8 Keys to the Yankees' Offense Staying Afloat Without Mark Teixeira
It's now looking like that play could rob Teixeira of the rest of his season.
As reported by Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, Teixeira aggravated an injury to his left calf when he busted down the line in the ninth inning on Saturday night. Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted that there is some concern that Teixeira will be lost for the rest of the regular season, and the Yankees passed along word on Twitter on Monday that Teixeira will be out for at least the next 10 days:
MRI on @teixeiramark25 showed irritation of his Grade 1 left calf strain. He is expected to be unavailable to play for 10-14 days.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 10, 2012
It goes without saying that the Yankees were hoping for a more favorable outcome. Teixeira is not the player he once was, but he still has plenty of power and he's still one of the best defensive first basemen in the business.
Replacing Teixeira's defense is next to impossible, but replacing his offense won't be too difficult if certain things go right for the Yankees.
Here's a look at eight things that will keep the Yankees' offense going as long as Teixeira is out.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Teixeira's Replacements Need to Do Whatever They Can
The Yankees would obviously prefer to have Teixeira at first base for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs (if they get there), but the good news for them is that they have some solid options to fill the void as long as Teixeira is out.
The first man out of the gate in place of Teixeira on Sunday was Steve Pearce (pictured), who has seen time with three organizations this year. He collected an RBI on a bases-loaded walk. On Friday, Pearce showed off his power in the form of a two-run home run.
Pearce is going to get playing time against lefty pitchers, but it's a good bet that Girardi will give the bulk of the playing time at first base to Nick Swisher.
Swisher is more than capable of holding his own at first base, but he's better hitter when he plays right field. He has a .794 OPS as a right fielder this season, and a .734 OPS as a first baseman.
Since they don't have much of a choice, the Yankees will gladly take a .734 OPS from Swisher if he is used as their primary first baseman the rest of the way. They'll take whatever production they can get from Pearce as well, especially if it's powerful production.
Regardless of who is at first base in Teixeira's stead on a given day, nobody should be under any pressure to hit exactly like Teixeira. Production like that should be viewed as a bonus, not as a given.
Making up for Teixeira's lost production will be less of an individual effort and more of a collective effort. Everyone will have to pitch in, including a trio of hitters who haven't pitched in much of anything lately.
Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez Need to Step Up
There was a time not too long ago when the Yankees could actually rely on Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez to give them some quality at-bats, not to mention a few hits and a few runs here and there.
If it feels like we're talking about ancient history, that's because Chavez, Jones and Ibanez really have been that bad recently.
Since the middle of August, Chavez is a .191/.250/.191 hitter who has collected zero extra-base hits and just two RBI over his last 20 games.
Since the first of August, Jones is hitting .140/.242/.211 with a single home run and four RBI in 21 games.
Ibanez, meanwhile, is a .164/.265/.288 hitter with one homer and eight RBI since the first of August.
The Yankees were getting good production at the bottom of their lineup from these three guys earlier in the season, but right now they're obliging all those who said that they were too old to keep it up until the end of the season. Chavez, Jones and Ibanez have become liabilities.
Since all three of them are likely to see a little extra playing time if Teixeira is done for the rest of the season, the Yankees need them to find a second wind.
If they do, the bottom of the Yankees' batting order will once again be a minefield for opposing pitchers.
Curtis Granderson Needs to Be a More Consistent Power Supply
Curtis Granderson had his best game in a long time on Sunday, collecting three hits and five RBI, and he wasn't even in the starting lineup when the day began.
And for good reason. Granderson went into Sunday's game hitting .200/.263/.416 since the All-Star break. He hit under .200 in August with 31 strikeouts in 97 at-bats.
The home runs have been there, mind you. Granderson hit six in August and has 12 total since the All-Star break. What's changed for Granderson is that there's basically been a whole lot of nothing in between home runs.
Granderson's slump forced Girardi to remove him from the No. 2 spot in his lineup in early August, and Granderson has been bouncing around ever since. The Yankees' lineup itself has been just as inconsistent over the last month or so as Grandersons place in it.
So needless to say, Granderson's performance on Sunday is a good sign. The Yankees have an excuse to cross their fingers and hope that he's finally back.
If he is, Girardi could choose to move Granderson back up to the No. 2 spot in his lineup, thus freeing up Nick Swisher to move down to the middle of the order.
It's either that, or Girardi could use Granderson in the middle of the order, perhaps as protection for Robinson Cano. That's an area where he could fill in for Teixeira, as protecting Cano in the Yankees' batting order has typically been his job this season.
One thing that's for sure is that somebody has to protect Cano. And that leads us to our next point...
Somebody Needs to Protect Robinson Cano
There's been plenty of variation throughout the course of the season, but Girardi has tended to use Teixeira to protect Cano. When Cano has hit third, Teixeira has hit fourth. When Cano has hit fourth, Teixeira has hit fifth. And so on.
