Results tagged ‘ Xavier Nady ’

When Swish Is Right, Yanks Have More Fight

We have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees. Despite the pundits dire predictions about their so-called “suspect” starting rotation, they have the second-best record in baseball and the best record in the American League. They finished the first half on a seven-game winning streak and they were 30-12 (.714) from May 17 to July 2, the best record in baseball. Now it is time to hand out our annual report cards for the players who built that record. 

RIGHT-FIELD – NICK SWISHER (.248 BA, 10 HRs, 44 RBIs)

When the Yankees traded backup infielder Wilson Betemit for Nick Swisher in 2009, it turned out to beone of the best trades Brian Cashman has made. Swisher was coming off a career worst season of 24 home runs, 69 RBIs and a dreadful .219 average.

The funny thing is Swisher was acquired to play first base because all the outfield spots were taken by Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Xavier Nady. Then the Yankees unexpectedly received an enexpected gift when Mark Teixeira expressed an interest in signing with the Yankees. That left Swisher as a spare part.

But fortune has always shined a light on the upbeat Swisher. Nady tore an elbow ligament in April and Swisher became the Yankees’ full-time right-fielder. All he did was hit .249 with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs and help lead the Yankees to their 27th world title.

In 2010, Swisher vowed to raise his average and tinkered with his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long. The effort paid dividends when Swisher hit .288 with 29 home runs and 89 RBIs last season. Swisher even got married in the off-season to actress Joanna Garcia. So things in 2011 were looking up for the 30-year-old veteran.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to Swisher’s continued success. He took an unexpected detour.

Swusher slumped in spring training. Swisher slumped in April. Swisher even slumped in May. The usually ebullient outfielder was having a hard time staying positive when things were going so bad. Pitchers were using him and designated hitter Jorge Posada to escape jams and succeeding.

The failures piled up and it took its toll.

On May 25, Swisher was hitting .204 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

But Swisher started hitting that last week of May and he has not stopped. After hitting a woeful .200 in May, Swisher hit .326 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs in June. At the midpoint he is hitting .249 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. After two months of darkness, Swisher is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

The odd thing was Swisher was hitting exceptionally well right-handed (.333) and was not hitting as well left-handed (.215). But that is changing and Swisher has raised his average to around his career average of .252. The question is will Swisher raise his average back to his 2010 mark of .288 or will it stay closer to his career mark?

His power is down even though he is still getting on base and driving in runs like he always has. He is on pace for 88 RBis once again.

Swisher’s value is immense because he is a power threat who bats behind Robinson Cano. If Swisher hits well, Cano should flourish. If Swisher slumps, it’s a pretty good bet that Cano will not see as many good pitches to hit. So getting Swisher going in the right direction is very important to this team.

Swisher becomes a good barometer on how successful the Yankees will be in the second half.

With Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup for four to six weeks, Swisher becomes even more important as a power and production source in the middle of the lineup. Pitchers are no longer looking at him as an escape hatch out of danger. Swisher made a lot of pitchers pay for that strategy in June.

Swisher’s contributions with the bat are even more important when you realize that he contributes nothing on the bases and he is just about average in the field.

Swisher’s lack of foot speed limits his range in right-field. But it is hard to call Swisher a bad outfielder. He has not committed an error and he has seven outfield assists. He also has made some pretty difficult catches going back on balls and has adapted well to the Yankees’ decision to play the outfielders more shallow this season.

Still, Swisher is the outfielder manager Joe Girardi will replace when the Yankees are winning in the late innings because his lack of speed limits his range to his right. But Swisher is better than you would think as a fielder because of his effort and he has an exceptional arm. Those seven assists show that.

Swisher gets a solid C for his first half. He is going to have to continue to raise his average and hit for a more power in the second half. If he could hit right-handers better he will likely be able to do just that.

The odd thing is Swisher has always been a fast starter with the Yankees. This is the first season in which he has struggled so much in the early part of the season. But maybe that will mean that this season he will be fast finisher. The Yankees certainly hope that is the case. Swisher is just that much of a key to the offense.

His patience at the plate is excellent, He is on pace to draw 100 walks for the first time since he did it with Oakland in 2004. That patience allows Swisher to see more pitches than most hitters. It also gives him a chance to hit pitchers’ mistakes.

As long as Swisher can avoid injuries, he should have a resurgent second half and he likely will end up with about the same numbers he usually puts up with the Yankees.

OTHERS

The Yankees primarily have used only two other outfielders this season: Andruw Jones and Chris Dickerson.

Jones is hitting a woeful .210 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 81 at-bats. He has started 21 games in the outfield, most of those in left-field to sit Brett Gardner against tough left-handers. But Jones has not produced like he did last season with the White Sox, where he 19 home runs in 278 at-bats.

In addition, Jones is a far cry from his 10 Gold Gloves with the Braves. Jones is overweight and it has significantly slowed him down in the outfield. He still can make the plays look easy. But he also is a few steps slow to some balls that drop in front of him or that sail over his head. If the Yankees need to upgrade one spot on the bench this might be it.

Dickerson was called up a few times after he recovered from a late spring injury and he has been solid.

