On-Base Perception

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Yankees may wish they had a do-over on several players

Nick Swisher pumps his fist during batting practice

Nick Swisher pumps his fist during batting practice before the Indians play the New York Yankees. (April 8, 2013) (Credit: AP)

The Yankees may want a do-over.

Perhaps a couple of them.

At the end of the 2012 season the team faced decisions on five significant free agents: Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez.

The Yankees let four walk and retained Suzuki for two years, $13 million.

Let’s be clear: Most of the logic made sense at the time. The Yankees wanted to get their payroll under control and couldn’t have foreseen injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez (the issues facing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were a little more predictable).

But with 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Yankees are 79-71 and three games out of a Wild Card spot. They just scored a total of seven runs during a three game sweep at Fenway Park.

Meanwhile…Swisher signed a four-year, $56 million deal with Cleveland. The Indians are 81-68 and a half game back of a Wild Card slot. Swisher posted four consecutive seasons of an on-base plus slugging percentage better than .800 with the Yankees before slumping to .758 with the Indians. But Swisher has been on fire for the stretch run, hitting five home runs in his last nine games during a 12-for-37 stretch. Of course even without the September surge he would be outperforming Yankees right fielders, which have posted a .680 OPS. Suzuki, one of the few players the Yankees invested in, has a career-worst .299 OBP but has still played in 140 games.

Meanwhile…Martin has helped the Pirates to their first winning season since 1992. He signed for two-years, $15 million with Pittsburgh, which is 87-62 and tied for the NL Central lead. His defense has been among the best in baseball, both via anecdotal evidence and statistical measures. He has a .722 OPS and 14 home runs. Consider this: During his past 19 games, Martin has slumped to a .568 OPS. His primary replacement with the Yankees, Chris Stewart, has a .561 OPS for the season. Stewart also has 11 passed balls to Martin’s four.

Meanwhile…41-year-old Raul Ibanez, who signed with Seattle for one-year, $2.75 million, has made spacious Safeco Field seem like a bandbox with 27 home runs. His .804 OPS is his first season with an OPS over .800 since 2009. Yankees designated hitters have combined for a .596 OPS – the worst in the American League – and 15 home runs.

Meanwhile…Eric Chavez continues his career resurgence as a valuable bench player in Arizona, signing for one-year, $3 million. Chavez has an .830 OPS and nine home runs and would have been a valuable piece prior to Alex Rodriguez’s August return from offseason hip surgery. Yes, Chavez has injury concerns (he missed about a month this season as well). But consider that Chavez has played 74 games in 2013 while Youkilis, who signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Yankees despite an injury history of his own, has only played 28.

Hindsight is 20/20.

But the missteps are still coming home to roost in 2013.

Tags: Yankees , Pittsburgh Pirates , Arizona Diamondbacks , Cleveland Indians , Seattle Mariners , Chris Stewart , Ichiro Suzuki , Nick Swisher , Russell Martin , Eric Chavez , Raul Ibanez

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