In Basketball and Other Things, author Shea Serrano has a section called, “Who’s Your Frankenplayer Made Out Of?” in which he sets out to create the greatest basketball player of all-time by stitching together a bunch of different physical attributes and abilities from a bunch of different players throughout the years.
The lockout is killing me and the Hall of Fame has made me irrationally angry yet again, so I’ve decided that I want to do something fun with my time. I’m going to use the model Serrano left for us in his book and try to create the best Yankee hitter I can. Before I begin, though, I want to lay out some ground rules first, as they differ a little from Serrano’s.
Michael JordanDerek Jeter Rule: I get it, he’s everyone’s favourite player. But no matter how much you want this player to be Derek Jeter, only one of his attributes can be chosen. Choose wisely.
- The Babe Ruth Rule: You must have been alive to watch the players that you are choosing. It would be super easy for me to just choose Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Lou Gehrig for everything, but they played 50-80 years before I was born. I was born in 1992, so anyone from, say, 1997 and on is fair game for me.
- The Peak Player Rule: Borrowed directly from Basketball and Other Things, this rule means that you will be getting the player you choose when they were in their prime — whether or not that coincides with their time on the Yankees. This could be a point of contention for some of my choice, but I set the rules, so tough.
Okay, let’s get into it.
#1: Ability to Make Contact
Give me Ichiro Suzuki every single day of the week. Although we didn’t necessarily get him at his best during his time with the Yankees, his career strikeout percentage is a mind-bogglingly low 10.1 percent, and that number is actually inflated because he probably played three years too long. Additionally, his contact rates are ridiculous. He made contact 78.5 percent of time time on balls outside of the zone and 93.4 percent of the time on balls inside the zone. If I’m in a pickle and need someone to just get the bat on the ball, I’m calling on prime Ichiro.
#2: Plate Discipline
This one was actually a tough choice for me. I know Joey Gallo has an incredible eye (do not confuse eye for ability to make contact, please), but I sought to balance that discipline with someone who doesn’t strike out all that much. After a lot of deliberating with my brother, it finally hit us: why not use the most overlooked Yankee in recent memory, Bernie Williams? His walk rate and strikeout rate are nearly identical (11.8 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively) and he only swung at pitches outside of the zone 15 percent of the time from 2002-06, which is, unfortunately, the only timeframe we have data for. That’s just ridiculous. Give me Bernie.
I was inclined to choose Alex Rodriguez here because of how short and compact his swing was, but I’ve got to go with my guy Robinson Canó. I mean, has a sweeter swing ever graced the pinstripes? I don’t think one has. Tailor-made for Yankee Stadium and sleek as hell, Canó’s swing is probably my favourite of all-time.
There are a number of options here that might make sense — A-Rod, Aaron Judge, Jason Giambi — but one man stands above the rest: the man chiseled from stone himself, Giancarlo Stanton. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Since 2015, there have been:— Chris Towers In A Taylor Swift Shirt (@CTowersCBS) January 24, 2022
16 batted balls of at least 120 MPH. Stanton has 14 of them. 87.5%.
80 batted balls of at least 118 MPH. Stanton has 42 of them. 52.5%.
608 batted balls of at least 115 MPH. Stanton has 144 of them. 23.7%.
Stanton’s been in the league for 11 years and has done nothing but pulverize the baseball. This one was a no-brainer.
This one is probably going to spark the most debate, but I’m choosing Andruw Jones here. And remember, because of the Peak Player Rule, we’re getting prime Jones. For more than a decade, Jones was one of the truly elite defenders in this game. In fact, he was so good defensively that he’s probably going to stick around a little longer on some Hall of Fame ballots because of it. Much like Ichiro, we didn’t get to see prime Jones in a Yankee uniform, but he’s still probably my choice for best defender I’ve ever seen play.
*Note: Serious consideration was also given to Iván Rodríguez and Mark Teixeira here, but I placed more value on outfield defense than infield in this exercise.
With Ichiro and Jones already off the board and Statcast data on arm strength really hard to track down, I had to give into some recency bias and choose between Aaron Hicks and Judge. While Hicks has the hardest throw ever recorded on Statcast, the ease with which Judge throws absolute rockets (and with ridiculous accuracy to boot) gives him the slight edge in my books. I mean, just watch him effortlessly throw out one of the fastest guys in the league:
I know that the obvious choice here for a lot of people is Rickey Henderson, but he played for the Yankees before I was born. The next logical choice was probably Brett Gardner, but, well, we’ll get to him in a second. I also didn’t want to include someone like Tim Locastro, who was obviously incredibly fast but only played nine games for New York, so I had my work cut out for me. And then I remembered Kenny Lofton played for the Yankees. 2004 was obviously not his best season, but you’d be hard pressed to find a faster dude than prime Lofton, so he’s my choice.
With Ichiro and Lofton already off the board and guys like Henderson off limits, I’m turning to Brett Gardner for my baserunning needs. According to FanGraphs, his baserunning runs above average (BsR) has never been in the negatives, and he’s amassed a rate of 74.4 for his career. For reference, Lofton’s was 68.5. While Gardner never had the gaudy stolen base numbers most of his fellow burners had, he was still excellent on the base paths for his career.
Who else but the Captain, of course. Bet you thought I forgot to include him, didn’t you? This is the only intangible thing on this list, but no Yankee since I’ve been alive has demonstrated the poise in huge spots that Jeter has. When I say leadership, I’m talking in platitudes about guys who never showed a sliver of fear in big moments and stepped up when the team desperately needed them to. Jeter is head and shoulders above the rest. Bottom of the ninth, tying run at third base, two outs... I want Derek freakin’ Jeter at the plate.
There you have it, my Franken-Yankee. Let me know who you would make your Franken-Yankee out of, or yell at me for why my choices are wrong, in the comments!