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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Barra: Yogi Berra Likes Eduardo Nunez; The Yankees Should Listen to Yogi Berra

I once found a mucin-jazzed splooge in a box of Stove Top stuffing…and that’s the last time I’ll listen to Yogi Berra.

This morning Yogi is being widely quoted as saying “They [the Yankees] better find a way to get that kid 500 at-bats.” “The kid” is Eduardo Nunez, and at 25 years old and after putting together parts of three seasons for the Yankees, he isn’t really a kid any more. But I understand what Yogi is saying.

Last year in 38 games and 100 plate appearances, Nunez hit .292 with an almost respectable OBP of .330 and an even more nearly respectable slugging percentage of .393. He’s not a great hitter, but he seems to be getting better. His power is moderate but promising. In 491 major league at-bats, he has seven home runs and 23 doubles.

He’s valuable in other small ways, too. He grounded into just one double play last year, and he has terrific speed. For his career, he’s stolen 38 bases in 46 attempts, and last year he was 11 of 13.

His problem, of course, is fielding. No matter how hard I try to twist the stats, I can’t make a case that he’s a good fielder at either shortstop or third base. (He’s played 18 game at second base but with Robby Cano there that position would seem to be a most point.) Still, you think that some sort of intensive remedial postseason fielding clinic would be in order to prepare him as a backup for Derek Jeter (who is, after all, 38 this year and is going to need relief in the late innings) or even to play third base, where he is probably a better hitter than Kevin Youkilis.

Still, for all his shortcomings on the left side of the infield, Nunez’s chances per nine innings over the last three years has been just about the same as Jeter’s—a shade over 3.7 chances per nine innings—and even though he hasn’t gotten to as many ground balls on average as Youklis over the last three seasons, remember that Nunez is in his physical prime right now while Youklis, at 34, will probably be fading.

All in all, the Yankees have little to lose by giving Nunez more of a shot—if nothing else, letting him play regularly while Jeter and Youklis take turns at DH-ing, or something like that.

Repoz Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:51 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. Leroy Kincaid Posted: February 23, 2013 at 08:54 AM (#4374514)
Didn't he also like Dale Berra?
   2. Blastin Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:26 AM (#4374523)
On my Baseball Mogul game, Nunez does eventually become a pretty good hitter, BABIPing his way to a few 880 OPS seasons. But he's also holding down a nice -4.5 dWAR per year with 50 errors.

Clearly the science of my random singular computer simulation doesn't mean much but I still think it's funny. I think he could have some solid hitting seasons but we'll yearn for Jeter if we have to watch him as the primary SS. Yes, yearn for Jeter.
   3. Koot Posted: February 23, 2013 at 09:43 AM (#4374526)
His problem, of course, is fielding. No matter how hard I try to twist the stats, I can’t make a case that he’s a good fielder at either shortstop or third base.


When did having a good fielder at short become something the Yankees cared about?
   4. micker17 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4374533)
Nunez can hit; I would expect him to bat .300 w/a solid OPS and 50 sb if given a chance to be an everyday player. His problem is that he has less defensive skill than any player since Dave Kingman. He absolutely cannot play the infield at an MLB level.

Having watched him for the last few years, I've wondered why the Yankees did not try to convert him into a leftfielder.

   5. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4374545)
Nunez can hit; I would expect him to bat .300 w/a solid OPS and 50 sb if given a chance to be an everyday player.
That seems a little high on Nunez' offensive ceiling--particularly the SB*--but you're right about his defense. I do wonder if he would improve somewhat if they just have him an IF position and stuck to it, but that's not really a plausible solution for the Yankees as currently constructed.