He is hitting .263 in only 19 at-bats. His main value is as a defensive replacement for Swisher in the late innings. Dickerson is an excellent fielder and a very good athlete with a decent arm in right. He also can play left and center in a pinch.

Dickerson also can serve as a pinch-runner off the bench and he is a pretty good bunter.

The Yankees can also call upon infield reserves Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena in the outfield. Though both are good athletes, they are more suited as infielders. They likely will not see a lot of action in the outfield unless in an emergency situation.

The Yankees have some former major leaguers at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. They are Greg Golson and Justin Maxwell.

Golson has been up with the Yankees before. His calling card is his excellent speed and he has a cannon for an arm. He can also play all three outfield spots. But the Yankees have opted for Dickerson though Golson is hitting .295 with five home runs and 25 RBis in the minors.

Maxwell played last season for the Nationals and he is hitting .260 with 16 home runs and 35 RBIs. Maxwell is a talented athlete but he also strikes out too much (72 in 177 at-bats).

Most of the better Yankee outfield prospects are at the Double-A level and below. Melky Mesa at Double-A Trenton is hitting a disappointing .219 but the Yankees still think highly of his ability as an athlete and they believe he will hit for consistent power  in the major leagues. Mesa is just 24 years old.

FIRST HALF GRADES

Swisher C

Jones D

Dickerson I (Incomplete)

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C-

Nady Signing Raises Doubts About Yankees’ Goals

We have heard all winter that the New York Yankees could not re-sign Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui because of their restricted budget.
That also was the reason why the Yankees passed on “Cadillac” free agent outfielders like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay.
Then we heard that the Yankees were looking at low-cost options like Reed Johnson and Rocco Baldelli. General manager Brian Cashman also said that Xavier Nady was out of the Yankees’ price range.
When Matsui signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $6 million Cashman said Matsui never would have accepted $6 million from the Yankees. Do we know that for sure?
The Yankees, Cashman said, now have only about $2 million to spend on a right-handed-hitting outfielder.
Then the news comes Tuesday that the Chicago Cubs had signed Nady to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $3.3 million with about $2 million in incentives for games played. The deal is pending a physical to determine if Nady’s second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow is progressing on schedule.
Hmmm!
Since when do the Yankees pass on an outfielder who hit 25 home runs, drove in 97 runs and batted .305 in his last healthy season over a meager $3.3 million?
Ever since George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees the team has spent lavishly on free agents. For every signing of a Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter there have also been mistakes like Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa.
But Yankee fans never had a doubt that the front office was trying to put the best team it could on the field — until now.
This haggling all off-season with Damon has really been belittling to one free-agent signing the Yankees did not have to regret. 
Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, the self-proclaimed smartest man in baseball, determined Damon was too old and was breaking down at age 32. Rather than satisfy Damon’s demand for a four-year contract, Epstein dealt for Coco Crisp instead.
Four years later Crisp is long gone from the Red Sox roster and Damon is coming off four seasons where he played 141 or more games and averaged 19 home runs, 74 RBIs and batted .285. He also averaged 23 stolen bases.
Oh yeah, Damon has a weak arm in left field and he also has had issues with calf injuries. But he also has been on the disabled just once in 15 major league seasons. Damon also was the man at the plate in the World Series that took Brad Lidge through that long clutch at-bat that led to a single, a steal of second and the grand larceny of third that set the stage for the Yankees comeback victory in Game 4.
But budgets are budgets, I guess. The Yankees can’t afford Johnny.
That still does not explain Nady. Cashman told us he was out of the Yankees price range. Yet he signs for a piddling $3.3 million. What is going on here?
Nady did everything he could to help the Yankees after they traded for him and Damaso Marte in the middle of the 2008 season. In the deal to acquire Nady, Cashman traded the Yankees best outfield prospect in 20-year-old Jose Tabata.
This winter the Yankees traded their best outfield prospect in Austin Jackson to obtain Curtis Granderson.
I find it odd that the Yankees plead poverty on the one hand and on the other hand trade promising outfield prospects away to obtain guys like Nady and Granderson. Then when those veterans get to the end of their contracts we can’t afford to bring them back and the cupboard is bare of prospects to replace them. 
Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep the younger prospects in the first place? That way they can be signed for contracts like $2 million until they hit their free-agent years. My point is that I would feel a whole lot better going into the 2010 season with the Yankees trying to adhere to a budget if they had guys like Tabata and Jackson on the roster instead of Brett Gardner, Jamie Hoffman and Greg Golson.
That would at least mean that the Yankees were trying to fill a position of need with some homegrown talent instead of veteran retreads like Reed Johnson and Rocco Baldelli. If the Yankees fail to repeat as world champions in 2010 will Yankee fans exclaim “That is OK. At least they stayed within their 2010 budget”?
I don’t think so. I think Yankee fans will see a young Jackson playing well for the Tigers, a young Tabata progressing to the majors with the Pirates, a veteran Nady pounding home runs at Wrigley Field and a Damon getting clutch hits with whomever he finally signs and ask why aren’t they in Yankee uniforms.
This winter’s events also puts an awful lot of pressure on Gardner too. Though I like him a lot, if he hits .250 or ends up on the disabled list for three months than this whole winter dance of the dollar by Cashman will be wasted without another championship banner to display.
I sure hope Cashman knows what he is doing because it sure is looking gloomy to me.

