How It Will Happen

I’ve been thinking about how the Yankees drop Derek Jeter in the lineup for a long time. While I advocated bringing him back this offseason, I also said that the Yankees need to have a conversation with him about moving down in the lineup. That time has come and Buster Olney has an interesting angle on it in his column today-

If Derek Jeter were anybody else, it’s fair to say that he would have already been dropped in the lineup. Girardi doesn’t want to move Jeter, apparently, and is probably concerned about embarrassing a proud player.

What Jeter should do, as captain of the Yankees, is to draw from Ripken’s example. He should take the onus off the manager. He should go to Girardi and tell him he’ll be ready to hit anywhere in the lineup, and that he’ll be OK with it. Until that happens — or until Jeter actually starts to hit — the Captain’s place in the lineup, and his deep slump, will continue to be the elephant in the room for Girardi, something that everybody sees but won’t talk about.

Now, I don’t see Jeter doing that, so Girardi needs to have a conversation with Jeter about this. The numbers are brutal, here are some from Olney’s column-

• On-base percentage: .310
• Slugging percentage: .269, which ranks 183rd out of 195 players.
• OPS: .580, which ranks 171st.
• Ground ball/fly ball ratio, a sign of how the player is not driving the ball: 2.72. Only one other player, Yunel Escobar, has a ground ball ratio over 2.00.

Yesterday he had two line drives, which were celebrated as a sign that things are changing with Derek’s swing. The Yankees have managed to play very good baseball with a millstone at the top of their lineup, but they can’t continue to give away AB’s. The top guy at the lineup gets about one-more plate appearance a game than the bottom guy and right now Jeter doesn’t deserve that extra PA over Gardner, Martin or even Nunez.

The Yankees will probably wait until Jeter records his 3,000th hit. At this pace, that will probably come right around their 81st game of the season. With Tampa rebounding and Boston lurking, can the Yankees afford to wait that long?

Well Then What Is Wrong?

The Yankees have announced during tonight’s game that Phil Hughes doesn’t have circulatory problems. He doesn’t have TOS and he doesn’t have vascular issues. That is good news, but the question remains, what is wrong with him then?

It’s clear from his performance that something isn’t right. He can’t throw above 90-mph and his location hasn’t been great either. He felt some sort of “tightness” in his arm during his last bullpen and that led to 2 days of tests at Columbia Presby and an appointment today in St. Louis. But, those tests didn’t find anything and so his arm problems remain a mystery.

Well, maybe not. Tom Verducci named Hughes as a pitcher at risk in a preseason column. In his column he identified 11 pitchers at risk based on their innings jump in 2010. It’s interesting to look at the names on that list.

Of the 11 names on the list, three are pitching well- Price (TB), Beachy (Atl) and Gonzalez (Oak). Two are on the DL- Hughes (NYY) and Sanabia (Fla). The remaining six are pretty bad- Baumgarner (SF- 6.73 ERA), Latos (SD- 4.98 ERA), Cecil (Tor- 6.86 ERA), Gee (NYM- 4.73ERA), Wood (Cin- 6.82 ERA) and Nova (NYY- 5.14 ERA). That means 8-of-11 or 73% are pitching poorly or hurt right now.

The problem is that if you assume Verducci is right (I do) what is the “cure” to this problem? Verducci only notes that the evidence points to “regression or injury” in the year following the big innings jump. So is there a cure for Hughes or is this simply a matter or him doing too much in 2010 and now facing the consequences? I am not sure anyone knows the answer to that question.