Saturday, April 21, 2012

Does Nunez Fit In The Future?

A lot of fans are not applauding Eduardo.

There's somewhat of a battle going on over Eduardo Nunez. The one side of the battle believes that Nunez could be valuable as a regular, while the other side thinks Eduardo is a complete waste of roster space. I haven't declared myself to be a member of either side, just like I am when it comes to politics.

On the one hand we've seen glimpses of what Nunez could do with regular at bats. In his first start of the 2011 season Nuney went 2 for 4 with 3 runs, including a double, a walk, and a stolen base. Combining his next two starts Eduardo was 3 for 8 with a RBI, a double, and another stolen base. Later during the season, in back-to-back starts against the Mets on July 1st and 2nd, Nunez was 7 for 8 with 3 doubles, a home run, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Best of all, and this especially goes out to those that like to use the #RISPFAIL hashtag on Twitter, is that with men in scoring position last season Nunez hit .324/.393/.378, which came in 86 plate appearances. Not a huge sample size, but not tiny either. Hell, imagine if the 2012 Yankees were hitting .324 with RISP, instead of the .248 they currently are.

The batting stats that Nunez put up last year were hardly worth firing guns, setting fires, or getting arrested for. Right Kentucky fans *wink*? But how would the team fare if he were to have say... 526 at bats? Well, after expanding on a bunch of things like singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, etc I came to the conclusion that the team would have had a batting average of .264 (good for 6th in MLB, while they were 7th), an on-base percentage of .337 (good for 6th, while it was actually 2nd), and a slugging percentage of .438 (good for 4th, while the team was actually 3rd). The team's runs scored doesn't figure out as easily, but I did it anyway since I'm a jerk like that. It turns out that the team would have scored 851 runs, good for 4th in MLB in 2011. So the offense looks as though it would be okay with Eduardo's bat in the lineup regularly.

I'm not so sure the defense could get by though, as people don't call him "NunEEEEEE" for nothing. He's already got 2 errors, spanning 40 innings, between 2B, SS, and 3B this season. In his MLB career, his UZR/150 at each position looks like the average temperature of Antarctica in August. But maybe he'd do better, or at least be an average defender, in the outfield. Say, maybe, in right field, which in Yankee Stadium is not nearly as cavernous as in other stadiums. Unfortunately Eduardo has only played 18.1 innings in the outfield in MLB, and 0 innings in the OF in the minors, so it's impossible to make a strong prediction on this. But based on the fact that Nunez is an athletic guy, with really good speed (I figured that in 526 at bats last season, he would have stolen 37 bases, which would have been enough to tie Elvis Andrus for 5th in the AL), he should work out to be better than average out there.

Speaking of those 37 stolen bases... I have to believe Nunez could score more than the 65 runs I had him pegged for in 526 at bats, using his numbers from 2011. But I digress.

For those of you that didn't run to Baseball Reference or Fangraphs to see where I'm getting 526 at bats from, or didn't catch the fact I said "right field" a couple paragraphs ago, let me reveal where I'm going with all of this. I think Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman may want to start thinking about letting Eduardo Nunez take over in RF for Nick Swisher next season. Not only could Nunez not destroy the Yankee offense, but he could play as well as Nick has in right field the past 2+ years. And on top of that he'll be under team control for another four years, which means he'd be a far cheaper than re-signing Swisher would be. Which would allow the team to bring back Robinson Cano (although I believe that'll happen no matter what), and possibly Curtis Granderson after next season.

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