Commentary

Power shifting in Yankees' infield

Bombers' Jeter-Rodriguez dynasty to make way for Teixeira-Cano combo?

Updated: August 31, 2010, 8:55 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- With age and injury slowly limiting the left side of the infield, the Yankees' power is shifting to the right.

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez still have the Hollywood names, but who is more important on the field for this stretch run and for the postseason: Jeter and A-Rod or Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira?

When CC Sabathia isn't pitching, the end of this season and the postseason could very much look like Monday night did in the Bronx. The Yankees' hitters overcoming a poor starting pitching performance and relying on superb relief to take out an ace.

On Monday, Cano and Teixeira led the way as the Yankees shook down Oakland's Trevor Cahill, who arrived in the Bronx at 14-5 with a 2.43 ERA. After being handed a three-run lead by Yankees starter Dustin Moseley, Cahill exited after just four innings, having allowed eight runs (all earned) in four innings. Teixeira and Cano nailed back-to-back homers in the third in the 11-5 Yankees win. Cano's long ball was his career-high 26th.

Cano finished the night with three hits, three runs and three RBIs, while Teixeira -- playing for the first time since bruising his thumb on Saturday -- put threes up in hits and runs scored to go along with his homer.

"We don't have Alex in the lineup so it is time for guys like me to step it up and help us win the game," Cano said.

Designated hitter Marcus Thames hit a three-run shot -- his sixth homer in his past six games -- and Moseley's forgettable start was forgotten thanks in part to Javier Vazquez pitching well out of the pen. (But not well enough for Yankees manager Joe Girardi to put him back in the rotation -- yet.)

In the comeback, we saw further evidence of these on-the-field Yankees being the Teixeira-Cano Yankees now more than the Jeter-A-Rod Yankees. Jeter and Rodriguez still own Page Six and are important players, but they are limited by age.

The reality of their play is clouded by their résumés. Their Yankee eras would be shortened if A-Rod didn't have an endless contract and Jeter wasn't about to sign a new deal that likely will have as much to do with his legacy as it does his future on-field impact.

While Jeter continues to struggle -- he added an 0-for-4 on Monday after hitting .087 on the road trip -- and Rodriguez is disabled, the 27-year-old Cano and the 30-year-old Teixeira keep showing their value.

In all of baseball, Cano is second in "wins above replacement," the statistic known as WAR by Fangraphs.com. The stat compares a player's combined hitting, fielding, base-running statistics with the stats of a possible replacement player at his position.

Cano is worth an extra six wins this season, according to the site. Last year, Jeter was worth seven, which is generally considered an MVP level. This year, Jeter is at 2.1. Teixeira (2.7) and A-Rod (2.6) are clumped together. (Josh Hamilton leads the majors at 7.5.)

Teixeira, who basically took the first two months of the season off offensively, leads all of baseball in runs scored and is once again going to hit more than 30 homers and drive in more than 100 runs.

Now, this is only the beginning of the shift from the Jeter and A-Rod offense to Cano and Teixeira's offense because these things can really change hands only in October.

Teixeira needs to show up offensively for more than one game this October, and Cano must tear through the month like he has the past five. In last year's playoffs, Cano was homerless in 15 games.

"October baseball is a tricky thing," Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said. "We have all seen it with Alex. We have seen it with other players. If you get on a hot stretch in October, you can change the whole persona of how people view you.

"Are they capable of performing at this level in the playoffs, certainly, but I don't think anybody can predict that."

A-Rod worked his October magic last season. Jeter is known as Captain Clutch. They still have the most famous names and they still will be big playoff factors, but they are no longer the most important batters on the team.

GAME NOTES: Vazquez (4⅔ innings, one earned run) got the win in relief of the ineffective Moseley (4⅓ innings, four earned runs), but Girardi said he wasn't prepared to put Vazquez back in the rotation yet. Vazquez said he would like to start again, but will continue to do what is asked of him. Vazquez had more life on all his pitches as he dominated the poor A's lineup. … Rodriguez (calf) worked out on Monday and had no problems. … Andy Pettitte (groin) will throw a bullpen on Wednesday. Pettitte said he is progressing, though he still feels some pain. … Thames has now homered in five straight starts. That is tied with seven others for the fourth-longest homer streak in starts by a Yankee, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A-Rod was the last to do it in 2007. The only Yankees with longer such streaks since 1920 are Don Mattingly (eight in 1987), Roger Maris (six in 1961) and Lou Gehrig (six in 1931).

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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