Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Recent Offensive Struggles Shine A Light On The Need For Injured Bats

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It was bound to happen with the way the Yankees have played and the positive contributions the new guys have made this season, but it doesn't make the notion any less silly.  With Curtis Granderson having already returned (and get hurt again) and Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis possibly set to do the same soon, the idea among fans that the team would be "better off without those high-priced guys" has grown.  It's sure to grow even more when A-Rod gets ready to come back, as it always seems to do when he's coming off the DL.  This is obviously incredibly flawed logic, something the MSM likes to throw out there to stir up fake controversy and sell papers.  Almost as if in anticipation of that issue, the team's production recently has shown exactly why the Yankees are still very much in need of their injured stars' services.

The Yanks are 6-6 in their last 12 games.  The last 2 losses have been especially troubling for different reasons, but the one constant in those games was the lineup's inability to score runs.  They managed just 3 garbage time runs on Sunday afternoon and only 1 last night despite a multitude of opportunities against Jon Niese.  It wasn't the first or second time we've seen the offense sputter in this recent .500 stretch.  In 8 of the 12 games, the Yankees have scored 4 or fewer runs.  In 4 of those 8, it's been 2 or fewer.  By now, we know that this is something we have to deal with when watching an undermanned ballclub, so there's no use in getting upset about it.  But these offensive struggles and their sources serve as a reminder of how important the missing players are.

Robinson Cano, the unquestioned heart and soul of this lineup, has come back to Earth after a scorching hot April.  After last night's uneventful 1-4, he's hitting a very pedestrian by his standards .247/.314/.473 for the month of May.  While that OPS still puts him 4th on the team for the month, it shows how much this offense can and will struggle when Cano isn't leading it, especially when the players behind him in the lineup aren't picking up the slack.  Travis Hafner is hitting just .193/.313/.333 in 67 May PAs, with a K rate over 25%.  Vernon Wells hasn't been much better, hitting .228/.260/.380 in 96 PAs and going just 6-44 in his last 11 games.  Since I pointed out that he wasn't and hadn't been slumping on May 15th, that's exactly what he's done.  With Cano not at the top of his offensive game, this Hafner/Wells slump has left the middle of the lineup extremely weak.

That's why guys like Teixeira and A-Rod are still important to this lineup and this team's success.  Even if they aren't the players they used to be, they're still upgrades to an offense desperately in need of some.  Lyle Overbay and David Adams are the team's 2 top offensive players in May in terms of wOBA, with values of .352 and .349 respectively.  That's not exactly elite production and it's not the type of production one can reasonably expect them to put up moving forward.  Overbay and Adams, even at their best, aren't the type of players who can carry a team for a few games.  Teix and A-Rod, even as lesser players than they were at their peaks, still have that in them, Granderson too.  The Yankees need more of those bats in the lineup to cover for times like this when the other power hitters aren't getting it done.

The belief by many was that Wells and Hafner and Overbay would start to cool off, and we're seeing evidence of that this month.  The timing of these slumps has been unfortunate as it's coincided with a mortal month of offensive production from Robbie Cano, and there's only so many 1 or 2-run outings you can ask your rotation to give you.  People may like to hate on Teix and A-Rod and maybe Youkilis still too because of what they aren't or what they've become, and that's fine.  Whatever floats your boat.  But to try to convince yourself that the Yankees don't need these guys back is just foolish and you've seen why in the last 2 games.

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