such an audition. Obviously the needs of 2010 have to be balanced against the goal of winning in 2009, with any luck the two goals will be mutually compatible.

One supposes the Yankees will need another leadoff man after 2009 as well. Traditional images would suggest that Gardner is the man, but Gardner may never have enough sock to justify taking up so many plate appearances, regardless of how many bases he steals. The Yankees will need to remember that your leadoff hitter need not match the picture of the singles-hitting speedster. That way lies madness. That way lies Juan Pierre. Remember, Wade Boggs was a great leadoff hitter, and he almost never stole a base. It’s about how often you’re on, not about how fast you can run. In an era of home run hitting, the rest takes care of itself.

SO LET’S TAKE THIS TOPIC ON THE AIR
Later today (6:30 EST) I’ll be appearing from the Bunker on the Yes Network’s Hot Stove show. As usual, I’ll be asked to summarize what we’ve been discussing this week. Let’s try a simple vote, which I’ll relay to the fellers on the air: who should be the starting center fielder in 2009? Damon? Gardner? Cabrera? A rotation split roughly in equal thirds? Or a write-in candidate of your choice? Jim Edmonds is still out there, and he murdered the ball for the Cubs last year. He’d be a heck of a platoon player in center. Argue it out in the comments section below, and I’ll tally up your responses while waiting for smilin’ Bob Lorenz to cast his dancing spell my way.

Does Melky deserve another shot in center?

nady_250_010609.jpgTHEY MIGHT BE TRADING
The ice keeping the outfielder/designated hitter free agent market is beginning to break up, and that can only be good news for the Yankees as they look to ease their outfielder logjam. There really isn’t much reason for a team to trade anything of value for an Xavier Nady when better players can be had for mere dollars. However, as those players fall out of the market, the losing bidders will be looking for consolation prizes, and that’s where Nady comes in.

Parenthetically, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports today that it’s not just Nady on the market, but that the Yankees are also floating Nick Swisher. This is so depressing a possibility that I refuse to acknowledge it. Should Swisher rebound, the Yankees will have a right fielder with a .260 average, 25 home runs and 90 walks. Should Nady return, the Yankees will have a right fielder with a .270 average, 20 home runs, and 35 walks. The difference, when you add in Swisher’s superior defensive capabilities, is between four and five wins, which is a huge number. Now, if trading Swisher nets the Yankees Tris Speaker to play center field and trading Nady does not, you could make the argument that Nady + Speaker is greater than Swisher + Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera. Fortunately, it’s doubtful that a Tris Speaker is available, let alone that one will be made available for either player, so Nady should almost certainly be the man with the one-way airline ticket out of town.

I realize I often drop Tris Speaker’s name when talking about possible center fielders. For those that didn’t take the prerequisite course, Pinstriped Bible Background 101, Speaker, also known as the Grey Eagle, played from 1907 to 1928 and for decades was known as the quality standard for center field defense. He also banged out 3,500 hits, about 800 doubles, and averaged .345/.428/.500. Thus, if the professor says that the Yankees have a chance to get a Tris Speaker, he is referring to the idea of an impact-level, two-way center fielder. He is not referring to Mike Cameron. He is definitely not referring to Melky Cabrera. Sadly, he’s not referring to Brett Gardner either, though Gardner is almost certainly the best of the preceding three names.

Speaking of Gardner, I got a good bit of mail on the subject of he and Melky from reader Jeremy:

In your recent Pinstriped Bible column, you mention that Melky Cabrera doesn’t
deserve to keep his roster spot because: “His Major League batting averages are, in order,.280, .273, and .249. Wake me when the movie’s over.”
 
With all due respect, I think this deserves more analysis than you give it. Batting
averages aren’t considered to be the defining statistic in baseball anymore. I’m not
pretending to be Bill James or anything, but in 2006 and 2007 Melky posted OPS+s of
95 and 89 respectively. In 2008 he did post an OPS+ of 68, but he had the least ABs
and GP’d since his 20-game stint in 2005. His -4.0 VORP is inexcusable, but for
goodness sake his BABIP was .271! He’s a 24 year old who plays good defense and if
last April showed us anything (.291/.359/.505,6 HR,17 RBI) might have some
potential.

All I’m really saying here is that Melky deserves a much more in-depth look than
batting average can give us. I realize that April is an EXTREMELY small sample size;
but combined with his other statistics, I think that it is worth giving Melky some
growth time. After all, compare the first few seasons of Sammy Sosa with the first few seasons of Melky. I’m not saying that they will even end up being comparable, BUT early career batting averages aren’t the best way to gauge a player’s potential (just ask the Rangers if they would have traded Sosa if they had known he would put up a 201 OPS+ in 2001).
 
