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December 08, 2005

Bernie's Role In 2006

This evening I found myself thinking about the prospects of Andy Phillips being the Yankees D.H. in 2006 now that there's an excellent chance that Bernie Williams will return to the team.

Would Torre use Bernie at D.H. full-time in 2006 instead of Phillips? Well, considering that Williams's game has slipped, would a platoon with Phillips make more sense - even though Bernie is a switch-hitter? To answer that, I decided to look at Bernie Williams' Average/On Base/Slugging splits over the last three years. This is what I found:

2003:
vs. LHP .280/.414/.424 in 132 AB
vs. RHP .256/.345/.406 in 313 AB

2004:
vs. LHP .265/.384/.464 in 166 AB
vs. RHP .261/.350/.423 in 313 AB

2005:
vs. LHP .231/.305/.286 in 182 AB
vs. RHP .261/.330/.416 in 303 AB

Yes, that's no typo. Last season, in 182 AB, Bernie Williams "slugged" two-eighty-six against LHP.

Also, notice the On Base Average trend for Williams against lefties the last three years: .414 to .384 to .305. That's like going from Giambi to Womack skills in the span of three years. Clearly, if Andy Phillips has any kind of game versus LHP, then he should D.H. over Bernie against southpaws.

Against righties, Bernie's been consistent the last three years around .260/.340/.410. Now, those are numbers that you can live with from a batter if he proves some stellar defense at a key position (like at catcher or center field) to offset the below-average-ness of that rate of production. But, from your D.H.? It's not really much of a help there. To be kind, it's just a warm body filling out a spot in the line-up card.

So, if Bernie is not going to be able to make a positive contribution to the team with his bat, how will he help the Yankees in 2006? As a pinch-runner or defensive replacement? I think we all know the answer there.

Basically, if used correctly in 2006, Williams should be the 5th outfielder on the roster depth chart - and maybe the 2nd or 3rd pinch-hitting option for Torre (when he wants to bat for Bubba or Stinnett). If Joe Torre allows him to bat more than 5 times a week, it's going to hurt the team.

It just seems, to me, that a player on the roster who hardly bats should be able to provide some other skill to the team (say, with his feet or glove) to warrant his place on the roster. And, to keep him on the roster as a reward (or something) for past service or to allow one more summer vacation in the Bronx for old time's sake is letting your heart overrule your eyes and brain. In some ways, it's a disservice to the player - letting his last run be made when his legs are shot - like Willie Mays with the Mets in 1973.

As Yankees fans, do you want your last memory of Bernie to be that of him falling on his face and costing the Yankees games? If given the choice, this Yankees fan would prefer not to see that this season.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at December 8, 2005 11:30 PM

Comments

Those stats surprised me a bit to read... I seem to remember - particularly from Bernie's peak years - that he was quite a bit better vs. LHP than RHP, at least in terms of SLG.

What concerns me is this: how long until the left hand batting side joins the right hand batting side in Tony Womack-ness?

Posted by: Chuck May [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 05:07 AM

I liked Bernie but Cashman and Torre have to cut the cord. Bernie offers absolutely no value to the team in 2006. I don't understand why Cashman is holding on so tight - we gave him his goodbye already in September. Now, let him go find a job elsewhere or retire so we can have a Bernie Day. To waste a roster spot on him makes no sense.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 09:04 AM

I too remember the days of when they would bring in a LHP to turn Bernie around and I would say "Thank you!" - because he was so much more of a force batting righty. Alas, nothing is forever.......

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 09:05 AM

I think there's room on a 25 man roster for one "honorary" member and in Bernie's case, if you're ever to make that argument...but the key is those more than 5 ABs a week, Steve. More than that and we're talking about hurting the team. Anyone dare to wager how Torre will utilize Bernie? Yes, understood.

Posted by: JohnnyC [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 10:51 AM

I have little doubt in my mind that Torre would start running him out to CF, 4-5 days a week, for a stretch, at some point in this season - if it's Bubba that they start the season with in CF.

And, that's when it will get ugly.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 11:11 AM

Basically, if used correctly in 2006, Williams should be the 5th outfielder on the roster depth chart - and maybe the 2nd or 3rd pinch-hitting option for Torre (when he wants to bat for Bubba or Stinnett). If Joe Torre allows him to bat more than 5 times a week, it's going to hurt the team.
=====================

Depends on how the roster is constructed. The Yanks shouldn't go into the season expecting Crosby to be their starting CF'er. If that's the case, then expect to see Bernie in CF 4-5 days a week

Anyway, it's possible that Bernie could retire

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 12:05 PM

Have you seen Bernie's numbers in 2005 hitting as a DH?


I don't have them in front of me, but they were very close to his 2003-2004 numbers. I think they were like .270/.360/.440.

Remember the defensive hitting heirarchy of DH-1b-LF-RF-3b-CF-2b-SS-C. As Bernie ages and moves to the left, he will hit better than if he played on of the positions on the right.

If he's used primarily as a DH vs left handed pitchers, and a pinch hittering against left handed pitchers.

A DH platoon maybe? Find some lefty bat to work with Bernie? I can't think of one off the top of my head. Maybe vs right handed pitchers, Sheffield goes to DH and Kevin Reese plays RF?

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 01:21 AM

Against LHP?
Did you see:

2005:
vs. LHP .231/.305/.286 in 182 AB

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 12:03 PM

It's a very small sample size though.


I can't find Bernie's stats just as a DH. I wish I could, because they would illustrate my point.

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 02:13 PM

Ok! Found the statistics (courtesy of CBS sportsline)

Bernie hit .294/.362/.459 in 85 ABs as a DH.

He also hit.273/.438/.545 as a pinch hitter.


I think he may have a role.

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 08:00 PM

If the Yankees can keep Bernie to 85 ABs in 2006, yes, I think they will be successful! ;-)

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 08:57 PM

Well said :)

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2005 09:45 PM