championship playoff-bound team needs a good starting nine coupled with some excellent pitching up front and on the back end. Seemingly every year the New York Yankees field such a team en route to yet another postseason berth. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult. But a team can look great on paper (ahem 2011 Boston Red Sox), but ultimately fall to a rash of injuries and ineffectiveness from replacements. Those “replacements” are who I deem contributors. Those players who come out of nowhere and perform well, or who were counted on in a smaller role and actually exceed expectations. Every playoff-bound team needs them, they are just as important to the recipe as the starters. So, in the first part of this series, let’s take a look at who I think are the Yankees All-Contributor Team (in no particular order).
Can this guy straight mash or what? Pay no mind to his frailty, but he’s performed above expectations when called upon. He has a ridiculously good slash line (.283/.340/.484) for a bench player. Couple that with 13 home runs and 12 doubles on the year in 282 plate appearances, and you have a bonafide solid backup for both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera. He’s not the Gold Glover he was with the A’s, but I can take a -1.3 UZR/150 while playing third base from a backup providing offense. In his eight games at first base, he has a 11.8 UZR/150 rating, while not the perfect metric by any means, they can help at least give you an idea of how players perform at the position. Last but not least in the list of reasons to love Eric Chavez, you never hear about him whining about more playing time, he knows his role with the team without adding to the baggage.
I know, I know, laugh it up. What has this guy really done but make pitchers work hard to not let the runners he let on through an error? It almost became comical when a ball was hit to him, you stood a good chance of seeing him throw one in the seats and allow the runner into scoring position without actually earning it. But I digress, he’s been great since coming back to the Yankees this September. In a limited 80 plate appearances this season he’s hit .282/.338/.394, so as you can see hitting (other than power) has never really been his problem. However, Nunez also adds a different dynamic the Yankees sorely lack: Speed. He may not be the fastest, but he can certainly steal a team blind if they don’t pay attention to him. Just ask Tampa Bay Rays this past weekend. He adds a wrinkle to offense and that trip down to the minors seemed to have helped his confidence in the field too.
You have to feel somewhat sorry for Wise. As a bench player you are either one of two archetypes: 1) You can do one of field, hit, or run at an extreme level, or 2) you do all of those at a below average to average level. Wise was the latter, but it seemed like he was on the, “I’m starting to do well, there’s no possible way they get rid of me.” side of things. That was true until starting left fielder (and sorely missed) Brett Gardner suffered a setback in his road to recovery and the Yankees brass decided Ichiro Suzuki would be a better fit for the rest of the season. They are probably right, but let’s not forget what Wise brought to the table in his 63 plate appearances (.262/.286/.492). He also played a good outfield for the Yankees and currently holds a 8.6 UZR/150 split between his time with the Yankees and with the Chicago White Sox. Oh, do you remember this play?
While Pettitte shouldn’t be considered a “contributor” because he would have been in the rotation this season if not for a broken ankle suffered in late June. However, as it stands now he’s only been a contributor. He signed with the team in March after taking a year off, and didn’t make his first start until mid-May where he then rattled off six wins in nine starts. In seven of those starts, he recorded six or more strikeouts. Perhaps his most dominant start came against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 5th where he struck out 10 in 7.1 innings and only allowed two hits and two walks. Who knows where the Yankees would be if Pettitte didn’t grace his presence to a questionable pitching staff.
Tune in tomorrow for the second part of this post,where I explore a few young pitchers and an outfielder who has made his presence known in New York. In the meantime, who do you have as your best contributor to the Yankees this year?