In summation, Melky hasn’t been as great as the Yankees expected him to be so far,
but his early stats show that he has some potential. He’s still only 24 and his
flash of brilliance last year shows that, from time to time, he can mash with the
best of them. Thanks for reading, Jeremy P.

Thank you, Jeremy. Good one. I wasn’t simply evaluating Melky on batting average, though he might prefer it if we stick to that because so far it’s the only offensive skill he’s shown in the Major Leagues. I’ve been through the Melky arguments enough times that I figured it was safe to give you the shorthand version. Let’s run through your points. He had the fewest at-bats of his career for a reason, namely that he was abusing the ones he was given. His batting average on balls in play was indeed low, but so was his line drive rate, and line drives are where batting averages come from. Melky spent much of the season hitting weak fly balls and grounders. It wasn’t bad luck, as we might normally infer from a low BABIP, or defenders making a fluke chain of great plays against him, he just didn’t swing with much authority. That said, even if we grant that his low BABIP could have been caused by bad luck, nothing much changes. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and tip him 30 points of batting average, to get him back up to the league average in the BABIP category. At best, you’d have his 2006 production … except you wouldn’t have that either, because his walk rate has also dramatically declined since then, dropping from nearly 11 percent of PAs in 2006 to just 6.5 percent this year.

There’s another problem here, which is that Cabrera is also a fraud as a switch-hitter. He is completely shut down by left-handed pitchers, with career rates of .251/.319/.329. Basically, we’re looking at a batting-average oriented platoon player who has yet to hit for an impressive average over a sustained period of playing time anywhere in his career, who doesn’t and probably will not hit for power and is not particularly selective.

That brings us to your Sosa comparison, which, respectfully, is wildly off base. First, you should recognize that Sosa is an outlier. Most players do not explode the way he did, which is just one reason why observers sometimes look at that explosion with skepticism. I’m not saying they’re correct about that, by the way, merely that the rareness of the development is one reason why. Second, the statistical similarities aren’t really there. Sosa was in the Majors at 21, still clearly learning on the job and swinging at every off-speed pitch he was offered, but still knocking extra-base hits all over the place. This correlated with what scouts were saying at the time: this guy has immense physical tools. When he hits the ball, it travels for whole galaxies. The only problem is that he doesn’t hit it often enough, but if he ever learns how to make better contact, look out. This was something you could see at the time — I have a dim recollection of him simply crushing a ball off of Dave LaPoint into the center field bleachers at Yankee Stadium in 1990.

No one has ever seen those kinds of physical tools in Cabrera. No one is predicting that kind of explosion for him, and I would argue that his approach at the plate largely precludes that kind of development. Now, I’m not prescient, and it’s certainly possible that Cabrera could change that approach, or put on 50 pounds of muscle (in a wholesome way, I mean) and start crushing the ball, or all the bad luck that you think he had in 2008 reverses, he hits .350 on balls in play this year, bats .300 on the season, thereby elevating all of his weak peripherals. Maybe, but I doubt it. I’m not much of a gambling man, but if we’re going to roll the dice that way I’d rather bet on Gardner adding a few singles and a few walks than on Cabrera changing his entire being. One is entirely within the realm of possibility. The oth
er is an almost impossible long shot.

BUNKER BOY RIDES AGAIN
I’ll be back in the Bunker on the YES Hot Stove show again this Thursday evening, so get your comments in and I’ll bug Bob and the newsprint boys about ’em. No doubt we’ll be talking about Mark Teixeira, the center field issue, and the ongoing Andy Pettitte saga. Me, I hope it keeps on going — the Yankees can and should reserve a spot in the rotation for youth.

More questions than answers in the outfield

TO THE MATS WITH READER MAIL

1: GODS AND GODDESES OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
I enjoy reading the Pinstriped Blog. An interesting thought came to
mind after the Teixeira signing, which I love. Who do you think is
the most powerful person in baseball — Bud Selig or Scott Boras?
Does Boras have too much influence on the game and should
something be done to limit his control of the game, like a limit on
 the number of players he can represent in general or each year?

gardner_250.jpgAlso, what are the best options for the Yankees in the outfield short
term and long term? If Cabrera and Gardner don’t perform well in center
field, how soon could we see [Austin] Jackson in there? Out of the
current candidates of Swisher, Nady, Cabrera, Gardner who has the
best arm (I leave off Damon and Matsui because I know they can’t
 throw)? Thanks, Jeff

Thank you for writing, Jeff. The “power” of Boras is generally overstated. He’s a very smart, very successful agent who does good things for his clients. He doesn’t negotiate media rights contracts or decide who gets to own the Chicago Cubs, though maybe he should. He does his job, which is to drive a hard bargain for his clients. What power he has derives exclusively from teams wanting to hire the people he represents. If they refuse to bargain with him, he’s pretty helpless, although they do pay a penalty for that in not getting hold of some very good players. Power seems to imply the ability to impose your will on others, and Boras needs complicit partners before he can even start talking. As for the outfield, I believe in Gardner’s ability to get on base. The question is if he will do it often enough to overcome his utter lack of power.

