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Kelly Johnson has been made non-existent by the Yankees

Is there a reason for Kelly Johnson's absence these last couple of weeks?

A picture of Kelly Johnson, in case you forgot what he looked like.
A picture of Kelly Johnson, in case you forgot what he looked like.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the middle of the Yankees' spending spree this winter was the signing of Kelly Johnson. It was an under-the-radar move that cost the Yankees just $3 million and one year of his services. Even though it wasn't a huge addition, Kelly Johnson became an important part of the Yankees' infield. He got off to a good start with the bat, played a respectable third base, and filled in for Mark Teixeira at first base when the incumbent got hurt. Nowadays, for whatever reason, Johnson hasn't seen much of the field at all.

On the season, Johnson has hit .215/.271/.446 with a 94 wRC+. That certainly isn't great or anything, especially with the batting average and on-base percentage, but he has hit for a good amount of power, as shown by his .231 ISO. In fact, that .231 ISO is second (excluding John Ryan Murphy, who has compiled only 16 plate appearances on the season) on the team behind Mark Teixeira's .271 ISO. Johnson's offensive performance, while not outstanding, isn't worth a demotion to the bench.

Getting at-bats instead of Johnson are Yangervis Solarte and Brian Roberts. Solarte has hit the skids the past week or so (.504 OPS last 36 PA's), but still deserves an extended look, at least for now, to see if he'll right the ship or crater into 2013 Vernon Wells Land.

On the other hand, there's Roberts. The Yankees have said time and time again since the signing of Roberts that he'll be the team's everyday second baseman, and, for the most part, or at least three-quarters of the part, he has done just that. A minor back injury sidelined him for a few games, but he has started 21 of the team's 28 games thus far at second. However, it is Roberts' bat, or lack thereof, that makes you scratch your head as to why he still gets to play on a mostly regular basis, especially over someone like Johnson.

Thus far in 2014, Roberts is hitting just .235/.323/.296 with a 75 wRC+. That batting line would have been much lower if not for three hits late in last night's game after being completely over-matched by David Price earlier in the contest. I feel like those three hits gave him an extra month or so worth of at-bats before they finally cut bait. Anyway, the story with Roberts the last few years has been injuries, but the fact is he was still underwhelming with the bat (83 OPS+ from 2010-2013) even when he was healthy, and that still holds true in 2014.

All told, from April 17-May 2, the Yankees have played 14 games as a team and Johnson has played nine of those games, but only five of them have been starts. The only somewhat logical explanation for this is that the Yankees just refuse to play him against left-handed pitching; during this 14-game run, the Yankees have faced a left-handed starter nine times and Johnson has started only two of those games. I'm aware that Johnson has struggled against left-handed pitching these last few years, but it comes to a point where, with the offense currently struggling, that you just have to play your best bats no matter the platoon match-ups and hope for the best.