metafrantic (metafrantic) wrote in baseballblog,

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Couldn't let this one pass

While perusing websites just to read up on the latest Red Sox news, I came across this article from Anthony Rieber of Newsday. The article is about Yankees DH/OF Hideki Matsui, and the basic gist is that while Matsui is a great guy, he's a huge liability on their roster because he's stuck at DH because of his bad knees. He's blocking the spot from being used in rotation by Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon, and Alex Rodriguez as he comes back from his injury, and the outfield rotation and... everything.

Now, I'm not saying he's wrong. I'm saying he's right. But I said it first. While reading the article I thought: Wow, that sounds awfully familiar. So I went digging back through the archives of this blog.

Sure enough, on the third page back I tracked down this post that I made on November 15, 2007. That's right... I made essentially the same observation - and thought it out even further - sixteen months earlier.

So I thought I'd take a moment to bring that old post up-to-date.

Back in Ought-Seven, I looked at the Yankees DH position for the next 10 seasons (2008-2017). So here, I'll see what the remaining 9 years look like now. Here's how the position breaks down, by year (the numbers in parentheses are the player's age that year):

2009 - Hideki Matsui* (34-35) $13m (Runners-up: Damon*, 35, & Posada, 37-38)
2010 - Posada, Jorge (38-39) $13m (Runner-up: Jeter*, 35-36)
2011 - Posada, Jorge* (39-40) $13m (Runner-up: Rodriguez, 35-36)
2012 - Rodriguez, Alex (36-37) $29m
2013 - Rodriguez, Alex (37-38) $28m
2014 - Rodriguez, Alex (38-39) $25m
2015 - Rodriguez, Alex (39-40) $21m (Runner-up: Teixeira, 35)
2016 - Rodriguez, Alex (40-41) $20m (Runner-up: Teixeira*, 36)
2017 - Rodriguez, Alex* (41-42) $20m

(* - Denotes final year of contract)

Now, I had a couple of details off. At the time we didn't know the breakdown of A-Rod's contract, so I didn't have the yearly salaries right. And I thought Matsui would hold up better than Damon, but it happened the other way around (irrelevant because they have the same salaries and their contracts both run out after 2009).

But other than that, I was damned accurate, and the terrible nature of the situation has in fact gotten worse for the Yankees since then:

  • Rodriguez is hurt. It's his second straight year starting the season on the DL. That, plus his admission to taking performance enhancers, makes the likelihood of an earlier decline in health much higher.

  • The Yankees now have Mark Teixeira for the next eight seasons. This prevents them using Posada or A-Rod at 1B instead of DH, and Teixeira may even fight A-Rod for the DH slot in 2015-16.

  • Posada was hurt all last season, the first of his 4-year contract. He's already 37 and the Yankees are still expecting him to catch regularly (since they have nowhere else to put him) AND to produce offensively. He'll earn $39m over the next 3 seasons.

  • Jeter has slumped off badly at the plate the past two seasons, and is generally regarded (by people who use more than their gut to judge) to be the worst defensive shortstop in baseball. But, the Yankees have nowhere else to put him. He'll earn $41m over the next 2 seasons.

  • The average age of these players during their DH years is 38.5. Remove Matsui's 2009 season and just consider the next eight years, and the average age is 39.

    The average salary is $22.22m. And that's with the next 3 years at $13m; the final SIX years on that list have an average salary of $23.83m.

    I cannot stress this enough: Over the next nine seasons, the Yankees will pay an average of $22.22m for a designated hitter with an average age of 38.5 years.

    This creates a huge blow to their flexibility, as already mentioned, and if people are honest, they'll recognize that it will damage production too. In 2009, what are the odds that A-Rod, Damon and Posada will ALL spend most of their time at their position? If they want to be in the lineup they better, becaus Matsui's going to be holding that DH spot. Or, one of them gets preference for DH, and Matsui ends up on the bench. (This is all assuming that A-Rod has returned from his recuperation, too.)

    And on another related note: Even with everyone healthy, I just don't think the Yankees lineup is all that intimidating anymore.

    1. Damon (LF)
    2. Jeter (SS)
    3. Teixeira (1B)
    4. A-Rod (3B)
    5. Matsui (DH)
    6. Posada (C)
    7. Cano (2B)
    8. Nady (RF)
    9. M. Cabrera (CF)

    Assuming they're all healthy, the front 4 are solid. But that's a big IF. In fact, the entire lineup's a big fat IF:

    1. Damon's 35 and has health issues.

    2. All 3 of Jeter's slash-line stats (AVG/OBP/SLG) declined significantly from 2006 to 2007, and again from 2007 to 2008 (plus he's a defensive liability).

    3. Teixeira's traditionally a slow starter - not good since that's the time A-Rod will be out - but otherwise should be productive.

    4. A-Rod, at BEST, will be back by mid-May, but it could be longer. And who knows if he'll be the same?

    5. Matsui, of course, has terrible knees. Last season only managed 378 PA, with an OPS of just .795 despite a career-high .320 BABIP. Only 9 HR. This is their DH.

    6. Posada, 2008: 195 PA, .775 OPS, 3 HR. Turns 38 is August and is expected to catch regularly.

    7. Cano's OPS, 2006-2008: .890, .841, .715 - 2006 was aided by an unsustainable .363 BABIP. Cano is also a below-average defender.

    8. Nady is a career .280/.355/.458 hitter; in 2008 he hit .305/.357/.510 (all career highs) and a career-high 25 HR. He was strongly aided by a .205 ISO and a .337 BABIP, also career highs. Regression is highly likely.

    9. Melky Cabrera hit .249/.301/.341 in 2008. He was so bad that Brett Gardner, a guy with 141 career PA, might get the 2009 starting job instead.

    This is not a threatening lineup. Hell, they don't even have A-Rod for the first 1 1/2 months, which makes it even worse. IF everyone - and I mean EVERYONE - performs as the Yankees seem to think they will, then they will have a solid lineup. But if even half these guys suffer from the above-mentioned problems, this is a terrible, terrible lineup. Imagine how bad it would be if Teixeira had signed with the Red Sox instead.
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