Monday, November 5, 2012

Are The Yankees Interested In Scott Hairston


David Lennon of Newsday, who took over for Ken Davidoff when Ken left for the NY Post, published an article a couple of days ago talking about the top free agents. Lennon makes his predictions on where the top free agents will end up, including Swisher becoming a Padre, Kuroda returning to the Yankees, Soriano going to Detroit, Ichiro putting on the pinstripes again, and the Russ Bus staying parked in New York. But it's his prediction that the Yankees sign Scott Hairston to a 2-year deal worth $6 million that caught my eye.

At first I thought "cool", remembering that Jerry Hairston was a key bench player leading to a World Series title for the Yankees (Jerry hit .237/.352/.382 in 45 games after being acquired by the Yankees mid-season, while filling in at 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF). So I looked at Scott's Baseball Reference page to see what he could bring to the table. I wasn't impressed.

Scott Hairston batted .263/.299/.504 with 20 home runs for the Mets last season. Don't get me wrong, 20 home runs is no small feat. The problem with that number is that I wouldn't bet anything that he replicates that power production. Hairston's career line drive percentage is 18%, and last season he put up 21%... the highest it's been since 2006 with Arizona. And that's after putting up a LD% of 13% and 11% in 2010 and 2011. Add on the fact that Hairston is a right-handed batter, and therefore won't be able to take advantage of the short porch in right field like Ibanez could. Frankly, if Hairston doesn't square up the ball as much or more than he did last season, then his home run total is going to suffer with the Yankees.

Can you hit it here?

Those looking for positives in Scott's game will point out his career-low walk percentage of 4.8% last season, after having numbers of 9.2% and 7.6% in 2010 and 2011. So perhaps that low OBP of .299 last season is not a true indication of Hairston's ability to get on base. Unfortunately he hasn't had an OBP above .313 in a season since that 2006 year I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Hairston can play any of the three outfield positions, although he mainly played in LF or RF the past two seasons with the Mets. But before you go thinking that Scott could replace Raul Ibanez on the roster, let me point out that Scott is a right-handed batter while Raul was a lefty. So we're not talking about a guy that could platoon against right-handed pitchers.

So maybe Scott could platoon against left-handed pitchers. Well, perhaps, but do we really want to give a guy a two year deal because he can hit left-handed pitchers? It's not as if the majority of pitchers are left-handed (last season the Yankees had 4,037 plate appearances vs. RHP, and 2,194 vs. LHP). But maybe Scott's numbers are just that good against lefties, so that when we do face them he'd be a big weapon. Well, last season, Hairston hit .286/.317/.550 with 11 home runs in 199 plate appearances vs. LHP. So there is value there, although I'm still not sure it's worth 2 years.

Remember when I hated on Dickerson, well that's about to change... a bit.

Even though his power falls off a cliff against left-handed pitchers (it goes from .424 against RHP to .316 against LHP), I'd rather have Chris Dickerson play before Scott Hairston versus lefties. Other than his SLG dropping significantly against same-sided pitching, Dickerson's batting average and on-base percentage remains relatively equal (BA - .269 to .253, OBP - .354 to .344). Toss in the fact that Dickerson would cost the team about $4 million less over the next two years, I see no reason to bring in Scott Hairston.

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