With Teixeira out of the picture on Sunday, Girardi slotted Cano into the cleanup spot and penciled in Russell Martin as his No. 5 hitter. This ended up working out perfectly, as Cano and Martin both collected a pair of hits and an RBI apiece.
We may see Girardi take an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the Cano-Martin tandem when the Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, but my guess is that he's going to play the matchups to the best of his ability when it comes to choosing a protector for Cano. He could also choose to move Swisher down in the lineup, or stash Granderson behind Cano.
The possibilities are endless, really. Girardi has a ton of cards, and it's up to him to play them right.
Finding the right protector for Cano is imperative because Cano is hands down the best offensive player the Yankees have this season. His batting average may not be as high as Derek Jeter's, but he's among the league leaders in slugging and OPS. In addition, Cano is right there with Josh Hamilton in weighted runs created plus (wRC+), according to FanGraphs.
If he continues to produce in Teixeira's absences, the Yankees will be able to avoid total catastrophe.
Of course, it will help if Alex Rodriguez produces as well.
Alex Rodriguez Needs to Keep Doing What He's Doing
Alex Rodriguez has been better than expected since the Yankees activated him off the disabled list earlier this month.
In seven games, A-Rod has a .308 batting average to go along with a pair of home runs and six RBI. He was 6-for-14 against the O's over the last four days.
A-Rod's recent production is doubly important because it looks like it could be him who is going to protect Cano in the Yankees' lineup going forward. Girardi has experimented with using A-Rod in the cleanup spot and Cano in the No. 3 hole, and the results have been encouraging enough to support the continuation of this little experiment.
Still, you just never know with A-Rod. He hasn't been a disaster this season, but you never know when his power is going to disappear entirely. You also never know when he's going to be able to do his job with runners in scoring position, as clutch hits have been few and far between for him this season.
These are complaints that have already been voiced about a million times this season. Judging from how A-Rod has performed since he's been back, he's sick of hearing them.
So far, so good. All he has to do is keep it up.
Derek Jeter Needs to Keep Doing What He's Doing as Well
Derek Jeter leads baseball in hits, and he ranks third in the American League with a .324 batting average. After a minor slump in late August and early September, Jeter has rebounded to go 14 for his last 28, an even .500 batting average.
Right then. Carry on, Mr. Jeter.
Can't Be Afraid to Push the Envelope
We can talk about lineup variations and which role players need to step up all we want, but one thing that is true regardless about this particular Yankees' offense is that it's at its best when it's hitting the ball out of the park.
On a surface level, the Yankees have excelled at this in 2012, as they lead all of baseball with 210 home runs.
Since the All-Star break, however, the Yankees are actually tied for third in baseball in home runs. They're still hitting them in bunches, sure, but not quite as frequently as they were in the first half of the season.
This is part of the reason why the Yankees' offense has had its ups and downs since the break, and it's the main reason why losing Teixeira for the season would be such a big blow. He may be declining as an offensive force, but he still has plenty of power.
The Yankees aren't going to be able to replace Teixeira's lost power. They can, however, make up for it. All they have to do is add a little versatility to their offense.
Girardi is on record saying that he doesn't think "small ball" really suits the Yankees, but he does have the pieces to get creative if the Yankees need a run in a tight game. Derek Jeter is one of the most versatile hitters in either league, and he, Ichiro and Curtis Granderson are all capable of swiping the occasional base.
Chris Dickerson also has speed to spare, as he stole 17 bases in the minors this season and is now up to 178 career stolen bases in parts of 10 minor league seasons.
With guys like these in the mix, Girardi doesn't have to sit back and wait for a long ball if the Yankees need a run. He can force the issue if he wants to.
Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position
The Yankees are going to hit home runs, and they're going to score a few extra runs if they adopt a slightly more aggressive approach on offense.
But let's face it, the biggest problem with this Yankees offense is and always has been hitting with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees have a collective average of .253 with runners in scoring position this season, good for 17th out of 30 major league teams. Teixeira has done his part to keep this number low, posting a .235 average with runners in scoring position.
While the Yankees won't be able to replace Teixeira's power, replacing his production with runners in scoring position thus won't be all that difficult. If they hit better with runners in scoring position without Teixeira than they were with him, his absence won't have much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.
We're not talking about Teixeira's replacements (i.e. Swisher and Pearce) having to pitch in. We're talking about everyone having to pitch in. It's up to every hitter the Yankees have to make the team's offense less one-dimensional.
If the Yankees manage to pull it off, they'll be fine. They'll also have all the other contenders in the AL frightened, as the last thing any of them want to come across in October is a Yankees team that can hit home runs and hit with runners in scoring position.
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