January 10, 2007
From FT 1B...to...FT DH...to PT DH?
Here are Jason Giambi's career splits based on the opposing pitcher's handedness:
vs RHP .300/.424/.571
vs LHP .272/.387/.470
In 2005, this is how Giambi's splits looked:
vs RHP .276/.451/.570
vs LHP .261/.418/.464
The drop in OBP and SLG % in 2005, based on the pitcher's handedness, was right in line with his career - around 30 points in OBP and 100 points in SLG %.
Here's Giambi's splits from last season:
vs RHP .270/.434/.592
vs LHP .213/.356/.472
We're now seeing a drop of around 75 points in OBP and 120 points in SLG % when a left-hander faces Giambi as opposed to a right-hander. And, you have to wonder if lefties will start to look at that .213 batting average and decide that it makes sense to throw more strikes at Jason - which may bring that OBP number even lower in 2007.
This all said, should the Yankees start to consider benching Giambi against LHP? Or, do you have to keep running him out there because of his salary?
Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 10, 2007 09:26 AM
Curious but how many AB's are all those #'s in? Giambi is no logner an elite hitter but I still think pitchers would think twice about throwing strikes at him. Also, how much of this is based on the shift and how much could be rectified if he were willing to go the other way or drop a surprise bunt? Big Papi started blooping singles in 2006, maybe Giambi should think about changing his approach?
"This all said, should the Yankees start to consider benching Giambi against LHP? Or, do you have to keep running him out there because of his salary?"
How about they keep running him out there because the .213/.356/.472 line could be an outlier (esp. OBP), and even if it's not, it still account for an OPS of .828, which is more than they are likely to get out of anyone else?
What would be your alternative Steve? Playing Melky in left, and having Matsui DH? Much as I love Melky, his splits last year were worse against lefties, and he would be hard-pressed to improve the .107 in SLG% it would take just to match Giambi. I suppose if Josh Phelps has found whatever stroke he used to have, he could out-produce Giambi against lefties. But that must be considered an extreme long shot, and assumes Phelps makes the team over Phillips, who would be another option. Except Andy was TERRIBLE against lefties (.195/.233/.244). What else could they do?
Giambi had the sixth-best OPS in the AL last year. Guys behind him include Vladdy Guerrero, Paul Konerko, our own A-Rod, Jeter and Cano, Vernon Wells and Mark Teixeira.
Those guys are considered elite, aren't they?
All of Giambi's splits in '06 were extreme. Look at his home/away splits:
And it wasn't just about aiming for the short porch, since he had just about the same amount of home runs on the road as he did at home.
Also, Giambi clearly fell apart in the second-half of the year. He went from a .611 SLG pre-All Star to a .481 SLG post-All Star.
A lot of that has to do with Torre's normal brain-dead ways. Giambi had a tear in his wrist and it was obvious he couldn't swing with any power -- and he kept shooting cortisone in there -- but Torre insisted on playing him. It was ridiculous. He refused to let Giambi heal until it was too late.
Giambi's splits against lefties (in 127 at-bats, by the way) doesn't worry me too much, because it's so outside of his norm. The more important stat is this:
As a DH: .224/.373/.531.
As a first baseman: .289/.459/.592.
As much as it looked like he was able to hit as a DH last year, it's obvious he's a better hitter when he plays the field. But the paradox is: he hits better when he plays the field, but he's more prone to injury when he plays the field AND he can't throw the ball -- so do you sacrifice his health and defense because he'll hit better? The Yankees have said no.
The thing about Giambi was that he played DH when he was hurt, thus his hitting suffered in that split.
Since Giambi won't get hurt nearly as often or as severely while never playing the field, you should see his hitting drastically improve.
And Giambi's always been horrendous against lefties. That's the thing about batting lefty.
It's so weird that Giambi is such a better hitter when he's playing 1B as opposed to when he's DH'ing. I really just don't get it. I feel like the only possible explanation is that he's more physically active throughout the course of the game, which means maybe he's more "warmed-up" when he gets to the plate? If that was the case, then Gene Monahan should be insisting that Giambi do a five-minute dyanmic warm-up before every at-bat. Or something.
In any case, Giambi should still be hitting against lefties. Since those splits are only based on 127 at-bats from last year, they could easily be skewed by the other factors (1B vs. DH'ing, home vs. away) or bad luck.
Jason also didn't have the protection of Shef & Matsui for most of last year. I think he'll do better in '07.
FWIW, I agree that the "who else?" problem is part of the issue here. The options are Cairo, the back-up catcher, the other half of Rico Bergman/Phelps, or Melky. That means it's just Melky.
