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May 12, 2006

Assessing the Carnage
by SG

Hideki Matsui is out, and Joe Torre is saying it is going to be for three months. This is a bad, bad blow, but all the Yankees can do right now is look at the options available in his stead and try to go forward with the best plan of attack.

The Yankees called up Kevin Reese as soon as it was determined that Matsui had fractured his wrist. With Gary Sheffield also out for at least the next two weeks, here are the outfielders on the current roster.

Johnny Damon
Bernie Williams
Melky Cabrera
Kevin Reese
Bubba Crosby

And while he's not on the roster, Kevin Thompson should probably be considered as well.

Damon's a little banged up, but I'd have to assume he'll be locked in CF until Sheffield gets back. So the Yankees have to choose from the remaining four options to man LF and RF. Looking at how the players have performed to this point can pull us into the small sample size trap, so here's how each player projected going into the season using PECOTA. I will list each player's projected batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, followed by the approximate run value of 300 plate appearances at that rate of production (about 80 games, or 3 months). Projections do need to be adjusted for how a player has performed so far this year, particularly for young players who may still be developing (Melky) and older players who may have lost more physical ability than the numbers would predict (Bernie). So Bernie's projection may be too high, and Melky's may be too low.

Matsui (.289/.361/.464, R: 13)

Bernie (.264/.347/.400, 3)
Cabrera (.267/.309/.393, 0)
Reese (.263/.330/.406, 3) - Reese did not have a PECOTA, so I'm using his ZIPS projection here
Crosby (.249/.303/.382, -2)
Thompson (.263/.333/.426, 8)

Incidentally, another option is Carlos Pena.

Pena (.259/.361/.506, 12)

According to these numbers, any option but Thompson is at least a one win offensive downgrade over Matsui. The good news is that with the exception of Bernie, almost every one of these players would be a defensive upgrade. I think Bubba is probably the best defender of the three, with Reese second, and then Cabrera followed by Thompson. Really, Bernie is the worst option of the five if you factor in offense and defense. Unless Melky's hot start has propelled him above Kevin Thompson, Thompson should be the one getting the bulk of Matsui's playing time. If the Yankees bring up Carlos Pena and he performs to his projection, they'd replace Matsui's offense while also upgrading their defense slightly at first base.

The Yankees' best option would have been to play Thompson in left, and Melky in right and start them both every single day. When Gary Sheffield is ready to come off the disabled list, they could send down the one who is performing worse, or get rid of Bernie or Bubba if both Cabrera and Thompson are performing decently and use them to rest Sheffield at DH. If they do what the statistics say are the best options, they could have the following potential lineups.


Damon CF
Jeter SS
Giambi DH
Rodriguez 3B
Posada C
Cano 2B
Cabrera RF
Pena 1B
Thompson LF


Damon CF
Jeter SS
Giambi DH
Rodriguez 3B
Sheffield RF
Posada C
Cano 2B
Pena 1B
Thompson/Melky LF

Unfortunately, they won't do either one. They will start Bernie and Bubba in 95% of the games going forward, or panic and trade one of their minor league chips for someone like Shannon Stewart.

This really sucks.