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« Baseball's Best, Worst Strike Zone Fishermen | Main | Rasmus' Wrist, Plate Approach Hurt in Toronto »

Cheap Muscle in the Bronx?

The Yankees' search for a righty bopper to pair with Andruw Jones at DH seems to have centered on Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Eric Chavez. But it's possible that Russell Branyan, signed to a minor league deal last week, could provide some cheap muscle from the left side of the dish.

A typical Branyan season involves little exposure to lefties, ample walks, lots of whiffs and some tape-measure clouts. But Branyan lost one of those Three True Outcomes -- power -- during a 2011 season in which he was released by the Diamondbacks and played a bit role on the Angels. The Muscle managed just a .197/.295/.370 line in 146 plate appearances, with four home runs.

Maybe Branyan's "old player skills" finally aged too much, but the 36-year-old still has an impressive body of work against righty pitchers over the past three seasons. In 775 PA versus righties since 2009, Branyan has a .250/.346/.507 triple-slash. Right-handers go out of their way to keep the ball outside against Branyan...

Righty pitchers' location to Branyan, 2009-11

Forty-six percent of righty pitchers' offerings to Branyan have been thrown on the outside corner. But that plays right into The Muscle's strength. Check out his in-play slugging percentage by pitch location against righties over the past three years:

Branyan's in-play slugging percentage vs. righty pitchers, 2009-11Branyan is coming off a lousy, abbreviated 2011 season, and he hasn't gotten near the same number of plate appearances against righties as Damon, Matsui and Ibanez over the past three years. Still, he has been the best of the bunch on a per-plate appearance basis against righty pitching since '09:

Branyan .250/.346/.507 775
Matsui .271/.366/.433 1234
Damon .270/.348/.439 1410
Ibanez .266/.337/.464 1351
Chavez .242/.301/.345 279


Damon certainly offers a more well-rounded skill-set, as he doesn't have a platoon split (.273/.345/.425 against lefties since '09) and could possibly play the outfield in a pinch, though you wouldn't necessarily want him to. If the Yankees are strictly looking for a righty masher, however, they may already have a better option under contract in Branyan.

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