Yankee Fans Ask ‘Hey, Abbott, Who’s In Left?’

I can almost envision Lou Abbott and Bud Costello talking about the 2010 New York Yankees now:
Costello: “Who’s in left?”

Abbott: “No. Who’s on first.”

Costello: “I don’t know.”

Abbott: “I don’t know is in left”
So it goes with the Yankees. Who, what or I don’t know has shifted to left-field and it is anybody’s guess who will play there come Opening Day on April 4 at Fenway Park.
Last season left-field, for the most part, was manned by Johnny Damon. But after a season in which the 36-year-old veteran hit 24 home runs, drove in 82 runs and batted .282 the Yankees allowed him to become a free agent without even an offer of arbitration.
Damon said he wanted to remain a Yankee but his agent, Scott Boras, was seeking a ridiculous four-year, $52 million contract. The Yankees chose to pass. Though Damon has lowered his demands to a reported two years and $20 million, the Yankees have let him seek offers from other teams.
Rumors say the Braves have an interest in him but they are not likely to pay $10 million for two seasons for the privilege.
The Yankees did have other options in left. For one, they could have tried out rookie Austin Jackson, the 23-year-old gem of the team’s minor-league system. But, alas, the Yankees decided to package the potential five-tool star in a trade with the Detroit Tigers that yielded outfielder Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees immediately announced Granderson was the team’s center fielder and that 2009 center fielder Melky Cabrera would move to left field. 
If the Yankees were serious about cutting payroll, it would seem odd for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to trade Jackson for Granderson’s four-year contract that calls for him to make $5.25 million this season but about $13 million in the fourth season. Jackson would have cost considerably less.
Still, the shift of Cabrera makes sense with the newly frugal Yankees considering that he made a paltry $1.7 million in 2009. But, once again, the Yankees vacated left field when they used Cabrera in a package that brought right-hander Javier Vazquez back to the Bronx — along with his $11 million salary.
There is no doubt that getting Vazquez (15-10, 2.87 ERA) from the Atlanta Braves solidified the starting rotation because there are now four pitchers who are capable of pitching 200 innings or more. It also would allow either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to shift to the setup role in the bullpen. However, it also vacated left field again.
Now the Yankees are touting Brett Gardner as their starting left fielder. Or they could keep Gardner in center and move Curtis Granderson there if the team is dissatisfied with Granderson’s defense in center.
Either way, Gardner certainly is a low-cost alternative to Damon. But it seems odd that Cashman is protesting poverty in his inability to bring Damon back. Cashman said he only has $2 million left to spend on an outfielder.
Well, it seems to me that if he paid just a bit less than $10 million to sign Damon for two years, kept Jackson and Phil Coke instead of making the Granderson trade and used Jackson and Coke to obtain Vazquez instead of trading Michael Dunn, then the Yankees would have not needed to obtain Boone Logan.
They then could have signed Nick Johnson to DH for $5 million and had an outfield of Damon, Cabrera and Nick Swisher with Gardner in the wings and Dunn could have replaced Coke without pushing the Yankees over their budget because they let Hideki Matsui sign with the Angels. 
If I have done the math correct, I think this would have got the Yankees close to their so-called budget limit without affecting the performance level of the team.
Now without Damon in left, the Yankees reportedly are looking at signing right-hand hitting outfielder Reed Johnson or perhaps bring back injured Xavier Nady or utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. for about $2 million. This would give the Yankees a right-hand hitter to platoon with Gardner or Granderson, who hit a woeful .182 against lefties in 2009.
With less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for spring training, I know that Yankee fans are getting nervous about the opening in left field. Pundits like Jon Heyman of the MLB Network are beginning to wonder if the decision to allow Matsui and Damon go in the offseason in favor of Granderson and Johnson has weakened the offense.
It is a valid question.
I am not sure if even Abbott and Costello can answer these questions.
Costello: “The left fielder’s name?”

Abbott: “Because”

Costello: “Why?”

Abbott: “Oh, he’s center field.”



