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Call Him Up, Coach
2006-08-10 10:55
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Johnny Damon's most recent ouchie, a tender right groin, doesn't appear to be of major concern to the Yankees, but his removal from last night's game exposed a major flaw in the Yankees current roster construction. With Bernie Williams DHing for Jason Giambi, who was hit hard in the right arm with a pitch in Tuesday's game, Joe Torre chose to move Bobby Abreu into center, Craig Wilson into right, and insert Andy Phillips at first base in Damon's spot. Never mind that Melky Cabrera played center field in the minors earlier this year and that Abreu had played just 1/3 of an inning in center since 2002 when he made 18 of his 20 major league appearances there. After Bernie's at-bat in the top of the eighth, Torre moved Abreu back to right and gave up the DH to move Bernie and his 72 Rate (!) into center and put the pitcher in Wilson's spot in the order.

That cinched it. If Joe is that dead set on not returning Melky Cabrera to the scene of his defensive crimes of a year ago (which will have to change sooner rather than later), the Yankees need to bring Aaron Guiel back up from Columbus. Guiel played 24 games in center field for the Royals last year and made two appearances for them there earlier this season. He posted a 95 rate in those 24 games in 2005 and is dead average for his career in the middle pasture. What's more, he's the lefty bat this team desperately needs off the bench. Bernie Williams is 0 for 11 as a pinch-hitter this season and is still hitting just .250/.284/.380 against righties. Guiel, meanwhile, is 1 for 5 as a pinch-hitter (impossibly small samples, I know, but zero hits are hard to argue for), and is hitting .242/.356/.532 against righties.

As for Andy Phillips (brace yourselves, folks, I'm finally fessing up), he has become redundant in the wake of the Craig Wilson acquisition. As I said at the time of the trade, "a career .268/.360/.486 hitter, Wilson is exactly the hitter I had hoped Andy Phillips would be at the plate given a proper opportunity . . . is just four months Phillips' senior and has put up those numbers over 2,133 career major league plate appearances." Both players give the team added defensive flexibility (Andy at second and third, Wilson in the outfield corners and behind the plate), but Torre seems more willing to move Wilson around. What's more, Andy has had just five at-bats since the acquisition of Wilson, three of them coming last night when Guiel would have been a better option. I may have been Andy Phillips' biggest fan for the past couple of years, but he no longer fits on this roster. The Yankees need to replace him with Aaron Guiel, and they need to do it now.

Since we're on the topic of center fielders, I thought now would be a good time to run a chart I had promised to run sometime this summer back in the offseason when we were all debating exactly how the Yankees should fill their center field vacancy. I post this without comment, save for what I've written in the notes column.


NameAgeAVG/OBP/SLGEQARateContract (in millions/years)Notes
Johnny Damon32.287/.359/.467.28695$52/4free agent
Jason Michaels30.265/.326/.388.25295 (LF)$1.5/1traded for Arthur Rhodes
Milton Bradley28.280/.365/.473.288100 (RF)$3/1Has just 182 at-bats due to injuries, traded for Andre Ethier
Coco Crisp26.275/.325/.384.25497$2.75/1 + $15.5/3 + $8/$0.5 optiontraded with Josh Bard and David Riske for Andy Marte, Kelly Shoppach and Guillermo Mota
Aaron Rowand28.258/.318/.437.25298$3.25/1 + optiontraded for Jim Thome and $22 million
Gary Matthews Jr.31.317/.366/.494.29286$2.39/1did not change teams this offseason
Jose Cruz Jr.32.233/.353/.381.261119 (15 G)$3.21/1 + $4/$0.3 optionwas released on Saturday, last full season in center was 2001
Corey Patterson26.280/.315/.415.264105$2.8/1traded for mL Nate Spears and Carlos Perez
Carlos Beltran29.286/.387/.628.326113$119/7free agent after 2004, 2005 salary: $10 mil

Comments
2006-08-10 12:21:19
1.   Jeb
Amen, Cliff, I could not agree more. Guiel isn't that great, but he has some power, and gets on base better than Bernie and Phillips. I realize that Joe will keep Bernie and he's useful to hit lefties, but Phillips is completely worthless. His OBP is well under .300. I suppose that when Matsui comes back Phillips will be the odd man out.
2006-08-10 12:25:45
2.   Shaun P
The Yanks could keep Phillips as a backup 2B/3B over Nick Green, send Green down to make room for Guiel, and use A-Rod as the backup SS in an emergency . . . but I think Jeb 1 is ultimately right anyway. When Matsui returns, Andy is likely gone, unless its after Sept. 1.
2006-08-10 12:26:45
3.   David
Nice post as usual, Cliff. Your chart seems to demonstrate that Johnny Damon was the best center fielder option that the Yanks could have signed in 2006. Of course, it would have been oodles better to have signed Beltran.

