Wednesday, April 24, 2013
First Pitch: Give Cashman & Co. credit
By Andrew Marchand
Many in the Yankees organization believe you should wait six weeks before there is a large enough sample for a scouting report. We are only a little more than halfway to what the club would consider a fair amount of games to begin judgment.
So granted, it is early, but GM Brian Cashman and his lieutenants should receive an A as we close in on the end of the first month of the season.
If you want to fairly analyze the team's moves, you have to know the thinking of the Yankees' baseball people. If Lyle Overbay ends up being a plus player again, it is just luck. They weren't eyeing Overbay for years. In a bind given Mark Teixeira's injury, the Yanks felt that Overbay was a better choice than Juan Rivera. Mostly because he was left-handed at Yankee Stadium and could defend much better.
While Overbay might be luck, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells were about design. The Yankees identified Hafner's swing as a perfect match for Yankee Stadium. No one is going to say that pairing a home run-hitting, left-handed batter with the right-field porch in the Bronx is reinventing the wheel, but the Yankees had the faith that Hafner would be able to stay on the field. He played 100-plus games in a season only once from 2008 to 2012 (118 games in 2010).
Further, the Yankees made the conscious decision to bring in Hafner as a "field goal kicker," to use Cashman's term. They decided they could give one of their 25 spots on the roster to a player who won't pick up a glove, even though the trend in the game, and the pervading organizational philosophy, has been to move away from that type of specialist.
So far, so very good, on the decision to bring in a guy who will never play in the field. If Hafner can stay healthy -- a big if -- he may continue to pick up much of the production the Yankees have lost to defections and injuries. Hafner entered Tuesday with an OPS of 1.120, which is a ridiculous number.
Wells had looked pretty washed up since 2009. But the Yankees' scouts thought Wells still had some bat speed. Their stat guys felt that his .851 OPS against lefties in 2011 compared to his .671 versus lefties in 2012 may be more indicative of who he could be in 2013. At worst, when they tried to acquire Wells in the offseason, they thought he could be a replacement for Andruw Jones against lefties.
Wells has also been so far, so good -- and if he keeps it up, he will be more of an every-day player than the struggling to Ichiro Suzuki, whose OPS is .571.
One move that the Yankees' baseball people wanted to make conceivably would have worked out well -- at least, so far. They tried to sign Nate Schierholtz to play against righties before they settled on Ichiro. Entering Tuesday for the Cubs, Schierholtz had a .952 OPS against right-handed pitching.
On the other side, before the Yankees signed Kevin Youkilis, they were in on Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger has been awful so far for the White Sox as he entered Tuesday with a .351 OPS in 78 at-bats.
Overall, Cashman and his lieutenants deserve kudos because much of their theory has become reality.
ON DECK: The Yankees finish up their three-gamer with the Rays. Andy Pettitte (3-0, 2.01) faces Alex Cobb (2-1, 2.53). The Yankees will fly back for a 10-game homestand beginning on Thursday against the underwhelming Toronto Blue Jays. Jeter will talk to the media on Thursday.