Going in to Sunday’s (much-delayed) action against the Texas Rangers, Yankee third baseman Josh Donaldson is sporting a .214/.340/.357 line, good for a .321 wOBA/115 wRC+. On its face, there’s really nothing wrong with that, especially given the depressed offensive environment of 2022. But a closer look reveals a .143 ISO, by far the lowest of Donaldson’s career. The closest he’s come to a mark like that in a full season is .201 in 2014. So what gives?
Category: Analysis Page 2 of 46
When the Yankees passed on trading for Matt Olson and passed on signing Freddie Freeman, there was some disappointment and frustration in many Yankee-centric circles. Anthony Rizzo was the consolation prize. But his start to 2022, featuring a league-leading nine home runs, has halted that idea in its tracks. Behind this torrid start is something that should seem simple when it comes to a lefty hitter who plays at Yankee Stadium: pulling the ball.
This year, Rizzo is pulling the ball at a career high 56.2% rate, well above his average of 42.1%. He’s also paired this with hitting the ball on the ground less than normal: 32.3% compared to 39.4% for his career. What’s surprising about this, in a good way, is that he hasn’t sacrificed going the other way. He’s at 21% oppo, compared to 21.9% for his career. He’s not hitting the ball up the middle nearly as much–22.6 vs. 35.8–but that hasn’t hurt his production at all.
As of Friday night’s game against the Guardians, things had not gotten off to a good start for Josh Donaldson in 2022. He went into that game hitting to just a .270 wOBA (78 wRC+) with a 32.7% strikeout rate, his highest ever by a big, big margin. The normal caveats apply, of course, in that the season is still very young and all that. Regardless, it’s alarming to see things go so wrong in such an unexpected way.
Overall, Donaldson’s whiff rate stands at 33.7%, which ranks in the 15th percentile in the league. So what’s behind that? The first place I looked was his whiff rate on fastballs, since that’s where a lot of this trouble tends to start. His whiff rate on fastballs is fairly high at a touch over 31%, but it’s actually in line with the last few years. The problem appears to be with secondary pitches.
Programming note: Today’s live chat has been moved to tomorrow afternoon.
Earlier this month and before the regular season began, Matt covered one of the Yankees’ biggest storylines of the now underway season: Luis Severino’s return. Sevy is only two starts in, but so far, what we’ve seen has been encouraging, particularly his last outing against Toronto. And not only has he looked pretty sharp, but he also looks like a different pitcher, and for the better. Matt was on point regarding a reinvention:
…I look at his season in 2022 a lot like I did Jameson Taillon’s in 2021. It will essentially be a season of reinvention and a hope for success. Taillon threaded that needle fairly well in 2021. Let’s hope Severino can do the same.Matt
Indeed, Severino has changed his pitch mix, including the introduction of a cutter (or is it a hard slider?) that we’ve seen other Yankees newly incorporate this season too (Gerrit Cole, for one). I’m looking forward to Sevy’s start tonight against Detroit, particularly in light of how he’s looked in his first two outings. It’s still far too early (two starts, eight innings) to make any grand proclamation that Severino is back, but it’s definitely worth examining some of the adjustments he’s made post surgery.
There is no doubt that the Yankees’ shortstop situation is not what any of us expected after the end of the 2021 season. But, it is what it is and it’s, apparently, what the organization wanted, for better or worse. So here we are, watching Isiah Kiner-Falefa man the position and bat at the bottom of the order.
Including early returns this year, IKF went into Saturday night’s game against the Orioles with a .666 career OPS. His career high was .689 in 2018, his debut year in the Majors. While the Yankees acquired him primarily for his defense, I’m sure there’s some hope that they can turn him around as a hitter, much like they did for Didi Gregorius and Luke Voit after him. So, is that possible?