Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On Derek Jeter's 2014 And The Future At Shortstop

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Derek Jeter's battle to return to the playing field for more than a few days raged on yesterday.  The Captain resumed baseball activities - a little "tee and toss" hitting according to Joe - after playing catch over the weekend.  The activities are obviously a little light.  With no real hitting or running involved, it's not like Jeter is close to returning.  The plan is to send him to Tampa to continue his rehab work when the team hits the road on Friday, and as of right now there are no plans to activate Jeter when the team returns, even though he's eligible to come off the DL this Sunday.

At this point, Jeter has spent more time this year doing baseball activities than he has playing actual baseball.  The rushed rehabs and resulting leg issues have reduced Jeter to just 5 games in 2013.  5 games, 21 measly plate appearances, a season's worth of frustration for both Jeter and the Yankee fans, and a whole lot of questions about what next season could be like.  This season is already a wash, whether Jeter makes it back and stays healthy to the end or not.  For Jeter and the Yanks, it's next season that's now the concern.

No Home Cooking For Vern

Since troublesome H/R splits are a topic of conversation this week, let's take a look at one that could actually have an impact on the 2014 season.  I don't know how I missed it, but I didn't realize until Sunday's TBS broadcast that Vernon Wells was hitting so horribly at home this season.  Entering tonight's game, Wells has a .190/.238/.291 batting line at Yankee Stadium, good for a .233 wOBA and a 37 wRC+.  By comparison, his OPS is .748 on the road (.328 wOBA, 106 wRC+) in a little north of 30 more plate appearances.  What the hell is that?

Wells underperforming offensively is hardly front page news anymore.  The guy has been worth negative offensive value in his 0.0-WAR season to date, and thinking about how he STILL hasn't hit a home run since May 15th makes my brain hurt.  But to post numbers like that at The Stadium?  Sure it doesn't cater to right-handed power nearly as much as it does left-handed power, that we know.  It's still a very hitter-friendly stadium no matter what side of the plate you're on.  If there's somewhere where Wells' noodle bat should produce a little more power it's YS3.

Notice that I used the word "could" have an impact on the 2014 season and not "would."  The Yankees have Wells under contract next season, as part of the growing collection of old guys who will combine to patch up the outfield corners around Brett Gardner.  Through some fancy accounting work at the time of the trade, however, the Yankees will not be on the hook for any of Wells' salary next season, making it much easier to cut bait on him if his production continues to wallow below the line of respectability.  There's nothing Wells has done since mid-May that warrants a guaranteed roster spot next year.  If a low-.500s OPS is all he can muster in 81 home games again, he shouldn't even make it to mid-May next year.

Don't Sweat D-Rob As The Closer

(Courtesy of the AP)

Almost as if it was scripted, an opportunity presented itself for David Robertson to prove his mettle as the next Yankee closer last night.  With Mo experiencing his yearly bout of command problems and unavailable due to workload and some bad BABIP luck bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Mike Trout, Joe summoned D-Rob to work out of the jam and save the team's 3rd win in 4 games.

At face value, D-Rob's work last night was in agreement with the growing cry from the MSM (looking at you, Michael Kay) that D-Rob "doesn't have what it takes" to be Mo's successor.  He walked Trout to bring the winning run to the plate, gave up an RBI double that put the tying run on third with 1 out, and loaded the bases before wriggling off the hook.  As the crowd chanted "we want Mo!" Robertson made them sweat a bit before managing to escape trouble and avoid a 4th straight blown save.

Game 117 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 LAA 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

If you were going to make a list of the most disappointing teams in the AL this year, it would the Angels, the Blue Jays, and the Yankees.  That pretty much sets the excitement level for this week's 4-gamer against the Angels, who are even further out of playoff contention than New York and looking possibly in even worse shape for the future despite having the best all-around player in the game on their team.  The 2 teams got things started last night at The Stadium as Hiroki Kuroda looked to continue to be the guiding force of the rotation and strengthen his slowly-growing Cy Young candidacy.  He won't win in the end, but he'll get a few more votes after last night.

Game Notes:

- Kuroda worked the sinker a lot the first time through the order, and got the first 9 outs on the infield through 3 while allowing just 1 hit.  When he needed to, he snapped off some nasty sliders for strikeouts.

- Anaheim starter Garrett Richards breezed his way through the first 2 frames, then got manufactured to death in the bottom of the 3rd.  Eduardo Nunez got a 1-out hit, moved to second to stay out of the DP on an aggressive call by Joe, and scored on Brett Gardner's bloop single to center.

- Kuroda continued to overpower the Angels through 5 innings.  He gave up a leadoff walk to Erick Aybar then expertly worked around it with a groundout, strikeout, strikeout finish.  He was working his sinker inside to both righties and lefties and the Anaheim lineup had no answer.

- After singling in his first AB in the 2nd, Richards decided to smarten up and get those fastballs in on A-Rod's hands.  It led to inning-ending double plays off Alex's bat to end the 4th and 6th innings and kept the game at 1-0.

- Kuroda continued his brilliance through 8 shutout innings, and even got an insurance run in the 7th on a Curtis Granderson solo HR before dialing it up to 94 on his last pitch of the night and turning it over to the 'pen.

- It was Boone Logan who emerged from the bullpen to begin the 9th and not Mo.  A bad luck bounce off the first base bag ruined Joe's plan and D-Rob got an impromptu high-leverage save opportunity audition out of it.

- It got a tad interesting after a walk and a blooped double, but D-Rob K'd Mark Trumbo and former Yankee great Chris Nelson with the bases loaded to preserve Hirok's well-deserved win.