Bad Dream: In Left Field For The Yankees, Ryan Church

The signing of Mark DeRosa by the San Francisco Giants to a two-year contract must have made Brett Gardner smile. He has dodged another bullet.
If the 2010 season started tomorrow, Gardner would be the Yankees’ starting left fielder. Though Gardner’s speed and defense are greatly valued the Yankee blogosphere is getting nervous because Johnny Damon remains out on the free-agent market.
General Manager Brian Cashman made it pretty clear that the last piece of the Yankees’ puzzle, left field, would not be filled by a “big-ticket” item. That ruled out Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. It also appears that because Scott Boras is representing Damon, even the 36-year-old outfielder looks to be too costly.
DeRosa was mentioned as a lower cost alternative. But the Giants signed him for two years and $12 million. Since when can the Yankees not afford $6 million a season for an outfielder? This troubles me because they offered Damon $7 million a season.
Now it appears that even our old friend Xavier Nady is out of the Yankees price range.
The names we are hearing are guys like Reed Johnson or  bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr. Those Melky Cabrera fans upset over the Javier Vazquez trade may have a good point if the discussion on replacing him have come down to Reed Johnson.
Johnson was a backup outfielder for the Cubs last season and hit .255 with four home runs and 22 RBIs and a breathtaking two stolen bases in 165 at-bats. He is an excellent outfielder with the glove but has not been a full-time starter since 2006.
Hairston’s value would seem to be more as a bench player because he is able to play so many positions. If the Yankees are considering him as an everyday left fielder they would wear the 33-year-old down. 
The Yankees’ front office is telling us there are plenty of free-agent outfielders out there. But if DeRosa is not in our price range, who the hell is? Endy Chavez? So Taguchi? Emil Brown?
I think it is admirable that the Cashman and the Yankees have a budget and are sticking to it. But when you see the alternatives out there it is scary to think one of these guys may be a starting left fielder for a world championship club.
Garret Anderson is out there. So is Rick Ankiel (There would be no worries about his arm in left). There also is Jack Cust and Marlon Byrd. How about Austin Kearns? Randy Winn is looking for work and he would fit in with his age at 35.
I hate to say this but it looks like Boras might have the upper hand here if the Yankees really want Damon back. I would look at these other possibilities and the fact Gardner is the starter and just laugh. I would hold the line on a two-year deal for $20 million.
The question is can Boras find another team interested enough to pay it?
Cashman seems to be banking that he won’t and is waiting Damon out. However, I will not concede Damon is gone until I see he has signed elsewhere. Damon will just have to swallow his pride a bit and accept less money to play with a team with which he is a perfect fit.
His swing is suited for the park, he is perfect No. 2 hitter and he fits in well in the clubhouse. Hey, Rasheed Wallace took less money to play for the Celtics so he could have a chance to win another championship. Why can’t Johnny?
Oh, I know what the reason is now: Scott Boras. Maybe Damon should follow A-Rod’s lead and park his pitbull and negotiate with the Yankees himself. It couldn’t hurt.
I am just trying to get over the nightmare I had last night. I was dreaming about opening day and Paul Olden said: “Playing left field for the Yankees, Ryan Church.”

Nady Would Only Have Value To Yanks If Matsui Walks


The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 3: XAVIER NADY

The X-Man. The Forgotten Yankee.
I don’t doubt there are some Yankee fans who did not know he was still on the 40-man roster. But Xavier Nady remains one of the most intriguing free agents the Yankees have to decide upon this winter.
For one thing, Nady was obtained ostensibly to provide right-hand power to the Yankees when he was acquired along with Damaso Marte from the Pirates in 2008. I would say that Nady delivered on that. 
In 2008, Nady had one of his best major-league seasons, hitting a career-best .305 with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs combined between Pittsburgh and New York. It was this breakout season that allowed General Manager Brian Cashman to let rightfielder Bobby Abreu walk and clear $16 million off the payroll.
Nady was supposed to be the replacement for Abreu in right as spring training approached. Then, after Mark Teixeira was signed to 10-year free-agent contract to play first base, Nick Swisher was thrust into a potential platoon in rightfield with Nady.
But Swisher lost even a part-time job in spring training to Nady and the X-Man was primed for a big season batting sixth in the Yankees batting order. Unfortunately for Nady, his season lasted for just seven games and 28 at-bats.
Making a throw from rightfield at Tropicana Field on April 14, Nady felt a pop in his right elbow. Because he had previous surgery on the same elbow, Nady knew exactly what it meant when he came out of the game: He had torn a ligament again.
However, Nady did not immediately undergo Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He elected to try to rehabilitate the elbow through rest and therapy. He did it because he thought he could possibly help the Yankees in the playoff chase down the stretch and he wanted to be a part of it.
He did this realizing that if the rehab program failed his value as a free agent would plummet because the surgery and subsequent work to get the elbow in shape would take more than a year and that would mean he would not be able to begin the season with any team.
As an indication on how unlucky Nady could possibly be that is exactly what happened to him. In a rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton, Nady felt pain in the arm and immediately left the field knowing he had to make a date with a surgeon for his second Tommy John surgery.
The thought immediately among Yankee fans was that Nady’s stint with the Yankees is over. Nady just turned 31 and he has played in five full major-league seasons and parts of three others. He has 87 home runs and is a career .280 hitter.
But out of Nady’s misfortune Swisher emerged at the team’s rightfielder and he pleased the team with a wonderful comeback season in 2009. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 82 runs in batting .249. But the low ba
tting average was misleading, Swisher drew 97 walks and had an on-base percentage of .371.
This was coming on the heels of a season where he hit 24 home runs and drove 69 runs but hit an atrocious .219 for the Chicago White Sox. Cashman saw enough in Swisher to trade infield reserve Wilson Betemit to the Chisox for him. 
That trade ended up being one of the “steals” of the 2009 season. Betemit hardly played with the White Sox and eventually was shipped to the minor leagues. Swisher simply saved the Yankees’ season when he replaced Nady as the team’s regular rightfielder.
But now does Cashman bring back Nady? Does he even make him an offer?
The answer to this question is tricky for the Yankees. One of the reasons is because the Yankees have two other veteran outfielders on the free-agent market: Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. You add Nady to this pair and this could be some team’s starting outfield in 2010 and it would be a real good one.
The other aspect that makes a decision on Nady tricky is because the top free agents available this winter include outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Both will be seeking big money and there are teams out there willing to pay it.
That makes Nady a nice little bargain for a small market team who can’t afford Holliday or Bay and are willing to wait out his rehab period. For teams looking beyond 2010, Nady could be a nice pickup as protection for a team that has only one big longball threat. He also would have value particularly with American League clubs who could afford to let him DH when he is able to play in 2010.
I would caution Cashman to be very careful before making an arbitrary decision to cut Nady loose. I would not do it unless I had decided to re-sign Matsui. 
Here is the reason why: There is only one player on the Yankees’ current roster who can bat fifth behind Alex Rodriguez and hit more 20 home runs, drive in 100 runs and hit .290.  That is Matsui. But, if the decision has been made to let Matsui walk, the Yankees should consider signing Nady as a cheaper alternative.
If they don’t they will have to rely on Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano or Swisher to “protect” A-Rod. OK, let’s say you are a major-league pitcher. Would you be more likely to pitch to A-Rod knowing Matsui or Nady is on deck? Or would you tend to pitch around A-Rod to face Posada, Cano or Swisher?
See my point.
Nady’s value to the Yankees will go up if Matsui leaves as a free agent. He still could be a bargain pickup even with Matsui on the roster. But the Yankees will have much less of a need for Nady with Matsui back.
But give Nady credit for loyalty to the Yankees. The question is should Cashman reward it? I say he should if Matsui is allowed to sign elsewhere. I think Nady’s bat still has some pop and he can be a valuable addition to any team he signs with.
The X-Man looks to be ready for a comeback and he really deserves it after his luckless 2009.

Swisher Yankees’ Unsung Hero in 2009


RIGHT FIELD


NICK SWISHER – Age 28

Nick Swisher was the unsung hero for the Yankees in 2009.
If general manager Brian Cashman should win the Executive of the Year Award this season it may not be for the signing of free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira alone. He might be for the trade of backup infielder Wilson Betemit to the Chicago White Sox for Nick Swisher.
Betemit played in only 20 games for the White Sox with just 45 at-bats before he was outrighted to Triple A Charlotte on June 13 and he did not return to the majors. 
Swisher, who originally was ticketed to replace Jason Giambi at first base when he was acquired, was left without a position when the Yankees signed Teixeira. But Swisher was handed rightfield when Xavier Nady tore a ligament in his right elbow on April 14 and Swisher stepped right in for the Yankees.
In his previous three seasons, Swisher averaged 25 home runs, 85 RBIs and batted .245. But the White Sox decided to trade him after he hit 24 home runs, drove in 69 runs and hit a woeful .219 in 2008. That proved to be a big mistake.
Swisher carried the team’s offense in April with Alex Rodriguez recovering from hip surgery and Teixeira experiencing another awful start. Swisher contributed seven home runs, 19 RBIs and hit .303 in April.
Though he eventually cooled, Swisher continued to provide power and production in the eighth spot in the order. In the first half, Swisher hit 14 home runs, drove in 47 runs and hit .234. But the .234 average is misleading. 
Swisher drew 53 walks in the first half and that raised his OBP to .358. Combined with his power and run production, you have a pretty valuable player. He also was one of the few Yankees who actually hit better on the road.
In 2009, Swisher hit 21 home runs, had 55 RBIs and hit .266 on the road. That was pretty valuable for the Yankees also.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Swisher kept it up in the second half and actually he hit better overall in the second half with 15 homers, 35 RBIs and a .263 average.
His season numbers, considering he was originally thought of as a bench player in 2009, were excellent: 29 home runs, 82 RBIs and a .249 average with a .371 OBP and 97 walks. Swisher’s ability to grind out tough at-bats and being selective at the plate made him probably the most underrated contributor in this lineup.
Swisher will never draw any comparisons to Roberto Clemente or Ichiro in rightfield. Swisher is pretty slow and not very instinctive as an outfielder. He also can be erratic with his throws from the outfield.
But Swisher was also the most improved fielder on this team in the second half. Though Swisher ended up with five errors, most of those came in the first half. Swisher made far fewer mental mistakes and showed better range in rightfield in the second half. He also learned the value of hitting the cutoff man more often in the second half.
The result was a more than adequate rightfielder in the field.
Swisher’s value in the clubhouse also has been valuable. It is hard to measure that but Swisher’s upbeat, free-spirited mood has lightened the air on what has been a stuffy and stodgy Yankee clubhouse the past few years.
Swisher has kept the Yankees loose and still allowed them to focus on their goal of returning to the playoffs. 
I gave Swisher a C for his first half production. Because he picked it up in the second half and even hit better at home, I have to give him a B- for the second half. I would give him an overall grade of B- for his ability to turn it up a notch in the second half.
He may be the most underrated player on the roster. Swisher’s value is more than even statistics can show. 
MID-SEASON POSITION GRADE: B-
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C



Swisher Makes Up For Loss of Nady

RIGHT FIELD


NICK SWISHER – Age 28


Nick Swisher was an unexpected Yankee contributor this season. 
Originally acquired as a first baseman, Swisher lost his starting position when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira as a free agent. Swisher’s only hope to start was as a rightfielder and he lost that battle in spring training to Xavier Nady.
So the fact that Swisher became a starter so quickly was one surprise. The fact that he practically carried the team in the absence of Alex Rodriguez and despite the sluggish start by Teixeira was even more shocking.
Over the past three seasons, Swisher did average 27 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .245 average. However, Swisher was coming off a horrendous season after being traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago White Sox. He had 24 home runs and 69 RBIs but batted a woeful .219.
The Yankees, however, liked the fact that Swisher drew a lot of walks (An average of 93 the past three seasons). 
So Swisher was, in a sense, replacing first baseman Jason Giambi, another power hitter with a low batting average and high walk total the Yankees were letting go as a free agent.
Swisher became a full-time starter when on April 14, Nady felt a twinge in his previously surgically repaired right elbow and was placed on the disabled list. After a few months attempting to rejoin the team this season, Nady had a setback and will now have to undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and miss 10 to 12 months.
Swisher luckily was there to fill the void for Nady. It was his hot April, though, that kept the Yankees afloat. He hit .312 for the month with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. Girardi handed him the job as the starter in right field and Swisher responded.
Unfortunately, Swisher soon came back to Earth. His batting average reached a low of .222 on May 26. The strikeouts mounted too. Swisher whiffed 29 times in 80 at-bats in May. Manager Joe Girardi has stuck with Swisher, though, because he is still drawing walks. He has 53 walks and his on-base percentage is a respectable. 360.
He also is a switch-hitter but he is a much better hitter from the left side (.240 and 11 home runs) than he is from the right (.222 and 3 home runs).
He has 14 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .237 average. Not exactly the big numbers the Yankees were hoping from Nady, but close enough to have made a difference in keeping the Yankees in the race in the American League East.
Swisher’s defense is quite another story. He is not exactly akin to a gazelle in rightfield. His range is just adequate and, though he has a strong arm, his throws can be very erratic. Swisher has committed four errors and has just one outfield assist.
Swisher is just not a very instinctive outfielder and is prone to taking the wrong route to the ball. But he does make up for his sloppy play with all-out hustle. Sometimes he will make a good catch on shear effort alone.
Girardi has, of late, been switching up his outfield by using Melky Cabrera to rest Damon in leftfield and Swisher in rightfield. This allows Girardi to start centerfielder Brett Gardner, who does not have Swisher or Damon’s power but adds speed to the lineup.
Girardi also can use newly acquired reserve Eric Hinske to play rightfield or leftfield. Hinske also adds power from the left side.
But Swisher’s value to the Yankees besides his hot April has been an intangible: He simply is very different from any player the Yankees have had in recent years, He simply is a free-spirit and fun-loving guy and Girardi credits him with loosening up a formerly businesslike Yankees clubhouse.
That contribution is harder to measure but given the Yankees record at the mid-point it appears to be something very real.
I give Swisher a midseason grade of C. His batting average and defensive deficiencies are the two reasons why he is rated so low.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C

A-Rod Powers Yankees’ Seventh Straight Victory

YANKEES 4, MARINERS 2


It seems like a simple formula: Get good pitching, hit several home runs and have the best closer in major-league history wrap it up.
Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees have been following that script lately and the Seattle Mariners fell prey to it Wednesday night in a 4-2 defeat at the new Yankee Stadium. The victory was the seventh straight for the Yankees and placed them 13 games over .500 for the the first time this season.
Crafty veteran lefthanders Andy Pettitte and Jarrod Washburn were locked in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel for seven innings. Both were working as if they were double-parked on Rivers Avenue.
The game was actually tied at 1 and at 2 until the bottom of the sixth inning. Mark Teixeira opened the frame with a single to left past the dive of third baseman Chris Woodward. Washburn, faced with the prospect of possibly having to face Jorge Posada with two on and nobody out if he pitched around A-Rod, decided instead to pitch to the slugger.
But Washburn’s 0-1 pitch caught too much of the plate and Rodriguez launched it to dead centerfield and it landed in Monument Park to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead, finally one margin they would not squander.
Rodriguez, since he was forced to not start two games against the Florida Marlins, has been on a batting tear since then. From June 21 through Wednesday night, A-Rod is 11 for 31 (.355) with 4 home runs and 15 RBIs. He also is gaining his old respect back from opposing pitchers. He has been walked 10 times during that span and twice intentionally.

“There’s no question I feel more energetic,” Rodriguez told MLB.com.

Pettitte (8-3) is also feeling better, coming off what was his worst start of the season on June 25 in Atlanta. Pettitte, staked to an 8-1 lead on the Braves, was unable to hold it and left after 3 2/3 innings barely clinging to an 8-6 margin.

But he was much better Wednesday night, showing of a command of all of his pitches. In seven innings of work Pettitte gave up six hits, a walk and two runs while fanning five. He was plagued by the Mariners answering Yankees runs with tallies of their own.

Johnny Damon started off the scoring with one out in the third inning when he rocked Washburn on a line-drive blast to rightfield for his 15th home run of the season. The most home runs Damon has ever hit in a season was 24 in 2008, his first season with the Yankees.

The M’s scrapped back the next inning when Jose Lopez stroked a double to the gap in left-center. After Ken Griffey Jr. flied out to deep center to advance Lopez to third, Pettitte walked Franklin Guiterrez on four pitches to set up a potential double play.

But Teixeira bobbled Wladimir Balentien’s grounder and had to settle for a force of Guiierrez at second. The bobble allowed Lopez to score the tying run.

The Yankees regained the lead in the fifth inning. With one out Melky Cabrera blasted a 3-2 Washburn fastball high down the line in leftfield. Because the shot went over the foul pole it was hard to determine if it was a home run. 

Third base umpire Ron Kulpa immediately signaled home run. But before Mariners manager Don Wakumatsu could even begin to gather his voice to argue the call, home plate umpire Dale Scott said the crew would review the call by instant replay.

“I really didn’t think there was any way they would overturn it,” Washburn said to MLB. com. “From my angle, I couldn’t really see it that good. It was over the pole, so the replay probably wouldn’t show fair or foul that clear. I didn’t have my hopes up that it would be overturned.”

The umpiring crew emerged after 2 minutes and 25 seconds to confirm it was a home run.
It took a similar amount of time, it seemed, for the M’s to tie the game back up. Pettitte grooved a first-pitch fastball to Griffey Jr. with two outs in the sixth inning and the future Hall-of-Famer blasted it out to right field. 

“That would have hurt if we hadn’t been able to score,” Pettitte said. “It was the sixth inning, and I was too aggressive.”

A-Rod’s heroics in the bottom of inning had indeed saved Pettitte and the Yankees. However, A-Rod had also hit a two-run home run a night before that had given the Yankees a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning only to have reliever Brian Bruney cough it up in eighth inning.

On this night there would be no more Mariners comebacks. Pettitte pitched a perfect 12-pitch seventh inning and manager Joe Girardi overlooked Bruney and went to situational relievers Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke in the eighth.

Aceves retired right-hander Ronny Cedeno and Coke came in to get out lefties Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Branyan to complete a perfect eighth inning. Girardi successfully navigated the eighth with mix-and-match pieces of a bridge to Mariano Rivera.

Rivera came on in the ninth inning and recorded a save in his third consecutive game, his 20th of the season and No. 502 of his career. He pitched a perfect ninth on 15 pitches to give Pettitte the victory.

“It’s nice to pitch good here,” Pettitte said to MLB.com. “I know I hadn’t been pitching well here. I want to pitch good here. I want to make the team happy and the fans happy, and myself happy a little bit.”

The Yankees should be very happy after seven straight victories. They remain 2 1/2 half games in back of the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox, who rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 in 10 innings.

The Tampa Bay Rays are in third place 5 games out.

The Yankees will now go for a sweep of the three-game series with the Mariners. They will send their ace left CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.55 ERA) to the hill. Sabathia is coming off a dominating seven-inning, three-hit, one-run performance to beat the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Sabathia will be opposed by fellow lefty Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.79 ERA) will make his first career start against the Yankees. He has been susceptible to the longball lately. Of the nine home runs he has surrendered, four have come to lefties. That does not bode well for a start in Yankee Stadium.

Gametime is at 7:05 p.m. EDT.

NOTES . . . The Yankees officially placed newly acquired reserve infielder Eric Hinske on the roster. He selected uniform number 14. To make room on the roster for Hinske, the Yankees sent infielder Ramiro Pena back to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre with orders for him to learn to play the outfield. They envision Pena as a supersub who can play seven positions for them in the future. Pena, 23, hit .267 in his stint with the Yankees and made just three errors in 46 games in playing at second, third and short . . . The Yankees told MLB.com that Xavier Nady will undergo Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow next Wednesday. He will miss the rest of the season. Nady injured the elbow April 14 and had elected to put off surgery in order to rehab the elbow so he could play this season. But Nady recently walked off the field in the fifth inning of a game with Scranton with pain in the elbow. It is expected that he will need 10-12 months to recover. His contract with the Yankees expires after this season . . .  When A-Rod connected with his 566th home run of his career Wednesday night after Griffey had hit his 621st, the Elias Sport Bureau announced that it was the first time in 38 seasons that two players with more 550 home runs had hit home runs in the same game. The tandem to do it in 1971 was Hank Aaron (No. 603) and Wil
lie Mays (No. 633).

CC Shows Teammates, Mets He’s Just Fine

YANKEES 9, METS 1


Manager Joe Girardi was nervous about CC Sabathia before his start against the New York Mets on Friday night.
But it did not take him long to relax as Sabathia baffled the Mets for seven strong innings and he even added a run-scoring single as the New York Yankees routed their injury-depleted crosstown rivals 9-1 in the first Subway Series game to be played at Citi Field.
Sabathia had lasted only 1 1/3 innings and 28 pitches in his last outing against the Florida Marlins before Jorge Posada insisted their was something wrong with the ace lefty. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he had some tendinitis in left bicep and Girardi was unsure how Sabathia would pitch on Friday.
He need not have worried a bit.
Sabathia threw four perfect innings at the Mets and only faltered in the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff home run to former Yankee Gary Sheffield and singles to Fernando Tatis and rookie Nick Evans before ending the threat with strikeouts of Omir Santos and pinch-hitter Argenis Reyes.
The Mets did not get a hit the rest of the evening.
Sabathia (8-4) went seven innings, giving up just the three hits, no walks and struck out eight batters. Veteran righthander Brett Tomko pitched a pair of scoreless and hitless innings to finish the game.
“You never want to come out of the game or miss a start and put that kind of stress on the bullpen, but I definitely felt a lot better today,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “The ball was coming out free and easy, so I have to say it was kind of like a blessing in disguise.”

The Yankees also are riding a wave of offense that has seen the team score 28 runs in their last three games following a stretch where the team scored just 18 runs in the previous seven games, two of those games they were shut out.
On Friday their victim was Mike Pelfrey (5-3). However, Pelfrey was also done in by some really shaky defense that helped contribute to a four-run Yankees outburst in the second inning. Only two of the runs were earned.
Melky Cabrera opened the inning with a swinging bunt that sent a ball bounding slowly towards third, David Wright fielded the ball but threw the ball past Evans at first, allowing Cabrera to advance to second. 
After one out, Ramiro Pena, subbing for an ill Derek Jeter, flicked a double down the leftfield line to score Cabrera. Sabathia, in his first at-bat of the season, then sent the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single to score Pena.
But the Mets, who have been plagued all season by injuries to starters such as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado, were not finished playing hot potato with the baseball. Shortstop Alex Cora threw the ball past second baseman Luis Castillo on a force attempt that scored Sabathia.
Evans then inexplicably kicked an easy grounder off the bat of Mark Teixeira that allowed Brett Gardner to score, giving Sabathia an easy cushion the rest of the way.
Pelfrey did manage to settle down after the second inning to retire 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. But manager Jerry Manuel was forced to pinch-hit for him in the fifth inning and the Yankees took out the lumber to a very shaky Mets bullpen in the final two innings.
Gardner, who ended the game with a career-best five hits, three runs scored and two RBI, started the inning that put the Mets away for good with a home run off Elmer Dessens down the right field line, his third homer of the season.
Following a one-out walk to Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez drove the first Dessens offering into right-center for a two-run home run, the 564th of his career to pass former Yankee legend Reggie Jackson — who was at the game — for 11th place on the all-time home run list.

“It’s nice — it feels good,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “And the fact that he’s here is also very nice. It’s good to win another game and play like we expect.”

The Yankees added two runs in the ninth off Mets lefty Sean Green with an RBI triple from Gardner and single from Johnny Damon to score Gardner with Yankees ninth run of the night.
“I just got lucky the first couple at-bats, got some balls to fall in,” Gardner told MLB.com. “Then I managed to take advantage of some pitches to hit later in the game.”

The Yankees managed to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The victory kept them four games behind Boston, who also won on Friday. The Blue Jays also won to stay 1 game in back of the Yankees in third place in the division.
The Yankees have now won three of four games in the Subway Series and they will need only a victory on Saturday or Sunday to claim their first season series win over the Mets since 2003. To help accomplish that feat the Yankees will send righty A.J. Burnett (5-4, 4.24 ERA) to the mound on Saturday.
Burnett pitched well in his last outing against the Florida Marlins, allowing just one in 6 1/3 innings and he struck out eight batters, but he lost the game to Josh Johnson by a 2-1 score. He shut out the Mets over seven innings in a 15-0 drubbing on June 14.
Burnett’s opponent will be Tim Redding (1-2, 6.08 ERA), who pitched into the eighth inning his last time out to earn his first victory of the season. 
Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Jeter missed his first career contest versus the Mets on what was also his 35th birthday. Jeter was afflicted with a hacking cough as part of the same flu bug that shelved Melky Cabrera on Thursday night. Jeter is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game also . . . In addition to Jeter, the Yankees also were not playing with starters Jorge Posads and Nick Swisher. Posada was just given the night off so that catcher Francisco Cervelli could work with Sabathia. Swisher was just held out in order to let Gardner start and bat leadoff in place of Jeter. Swisher did enter the game in the ninth inning at first base to replace Teixeira . . . It is bad news for outfielder Xavier Nady, who was on a rehab assignment at Scranton-Wilkes Barre for a slight tear in a ligament in his right elbow. Nady felt pain while making a throw Thursday night and walked off the field
in the fifth inning. It appears Nady is headed for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and he is likely to miss 12 months. The outfielder, acquired from Pittsburgh last July, has been sidelined since hurting the elbow on April 14 at Tampa Bay. He is scheduled to be re-examined on Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yokum in Los Angeles. His contract with the Yankees expires at the end of the season . . . Gardner’s career-best five hits raised his average from .281 to .302. He is leading all American League rookies in stolen bases with 17 though his is not considered a starter.
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