Sadly, Joe's pro-Bernie bias has become almost pathological. I even suspect that the Yanks declined to sign Beltran in order to give Bernie another year as the regular center fielder. Of course, neither his fielding nor his hitting justified that decision.

2006-08-10 12:29:46
4.   bp1
Cliff - I would be interested in your thoughts on why Andy never took off this year when he finally got to see regular playing time. I know his wife's situation surely affected his play earlier this year.

He seems vulnerable to a breaking ball - and often outclassed by pitchers. I sometimes sense a lack of confidence in his body language at the plate - and a bit of overeagerness that never quite went away as the season wore on. It seems that while Melky is blooming, Andy is regressing - or at least not growing as a major league hitter.

The "kid" obviously has talent. I hope if he doesn't catch on with the Yankees, which seems highly unlikely at this point, that he lands a solid spot on another ball club.

Speaking of Melky - you gotta know that Cano felt good hitting that homer after Melky hit his. I bet there a bit of sibling type rivalry going on between those two - in a good way. Fun to watch them in the dugout.

2006-08-10 12:36:33
5.   Cliff Corcoran
1 At which point, the foolishness of resigning Bernie will become abundently clear. Guiel is exactly the kind of player they should have signed instead of Bernie this offseason. Not that Guiel's all that young, but he's at least useful.

3 I intended to put Beltran in that chart, but it just didn't seem fair. I've added him back in above.

2006-08-10 12:37:41
6.   Dimelo
Torre must start to trust Melky in CF.
2006-08-10 12:48:24
7.   mehmattski
I for one am so glad that we have Randy Johnson instead of Carlos Beltran (and Javy Vasquez, Dioneer Navarro, and Brad Halsey)... That trade is going to be my Frank Costanza rant for a long long time. But after making that first fatal mistake, signing Damon has worked out this year. Hurry up and mature, Jose Tabata/Brent Gardner, so you can play CF when Damon has to move to 1B...
2006-08-10 12:48:53
8.   Cliff Corcoran
4 I think the fates just conspired against Andy. His injury in 2003 robbed him of a chance to win a job in the wake of the Boone injury or the Soriano-Rodriguez trade. The Yankees then buried him until his typical peak age seasons had passed, then after a year and a half of being jerked around he finally got to play and I think he (correctly) realized he had to crush or he'd be gone. His raw hitting ability allowed him to rake over small stretches, but . . . you know how it's often said that Dominican players say "you don't walk off the island," well Andy probably felt he wasn't going to walk out of Columbus, so his discipline went out the window, as did his OBP, and his failure to work to get his pitch hurt his average and his slugging. I'm sure he could go to the Royals or Pirates right now and hit like Craig Wilson if he knew he wasn't a five K game from spending the rest of his career in AAA or Japan. Heck, he might even hit better than Wilson. But he's just never going to feel safe with the Yankees, and thus he's never going to be the hitter he was with Columbus the last two years, where he had nothing to lose.
2006-08-10 12:50:31
9.   pistolpete
I'm guessing Phillips is out of options? Would be a shame to DFA him outright, but it seems to be the trend this season - cut bait with those who aren't contributing.

3 It's too bad GOB wasn't quite 'dead' when Beltran came on the market. ;-)

2006-08-10 12:53:21
10.   Ron Burgundy
Off-Topic, but Ha-Ha, Russo is on the verge of suicide today...
2006-08-10 12:54:15
11.   tommyl
Bernie really has a 75 rate? Wow, that is bad. At that rate, I almost wonder if Phillips or Nick Green would be better in CF. Melky cannot be worse than that.
2006-08-10 12:54:45
12.   tommyl
10 Why? What's going on for those of us not in the NY area (yet)?
2006-08-10 12:55:03
13.   bp1
Sorry to change the subject, but I did some quick checking. If you took out interleaugue play this year, Boston would be in 3rd place in the AL East behind Toronto, and the Yankees would be cruising with a Mets like 8 game lead in the division (assuming I can still add and subtract without aid of a calculator). Boston has played 4 games over .500 against AL opponents, while Yankees are 22 games over .500 against AL teams.

Something to chew on while anticipating next weekend's series. The BoSox still might win some games, but they're not the scary juggernaut the press wanted us to believe after the massacre they put on the NL teams they faced.