Man, the Yankees bench next year is not very deep at all.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at January 10, 2007 01:10 PM
I hope Torre will use Melky a lot when a lefty is starting.
When a lefty is pitching, it might make sense for Melky to substitute for Matsui, Damon, or Abreu, if any of them needs a rest. Or, if Giambi needs a rest, any of these 3 outfielders could DH, while Melky plays their position.
I would love to think Torre had the capability to creatively get Melky at-bats, but I seriously doubt it happens. That's why I laugh when people say Luis Vizcaino can be used to get out lefties because he holds them down so well. Torre? Using a righty to get out a tough lefty? The thought alone will pop his hair transplants. Forget it.
Torre is one of the most push-button managers I've ever seen.
~~~Also, how much of this is based on the shift and how much could be rectified if he were willing to go the other way or drop a surprise bunt? Big Papi started blooping singles in 2006, maybe Giambi should think about changing his approach?~~~
FWIW, I'm a believer that the shift is what has killed Giambi's BA over the last few years - that and his reluctance to go the other way more than once a season. Given the depth and quality of the Yankees line-up, someone should pull him aside and tell him that a single is much better than a pulled longer hit ball that the shift is going to turn into an out.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at January 10, 2007 01:39 PM
~~~Torre is one of the most push-button managers I've ever seen.~~~
This is where they miss Zimmer, as much of a PITA that he was.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at January 10, 2007 01:42 PM
I think that Giambi should sit against lefties not because he's a bad hitter against lefties, but because it's a good opportunity to rest him and other players.
We don't really know how good Melky is in left field - my gut says that he was somewhere in between the pundit/fan gold glove view of him and the statistical below-average view of Melky - but we know for certain that he is better than Matsui. Matsui is a very poor left fielder. Melky needs the playing time and Matsui needs the rest.
Luckily, we don't have as many fly ball pitchers this year.
Posted by: DownFromNJ at January 10, 2007 01:46 PM
Bad news on Murcer:
So, here are the 1B/DH types who in 2006 had a higher OPS than Giambi versus lefthanded hitters, with at least 150 plate appearearances:
N. Johnson .938
R. Howard .923
E. Perez .835
So there's your "who else" list, as in who else could improve upon Giambi versus left handed pitchers. Six of them are "untouchable" franchise players. Two (Hillenbrand and Perez) are players for whom mockery descended at the suggestion the Yanks sign them this offseason. Nick Johnson provides more fuel for the anti-Vazquez-trade camp. There have been rumors of trades for Tex, but Steve has already professed doubt there as well.
So, essentially, there's no way to realistically improve upon the Yankees 1B/DH position versus left handed pitchers.
That is bad news about Bobby. Similar thing happened to my cousin, she had just had her bladder removed for bladder cancer, now it shows up in her hip bone.
Sorry to hear that.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at January 10, 2007 03:28 PM
Sad news about Bobby. Not my favorite announcer, but one of those "true" Yankees some people claim to have trouble identifying.
Some solid thoughts above on Giambi's numbers and injuries last year. I’d add that his 2005 numbers out to be dropped from the discussion. Too much was going on in his head/body beside just seeing the ball and hitting the ball. If he's healthy, and not playing the field will assist in this area, he'll have a solid year. I agree that the shift has hurt him. One of Donnie's two big tasks for this year will be adjusting Jason's approach. Jason flies out or hits week grounders to the right side on too many away pitches that he's trying to jack to right field. The other task for Donnie will be A-Rod’s continuing psychoanalysis and support (especially early in the season).
I went through Jason’s hit charts: (http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/playerHitChart?categoryId=85302) and found 30 hits to the left of second base last year, or about 25% of his total. Not as low as I would have thought, but still out of balance for someone that has to play against 5 fielders on the right side of the field, and only 2 on the left.
So Jason’s not the man he was a few years ago? Who of us are? Especially those that were using a little boost now and then. Still, he’s a dangerous bat in the middle of our line up and he gets on base like very few other players.
On the bench depth...remember when Clay Bellinger was our Everyman????? In 2000 he played in 98 games, had 184 AB and went 207/288/370. We’ll be fine if the pitching works out.
the strange thing about our 1b situation is that the two best fielders, Minky & Phillips, both hit the opposite of a normal platoon. Minky hits lefties better, and AP hits righties better (career wise & 2006). So instead of AP starting vs. LHP, and Minky vs. RHP, it should be reversed. I will assume Joe and the Gang know this. it can be learned from just a cursory look at the statts.
Posted by: Travis G. at January 10, 2007 03:59 PM