Monday, February 25, 2008

Blogger Round Table: Who should play 1B?
One of the biggest decisions that has to be settled this spring is who will be playing first base.

via BP:
Jason Giambi is the best bet, even coming off a lousy .236/.356/.433 campaign, the second-worst year of his career. With his batting eye and some of his power intact, a .260/.375/.475 line is well within his reach, with below-average defense. That’s not good, but it’s also considerably better than anyone else in the mix will do. Note that PECOTA disagrees slightly: our projection system sees no bounceback for Giambi, projecting him for .235/.363/.453. Given that the difference between the two lines is a handful of singles, it’s not worth going crazy over.
via NYTimes:
“I’d like to see Jason be a very productive offensive and defensive player. Jason knows what’s at stake. There’s some interesting decisions to be made. Jason has done everything we’ve asked. He came in great shape. His mobility is better. His feet aren’t bothering him.” [Joe Girardi] But Giambi is only one name among a list of contenders to play first base that includes Shelley Duncan, Wilson Betemit, Morgan Ensberg, Juan Miranda, Eric Duncan and Jason Lane. Shelley Duncan, a right-handed batter, had 7 home runs and drove in 17 runs in 74 at-bats last season. “He’s not just going to concentrate on first base right now,” Girardi said of Duncan. “You see him mostly at first base. He is also going to take fly balls because it gives us some versatility. Everyone’s in the first base mix. That’s the bottom line.” Damon suggested earlier in the week that he, too, might play some games at first. But when asked whether Damon or Matsui might also play there, Girardi answered in the negative. “We have no plans of putting Hideki at first base in spring training,” he said. Of Damon at first base, Girardi said: “Right now I really don’t have a lot of plans to put him at first base."
But, more importantly, what do the Yankees bloggers think? I asked three of them and here's what they had to say:

Sensei John Kreese @
I'd like to see Giambi at 1B as much as his health will allow. His bat is too lethal to keep him out of the lineup. It drove us nuts when Torre used him primarily as a pinch-hitter in the latter half of the season. Assuming Giambi's body breaks down at some point, I wouldn't mind seeing a Wilson Betemit / Morgan Ensberg platoon. Betemit has solid career numbers vs. RHP: .268 / .347 / .464 / .811 -- Ensberg has excellent career numbers vs. LHP: .284 / .406 / .530 / .936
Steve Lombardi @
Wilson Betemit, with some help from a right-handed bat versus LHP, would not kill the Yankees at first base. Of course, this puts Jason Giambi on the bench with Damon in left and Matsui as the DH. In a perfect world, you could play Matsui in left, if his knees allowed, and play Damon at first and use Giambi as the DH. But, that will never happen in Yankeeland. So, I would settle for Betemit. Giambi playing first, full-time, is like counting on Carl Pavano or Kei Igawa, last year, to be a regular member of your rotation. It's just bad planning.
SG @ Replacement Level Yankee Blog:
My real preference would have been getting Hideki Matsui trained up to play first but I'll take the easy way out and say that three people should play first base. First choice should be Jason Giambi, in games against righties and in games where neither Wang or Pettitte start. I'd have Giambi on a fairly short leash. If he shows that he can't hit well enough to outweigh what I'd expect to be a bad glove, I'd start giving more of his playing time against righties to Wilson Betemit. Betemit should be able to field fairly well and is young enough to have offensive upside. Regardless of the Giambi/Betemit situation against righties, I'd like to see Morgan Ensberg as the primary 1B against lefties. He's got a career .284/.406/.530 line against lefties and as a decent 3B I'd think he can also handle 1B defensively.

I think the key is going to be being flexible and using the different strengths of each of the players to cobble together good offense and defense out of the position, and I think the Yankees have the potential pieces in place to do that.
I'm, personally, still a fan of Matsui at first. It makes more sense to me. You protect Giambi by putting him at DH but you still get to put both of their bats in the lineup every day. I'm assuming that 1B will be less stressful on Matsui's knee than LF and he has to be an improvement over Giambi defensively, right? But maybe it's too late to teach Matsui new tricks or maybe he's just reluctant to make the move to the infield and he told Girardi so. Who knows.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Hopefully, we can make this a regular feature.

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