Yankees – one out of leftfield

In 2008, the Yankees used 6 players at left-field. Here’s a summary of how it all went:

Johnny Damon (143 games) . Of those 143 games, 86 included time in leftfield. On the whole, injuries aside, this was a good year for Damon and a distinct improvement over 2007.

 

 

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

TB

BB

SO

SB

CS

OBP

SLG

AVG

2007

141

533

93

144

27

2

12

63

211

66

79

27

3

.351

.396

.270

2008

143

555

95

168

27

5

17

71

256

62

82

29

8

.375

.461

.303

This can be seen in the way that almost every column on the comparison, above, shows an increase for 2008. However, he had some months when he was well off the pace. He opened the season with an April average of only .276 and it seemed like he was going to struggle to improve on his 2007 standard. But May was a step up (.306) and June proved a high month of the season for him, batting .363 albeit mainly hitting singles. He missed a dozen games in July and the enforced mid-season rest set him back a little. July and August were months when he set his benchmark for the season showing .304 and .306 averages respectively. September proved to be his worst month offensively and his season rather tailed off just as the rest of the team were putting together a winning sequence.
So a successful but uneven season for Damon offensively. In the field, he made few errors and continues to show amongst the best ranges of the everyday leftfielders.
It seems 95% certain that Damon will be one of the starting Yankees on opening day. Despite being an ex-Red Sox, he has been accepted by the fans and that would not be many ways to replace him and improve. A good 2009 for him will definitely help the team.

Xavier Nady (59 games). He played in leftfield in 46 of his games after arriving in mid-season. 2008 was pretty much a career year for the X-Man albeit that his better figures were put up before he left Pittsburgh. Nady previously had had a short tenure with the Mets but moved on after only 75 for the other New York team. At the moment, the Yankees seem to like him a lot and it seems likely that he will last much longer in this part of town. He batted .305 and slugged .510 across the season. It was .268 and .474 whilst wearing the Bronx pinstripes. At the moment the inclination seems to let Abreu depart and make Nady a fixture. Nady played only 7 games in rightfield and Damon played none. It will be interesting to see how one of them works out playing the whole season in that corner which seems likely as things stand. Look for Nady to be in the line-up on opening day but not necessarily in leftfield.

Hideki Matsui (93 games). Injury meant that Matsui played only 21 games in a position where earlier in his career, he had been a fixture. I’ll say more about his season when we get to the designated hitters which is where we are likely to see him in 2009.

Brett Gardner (42 games). This young outfielder played 17 games in leftfield. I’ll say more about him in the discussion of centrefielders.

Justin Christian (24 games). He played 9 of those games in leftfield which was his most appearances at any one position. There were times in the season when the Yankees hierarchy seemed to regard Gardner and Christian evenly in terms of their becoming a fixture on the Bronx Bombers. At one point Christian seemed to have edged ahead. By the end of the season, it seemed like Gardner was a firm choice and Christian was all but forgotten. Defensively, he did well. Like Gardner, he has speed and can steal bases. His .250 average included very little power hitting but Gardner is weak in that area too. I’m guessing that the difference between the two players is in those legendary indefinables that baseball experts sometimes talk about because otherwise I can see little to choose. Gardner looks likely to be on the opening day roster and has a shot of the centrefield job, Christian must be wondering where his future lies. I don’t get the feeling it will be in the Bronx.

Melky Cabrera (129 games) Played only eight of those in leftfield. I’ll say more about his "difficult season" when we get to the centrefielders.

So my feeling is that Damon is likely to the starting leftfielder come April but there is time for that to change. We’ll see how things shape up in Spring training but I expect that’s how it will be.

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