To the Mats with Reader Comments: Eduardo Nunez Can't Hit Like an Outfielder

Mark Trumbo hits like a corner outfielder. Eduardo Nunez, on the other hand... (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

In the responses to my previous entry, "How Will the Yankees Replace Nick Swisher," there are a number of responses that get my blood pressure up, hard to do considering just how many medications I'm on at any given time. It's one thing to be an informed fan and argue from a rational point of view and another to decide that any human the Yankees choose to drape in pinstripes is a potential cornerstone of the franchise.

Case in point: Eduardo Nunez, the nation's only reserve infielder who cannot field. Among the suggestions for replacing Swisher to be found in the comments to the linked piece above:

Get Melky

Cabrera is now a legitimate over .300 clutch hitter & would be worth the $$$. Groom Nunez as an outfielder.

by Bob E

Not going to comment on Melky right now, or his .389 BABIP, or the idea of a "legitimate clutch hitter," or his having been less than motivated in previous stops on the major-league trail, not to mention his ill-considered pelvic thrusting this week. I just want to know how the heck Nunez got dragged into this picture. But wait--we're not done!

I’m not a big Nunez fan. He can hit, but his defense is already shaky at the positions where he has experience. He has next to no experience in the outfield. Sure, he might turn into a serviceable RFer if you have no other choice, but that’s probably not the smart bet.

by waw

This year, the average major league right fielder is hitting .264/.331/.442. That's the highest slugging percentage of any position. Right fielders have hit a home run once every 28 at-bats, or roughly 22 per 600 at-bats. Over the previous five seasons (2007-2011), major league right fielders have hit roughly .271/.345/.444, or right in the same ballpark as this year. Eduardo Nunez has played 162 major league games and has hit .271/.320/.380 with six home runs, which is to say that given 600 at-bats he might hit nine. In the minors, he is a career .274/.318/.368 hitter. He is 25 years old, so a dramatic change in outlook is not likely to be coming. He runs well. He has a little bit of a bat for a middle infielder/utility player, but what about this picture suggests "serviceable right fielder?"

We're still going though:

Nunez's best position would probably be 2b...

…which he obviously isn’t going to play here. He could probably be an OK corner OF, but he’d need some time to work at it a lot, which he hasn’t had.

by Let's Talk About Tex Baby

My response, and you can quote me: "Reeeaarrrreeeeaaaarrraaaarrreearrgh!!!" This year, the average left fielder is slugging .438. It's the second-highest slugging percentage off all positions. Even center fielders slug about .420 these days, and at least this year, have the highest aggregate batting average of any position. The outfield is for hitting, with the occasional exception of the odd Gary Pettis or Peter Bourjos or Brett Gardner, who is so good at running down flies that the importance of his bat is diminished. There is no evidence that Nunez can be that kind of outfielder. Those players are few and far between. Most of the time, the pasture is for bats, and there is no evidence that Nunez can be one of those, either.

Think of the corner outfielders on winning Yankees teams: Babe Ruth. Charlie Keller. Paul O'Neill. Tommy Henrich. Reggie Jackson. Think of corner outfielders on any winning team. They tend to resemble Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, not a misplaced butterfingered bench player with the all the home run power of a hearing aid battery who people are simply wishing into being a "OK corner outfielder."

Now, I will give the wish-casters one thing: Tony Gwynn went to the Hall of Fame as a right fielder who hit less than ten home runs a year. Ichiro Suzuki, whose unacceptably poor numbers this year make right field look less robust than it normally would be, will probably get there under the same terms. However, those guys were hitting .350 every other year. You can argue that Eduardo is going to do that, but there's no evidence that he will, and oh yeah--he doesn't walk so he will kind of have to in order to post a meaningful OBP.

I don't meant to single out the three contributors above and I thank them for hanging around and being part of the community, but I am simply astounded at how much life the "Nunez can really, really hit meme has." You can't kill that thing with a hammer, which is especially astounding since Nunez's glove means it's probably a moot point to begin with. I'm all for speculation--that's what I was inviting by asking about the Swisher aftermath--but please, let's stay attached to reality.

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