Lyle Overbay: Epitome of the replacement level player

Mr. Replacement Level - USA TODAY Sports

Is there hope that Overbay can replace more than just Teixeira’s glove?

We all know that the Yankees had a horrible June and that the offense has been struggling mightily for the last two months. A lot of those players who did such an excellent job filling in for injured stars in April have regressed to their expected abilities when asked to be more than just part-time replacements. The Yankees are not likely to be able to replace all of Mark Teixeira's production when his season became officially over with wrist surgery earlier this week. We've discussed a lot on this site about potential fixes and trade targets for this issue, but I'd like to turn back and look at what Teixeira's early season replacement has done so far.

Lyle Overbay is like dry white toast to Teixeira's four whole fried chickens and a coke. (If you need me to make a link for you to figure out those references, then for shame you cultural stowaway.) He quite literally is the epitome of the replacement level player. So far this year he has produced 0.1 WAR. Last year it was (0.1) WAR with two teams in 131 plate appearances. The last time he produced a WAR of 1.0 was in 2010 with the Toronto Blue Jays. His peak WAR was 2.6 in 2005 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He's an above average defender at first base, but not as good as Teixeira has been. Overbay has tended to save mid-single digit amounts of runs on advanced defensive metrics like Fld, where Teixeira has made it into low double digits. We know that his offense isn't comparable, but what has he done so far this year for the Yankees?

Relating Overbay to dry white toast does understate his importance to the Yankee offense. Of the ten Yankee regulars that have over 100 plate appearances this year, Overbay ranks fourth on the list in terms of highest wRC+. Admittedly he does that with a figure of 89, but that still makes for fourth best on the list. This list also shows how many spaces on the field there are that can be easy upgrade targets for this offense.

Player:

PA

wRC+

Robinson Cano

358

140

Brett Gardner

356

113

Travis Hafner

240

100

Lyle Overbay

266

89

Ichiro Suzuki

293

83

Kevin Youkilis

118

77

Chris Stewart

169

74

Vernon Wells

289

68

Jayson Nix

268

65

David Adams

121

43

Let's take a look at what Overbay has done so far this year on a few metrics versus his historical averages.

Overbay

BB%

K%

BABIP

AVG

OBP

wRC+

2013

5.6%

21.8%

.277

.240

.282

89

Career

11.0%

18.8%

.312

.268

.350

107

There are some things in there that aren't pretty. Half of the walk rate with an elevated strikeout rate has his OBP all the way down to .282, and way below his career norm and the league average. However, his BABIP is also below his career norm by a decent clip. In fact, it's the second lowest figure he's ever put up besides his 2007 mark of .271 in Toronto. Is there a chance that he's due for some positive regression to the mean here?

Overbay

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

IFFB%

IFH%

2013

20.1%

43.8%

36.1%

12.9%

7.1%

7.1%

Career

21.7%

45.6%

32.6%

11.8%

4.3%

3.4%

This doesn't look good if you want to be optimistic. His BABIP might be down for the right reasons. He's hitting fewer line drives and more fly balls, but what really sticks out are the jumps in his rates on infield fly balls and infield hits. He's hitting more fly balls in total which could lead to increased power with the Yankee Stadium short porch in right field, but in reality 70% of the increased fly balls he is hitting are staying in the infield! That IFH% is nearly 3% higher than Overbay's previous high water mark in that regard. How much of an impact has that had on his batting average? If we assume he hit his career IFH% of 3.4% instead of 7.1%, than his current average would be .228 instead of .240 to date. In other words, you could actually argue that some of his performance to date has benefited by positive luck.

Overbay

Swing%

Contact%

SwStr%

2013

49.0%

74.6%

12.2%

Career

43.5%

78.8%

9.1%

If there was any hope before, then this data may crush it. This year he is swinging at the highest rate of pitches in his career, and he's making the lowest rate of contact of any full season since he was a rookie in 2003. Predictably, his swinging strike rate is the highest it has ever been. This pretty much explains why his walks are down so much and his strike outs are up.

Overbay was never expected to make it to the All-Star Game, but he has been a serviceable replacement player so far this year. While his actual offensive production is down relative to his past, he still has been arguably the fourth most important hitter in the lineup. However, he's 36 years of age and there are bad signs in his metrics that suggest he's actually been a bit lucky so far this year. I'd love to highlight why there could be reasons to be optimistic that Overbay could amp up his offense a bit in lefty friendly Yankee stadium, but so many of the metrics tracking his skill sets are going in the wrong direction to career worst marks. The pragmatist in me succumbs to the realization that we should be expecting Overbay's performance to deteriorate further from here. He may have been the epitome of a replacement level player to this point, but odds favor him to be below that threshold for the remainder of the season. "You want butter or jam on that toast, honey?" "No ma'am, dry."

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