One Year Too Early

I am not being original when I point out that the Yanks have a problem at first base. But check out this list of AL first baseman ranked according to their VORP totals:

  1. Carlos Pena    TBA    48.1
  2. Justin Morneau    MIN    31.7
  3. Kevin Youkilis    BOS    30.3
  4. Mark Teixeira    TEX    26.7
  5. Paul Konerko    CHA    26.2
  6. Ryan Garko    CLE    24.3
  7. Casey Kotchman    ANA    22.2
  8. Kevin Millar    BAL    16.2
  9. Ben Broussard    SEA    7.6
  10. Ross Gload    KCA    7.4
  11. Kendry Morales    ANA    7
  12. Brad Wilkerson    TEX    6.7
  13. Dan Johnson    OAK    6
  14. Lyle Overbay    TOR    5.2
  15. Marcus Thames    DET    5
  16. Sean Casey    DET    4.1
  17. Chris Gomez    BAL    3.5
  18. Chris Gomez    CLE    2.2
  19. Eric Hinske    BOS    1.8
  20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia    TEX    1.8
  21. Andy Phillips    NYA    0.3
  22. Josh Phelps    NYA    -0.1
  23. Jeff Bailey    BOS    -0.8
  24. Miguel Cairo    NYA    -1
  25. Wilson Betemit    NYA    -1.8
  26. Todd Walker    OAK    -2.1
  27. Doug Mientkiewicz    NYA    -2.5
  28. Mike Hessman    DET    -3.2
  29. Robb Quinlan    ANA    -4.1
  30. Richie Sexson    SEA    -4.4
  31. Ryan Shealy    KCA    -9.1

There are a few things that stand out to me about this list of names. The first thing is that the American League doesn’t have many good first baseman. Wasn’t it relatively recent that first base in the AL was an elite position? Secondly, of course, you also might notice that the five Yanks on the list are near the bottom. They have all been so bad, so exquisitely bad, that they deserve a name. How about this? The Balboni Quintet? No? That doesn’t work for you? What about the "If Julio Franco played the whole year at first, this is approximately what the production would be. Except we used five players instead of one 50 year-old" Experience? Well, the point is they’ve been bad.

But what stands out to me the most about this list is the name at the top. Of course, Yanks fans got to see first-hand this Pena fellow this past weekend. And come to think of it, we also got to watch this guy up close last season when he played for the Bombers. Needless to say, he wasn’t the same player last season. Just ask Sox fans. He was on their team during the depressing last months of their disappointing 2006 season. Ah, but to imagine that the Yanks had held onto him for one more year. Did the organization lack patience? Who exactly was standing in his way of developing as a player on the Yanks? Is this a move worth second-guessing? Probably not, but if Cashman had held onto him and he became the Carlos Pena we now see, you can be certain that a lot of people would be singing Cashman’s virtues. Some might even have considered this his best move ever. Then since the opposite happened, should he be held accountable for not realizing what he had? Because if Carlos Pena had stayed on with the Yanks and put up the numbers he’s putting up, the Yanks would securely be in the post-season, and possibly a real threat to take the AL East from the Sox. They would also appear to have the long-term solution to their very problematic first base situation. Oh well, it’s basically bad luck.

She was born in spring, but I was born too late. Blame it on a simple twist of fate.

9 comments… add one
  • Interesting list, thanks.
    One question — I’ve never seen “New York Yankees” abbreviated “NYA.” Gameday, for instance, uses “NYY” for the Yankees and “NYM” for the Mets.

    Hudson September 3, 2007, 3:30 pm
  • I remember seeing the abbreviation of NYA back int he 70’s and early 80’s. I really can’t rememeber that last time I saw the Yanks abbreviated that way.

    rob September 3, 2007, 4:19 pm
  • Seven years. SEVEN YEARS. That’s how long Pena was in the Yankees’ system, that’s how long they waited for him to produce. In the majors, he was averaging .249/.343. At some point you have to make a decision on a guy.
    Also, he’s only starting at 1B for the D-rays this year because Greg Norton, the first choice, got hurt. He didn’t even make the starting lineup out of spring training.
    Finally, if Pena was on the Yankees right now, he’d be batting 6th or 7th, and there’s no way he’d be producing as well compared to batting 3rd for Tampa Bay.
    I’m not trying to take away anything from Pena, who’s clearly having a career year and is finally realizing his potential as a power hitter. To have him in the lineup instead of Andy Phillips would have been great. But I don’t really blame the Yankees for letting him go after 7 years of underachieving.

    doug YF September 3, 2007, 4:41 pm
  • Seven years. SEVEN YEARS. That’s how long Pena was in the Yankees’ system, that’s how long they waited for him to produce.
    He was in the Yankees’ system for seven years?
    May I just say: Wha?
    Or, may I say, that he only played 105 games in the Yankee farm system.

    QuoSF September 3, 2007, 5:19 pm
  • My bad, I was moving some sentences around and forgot to clean some up. I meant to say its’ been 7 years since his MLB debut.

    doug YF September 3, 2007, 5:38 pm
  • Not that it’s any consolation, but I don’t think that’s a move worth second-guessing. Pena kicked around on 5 MLB teams plus the Yankees farm club, and maybe others. He was always a player about whom people said in spring training “this might be Pena’s breakout year”, but it never was. The Yankees made a move that virtually every team would have, and it took the lowly D-Rays for him to cash in on some of that potential. Not worth getting in a twist over, certainly.

    FenSheaParkway September 3, 2007, 6:52 pm
  • VORP is a counting stat, IIRC.
    They haven’t had a stable fulltimer, so of course none of the Yankees 1b are anywhere decent on the list. I think Andy Phillips sucks, too, but this is a little misleading.
    Another thing: I wonder if Teixeira stopped accruing VORP for the purposes of this list upon his trade to the Braves. I am surprised, to put it lightly, to see Youk leading him by a fair margin.

    nv September 4, 2007, 3:30 am
  • A couple of things: I forgot to credit Baseball Prospectus for the list. Their VORP page has sortable functions which I used. Also, they cde the Yanks as “NYA” to explain where I got that from.
    nv, it is true that VORP is an accruing stat, but wouldn’t that mean we need only total up the numbers of all Yanks’ first basemen to figure out what total value in terms of VORP we’ve had all year? In that case, it is -5.
    Re: Texeira. You’re right about him not accruing VORP post-trade.

    Nick-YF September 4, 2007, 8:49 am
  • i think that pena had a out-clause with the yankees. he could leave if he was not in the majors by august 1st. he exercised it, and signed with the red sox. i don’t think cashman had any choice (other than calling him up. i don’t think pena’s numbers warrented that last year).

    kevin September 4, 2007, 2:20 pm

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.