Monday, February 19, 2007

The Bernie Saga Continues

This is one of the longest break ups in history. It's understandable, but it's unnecessary in many ways. Bernie doesn't want to quit the Yankees and his teammates want him around. Torre desperately wants him around. Even the fans want to see Bernie, but it seems that everyone but Bernie understands that he is past his playing days in pinstripes. It's not even a question of whether he could play or not. He can clearly still play at some level. He has enough left in his tank to play for 2 or 3 more seasons if the right situation was available, but that situation is absolutely not with the Yankees. It's probably not with any other competitive team either.

We've been over and over it during the Winter and it continues into the Spring as well. Reading about this everyday is enough to tug at the old heartstrings, because he is an icon and such a soft spoken man. He's a gentleman in a sport which is often marked by it's crass underbelly. In the end, it seems that Bernie is like the boyfriend or girlfriend that can't take your gentle hint that it's over. It's better if you shout at him and tell him he's a loser and to take a hike. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, and give me back my keys. But, you still love him, so you can't bring yourself to do it.

Most of Bernie's ratios over the last 4 years have remained the same as his career numbers. Any dips in those figures are neither make nor break. When I looked at his BB/PA ratio, for example, I found that his entire career from 1991-2002 featured a .120 ratio, while the last 4 substandard seasons only saw a dip to .111, which is a difference of 4 walks over 500 PAs. The same research shows that he loses about 2 home runs per 500 PAs, at his current production. Ground out/Fly out is also hardly changed. How is it that his batting line looks so hideous? It's fairly easy, actually.

Bernie can't hit anymore. He has especially lost his ability to hit right handed pitching. His average prior to 2003 was a very nice .308, but has been .263 over the last 4 seasons, 539 games, 1911 ABs, and 2180 PAs. That dip is .045 and looks to be a major factor in his inability to get on base. The walk rate is similar, so the hitting must be the culprit. His OBP from 2003-2006 has dipped to around .337 from a previous mark of about .398 from 1991-2002. That's .061, of which .045 comes from his batting average. I suppose the rest can be attributed to those 4 walks per 500 PAs that he's lost over the same period of time. We all know that his shoulder and knees have contributed to his crippled and embarrassing fielding, but they are also responsible for the deterioration we see in his batting. He can't turn on pitches anymore, and even when he does the slugging shows he's lost the pop.

In the first cross section of play, 1991-2002, Bernie slugged a fair .498 to go with his near .400 OBP. For a centerfielder that's a very nice output. In the last 4 seasons, he's only produced a .412 SLG to go along with his .337 OBP, which computes to a .749 OPS....again over 1911 ABs and 2180 PAs. In 2006, 10 players hit between .735 and .750 OPS. They are as follows:

Omar Vizquel
Jose Vidro
Jay Payton
Jeff Francoeur
Josh Barfield
Mark Grudzielanek
Felipe Lopez
Orlando Cabrera
David Bell
Aaron Hill

Of this list, 7 are middle infielders. David Bell is a third baseman. Jay Payton and Francoeur are both outfielders. Payton has hardly been able to hold a steady job in the Majors in his career and Francoeur posted a simply hideous .298 OBP to go with his decent power numbers. This small sample size is enough to demonstrate why there's no room for Bernie Williams on the Yankees. The guys who qualify statistically, and match up with Bernie's production all play middle infield. On a club with a $175 million payroll, and plenty of options, there isn't room for a guy who hits like a middle infielder from the outfield, but is so bad defensively that he actually may cost you games out there.

So, it's absolutely breaking my heart BW, but consider this a Canyon of Heroes "take a hike". I don't want to break up with you, but we both know it's time. Take the hint. Go find someone who appreciates you for the fine guitar player you are. *sniffle* Get out. *sob*


Chris V said...

Here's a hypothetical for you. You've argued that the guys the Yanks have signed to cover first aren't even league average at defense, and they provide nothing at offense (paraphrasing). What detriment would it be/have been to make Giambi play first, have Bernie DH, and when Giambi needs a break put Philips at first and let Giambi DH? It couldn't have affected the team that much, and we would have been able to keep a player that has meant a great deal to the franchise and its fanbase. Yes, baseball is a business, but if you can find a way to make something work, maybe it's worth it.

Of course, I still expect that we'll cut all of our first basement by the trade deadline, after sending some pitching to another team so we can get a good first baseman.

Mike Plugh said...

Okay. I follow your hypothetical. The thing is I don't want a single regular player on my team that hits below .800 OPS if I'm the Yankees. If that guy is a 5th outfielder or a backup middle infielder, he should be an absolute wizard with the glove.

By that definition, I can justify Miguel Cairo in some respect thanks to above average RATE at both 2B and SS, and a good stolen base percentage. I can justify Mientkiewicz as a part time first baseman by some stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't make me happy. As an everyday player it's bad.

Looking at the other bench spots, you have Melky who should probably improve a little on his numbers going forward is both an excellent outfielder and had a .756 2nd half OPS. If he can up that just a little and keep playing the field like he did, he's a very nice option.

Phelps and Phillips are question marks. As I see it, Phelps has the most upside with a career OPS of .809 and a potential for a lefty/righty platoon with Mientkiewicz. Then, there's backup catcher.

My bench looks like this:

(one need position)

If I don't carry Andy Phillips, do I give the final spot to Bernie? Why would I? I have Melky there. He plays top defense, is a switch hitter, and is only 22 years old. I have Phelps for a little pop off the bench, but what I really need is a lot of pop off the bench. The last spot needs to be a guy that can pinch hit effectively and has long ball power. Bernie's .412 SLG over the last 4 years means he's not the guy.

I love him, but he's a borderline scrub in 2007. I hate to say it, but it's true. He's PECOTA "weighted mean" for 2007 is a batting line of:

.258/.320/.388 and an EQA of .255, which is below replacement. I'm guessing that Jose Tabata could leap to the Major Leaguers and produce numbers at least in the neighborhood of .250/.320/.375 right now.

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