Derek Jeter Injury: Is Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez a Better Replacement?
The New York Yankees' already-inept lineup took a big hit Saturday night in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, as Derek Jeter fractured his ankle going after a grounder up the middle in the 12th inning.
BREAKING: Joe Girardi says Derek Jeter has a fractured ankle and is done for the season. #Yankees— Steve Berthiaume (@SBerthiaumeESPN) October 14, 2012
Watching the Yankees offense this postseason has been, in a word, agonizing. Even with Jeter in the lineup, the Bronx Bombers haven't been able to get anything going with the exception of Raul Ibanez's late-inning heroics.
Jeter has been a bright spot, going 9-for-27 with a double and triple in six postseason games prior to the injury.
Now, with Jeter done for the rest of the year, the Yankees will have to hand the shortstop position over to duo of Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez.
Nunez, who was originally left off the ALCS roster, is expected to be added before the start of Game 2, according to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.
Based on experience alone, I would expect Nix to get the first crack at the job with manager Joe Girardi evaluating the platoon on a game-to-game basis.
As the Yankees prepare for life without Jeter, let's take a closer look at who would be the better fit, offensively and defensively, for the remainder of the postseason.
What Jayson Nix Brings
The 30-year-old Nix has carved out a nice career for himself as a versatile utility player, but he doesn't add much with the bat. If he did, he wouldn't have been sitting on the bench.
Nix was a better hitter against left-handed pitching this season. He posted a .255/.318/.408 slash line in 98 at-bats against southpaws, compared to a .228/.291/.354 line in 79 at-bats against righties.
Those are very small sample sizes to judge a player by, but looking at Nix's three-year splits (via ESPN), they are roughly in line with what he usually does. From 2009-11, he hit .248/.313/.424 against lefties and .203/.264/.350 against righties.
It's clear that Nix is not a lefty killer, but if you are going to start him against anyone, you would probably be better served using his bat against southpaws.
Defensively, Nix is a third baseman who the Yankees mask as a passable shortstop. He played 134 innings at shortstop this season, and according to Fangraphs' defensive ratings, did not do well when he was out there.
Using the Defensive Runs Saved stat, Nix was -2 this season. His Ultimate Zone Rating was -2.3, which translates to -26.2 when spread out over 150 games.
Now, contrary to what Yankees fans would have you believe, Jeter is not a wizard with the glove. He has no lateral range, particularly to his left, so it's not like the Yankees will be losing a lot, if anything, with Nix at shortstop.
What Eduardo Nunez Brings
Nunez is basically a better version of Nix, with the advantage of being five years younger and a better athlete.
Looking at his splits this season, Nunez hit .360/.400/.460 in 50 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season. He was abysmal against righties, however, posting a .205/.244/.308 line in just 39 at-bats.
Going over his splits since coming to the big leagues, Nunez has hit .289/.332/.436 in 188 at-bats against southpaws and .254/.308/.346 in 260 at-bats against righties.
Out on the field, Nunez is much more capable of handling shortstop than Nix, though he is far from a Gold Glover. In 116 innings at the position, his Ultimate Zone Rating (per Fangraphs) was -1.1. Stretched out to 150 games, that amounts to -12.9.
Looking at Defensive Runs Saved, Nunez was at -1 this season and -11 for his career. Again, it is not a great endorsement of Nunez at the position, but he has been more adept than Nix going by the numbers.
Who should start at shortstop for the Yankees?
Since Girardi favors veteran players over youngsters, I would not be shocked at all to see Nix starting for at least one game. But going over the numbers, and looking at potential upside, Nunez is a better bet to bring some value.
Neither player can handle the bat as well as Jeter, obviously, so the Yankees have to focus more on who will add more with the glove and consider anything they get offensively a bonus.
Nunez has proven to be a decent hitter against lefties—using the standard for an average major league shortstop, he is very good—so he would be the better fit for the Yankees in this situation.
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