Identifying the offensive holes in the 2003 Yankees is fairly simple. They didn't have consistent production out of right field after the Mondesi trade (and some would say before the trade as well), they struck out too often, they didn't play enough "small ball" (stealing bases, moving runners around) and they couldn't hit will with runners in scoring position. The answer to nearly al of these issues, my friends, comes in a 35-year old package.
Some numbers to share with you:
- Sheffield hit .345 with runners on base, .379 with runners in scoring position. As a team, the Yankees hit .272 with runners on base and just .263 with runners in scoring position. Derek Jeter led the team in BA with runners on with a .353 mark, but Hideki Matsui led the team in BA with RISP with a .335 mark. Matsui and Jeter were the only Yankee regulars over .300 in that category.
- Sheffield struck out just 55 times this season, while drawing 86 walks. Exactly zero Yankee regulars struck out fewer times than that. Nick Johnson only struckout 57 times, but that was in 61 fewer games than Sheff. The only Yankees to strike out fewer times than they walked were Bernie Williams and Johnson, but neither player comes close to Sheffield's .64 K:BB ratio.
- Sheffield stole 18 bases last season, more than any Yankee not named Alfonso Soriano. In fact, the second most steals on the Yankees were by Raul Mondesi, who wasn't with the team for the second half.
- Oh, and Sheffield did all of this while playing right field for the Braves. He committed just four errors there and had seven assists. He doesn't have an Ichiro or Mondesi arm out there, but its still very good.
Sheffield fits the Yankees well by filling virtually all of their offensive holes in the body of just one player. He can run, he can hit with runners on, he can play a mean right field, and he doesn't strike out the way that almost every other Yankee does.
If the Yankees re-order their lineup by leading off Jeter and letting either Matsui or Johnson bat second, Sheffield could bat third in front of Jason Giambi and Williams or Soriano. A presence like Sheffield batting in the middle of what is already one of the best lineups in baseball would make the Yankees even scarier than they were in 2003.
The Yanks and Sheffield aren't technically "close" to closing the deal yet, as the Yankees would like to address their pitching first (it's always pitching first for Steinbrenner), but if both player and team want it to happen, it will happen. And I for one, will welcome the Sheff to town with open arms.