Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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Chew on This
2008-06-24 05:24
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Derek Jeter is the leading vote-getter in the American League for the All-Star Game. He's the guy you want to build a team around, he's the most overrated player in the game. He's a future Hall of Famer, yet Jeter has struggled through much of the first half of the season. Mark Feinsand has a good piece on the Yankee captain in the News today:

Jeter won't even offer a guess at the reason for his declining numbers, but Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has his own theory.

"I can tell you that he probably lost 30-35 points in his average due to his hand injury, but he'd never admit that," Long said. "His swing wasn't the same, he was favoring it and he got into some problems when it came to staying behind the baseball, which has always been his strength. He still contributed and helped us in other ways, but his hitting suffered."

...Jeter began expanding his strike zone, swinging at pitches on the corners or off the plate. As Long watched those bad habits, he knew something wasn't right.

"How much damage can you do with a pitch that's (a foot) off the plate?" Long said. "Since he's been healthy, he's had to get out of some of those bad habits, and now he's starting to put a little something together."

Meanwhile, in the New York Sun, Steven Goldman explains why the Yanks should move Melky Cabrera:

The reason the Yankees can deal their starting center fielder for need without opening up another hole is the performance of prospect Brett Gardner at Triple-A Scranton. The speedy center fielder is currently batting .292/.408/.436 with 10 doubles, nine triples, three home runs, and 52 walks in 73 games. He has also stolen 29 bases in 37 attempts. Gardner, 24, will not be an impact player in the major leagues. However, given his patience, a .275 batting average, and his ability to run balls down with his speed, he should be at least as productive as Cabrera and provide a better on-base threat at the bottom of the order, creating more opportunities for Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and the top of the lineup.

Finally, could the end be near for Mike and the Angry Puppy? Say it ain't so.

Comments
2008-06-24 06:13:04
1.   Rob Middletown CT
Jeter has a fair distance to go before his numbers are good. Seeing him sporting a ~.330 OBP in late June is jarring.

Looks like writers are starting to beat the Gardner drum. Goldman & his friends at BP (in today's prospect report) both suggest calling up Gardner. Given his numbers, it might be worth a shot. You do lose the great arm in CF, but Melky's rockin' a ~.315 OBP right now, and that's just plain bad.

2008-06-24 06:26:22
2.   RIYank
Hm, a good defensive CF with an OPS over .800 is not an 'impact player'? So Jacoby Ellsbury doesn't qualify? I guess Goldman has high standards; fair enough.
2008-06-24 06:38:00
3.   Shaun P
I think Steve has the right sentiment, but why not just ditch the useless 3rd catcher, call Gardner up, and keep Melky as the (true) 4th OF? (Matsui being the "5th" (emergency) OF and DH.)

I just don't know what Melky is going to bring back. The Yanks need pitching, in the short term, but not in the long term (we hope). Melky, by himself, is not going to bring back a young, solid bat, and that's what the Yanks really need long term.

2008-06-24 06:43:47
4.   mehmattski
Well, we can't expect Gardner to hit an .800 OPS right away. Major League Equivalency (MLE) takes historical data and minor league park factors into account to predict what a player with given stats would look like in the majors.

Gardner's .292/.408/.436 at SWB translates to a .249/.350/.364 in the majors. I don't know where Goldman got the idea that Gardner could immediately hit .275 in the big leagues, but the MLE is still better than Melky's .254/.312/.371...

I think if the perfect trade came along, Cashman would deal Melky... but the move would mean Johnny Damon in center and Matsui in left, and probably Wilson Betemit at first. I don't really know if Gardner has proved he's ready to start at the ML level just yet.

2008-06-24 06:56:42
5.   ChrisS
Gardner isn't much more than a glorified pinch-hitter/pinch runner. I doubt, at 24, he's going to develop the power needed to be a significant upgrade over Melky and ML starter. Keep in mind that Cabrera essentially skipped AAA, with the exception of starting there in 2006 when he had a .996 OPS at 21. Despite his slump and complete regression this season, Cabrera is still young and with potential. Selling low on him, however, is not really advisable.

That said, I don't see why Gardner is getting the OF time in AAA and not a bench position at the ML level. I don't think he's going develop anymore and he'd be a much better impact player in specialized situations (late and close, and I'm thinking Dave F'ing Roberts) than Chad Moeller. And hey, maybe he'd steal the CF spot anyway, MLE be damned.
2008-06-24 07:12:13
6.   monkeypants
Carrying three catchers is mystifying, and I can think of only two possible explanations. 1] Posada is still hurt, much more than anyone is admitting. 2] The team is so short at the C position that they are afraid to pass Molina or Moeller through waivers. At least I assume the M & M boys would have to clear waivers before going to AAA.
2008-06-24 07:36:33
7.   Raf
6 I doubt they'd try to send Molina down, having signed him to a 2yr deal. Even if Moeller gets claimed, I would think the Yanks could trade a spare part for another catcher if the need arises.
2008-06-24 07:38:47
8.   Shaun P
4 .249 vs .275 is a bunt single here and a bunt single there. Gardner has 80 speed. I bet he could easily bunt his way on to maintain a .275 average (or damn close to it), a la Carlos Gomez (currently hitting .269 with the most bunt hits in the majors, I believe).

