Category: Analysis Page 2 of 42

Hitter volatility and the 2021 Yankees

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Sometimes we receive mailbag emails that are worthy of their own post. This came from one of our readers, Aaron, a couple weeks ago:

The Yankees were, despite not believing in ‘hot’, somehow one of the streakiest teams we’ve ever seen, alternating between looking like World Series contenders and a Little League team within the span of mere weeks. What are your thoughts on the possibility that having streaky players like Stanton, Sánchez, and (later in the season) Gallo in the lineup had something to do with this?

This question addresses a broader narrative about this year’s club, and even Yankees teams from prior seasons. The thought is that an offense prone to streaks (hot or cold) is less likely to find success in a short series. From a high level, this makes some sense. Either everything is going to click at the right time and a team will bulldoze its way to a title, or a team will suddenly turn into a pumpkin and get knocked out quickly. Meanwhile, a more consistent ballclub should have a better chance of making a long October run. And, while the Yankees have extremely talented hitters, they do seem like a group of guys who are either blazing hot or ice cold, making postseason success difficult.

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What went wrong with the Yankees Offense?

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We expected the Bronx Bombers to continue being just that, an offensive juggernaut that ranks solidly among the top five offenses in the regular season. I mean, they’ve been constantly doing this ever since the Baby Bombers got here. How could we consider any other outcome?

Well, another outcome did indeed happen. And it was…not good. Now that’s everything is said and done for the Yankees, it’s time to check on why this happened.

So, let me get to my best Marvel’s “What If?” The Watcher’s voice, and say: Follow me, and ponder the question: What the hell happened to the 2021 Yankees’ offense?

Finding an upgrade at catcher will be difficult

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Gary Sánchez has been a lightning rod for a few years now. There are staunch defenders of him (us at Views, typically) and those who can’t wait to get rid of him. There’s no denying that Sánchez hasn’t been the guy we saw in 2016 and 2017 for a few years now. His offensive prowess has cratered and his defense has been mostly not good. Yet, at the same time, it’s going to be next to impossible for the Yankees to upgrade at starting catcher for the 2022 season.

Good catchers simply aren’t easy to come by. Teams don’t trade them away and it’s pretty rare that a good one reaches free agency. And even for all of Sánchez’s faults, he’s still one of the better catchers in the majors. There aren’t that many catchers below who I’m certain will be better than Gary in 2022. And odds are that none of them will be acquirable.

via Baseball Prospectus

I think the two issues many fans have with Sánchez is fatigue and unreasonable expectations. The Kraken’s offensive onslaught in 2016 and 2017 (.284/.354/.568, 53 HR, 143 wRC+ in 754 PA) set a ridiculous benchmark for a young catcher. It was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it helped propel the Yankees into contention in ’17, while it also cursed Sánchez by making his league average numbers thereafter look awful. And in turn, the offensive decline also made it harder to ignore his defensive shortcomings.

Gleyber Torres: A No. 1 Concern

What is there to say about Gleyber Torres’s 2021 that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes, the simplest explanations are best: it’s been Bad. Real bad. Terrible. Horrible. No good. Very bad. Maybe he wants to move to Australia at this point.

It’s clear, or at least evident, that the rocket ball of the past may’ve had a good deal to do with Gleyber’s power surge and it seems the pandemic season of 2020 messed with him a lot. Fresh for 2021, though, I don’t think any of us expected what we’re seeing out of him now. His at bats mostly look weak and any hot streaks he’s gone on have quickly dissipated (though injury plays a role there). And that’s to say nothing of his defense, which has reached unacceptable levels.

Machine Malfunction

Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Yankees at some point in 2021, the one we may not have seen coming is perhaps the most consequential.

After MVP-level seasons in 2019 and 2020, DJ LeMahieu has been thoroughly ‘meh’ for the Yankees. Not bad! He came into Saturday’s action sporting a league average 102 wRC+, which is…fine. But after the last two seasons, after re-signing for a long time and good money, it’s hard to call his 2021 campaign anything but a disappointment.

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