As for Jackson, don’t get too excited too soon. His indifferent Arizona Fall League performance and good-not-great performance at Double-A Trenton argues for some Triple-A seasoning before he gets a crack at a full-time job. I expect you’ll see a lot of him in Spring Training just so the Major League staff gets familiar with him, and if he does well at Scranton, an injury call-up during the year is a distinct possibility. The center field job would seem to be something for 2010.

2: SOMETIMES YOU JUST FALL OUT OF LOVE (THERE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A REASON)
Why is it that lots of Yankee fans don’t like Gardner in center? He’s  
very fast, an excellent defender and wasn’t half-bad with the bat in  
his second stint last year. Also, what happened to the Yankees’  
fondness of Xavier Nady? It seemed like when they got him, the  
organization really liked him. But now they’re thinking of trading  
him? Trading away a .305 AVG, 25 HR and 97 RBI from an offense that  
had trouble scoring runs last year? Does that even make sense? –Tucker

It makes a ton of sense, Tucker, because Nady isn’t really a .305 hitter. In his career, he’s been far closer to the hitter he cooled from his hot pinstriped start, a .268/.320/.474 hitter. As far as corner outfield production goes, it’s subpar. If Nick Swisher gets back on track this year, he’ll get on base much closer to 40 percent of the time and show comparable power. The value in Nady last season was that he was a huge in-season upgrade on Melky Cabrera, who he displaced from the lineup by allowing Johnny Damon to go back to center. That was a very nice move by Brian Cashman to staunch a bleeding wound, but Nady isn’t someone a championship team plans on starting.

The knock on Gardner is that he’s a banjo hitter, but as you point out he did a fine job in his second stint with the Yankees. He’s a fine defender and an excellent baserunner, and if he can get on base with any regularity, he can show that there are more ways to contribute than hitting home runs. His upside is far superior to that of Melky Cabrera, who has but one skill right now, hitting for average, and that skill was absent this season.

3: MORE ON THE THEME OF THE DAY
Steve- in your PB column of today, you indicate the Yankees should
keep Swisher and trade Nady. Certainly, last year’s  numbers would
scream for the opposite course of action. You seem to be thinking
that last year was an aberration for both players and that each will
return to their prior form. I would prefer the Yankees use a six-man
rotation of Matsui, Damon, Nady, Swisher, Melky and Gardner to
cover the DH and three outfield spots. Unless the a Nady trade yields
a significant prospect or an upgrade in center field, the only reason I
could see trading Nady and not going with this six man rotation is
financial. Do you agree?–Saul

Happy New Year, Saul. One problem I see right off the bat with the Six-for-One plan is that, assuming a staff of 12 pitchers, the Yankees aren’t going to be able to carry all those outfielders plus a reserve catcher and an extra infielder. Beyond that, it’s not necessarily the best application of resources. First, Cabrera is guilty until proven innocent. He was not a great Minor League hitter, and has yet to be even average in the Majors. His big skill is that he can throw. Last year he killed the Yankees, punished them very badly given what an even subpar center fielder would have done. Many among the readership are ready to forgive and forget, but it’s not clear that there’s a good reason to expect a great deal more. Unless Cabrera develops an unexpected ability to knock balls over the wall or suddenly becomes highly selective, he’s going to have to hit .300 to create any kind of offense. His Major League batting averages are, in order,.280, .273, and .249. Wake me when the movie’s over.

Matsui’s knees may anchor him to DH, and given what we’ve seen of his defense, that’s not a bad thing. Between offensive and defensive deficiencies, there’s no reason to ever play Cabrera, Gardner, or Damon in right field. Although every one of the players you list except for Nady has been a center fielder at some point in his life, only Cabrera and Gardner really have the ability to play the position at this point. Just to sort it all out, Nady would make a fine hedge against injury.  Using him to rotate Damon or Swisher out of the lineup against select pitchers or for general rest would be a great thing. There are three problems: first, Nady might not want to spend his season that way. Second, given that he just spent half a season batting .330, his value will never be higher. Third, he’s off to arbitration, so he’s about to get expensive for a bench piece.  Oh, and there’s a fourth thing: at the end of the year he leaves and the Yankees have to start all over again. If he brings a more youthful body who will be under team control for several years, the greater utility might be in sending him away.

AND ON THAT NOTE…
…I send myself away for New Year’s revelry. I wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, and loving new year, and I will look forward to seeing you in 2009. May it be a very good year for us all.