Saturday, June 15, 2013

Assigning Blame To The Wrong Guys

"I wonder what would happen if I grabbed a bat."

Although it's not surprising that some Yankees fans are unfairly placing the blame for the team's poor hitting on Kevin Long, the team's hitting coach, that doesn't mean I'm going to sit back and accept it. Coaches or managers, whether it be for negative or positive reasons, tend to get too much credit.

For example, I think Joe Torre got a little too much credit for the Yankees winning ways during his tenure as their manger. I don't mean to say he wasn't any good. You don't spend 18 years as a player in Major League Baseball, then another 33 years as a coach or manager, and finally 2-plus years in the commissioners office, without knowing a thing or two about the game. But Scott Proctor isn't the only person that believes Torre wasn't the best at using his bullpen. And it's not like the Yankees didn't have some pretty incredible players between 1996 and 2007.

The most recent example of a coach or manager receiving too much credit, in this case in a negative way, comes from Kevin Long.

On the surface the criticism seems legit. So far this season the Yankees are hitting .241/.304/.385, numbers that are good for 11th, 12th, and 10th among the 15 teams in the American League. In terms of team fWAR, the Yankees are only doing better than the Astros and White Sox... who are a combined 25 games out of first place (Chicago is 8.5 games back in the AL Central, while Houston is 16.5 games back in the AL West).

But is it really poor coaching that's the issue here? Or could these be contributing factors...?

  • Chris Stewart has 122 of the 239 plate appearances by Yankee catchers, while Austin Romine has 56 of them. Stewart's career OPS is .607, while Romine's is .329.
  • Kevin Youkilis has been having lower back trouble for most of the season, which could be the reason he's on his way to having his worst MLB season. Not only did Long have nothing to do with that injury in 2013, but that back has been an issue for the past five years.
  • Jayson Nix has played the most at shortstop this season, and his current OPS is .610. Has he hit better in the past? Sure. But I don't think a career .648 OPS hitter is somebody the Yankees could lean on.
  • Vernon Wells, who has spent the most time in LF for the Yankees this season, may be having his worst offensive season since his rookie year. But seeing as how his average OPS+ the previous two years is under 90, it's not like people should be pointing fingers away from Vernon himself.
  • Outside of surprising everybody after being traded to the Yankees late last season, you can pretty much say the exact same thing for Ichiro Suzuki as we did for Wells. Oh, except that Ichiro's OPS+ the previous two seasons was just a touch over 90. 
  • Kevin Long did not let 45 home runs from 2012 walk away (Nick Swisher and Russell Martin), only to replace them with players that have either averaged 9 home runs a year (Ichiro) or have 8 in their entire MLB career (Cervelli).
  • Except for 31 plate appearances, the Yankees have been without Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez all season. If you don't think that hurts, allow me to point out that the average OPS+ among those three players in 2012 was 115. The team's current OPS+ this year is 88.
If you're thinking of pointing the blame at Joe Girardi for the team's woes this season, instead of Kevin Long, you can re-read those 7 bullet points. 

It's time to face the facts... the Yankee lineup, as it's currently built, is not good. What they did in April is not normal, and the chances of them doing it again are caught somewhere between "slim" and "none". Our best hope, which I mentioned earlier today in another article, is that the team can avoid falling much further behind first place until after the All Star break. At that point, with Granderson, Jeter, and Rodriguez possibly returning, the team may have a good shot at winning the AL East.

Oh, and if you really want to point the finger of blame at somebody, a better idea might be this guy...

 "What's that, now?"

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)