Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Wild World Of Eduardo Nunez

(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.

Bumming On Pineda

There was a lot to be excited about after the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda in January.  Sure, it cost them their best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter and a useful arm for the bullpen or rotation, but the return that Pineda represented was worth it.  He was a big, power pitcher still years before his physical prime with a year of success at the Major League level already under his belt and many years of team control at minimal cost.  Pineda was exactly what the Yankees were looking for to solidify their rotation for the present and the future, and the idea of him and CC anchoring the top of that rotation for the next handful of years was certainly worth salivating over.  After the latest setback in his Extended ST rehab start on Saturday, however, it's starting to look more and more like 2012 is going to be a lost season for Pineda.

The dye contrast MRI that was scheduled for yesterday was pushed back to today, so we still don't know the extent of the damage to Pineda's right shoulder.  But it's a safe bet that given the amount of time he rested before starting to work his way back from the initial injury and the results of his Ext. ST outing, we won't be seeing him back in May or any time soon.  Naturally, the comparisons to Phil Hughes' 2011 season are going to be made, and it wouldn't be completely unfair to make them.  Like Hughes last year, Pineda came into camp this year not in the best shape, experienced a decrease in fastball velocity that he never regained, and ended up on the DL with shoulder problems.

Game 16 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 TEX 4

(Courtesy of The AP)

After yesterday's rainout, the Yankees headed to Texas to meet the AL's best team.  They had reason to be confident coming into the game because of the way they finished Saturday's dramatic comeback win at Fenway and because they had their ace on the mound.  In their first big test of the year to find out how good they are, the Yankees passed.

Game Notes:

- The Yankee offense is a code that Rangers' starter Derek Holland hasn't been able to crack in his previous 4 starts against New York, and that continued tonight.  The Yankees jumped on him early in the 1st inning thanks to a 2-out, 2-RBI single by C-Grand (the type of hit that gets you to heaven) and never let up.

- The crushing blow was a 3-run HR off the bat of Alex Rodriguez in the top of the 5th inning to make it a 6-1 Yankee lead.  He had seen a lot of pitches in his first 2 at-bats against Holland, both of them walks, and was looking fastball all the way on a 1-0 pitch.  Holland's fastball command was his enemy all night and the Yankees were all over it, no more than on that A-Rod swing.

- Whereas Holland's fastball command eluded him, CC Sabathia's continued its emergence from winter hibernation.  He allowed a cheap run in the 1st but was lights out through the 6th inning, the only blemish a HR by Josh Hamilton on a slider that stayed up in the 6th.

- The wheels looked like they were falling off in the 7th, when a walk and 2 straight doubles got the lead down to 7-4, but CC regrouped, got out of the inning, and then pitched a 1-2-3 8th on 3 groundball outs to get it to Mo.  The big guy was efficient, aggressive, and got a lot of bad swings on his fastball and slider.  The weather is starting to warm up and so is CC.

- Lot of contributors on offense tonight.  Derek Jeter with 4 hits, Cano with 2 and 2 RBI, A-Rod with the 3-R HR, Curtis with 2 RBI, and THE Chris Stewart with a double and 2 runs scored.