Monday, April 21, 2014

Ichiro Adjusting Well To New Lesser Role

Everybody knows I'm not an Ichiro guy.  I haven't wanted him around since the minute the Yankees re-signed him.  But even I have to admit that he's been an unexpectedly positive surprise early on this year.  After this weekend's split in Tampa, Ichiro is hitting .355/.355/.387 in 31 PA with 5 R scored and 1 stolen base.  He's played in 15 games, split almost evenly between starting outfielder and late-game defensive replacement or pinch runner.  Considering the inconsistency of his hitting opportunities, that .355 batting average is impressive, as are the 4 multi-hit games.

This performance does warrant a hefty SSS disclaimer.  Ichiro has yet to draw a walk this year and has a healthy 22.6% K rate.  His BABIP is also an incredibly high .458, and with his early spike in groundball contact (career high 73.9% GB rate), you can be sure that average is living higher thanks to some seeing eye balls through infield holes.  But you'll take that when you can get it from your 5th outfielder.  In Ichiro's case, you'll definitely take it when it comes with above-average baserunning and outfield defense that is still world class.  It may not be what he wants, but Ichiro is fitting into his new role nicely.

Monday Morning Food For Thought: Vidal Nuno, 5th Starter

(Courtesy of the AP)

5/13/13- 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K
5/25/13- 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
5/30/13- 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
4/20/14- 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

It isn't a large or meaningful sample size by any stretch of the imagination, but Vidal Nuno does have a very good history as a Major League starter.  He allowed just 4 runs in 3 spot starts last May and stepped up to toss 5 shutout innings against a red hot Tampa Bay lineup yesterday.  With Ivan Nova on the DL and likely looking at season-ending TJS, the Yankees are going to need a full-time replacement in the starting rotation and right now Nuno looks like the best man for the job.  He's got a track record of being a strike thrower, he mixes pitches well, and his offspeed stuff is good enough to strike out Major League hitters.

The Yankee decision makers have today to look at other alternatives, but there really isn't much else to consider.  Adam Warren is a short reliever now, David Phelps isn't stretched out to nearly enough pitches to be a viable starting option, and there's nobody in Triple-A who's better than Nuno.  After 5 years in the Minors and a couple cups of coffee, Nuno looks like he's finally going to get his big chance.