Considered a position with no worries for the New York Yankees entering this season, they have truly felt the pain that has caused their current shuffle at first base.
By Christian Kouroupakis
They are the walking dead, made of glass, and simply delicate creatures. Most of you know them as the players that have played first base for the New York Yankees this season.
Entering the 2016 campaign, this position was not given a second thought thanks to the stellar year by Mark Teixeira the season prior.
Teixeira provided the Yankees with a driving force and without his bat, New York likely doesn’t make the postseason let alone compete for a spot. The All-Star .255 with 31 homers and 79 RBIs in 111 games until a fracture decimated his chances to finish off the season on the field.
Thankfully, the Bombers did not miss him too much thanks to the output given to them by their prized prospect Greg Bird.
Bird, upon being called to the Bronx on August 13 at 22-years old, slugged 11 home runs and recorded 31 RBI while maintaining a slash line of .261/.343/.529.
Of course, his fielding capabilities weren’t nearly as efficient as the man who has preserved countless of throwing errors by his defense since his arrival seven years ago, but if you were to spread those home runs over a period of 162 games, his total would be a staggering 38 long balls. I’d take that any year.
Unfortunately for New York, they lost Bird for the 2016 season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder which would only cause a downward spiral of first baseman landing themselves on the disabled list. And boy, has it been ugly?
Teixeira, while maintaining a porous .180/.271/.263 slash line with a laughable three home runs, made his way onto the DL with torn cartilage in his right knee. His replacement was Dustin Ackley and the injury bug bit him quite hard as he suffered a season-ending tear in his right labrum.
Ackley, the former second overall pick, struggled to a .148/.243/.148 slash line over 70 plate appearances.
In his first start as a Yankee on last Wednesday, Parmelee cranked two home runs in a 12-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels and then went 1-for-3 with an RBI the very next night but found himself grimacing over a hamstring injury that sent him to the DL.
With that, manager Joe Girardi named Rob Refsnyder will be the team’s everyday first baseman for now.
The reason why I voiced the dismal stats for mostly every first baseman was to express the fact that the Yankees are experiencing the second-to-worst production in all of baseball from the first base position (.186 overall BA).
Additionally, they only have five home runs from their first baseman which ranks dead last in all of Major League Baseball. Last year, they had the fourth most.
Injuries have clearly (and expectedly) hindered the production we have seen from this Yankees’ team and it’s obvious it has impacted their placing in the standings, as well. While their next course of action may not be the most popular of ways to fix this subject of concern, it very well may do the trick.
Ike Davis was signed to a major league contract yesterday to provide them with a short-term answer while Teixeira optimistically plans for his return. Again, it may not be popular, but the former New York Met has the capability to not only provide himself with a comeback season but he has a chance to bring production to a team lacking a producing first baseman.
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Yes, his career slash line (.239/.332/.416) won’t convince you and you’re probably tired of hearing how a decrepit slugger (32 home runs in 2012, 25 since) could be sparked by the short porch in right but a platoon with Refsnyder has the potential to give him at-bats against pitchers in which he has always hit well against.
Against right-handed pitching, he owns a career .794 OPS and has hit 69 of his total 81 career home runs against pitchers who wear their glove on the left hand. The Yankees probably hopped on his 122 wRC quantifies a player’s total offensive value and measures it by runs, against righties and figured a platoon with Refsnyder will help make up for the dreary statistics every other first baseman has provided them so far this season.
Also, they are getting a quality fielder in Davis as he owns a .992 career fielding percentage to supplement his defensive runs saved above average of five.
It’s not anticipated that New York will go that route, as Refsnyder’s minor league batting average is .255 against lefties compared to his .318 against righties with an impressive .814 OPS, but he will likely remain up and provide the Yankees with a right handed bat against lefties while Davis takes on the plate apperences against righties.
That is, of course, until a better option arises down the road. What could a better option look like? I’m not saying he deserves it but the switch hitting Nick Swisher does have three home runs in the last two contests and if he could translate that into a larger sample size, he may be the other platoon man.
Until the solution actually becomes one, the Yankees’ offense will continuously be a shell of being the second-best scoring juggernaut it was in 2015.