• The Value Of “Bernie The RH-DH” In 2007

    Posted by on January 31st, 2007 · Comments (12)

    It’s been suggested that Bernie Williams could be a useful DH for the Yankees in 2007 – against left-handed pitching. Since Giambi struggles against LHP – maybe Bernie can be an asset in this role?

    The last 4 seasons, against right-handed pitching, Williams has been, basically, a .260-hitter with a slugging percentage near .400. Hence, no one is suggesting that he be allowed to face RH-pitchers with any frequency (at this point in his career).

    There is evidence to support the notion that Williams can be an effective batter against lefties. He hit them extremely well last season – and, he did a decent job against them in 2003 and 2004. (Bernie was a bust versus lefties in 2005 – but that now appears to be a fluky thing – considering 2003, 2004 and 2006.)

    But, here’s the rub: What’s the demand/need for a “Faces Lefties Only DH” in the American League these days?

    To answer that question, I turned to the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia to see how many good lefties are presently taking toe to the rubber in the Junior Circuit.

    First, I looked at AL LHP RSAA Leaders in 2006:

    LHPAL2006.jpg

    Since “0″ RSAA means a pitcher is average, there were only about a dozen “stand-out” LHP in the AL last season – and, since Barry Zito has left the league and Francisco Liriano will miss a lot of time this season, there are only 10 pitchers from this dozen who will be possibly pitching against the Yankees in 2007.

    How about AL LHP RSAA Leaders over the last three seasons combined? Here’s that list:

    LHPAL2004-06.jpg

    OK, so, maybe, based on this list, we can add Mark Buehrle and Gustavo Chacin to the list of 10 from the 2006 cut – bringing the total back up to a dozen tough LH-pitchers who live in the American League.

    Nine of these twelve pitchers are starting pitchers. It’s in starts against these guys where you would want Bernie in there (as opposed to, say, Giambi) as your DH this season. However, how many games would we really be talking about here? Maybe something like 16 games over the full season – where the Yankees may actually face these tough LH-starters? If it is 16 games, that’s less than 10% of the season.

    Is it worth carrying a player on your roster who will only be a beneficial impact to your team, as a starter, for less than 10% of the season? Sure, maybe it could be – if that player can also help you off the bench as well? If such a player could be used as a key defensive replacement and/or pinch runner, then he could be an asset to your team when he’s not starting.

    Now, we are talking about Bernie Williams – who (at this stage of his career) will not only “not help” you in the field or on the bases, but, he “will hurt” you if used in these situations.

    Therefore, Bernie Williams only use to the Yankees in 2007 would be to start as a DH in about 10% of the teams games. There has to be someone else who can be given that roster spot who will help the team in more games this season. Carrying Bernie Williams as a “Faces Only LHP” DH this season makes no sense.

    Comments on The Value Of “Bernie The RH-DH” In 2007

    1. January 31st, 2007 | 11:22 pm

      I suggested Bernie replace Phillips/Phelps at first and got eaten alive by bloggers. I thought it was a good idea because Phillips and Phelps aren’t going to be long term solutions for the club anyways so why not just stick a better hitter in there and let minky play all the defense. I guess Phillips makes sense over this.

    2. jonm
      January 31st, 2007 | 11:36 pm

      Great analysis, Steve. It seems definitive to me; you don’t even mention the fact that none of these lefties play for the Red Sox. Reyes’ season certainly slipped under the radar. Where have all the lefties gone?

      I hate to knock Bernie, but he should have somehow worked on improving his marginal value over the last couple of years. He could have learned to play 1B. He could have talked to some great pinch hitters of the past to learn about preparation. I don’t know. Bernie never had great baseball instincts; maybe he didn’t have it in him.

      Russell — I’m not sure that Bernie would outproduce Phelps.

    3. baileywalk
      January 31st, 2007 | 11:49 pm

      If the Yankees didn’t need a platoon at first — or if they didn’t bother picking up the nothing-special Minky — then Bernie would have a spot on the team. I’m surprised Bernie never gave first base a shot — I remember hearing that he would.

      Since Phelps is supposedly Giambi-like at first, if Bernie could play even an adequate first base, he’d probably be more valuable to the team.

      What would have made more sense? Re-signing Craig Wilson and keeping Bernie around to DH against tough lefties while Giambi sits, or signing the punchless Minky and keeping Phelps around for lefties?

      With Minky no longer the defender that he once was, I think I’d rather have Wilson/Bernie.

    4. jonm
      February 1st, 2007 | 12:07 am

      FWIW, here are Pecota projections of EqA for some players (EqA is an overall offensive stat scaled like batting average):

      Cabrera: .267
      Giambi: .322
      Phelps: .269
      Mientkiewicz: .253
      Phillips: .265
      Williams: .253
      Wilson: .267
      Guiel: .252

      Helton: .291
      Youkilis: .291
      Lowell: .265

    5. February 1st, 2007 | 12:17 am

      I never understood some of those PECOTA projections… they even said that Varitek was greater than Posada… as for Helton = Youkilis… hmm

    6. February 1st, 2007 | 12:35 am

      the whole reason there’s a platoon at 1b is bc Giambi is total liability. I really dont see Bernie transitioning well to 1b, especially when those rare games against lefties are few and far between.

      Both AP and DMint are very good glovemen. And even if Phelps wins the job, at least he’s had some amount of PT at 1b (AND catcher) – and is just 28 years old). Also, AP can sub in at 3b and 2b. Bernie knows only the OF, and we have the superior Melky in that spot already.

    7. baileywalk
      February 1st, 2007 | 2:44 am

      That’s a really good point about Andy’s versatility, Travis.

      What I said was really just an anti-Minky-signing thing. Giambi is the full-time DH now, so he’s not the reason we need a platoon at first — it’s because Minky can’t hit and isn’t much of an offensive player. If the Yankees’ first baseman could handle the bat then you wouldn’t need Phelps or Phillips and it would open up a roster spot — for Bernie or someone else.

    8. Gabe
      February 1st, 2007 | 10:15 am

      Steve,

      While I think you might be right (especially given the yankees weird 1b structure), I also think that your argument assumes that Bernie would only be more valuable against tough lefties. My guess is that the difference between him and Giambi would stand up across the board—i.e. he would also hit much better against the “bad” lefties, to say nothing for pinch hitting opportunities etc.

      That being said, I think you have a good point about the roster structure of the yankees, and bernie not being able to do much besides hit.

    9. David
      February 1st, 2007 | 12:56 pm

      If the Yanks want to rest Giambi against a tough lefty SP, a better option than Bernie at DH would be Melky in LF and Matsui at DH. Melky hits about as well as Bernie. Having him instead of Matsui in the field is a major plus.

      BTW how badly does Giambi do against lefties? Does someone have the breakdown?

    10. February 1st, 2007 | 1:29 pm

      ^ in this scenario, who would play 1b? AP?

      Giambi career .857 OPS vs. LHP. .995 OPS vs. RHP!

      but i think it’s been declining the last few years.

      vs. LHP
      .828 2006
      .882 2005
      .923 2004 (96 PA)
      .718 2003
      .926 2002

    11. February 1st, 2007 | 1:42 pm
    12. David
      February 1st, 2007 | 5:57 pm

      Travis — in my scenario, against a tough lefty SP, the Yanks’ right-handed first baseman (Phillips or Phelps) would play first. Thanks for the stats.

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