The New York Yankees entered the 2014 season with a lot of question marks in their infield. At first base they had aging and injury-prone slugger Mark Teixeira, second base featured Brian Roberts, who was years removed from his prime. 40 year-old Derek Jeter was slated to man the shortstop position after missing the majority of the 2013 season. Kelly Johnson was tabbed to replace Alex Rodriguez, who received a season-long suspension. Their Opening Day infield had totaled all of 1.5 fWAR the previous season. Two-thirds of the way into the 2014 season, the Bronx Bombers have replaced half of their infield.
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Teixeira has been the Yankees most valuable infielder with 1.1 fWAR, beating out the now-departed Yangervis Solarte by the slimmest of margins. He's clubbed 19 home runs but possesses a more pedestrian .233/.336/.455 slash line for a 118 wRC+, easily the best mark among the Yanks infielders. Solarte, who was sent to the San Diego Padres in the trade that netted Chase Headley got off to a blazing start, with a 144 wRC+ in the first month of the season and a 121 wRC+ in May. He cooled off from there, and managed a woeful .164/.282/.213 line in June.
Brian Roberts gave the Yankees 348 plate appearances of replacement level baseball before he was designated for assignment. Brendan Ryan has been a disaster at the plate with a .200/.243/.231 line. Kelly Johnson, who was traded at the deadline, was tied with Solarte for the second most home runs among Yankees infielders with six. At 0.6 fWAR, he was one of their more valuable infielders.
Finally, the Captain has a respectable .277 batting average, but it comes with a .058 ISO which puts him ahead of Ben Revere by just .001 percentage points. He's on track to provide just under 1.0 fWAR in his final season. New acquisitions Stephen Drew and Headley should be upgrades, but both of them are in the middle of poor seasons at the plate and their projections are modest at best.
As a group, Yankees infielders have hit only 39 home runs despite playing in a bandbox of a home park. That 's a far cry from the Yankees squad of 2009, when the infield group combined to club 138 long balls. Even last year's offensively challenged ballclub got 78 home runs from the infielders. The A-Rod saga got more than its fair share of air time this offseason, but lost in the news cycle was the fact that the Yankees infield got worse when he was handed a year-long suspension. General Manager Brian Cashman did not want to cave in to Robinson Cano's demands, but for all the cash the Yankees threw around over the winter, they neglected to make any significant investments in the infield.
It's a new era for the Yankees. As of Monday they sit at 58-53. Cool Standings gives them a 18.1 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, and 12.8 percent odds of reaching the divisional round. Perhaps more significantly, their rest of season projected winning percentage is just .484, which is the worst mark in the American League East. Their position players rank 25th in fWAR, and their top two players are outfielders. Brett Gardner leads the squad in slugging percentage and is second in ISO. Poor spending habits and an inability to draft and develop hitting prospects. Cashman has made some savvy, low-cost trades in an effort to upgrade the infield, but it may not be enough to overcome the ineptitude of the first 100-odd games of the season.
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Stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant
Chris Moran is a former college baseball player at Wheaton College and current third-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He's also an assistant baseball coach at Wash U. In addition to Beyond The Box Score, he contributes at Gammons Daily. He went to his first baseball game at age two. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves