Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My thoughts and opinions on the current state of the Yankees with a special commentary on Derek Jeter

With the Yankees in their typical early-season swoon, it is time for me to take advantage of my little space on the interwebs and let some feelings/ opinions off of my chest on the current state of the Yankees. I typically pay close attention to the grammar and tone of my posts for consistency, but this is more of a stream of conscious, so I apologize in advance for any typos or the unexpected style. As an FYI, this originated as some emails back and forth with a friend and evolved into a blog post. Remember, these are just the opinions of one hardcore Yankee fan. Feel free to disagree with me and leave a comment in the comments section telling me about it! So, here we go...

I am a bit concerned with all of the young starters with historically fantastic control walking the ballpark all of a sudden once they arrive in the majors. However, I can live with the growing pains as long as they are developed properly and grow to become the pitchers they are projected to be.

That being said, this Yankee team is in a bad spot for THIS year. The bullpen is filled with at or below replacement level bums, and going outside of the organization is NEVER a good idea for the bullpen. While the major league rotation lacks a true ace, the Yankee offense has historically been able to overcome that. However, it seems that this year's version of the offense has taken a step backward.

The gaping hole at catcher should be fixed if Jorge comes back strong (and stays healthy). Even then, Jorge is an over 35 catcher and even at his healthiest is due for a decline. Anyone expecting last year's Jorge is crazy. However, the 2nd base problem is becoming legit and Robinson Cano is truly COSTING the team runs (linked - last among all 2nd basemen in VORP. Not linked - third from last among ALL qualifying players in baseball in VORP . Melky has also forgotten to develop and the bottom of the lineup is starting to resemble a national league lineup. Add that to the fact that A-Rod is not being super VORP (yet) and that Jeter appears to be aging** and you have all of the signs of the mediocre offense that the Yankees have put forth.

So, why do I feel that they are simply in a bad spot THIS year and not in the future? Well, they have a BUNCH of power arms in the system for the bullpen, and a couple with middle-back end rotation potential (Horne, McCutchen). In addition, they have Austin Jackson as an outfield 5-tool threat and they have Brett Gardner as a 4th outfielder speed demon poor man's Jacoby Ellsbury type. I still believe Hughes/IPK/Joba will all be good to great MLB starters, so I haven't lost faith there. I can't solve the Robinson Cano problem, but hopefully the front office can. Speaking of, I would look at trading Matsui/Damon right now when their value is at the highest it will ever be for the rest of their career. Maybe they can get a 2B prospect for one of those guys??? Is it too soon to consider this? Probably.

In the short term, they need to send Shelley back to the minors and bring up Alberto Gonzalez. Joe Girardi needs to grow a pair and bench Cano for a WEEK to hopefully humble him and get his mind right while playing A Gonz there (this is NOT going to help the offense, but it will hopefully wake Cano up. According to Michael Kay on YES, he had seen 3 or less pitches in something like 7 of his previous 10 ABs. THAT is sad). They need to replace the bullpen scrubs (Veras/Giese/ whoever the flavor of the day is) with David Robertson (AAA), JB Cox (AAA) and Chris Britton (they need to actually GIVE HIM A CHANCE, he has been good at every level in his career, even though he is fat). I would love for them to figure out a roster move to bring up Brett Gardner to take over for Melky in center or at least as a late inning pinch hitter/ speed threat to inject some life into the team. Basically, things can be done NOW to help this team and ALSO help develop for the future and I think they need to do it.

** More feelings on Derek Jeter:

I hope there isn't anything to worry about.

However, what made Jeter great wasn't just the timely hitting. It was the great baserunning (not so much the past two years), and the occasional slugging prowess. Now, he has become a singles hitter with average speed and a below average defender. I believe he will be a .300 hitter, but I think his days of being a VORP leader in MLB are over. So far this year his OPS + is 100 (the definition of average) and his VORP is 10.3 - only 14th among all shortstops, 6th on the Yankees and WELL below his PECOTA baseline projection of 31.8. His regression won't appear as steep to Joe-fan because his batting AVG. will still be .300 or higher and he will quickly start passing milestones. However, when you look at his SB numbers and SLG % rapidly decreasing, along with his always terrible defense, you realize how much of a crossroads it is going to be for the Yankee organization when his contract expires. I love Derek Jeter and I can't picture him playing anywhere else, but the Yankees need to think before giving him a Jorge/Mo/A-Rod contract. Of course they won't, and the Yankees will be paying for David Eckstein with a higher average once he is closer to 40. If they are smart they will force him to the outfield before he signs his next contract.

Negative outlook? Maybe. However, I really believe I will sadly be right.

Hopefully the Yankees can get another run in the playoffs and Jeter can get some more "clutch" hits. That will be his biggest asset going forward - post season prowess and expertise.

Talk about it in the NYYSI Forums!
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