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April 23, 2006

Randy Johnson Doesn't Stink
by SG

After crapping the bed against Toronto last Tuesday, Randy Johnson rebounded nicely today, allowing just 3 hits (all to Miguel Tejada) over eight strong innings, walking just one, fanning five, and needing just 94 pitches. Shockingly, he was able to do this despite pitching to Jorge Posada instead of Kelly Stinnett. I think we're seeing the 42 year old Randy Johnson, who is not overpowering, but will usually pitch well, with an occassional disaster start. As long as he can pitch a quality start 3 out 4 times, I think he'll be doing his job. With Johnson, it's usually pretty obvious when he doesn't have it, so I think a quick hook in those instances will save pitches on his arm, and also give the Yankees a better chance to win those games.

Johnson pitched well, but the offense was also key today. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .303/.391/.497 for a team OPS+ of 133, and are on pace to score 1010 runs. Using the base runs formula I mentioned before shows that they haven't been lucky, as Base Runs projects them to score 1013 runs. Fueling the offense right now has been Jason Giambi, who hit two homers despite being the DH, and who is hitting .326/.530/.848 on the season. He's now second in the AL in OPS, behind Jim Thome.

What's encouraging is that the offense is doing this despite a glaring hole in the lineup in every game, at either DH, backup OF, or first base, although Andy Phillips did chip in an RBI single to give the Yankees the lead. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do to rectify this, as they have a few options in house.

Option 1) Call up Carlos Peña

This would likely mean the end of Andy Phillips's brief tenure in pinstripes, although I'd prefer to see the Yankees get back down to 11 pitchers and carry both Peña and Phillips in a platoon DH/1B role. In a very small sample size, Phillips has shown a very good glove. If Giambi's game today helps him get over his mental block at DH, the Yankees can upgrade by about 10 runs defensively by playing him at DH 70% of the time, and with Peña and Phillips they get an offensive upgrade over Bernie Williams. More likely, they'll bring up Peña and send down Phillips, which will be a defensive hit but an offensive upgrade.

Option 2) Call up Melky Cabrera or Kevin Thompson.

Cabrera's tearing up AAA so far, hitting .348/.405/.500, with 7 walks in about 73 PA, which is a very good ratio. He's only struck out 3 times, and has 5 2B, 1 3B, and 1 HR. Cabrera could be used to mainly spot Gary Sheffield in RF, and with spot duty in CF and LF as needed. They could still call up Peña in this instance, but they would probably have to send down Phillips and jettison Bubba Crosby. Thompson's not hitting as well as Cabrera, but he gives the team speed off the bench. Then again, Torre may be tempted to pinch run for Giambi in the fifth inning if they have Thompson, so maybe not. To add fuel to this fire, according to our very own Fabian, the Bergen Record reported that Felix Escalona and Melky's bats were shipped to the Yankees.

Option 3) Do nothing and give Bernie Williams a chance to keep making outs

I'm not concerned about Bernie's poor stats so far this season, but I am concerned with how he looks at the plate. The power's gone, the bat speed seems gone, and his trademark patience also appears to be a distant memory. He's actually played good defense in RF and LF as far as tracking the ball, although his arm is still a massive liability. The only use I can see Bernie having on the team at this point iss going to have to be primarily pinch-hitting for Kelly Stinnett and Miguel Cairo on the rare times they start, but even then if Stinnett starts they'd be better off with Jorge Posada pinch-hitting. They can't and won't release Bernie, but they should limit his role as much as possible if it looks like he can't contribute any more.

Peña getting called up seems like a no-brainer. He's in Columbus now, although he hasn't done much over his first four games (.214/.313/.286). It's possible that if he doesn't show anything, they may cut bait. It's believed the Yankees will have to release Peña if he is not called up within a month, although I don't know the specific date.

The Yanks are back over .500. It'd be nice if they stay there for the rest of the season.