2006-08-10 12:57:09
14.   Ron Burgundy
12 I think he's lost his mind. He's lost it. He's ballwashing the Yankees. It's downright hilarious. He's completely gone insane. He says he's a Yankees fan now. (After his Giants have collapsed, he's lost it).
2006-08-10 12:57:19
15.   Cliff Corcoran
11 No, he has a 7*2*! I bet Green could do as well, maybe not Andy, he and Robinson Cano seem similarly fast-for-a-slow-guy to me.
2006-08-10 12:58:46
16.   bp1
8 I think you hit the nail right on the head, Cliff. A lot of that is probably why his body language shows so much tenseness and lack of confidence when he screws something up. I bet he can envision Brian Cashman reaching for his cell phone each time he k's or bounces into a dp. Maybe not consciously - but I bet it's in there somewhere and it's bugging him. You're right - he is hyper aggressive at the plate to a fault.

Ah well - that's life. Some guys adjust. Some don't. I wish him well - whatever comes of his playing career - and I hope he can have some role to play this year should good things happen to his current team (not saying anything - just saying).

2006-08-10 12:59:04
17.   Cliff Corcoran
13 Funny, Mike Carminati just did a big post on that topic over on Mike's Baseball Rants (see it on the sidebar?).
2006-08-10 13:01:11
18.   pistolpete
14 I don't know why he tortures himself - he should just give in to the 'dark side'.
2006-08-10 13:02:32
19.   tommyl
15 72?! 72? I take it back, I now feel confident in saying I could be a better CF. That is awful. Is he the worst defensive CF in the game right now?
2006-08-10 13:03:44
20.   Chyll Will
3 I believe they stated at the time that they were wary of making a long-term commitment on Scott Boras-term recompence; the sudden "fiscal responsibility" they were supposed to have found. More likely that might have been the cover excuse for the Bernie sentimentality and the factionalism that was roiling underneath at the time.

Naturally, that has come back to bite them; not yet as hard as their freewheeling 80's sell-the-farm strategy. Oh well.

Any truth to the notion that the Yankees put in a claim on Andruw Jones? Funny coincidence if so.

2006-08-10 13:08:01
21.   Simone
8 Cliff, if Andy Phillips was a major league caliber player he would have produced this season. He got the chance that you and others have been clamoring for and quite simply, he failed produce consistently. If he was put on waivers like Bubba, Phillips would be lucky if even the Royals and/or Pirates claimed him. At best, Phillips is a bench player.
2006-08-10 13:15:15
22.   Cliff Corcoran
20 I do believe that the length of the contract (more than the annual price) was the issue. I think the Yankees feel that they dodged a bullet with Giambi and that convinced them that long-term committments are foolish. Note that the Matsui and Damon contracts were just four years, Pavano was four with an option. Since trading for Rodriguez, they haven't committed to a player for more than four years, be it via free agency or by acquiring their contract in a trade.

As for Jones, stuff like that happens all the time, we just never hear about it. They likely claimed Jones to block, though I'm sure they would have taken him of the Braves were going to let him go cheap. I has nothing to do with Damon or any of their other current outfielders. That's just how the waiver game is played.

2006-08-10 13:15:54
23.   mehmattski
Thanks to a recent conversion by SG over at RLYW (link on sidebar) I've become a ZR man myself, if for no other reason than me being able to sort all players on ESPN.com, something I can't do (at least not for free) with the rate stats Cliff posted. Anyway, Damon's 2006 ZR of .888 puts him smack in the middle of CF this season. Beltran's at .913 (#3 in ML), Patterson is #2 in ML with a .920.

Bernie in RF this season is at .792, but doesn't have enough innings to qualify on the leaderboard- the lowest qualifying RF is Shawn Green, at a relative Web-Gemesque .822. In his small sample of 94 innings (20 Total Chances), Bernie's CF ZR is .909. Last season he was at .862, ahead of only Junior Griffey and Mark Kotsay.

He's been a very poor defensive CF since around 2002, when he was dead last among major league CF in Zone Rating.

2006-08-10 13:17:41
24.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
I think the Yanks have to find a way to work both Gueil and Carlos Pena into the roster.

Both can hit righties (unlike say Bernie, and, too judge by last night's flailing against a mediocre Garland, Craig Wilson). Gueil can sub in center, or in left if Torre decides to trust the Melkman.

Pena's been on a tear in Columbus, and Pena/Wilson platoon at first, while hardly ideal defensively as both are subpar, seems about as good as it'll get offensively. I'm just not sold on Wilson as an every day first baseman.

I also think something needs to be done with the pen. Torre's got to trust someone in middle relief besides Proc and Villone. The fact that Farnswacker had to come into a 7-2 game after pitching the night before is sad. Myers as a guy who Torre trusts only to pitch to lefty sluggers is a luxury we can't afford at this pt.