Melky showed a lot of power in April, but overt he last 2 months, he's slugging .308. I'll take Gardner's MLE .364 SLG - especially because it comes with an MLE .350 OBP. Awfully nice not to have two rally killers at the end of the lineup (Cano and Melky) - especially if Cano heats up.

BTW mehmattski, where are you getting your MLEs from? I wonder if Goldman based his theory off of a Davenport translation of Gardner's numbers.

2008-06-24 07:41:56
9.   Shaun P
6 7 My guess is they're worried about losing Moeller, but its not like they have no Cs at AAA. Chris Stewart (still on the 40-man roster!), JD Closser (wasn't he an old Rockies prospect?), and Jason Brown are down there.

If Posada goes down again, the dropoff to Molina+whoever is so big, I don't think it matters who whoever is.

2008-06-24 07:42:46
10.   mehmattski
8 http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/mlecalc.html

It's possible that the data is old from that site, of course.

2008-06-24 07:46:33
11.   monkeypants
7 9 I agree with you both. I was just trying to figure out why they are still carrying three catchers, especially given how rarely Molina is PH for.
2008-06-24 07:56:12
12.   horace-clarke-era
I'm ambivalent about the Gardner drumbeats. We've seen other teams launch their prospects, or try, and see mediocre returns to date (Balentien, Lind, many, many others just in the AL, even Butler who really should be better). Nor does Gardner appear to offer major upside. Having said that, if it is judged that Melky is a marginal starter (remember he's really young, though, some patience is called for there) then Gardner should, surely, at least meet that criterion? In other words, Melky can be dealt without (in theory) damage to the current team.

I am a little puzzled by the three catchers, too. Can't see any obvious Posada injury issues, though, or he simply would NOT be starting at C at all. Best guess is hypercaution for a few weeks given the long term investment in him (a BAD investment if he's a DH/first baseman), and the absence of any compelling need for a different body than Moeller.

I'm more unhappy about Sir Sid the Yankee, myself.

2008-06-24 08:14:36
13.   Chyll Will
What I don't know about is after the season, if you've dealt Melky and Damon is off the books, then what? Are you rushing Austin Jackson or Jose Tabata like you rushed Melky two years ago? Or do you sign Damon for another year (not likely since another team would likely offer two if for nothing but spite)... I think Melky trade talk is more a way to push him than a credible option, given what's available down the line. (Unless we're going after some big-ticket item not named Texeiria again off-season, sigh...)
2008-06-24 08:19:17
14.   ChrisS
Damon is under contract for the 2009 season.

I just don't think Gardner is going to be any better than Cabrera and all that's happening is some roster shifting.

2008-06-24 09:25:16
15.   horace-clarke-era
On Jeter: rightly or wrongly, I believe the downside is near but not here. I do think he was messed up by the wrist (batters so often are). It is hard for veterans and stars to sit through these when they CAN play, but we also know how delicate both pitching and hitting are, how easily thrown out, and the 4 for 40 that Long cites is what killed his batting average. Since falling from .315 or so, before being hit, he's essentially leveled off in the .270s with some recent signs of an uptick. Power IS what goes when you swing with injuries, you end up getting singles with defensive swings. If this is accurate we ought to see signs of it in the next month or so as the doubles pick up and the average tilts towards .300.

I do sadly believe that a slim body that has played a LOT of baseball will decline soon and absent power or stellar defense, he'll need to hit .300 and walk (and run?) to remain an upper-half player, anywhere.

Of course he isn't the All Star, but what does anyone expect with the voting method we have? I haven't checked: is Hamilton leading OFs? Is he even on the team?

2008-06-24 09:55:54
16.   cult of basebaal
i'm not inclined to trade melky. i don't think he has much value right now and frankly, he's perfect for our 4th OF, seeing as he has the range and arm to play any of the OF positions.

but i think it's time that melky gets to sit and watch somebody else start and i think gardner has earned a shot to see what he can do, there really isn't a downside to making the change (though i would say that i would only bring up gardner to start, not to occupy the shelly duncan bench warmer spot). if it doesn't work, you can always go back to melky.

2008-06-24 10:21:20
17.   cult of basebaal
meanwhile, gardner's been on base 14 times in the last 4 games and scored from 2nd ON A GROUNDOUT last night.

whose the last yankee that had that kind of speed? rickey? (not that i'm expecting anything like rickey from gardner, more like brett butler-lite)

2008-06-24 11:06:45
18.   OldYanksFan
Just some random thoughts:
Comparing Melky at MLB to Gardner at MiLB doesn't seem right. As ChrisS points out, Melky had far better MiLB numbers. Melky is also underperforming. I don't think he is only a .700 OPS guy. Selling low is never a good idea, Gardner has much better speed and a 'better head'. Melky has a far better arm, power and potential... if he ever reaches it. You can bat it around, but who is ultimately better is a coin toss. I give Melky the edge.