*Fun fact: No Yankee has stolen 50 (or more) bases since Rickey! in '88. In fact, Rickey! is the only post-integration Yankee to steal that many. Gardner has come close a couple of times (49 and 47 in 2011 and '10).
   6. Blastin Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:25 AM (#4374547)
Gardner could do it if he would play a full season.
   7. NJ in DC (Now unemployed!) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4374563)
I really like Nunez and yearn for him to get a real shot.
   8. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 12:07 PM (#4374601)
Gardner could do it if he would play a full season.
The year he stole 49, he played 159 games. The last few years the Yankees haven't really been built as a base stealing team, so it's possible on a club with a different philosophy, he could steal more.

   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 01:54 PM (#4374646)
The year he stole 49, he played 159 games. The last few years the Yankees haven't really been built as a base stealing team, so it's possible on a club with a different philosophy, he could steal more.

True, but the offense should be worse this year. If he's healthy and getting on base, he should run a lot. Especially if he bats #1 in front of Jeter. Got to avoid the GIDPs.
   10. Benji Posted: February 23, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4374788)
I would trade Daniel Murphy for him and install him as 2B and leadoff hitter. But the Yankees wrecked that by signing Youkalis. I like his combination of quick bat and plus speed.
   11. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: February 23, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4374830)
I really like Nunez and yearn for him to get a real shot.


He'd better get ready - I think 2013 is the best chance to have that shot. But DH AB's are going to be hard to come by on this team; he needs to inspire confidence in management defensively.
   12. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:39 PM (#4374942)
His problem is that he has less defensive skill than any player since Dave Kingman. He absolutely cannot play the infield at an MLB level.

Not so sure it is a skill problem. Nunez seemed to makes a lot of errors on relatively routine plays -- plays that he made on other occasions and had to have made in the minors to stay at SS. Perhaps it was a problem of nerves, compounded by making a few early errors and never being comfortable in the field. If that's the case, it could be a problem he never gets over, but it's also possible that he follows the path of others who look a lot better on their second chance than their first. If Yogi says give him a chance, he's worth taking a close look at.
   13. Morph Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:52 PM (#4374949)
I really think Nunez has a chance to blossom late in the normal development cycle for a player. He has great athletic ability, but his swing is too reliant on his hands. If he could learn to stay back a bit more and use his lower body to drive the ball, he could be a 20/30 guy if given regular playing time.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 06:57 PM (#4374952)
If Yogi says give him a chance, he's worth taking a close look at.

I love Yogi, but is there any evidence an 80-something y.o. Berra is a keen evaluator of talent?
   15. gehrig97 Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:41 PM (#4374968)
Nunez can hit; I would expect him to bat .300 w/a solid OPS and 50 sb if given a chance to be an everyday player. His problem is that he has less defensive skill than any player since Dave Kingman. He absolutely cannot play the infield at an MLB level.


This. Nunez might have the worst hands I've ever seen from a middle infielder.
   16. jyjjy Posted: February 23, 2013 at 07:53 PM (#4374969)
I think Knoblauch is a much better and more recent comparison than Kingman. The skill is there, it seems some mental/concentration issue of some sort. If you want to say that makes him "unskilled" then fine but in a totally different way than Kingman to the point that the comparison would leave people understanding the actual issue less rather than more, if they don't know any better.
   17. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:34 PM (#4374995)

I love Yogi, but is there any evidence an 80-something y.o. Berra is a keen evaluator of talent?


Provided he's still sharp (and I have no indication to think otherwise), is there any reason to think he wouldn't be?
   18. AJMcCringleberry Posted: February 23, 2013 at 10:42 PM (#4375002)
with an almost respectable OBP of .330 and an even more nearly respectable slugging percentage of .393.

Sounds awesome.
   19. Dan Posted: February 24, 2013 at 02:37 AM (#4375049)
I would trade Daniel Murphy for him and install him as 2B and leadoff hitter. But the Yankees wrecked that by signing Youkalis. I like his combination of quick bat and plus speed.


2B would be a terrible position for Nuñez. He's not especially sure handed and his arm is his best tool on defense. Honestly he probably belongs in CF: he has 40 SB speed and a cannon arm, but botches grounders even on routine plays. Just move him to the OF already in a semi-platoon with the three lefty OF starters.

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