2006-08-10 13:22:50
25.   atc
10, 12
He has definitely gone legally insane. I obviously know he's joking about coming aboard, but someone needs to tell him that he's not welcome.

On another note, my favorite line of his from today was: "that Iguchi is a winning player who can play on my team any day. I don't care what the statistics say. He can play for MY TEAM, MY TEAM, any day." That's right up there with the one from a few days ago when he was talking about Reyes v Rollins: "Just give me the RBIs and Runs Scored [then does some math to come up with "runs produced"]. I don't care about anything else."

2006-08-10 13:25:16
26.   Bama Yankee
Say it ain't so Cliff, you're leaving me as the last defender of Andy Phillips...
Just kidding, I agree with everything that you say.

I don't agree with those who call Andy a "bum" and say that he is "completely worthless". I realize that those things are often said as hyperbole around here, but Andy is a great guy who got his shot and could not make the most of it.

Maybe his wife's health issues were partly to blame, but he is not the kind of guy that would use that as an excuse. I wish things could work out for Andy with the Yankees but it seems that he is better suited to play elsewhere (as you point out). Baseball needs more people like Andy Phillips and fewer people like Barry Bonds.

I will be sad to see Andy go (even though I think it is a necessity for the team) and from one Bama Yankee to another: Andy, you represented the state well, Roll Tide and Go Yankees...

2006-08-10 13:37:05
27.   C2Coke
Abreu and Wilson both look much more comfortable as Yankees than Phillips ever did. His luck must have ruined part of his talent. Yesterday, I had to think twice before I could match his name to his face, I just didn't recognize him...I like Phillips, but even himself has a "I am waiting for my fait to be announced" look on him.

Let's Go Moose! Let's Go Yankees!

2006-08-10 13:43:07
28.   Bama Yankee
Others may have already mentioned it, but I think the best thing about signing Damon instead of Beltran was taking Damon away from Boston.

I guess the argument could be made (by some of the stat guys) that Beltran in the Bronx and Damon in Boston is better for the Yankees than Damon in the Bronx and Crisp in Boston. But as others have said, we saved $4 mill per year and the long contract to Beltran plus Boston overpaid for Crisp out of desperation IMO. Plus taking Damon out of the Boston clubhouse is something you can't measure.

2006-08-10 13:53:04
29.   Dimelo
26 Good point, Bama Yank. I think it's wrong to call someone like Andy Phillips a "bum" or "completely worthless", especially given his ordeals. I don't want him getting any PT, but I won't go that far and say those things. I can be pretty vicious too. Andy got his 15 minutes, none bigger than his homerun off of Beckett. However, it's time for the Andy Phillips Yankee experience to come to an end.

We can file Andy's name right under other past failures: Colter Bean, Randy Choate, etc.

2006-08-10 13:53:59
30.   Schteeve
Back at the time the Yankees were talking about Beltran it was very trendy on this board to slam the yankees for handing out long term contracts, like the one Bernie had. So that was why they didn't get Beltran and I still think it was a good call.
2006-08-10 14:06:14
31.   Schteeve
I obviously didn't mean to imply that the reason the Yankees didn't get Beltran was that it was trendy to bash long term deals on Bronx Banter. Sorry I wrote it that way.
2006-08-10 14:15:33
32.   Bama Yankee
29 BTW, Colter Bean is also from Alabama. Of course, he went to Auburn so I was not as sad to him go ;-)

Before everyone gets the wrong idea about players from Alabama, we've had a few good players come from the state:
Willie Mays
Hank Aaron
Willie McCovey
Ozzie Smith
Bo Jackson
Satchel Paige
Don Sutton
Jimmy Key
George Foster
Oscar Gamble
Butch Hobson

Not bad...

2006-08-10 14:20:54
33.   Cliff Corcoran
29 Bean can't count as a failure, he's pitched just four major league innings. Choate finally got his shot in Arizona and proved to be a typically nondescript middle reliever.
2006-08-10 14:25:31
34.   Cliff Corcoran
32 Bean's still with the Clippers, he's just not on the 40-man.
2006-08-10 15:17:17
35.   rilkefan
"zero hits are hard to argue for"

Poisson statistics say that the chance of an 0.250 hitter getting 0 hits in 11 ABs is 6%. Or one can that's consistent with him having been at best a 0.210 pinch-hitter at 90% confidence level.

2006-08-10 17:32:50
36.   bp1
17 Well I'll be damned. The story of my life - a day late and a dollar short. I'd like to say great minds think alike - but that would be insulting to Mike.

Oh well. The point is moot. The games were played and the wins/losses count. The Yankees had the same opportunity to spank NL teams as the BoSox. Shame on them for not taking advantage.

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