I would imagine playing SS and getting 4-5 ABs a day doesn't help a wrist heal. They rushed ARod and Po back and paid a price, but they play an injured Jeter? After Jeter sat a week after his first injury, he came back very strong (for a week or so). Gonzo at least has a great glove. Isn't 1 week of his bat worth a healthy Jeter? And screw 'it's hard to sit a vet'. That's why we have a manager.

I think Cash will wait for FAs or salarly dumps before making a significant move. We really don't have replacements for JD, Mats and/or Melky that are significantly better. I say make the best of what we have, meaning simply get Melky, Cano and Jeter up to what would be an average year. A good spanking for Melky gives us 50 OPS points. A lobotomy for Cano should get us 150 OPS points. A few sleep-overs for Jeter should get us 50-100 OPS points. I don't know if those are the BEST way to get it done, but it needs to get done.

2008-06-24 11:09:43
19.   monkeypants
16 Melky's value is low right now, but on the other hand teams (like the Yanks) seem to value "proven veterans" over marginal prospects. Thus, it would not surprise me if Melky would be attractive in some or other deal, and given his poor play this season AND the doubts many have that he will ever develop into much more than he has been, he shouldn't be a deal-breaker. And this is especially true given that they have Melky 2.0 on the farm.

Frankly, I doubt either player is in the long-term plans, though I do think that Melky has a much greater chance to be a better player for longer.

Finally, Melky still has options, right? Many here called for Hughes and IPK to get sent down to get their heads straight, build confidence, etc. Why can the same not be done with Melky for a couple or few weeks? Hell, the most optimistic predictions for Melky cite the statistical similarity between his career to a young Bernie Williams'. Didn't Bernie spend significant time in MiL his first two years in the bigs?

2008-06-24 11:54:49
20.   Simone
15 Good take on Jeter. He is declining, but he isn't completely gone yet. He is hitting better as the injury on his wrist is now healing. He may be able to reach close to his career average by the end of the season, but I do think that his power is probably gone.
2008-06-24 12:19:52
21.   Vandelay Industries
With all due respect, shouldn't we wait at least a full season or two before we begin to declare Jeter as having an outside shot at being an "upper half player?" Until adequate time has passed, I think this discussion is premature. But hell, that didn't stop many, if the majority, of folks here from declaring Mo's career over. I'll throw Posada in for good measure as many believed that he only had one good year left in him two years ago. Although I haven't heard a peep from those who prefer to carry the torch of nagativism this season, hmmmmmmmmm. Every year there are discussions about who may be near the end, as if some folks enjoy beating players when they percieve them to be on the back sides of their careers, rather than actually waiting for actual play to peovide evidence one way or the other.
2008-06-24 15:44:33
22.   horace-clarke-era
15 OYF, I know you didn't mean "And screw 'it's hard to sit a vet'. That's why we have a manager." as a nasty comment, but I'll stand by it, anyhow. Dude, a LOT of people play hurt in this game, certain vets do it better than others. Some get reps as too happy to sit. Sometimes (chasing a consecutive games streak) it can mess someone up, but whether you agree or not, using rhetoric or not, it IS hard to sit a veteran who is simply 'banged up'. Rest them a bit, yes (as with Jorge, now, I am assuming), DL them, nope.

21 Vandalay, I'm sorry if my comment read as if I was writing him off ... I'm actually trying to do the opposite. To note that his 'fall' isn't that calamitous so far, that much of it was the 4 for 40 post wrist injury, and he's leveled off and I think he'll work back up.

As for going forward, I'm sorry I think it, but 35 (next year) and a LOT of pounding do suggest the 'normal' baseball player's pattern is likely to happen. This isn't meant as writing him off, it is just acknowledging he's no longer a kid, and never had power or fielding to rely on for when bat speed slows.

I have been, if you check my posts, carrying the flag of 'be patient' for this year's Yanks all along ... well before a win streak calmed everyone down a bit. I think the team as it is can easily compete since other teams have their killer injuries and their underperforming players too.

Hope that's clearer?

2008-06-24 21:02:07
23.   Vandelay Industries
22

Absolutely. Thanks for explaining and I was by no means singling you out. It just bugs me when year after year this player or that player is "done." I just wish we could be a tad more positive concerning players who deserve the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise for an extended period of time. I would argue that the Yankees themselves have been guilty of this many times these past few years--sign a guy, give him a few months to prove he is above league average, and spit him out quickly when he doesn't do it fast enough. Most notably when we have traded guys to get that player or when it would cost a penny to keep him. Maybe I'm just still angry we tossed Duque two years too soon (we sure could have used him the season after he was "done." He came in handy for the Sox. As for Jeter, Alex Rodriguez is only one year his junior after all.

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