(Derp! Courtesy of Getty Images)
Whether you love him or hate him, there's no denying that Eduardo Nunez is one of the most intriguing players on the Yankee roster. Personally, I wouldn't put myself into either of the extreme categories, but I would definitely say I lean more towards the "hate" side. I fully recognize the importance in keeping him on the roster as a viable utility infielder, and yet I can't help but cringe every time I see his name on the lineup card, hide my eyes every time a grounder is hit to him, and facepalm every time he swings way too hard at a pitch.
Through no intentional fault of his own, Eduardo has conditioned me to expect the worst when he's on the field, and yet somehow he always manages to contribute. As we live and breathe right now, Nunez is tied for 3rd on the team in fWAR despite having less than half the plate appearances of most of the regulars in the lineup. Let that sink in for a second. Eduardo Nunez has been more valuable so far in terms of WAR than Mark Teixeira. He's been more valuable than Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher COMBINED.
I know full well it's a statistical byproduct of him working in a smaller sample size than everybody else in what is a still very young season, but I can't for the life of me logically figure out how Nunez does it. He doesn't work counts or draw a lot of walks and seems to swing at more bad pitches than good, and yet he's got 10 hits already in his 30 PA and only 1 strikeout. He bobbles more routine grounders in the field and throws more routine balls away than anybody I can remember, he's already got 2 errors on the season in limited time on the field, and yet he currently sports a positive defensive rating. He gets picked off 1st base late in a game because he clumsily tripped over his own feet, and yet he's a perfect 3-for-3 in SB attempts on the year.
Joe is so enamored with Nunez that he's willingly penciling Eduardo's name into the DH spot on lineup cards despite the fact that his ISO is lower than that of Brett Gardner and Chris Stewart. And Joe's practically falling all over himself to make excuses for "Nuney's" errors while discussing plans to use him more in the outfield. I watch the guy play and I can't help but think of bumbling fools like Mr. Bean or Frank Drebin from the "Naked Gun" movies who fall ass backwards into their success, and yet here he is being talked about and utilized like he's the greatest bench player in the history of baseball.
In fairness to Nunez, I will say that I consider him a better utility IF option than guys like Ramiro Pena, Doug Bernier, and Brandon Laird, but I still don't see him being the answer as the next everyday Yankee shortstop after Jeter retires. He's erratic, inconsistent, and downright unreliable at times. But he's generating positive results early on, and small sample size or not, you can't argue with the results. He's doing things to help his team win baseball games, and he's earning the right to be on the field. In the slightly altered words of the great Wes Mantooth, I pure, straight don't like you, Eduardo Nunez. But goddamn it, do I respect you.