‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Jorge Posada delivered yet another important hit in his storied career Wednesday night. The Yankee icon drove a go-ahead two run single to right field that allowed New York to put a wrap on the American League East title.
It was a not-so-subtle reminder of Posada’s importance to the Bombers’ success over the past decade-plus capturing divisional, American League and World Series titles. Throughout the 2011 season, these moments became far rarer for Posada who can read the writing on the wall that his tenure as a Yankee is dwindling away.
Early last month, I wrote an article about why Jorge Posada should have been released by the Yankees when Joe Girardi decided to reduce the 40-year old to a pinch-hitting role. Has my opinion changed since that date? Yes, certainly but is it enough to sway my opinion to the point that I believe Posada belongs on the Yankees’ postseason roster? Let’s examine Posada’s case for playoff inclusion.
Given that it appeared that Girardi had lost all confidence in Posada and both Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez were performing well at the time, I don’t regret my words. Like any other sports columnist, I can only react to the evidence in front of me. Posada seemed certain not to make the Yankees’ postseason roster and without a defined role it looked as if he wouldn’t be given the chance to redeem himself.
When I penned the previously mentioned article, Chavez was hitting an impressive .310 with a .380 on-base percentage. Nunez was batting .279 and coming off a July where he had driven in a strong total of RBIs. Fast-forward to present day. Both Chavez and Nunez’s numbers have tailed off while Posada was able to find himself being given an increased amount of at-bats.
The averages of Chavez and Nunez have each fallen to the mark of .263. Nunez lends the Yankees more of a power bat and the ability to play three infield positions while Chavez is a much stronger fielder than Nunez at third base and also can play across the diamond at first barring a Mark Teixeira injury.
Batting .100 against lefties, Posada has no value from the right side of the plate so that helps Nunez’s cause. Posada has recorded all of his 13 home runs against right-handed pitchers from the left side of the dish and is batting .270 against RHPs. Against righties, Chavez has seen the majority of his at-bats and is hitting .262 with an OBP of .326. Posada not only has a higher average against right-handers but also better on-base percentage at .346.
Andruw Jones gives the Yankees a better designated hitter against LHPs than Nunez with a .283 average and 8 home runs against lefties. Jones also can be called upon to play leftfield if Brett Gardner’s struggles continue into the playoffs.
So basically, Posada and Jones give the Yankees the best DH options against right-handed and left-handed pitchers respectively. Although Posada doesn’t have any usefulness in the field, Joe Girardi should include him on his postseason roster because of his upgrade over Chavez against righties.
Where does this leave Chavez then? Well, Nunez can play all infield positions except for first base. Chavez is an excellent corner infielder but with Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira healthy, his only usefulness is as a pinch hitter. Nunez can serve backup for A-Rod, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter while Nick Swisher can be moved to first base in the event of a Teixeira injury. Unlike Chavez, Nunez hits equally well against southpaws and right-handed arms.
Unfortunately, this might make Chavez the odd man out if Girardi chooses to carry 13 batters on his ALDS roster. Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez, Nunez, Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Swisher, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson and Posada. That’s your 13 in my mind.
Why Dickerson? Well, he can serve as a defensive replacement for Swisher late in games and be used as a stolen base threat off the bench. I’m also choosing to leave off Jesus Montero because of his lack of experience. A poor postseason from Montero would hurt the confidence of a player the Yankees have long-term plans for and his .438 average against left-handed pitching in 16 at-bats isn’t a strong enough sample size to give him the edge over the playoff-experienced Jones.
Experience is also the reason I believe that Posada deserves one last hurrah by being added to the Yankees’ postseason roster. Redemption is a wonderful thing and Posada has done well enough to be Girardi’s designated hitter against right-handed pitchers. That combined with his track record of noteworthy playoff hits makes Posada’s inclusion an easy choice.
Yankee fans – Do you agree with Sean’s reasons for including Posada on the playoff roster? Who are the odd men out in your eyes? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.