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July 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

To tell the truth, I didn't watch a tremendous amount of the Yankees' game today, although it was on the TV right next to me. I spent most of the evening chatting it up with a few fellow bloggers, as well as improvising a Game Chatter with sjohnny and...a Red Sox fan. Well, it was better than nothing. If Primer ever gets down again, just IM me and we'll chat on our own.

So, it was a nice game, Bernie got a couple of hits, Godzilla had a huge game. Nick was good, Jorge and D.J. were great. Alfonso Soriano put forward his 8th straight clunker (he has a .405 OPS in the last 8 games). And Andy Pettitte was fantastic, striking out nine and walking none, putting forth his fourth good start out of five, and winning his eighth straight decision.

But, of course, none of that mattered, because the most joyous news came in mid-game.


The Yankees sent Buffalo off to Phoenix in a trade Tuesday night that netted them...well, who cares what it netted them? They dumped Raul Mondesi!

Added to the return of Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson, this move vastly improves the Yankees' offense, and might be the most important move of the season for them. How big a bag of suck was Mondesi? His numbers this season, .258/.330/.471 would rank him as 5th-best in Major League Baseball...if he was a catcher. As a Right-fielder, well he's 17th out of 24 players who qualify for the batting title.

But that only tells half the story. Sure, he was woefully inadequate, but are the guys replacing him any better? Yup. Mondesi's stats are skewed by an incredibly hot April. His month by month OPS's are: 1.117/.732/.657/.626. He went from MVP candidate to sub-replacement level outfielder in just four months. Ruben Sierra and Karim Garcia aren't going to win any Player of the Month Awards, but batting Dellucci against righties and Sierra against lefties and the occasional righty, you can get a .750+ OPS easy.

The Yankees don't need someone to be great out there, they just need someone who doesn't negate Giambi, Nick, Derek, Jorge, Matsui, Soriano and Bernie, and Mondesi was doing that. In fact, they don't even need a great hitter, just someone who gets on base, and keeps the lineup moving. Mondesi's OBP's by month: .420/.322/.277/.264. So, ever since April, Mondesi hasn't been getting on at anywhere near an acceptable level. David Delluci isn't a great hitter, but his career OBP is .341, so at the very worst he'll keep things going.

Getting Dellucci, Prinz and whathisname catcher boy in the trade made this an excellent deal for the Yankees, even though it did nothing to address their other great need, 3B. Perhaps Ventura can turn it around, and at the very least not suck up outs. But eliminating two giant holes in their lineup in the span of a few days may be enough to win this division for the Yanks, no matter how many good relievers Theo Epstein steals.

One last shot at Mondesi: I don't believe in clutch hitting, I don't think situation dicates a player's performance. But, a hit with a runner on is more valuable than a hit with the bases empty. It doesn't imply skill, but it does indicate value. Mondesi had a .987 OPS with the bases empty, in 183 ABs. Once runners were on, though, that OPS dropped to .610, in 178 ABs. Perhaps it was just bad luck, or he didn't get many baserunners on in front of him in April, but what that stat tells me is that not only has Mondesi sucked, he's sucked when it counted the most. The Yankees got absolutely the worst bang for their buck, and getting rid of Uncle GIDP (who actually only grounded into 6 DPs in 137 ABs with a runner on first) is the absolute perfect example of "addition by subtraction".

There is joy tonight.

You suck, Mondesi.