Yankees Hierarchy to Blame For Offensive Woes

Losers of eight in their last 13 games, the New York Yankees certainly don’t look like the Bronx Bombers this season.

After squeezing the .911 OPS juice out of the seemingly rejuvenated Vernon Wells in April, the once-maligned-Angel has once again heard the cries of “he can’t hit!” after posting a .209/.237/.582 line since the calender flipped to May.  Look familiar? Well, in his two seasons with the Angels, Wells posted a .222/.258/.409 line.

Following his trade to New York, in which he posted an OPS+ of 115 in 67 games, Ichiro, too has turned back into a pumpkin, posting a slash line of .260/.294/.345, which looks awfully similar to the .261/.288/.353 line in his final 95 games with Seattle.  Ichiro really hasn’t used one of his best assets as a slap-hitter, speed, either; his five steals put him on pace for 15 this season.  For reference, he stole 14 in 67 games as a Yankee last season.    As we’ve learned via Joel Sherman, the top of the Yankees hierarchy was behind giving Ichiro–who we can now say is just about finished–a 2-year $13mm deal.    The thought process, clearly revenue-driven on the assumption Ichiro would earn his 3000th major league hit in pinstripes, has pretty much been squashed due to the lack of production.

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Despite a strong April, outfielder Vernon Wells has posted Anaheim-esque numbers of late. Photo credit: http://www.bloguin.com

While the complaints last year had some bearing: “this team hits too many homers! Where are the go-ahead hits?!”, it would admittedly be pretty nice to have a consistent offensive threat in the outfield.  Not a fan of Nick Swisher (and his .829 OPS?)  Certainly, Josh Willingham’s career OPS of .842 of the Minnesota Twins could have been had in the off-season for a David Phelps or Adam Warren when you consider the Twins need pitching in just about every regard.  Of course, Ichiro will (hopefully) be sat when Curtis Granderson and his 109 home runs in a Yankees jersey once again return from the Disabled List, but what happens if Vernon Wells is still in a rut? Is the right-handed power really going to reside in Lyle Overbay–who’s never played the outfield in his major league career?

According to Ken Rosenthal, Russell Martin told the Yankees he was willing to take a one-year deal in the $10mm range, which would not only give the Yankees offense a boost, but not impact their projected $189mm mandate for 2014.  Instead, the Yankees let him walk, and have received a 76 wRC+ from their catching position.  Francisco Cervelli looked solid before he broke his hand in late-April with plenty of defensive swings as well as toning down his personality, but Chris Stewart, a career back-up, has been exposed.  Lumping “championship-caliber” and Chris Stewart (career 63 wRC+) is hypocrisy in the highest regard.  The Yankees apparently value Stewart due to his defensive prowess, but so far, Stewart has amassed a meager 0.3 dWAR in 32 games in 2013.  Meanwhile, Russell Martin is OPSing .770 with a dWAR of 1.3.  Current Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine looks completely over-matched, with seven total bases in 41 ABs.

The reality is that this team is closer to Houston Astros offensive territory than their rival Boston Red Sox. The Yankees and terrible Astros both average 3.98 runs a game, while Boston is exactly one run better at 4.98.  Both the Astros and Yankees have team OBPs of .306.  Division rivals Tampa Bay and Baltimore Orioles are in the top five of OBP at .332 and .330, respectively.  If the Yankees don’t pitch well–fourth in team ERA at 3.76–they don’t win.  Simple as that.

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Seats still available! Plenty of empty seats decorated Yankee Stadium in the once-must-have-ticket Subway Series.

Fans have seemingly caught on as well; there have been two sellouts at Yankee Stadium this season.  Two.  Attendance as a whole is down eight percent, while YES Network ratings have dropped a whopping 39 percent.  The Yankees Ticket Exchange has been a failure, with the team offering tickets on Groupon against the cross-town rival New York Mets for up to 50 percent off.  Taking a look at their website, Stubhub sales haven’t been affected at all by the Ticket Exchange, which was a priority of the recent fan service, citing the convenience of the fans.

At some point, one has to wonder whether or not Hal and Co. will abandon their $189mm plan given the declining attendance, overall apathy and lack of production from the team.  As fun as those first few over-achieving April weeks were, the clock can’t stay fixated on 11:59 p.m. forever, and the Steinbrenners seemingly care about lining their pockets with Ichiro revenue than fielding a competent product.  Yes, there have been tough breaks on the injury front (pun intended), but anyone with a decent baseball acumen could see that Chris Stewart and Ichiro are significant downgrades from their 2012 counterparts.

If this were a storm, however, the offense would just be the rolling clouds; the actual rain not coming until next season when the Yankees figure to lose Andy Pettitte, (most likely) Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera among others.  That’s three rotation spots, the team’s only left-handed power bat not named Robinson Cano, a dual-corner infielder and set-up man, not to mention one of the best pitchers of all time.  With teams locking up their aces to long-term deals over Spring Training (Wainwright and Verlander), the top name for the Yankees on the pitching market is the declining Tim Lincecum.  With CC experiencing a decline in velocity, the Yankees better hope Hiroki Kuroda accepts another one-year deal, with Michael Pineda regaining his first-half-of-2011 form.  Perhaps the only good thing about Granderon’s injury is that one of baseball’s true gentlemen will accept a one-year “pillow” contract similar to what Edwin Jackson took with the Nationals in 2012.

Currently, the 2013 Yankees are on pace for roughly 660 runs, which should be surpassed given the returns of Jeter, Cervelli, Granderson and maybe Alex Rodriguez.  Even if we plop an arbitrary number of 700 in their, the last time the Yankees finished with a sub-700 RS was back in 1992 with 733 runs.  In Buck Showalter’s first season with the team, they would go on to finish 76-86, and the team’s offensive leader was right fielder Danny Tartabull (4.6 oWAR).

The team stood pat in the off-season for the most part, and now the lackluster winter has turned into an even more depressing, slow offense complete with declining ratings and a lack of sales.  The old Ichiro looks like a dog ready to be put down, Vernon Wells has unsurprisingly regressed, all while Hal and Co failed to address the team’s needs with adequate resources out there.

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