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?
Author: Matt Imbrogno Page 2 of 29
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.
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?
When it comes to sports, we tend to clearly remember big moments from big games: what we were doing, how we felt, all that good stuff. Then there are times when we remember random moments of random games that are far less meaningless than big ones. And every so often, we remember a non-playing event with great, seemingly random clarity. One of those moments is the moment when it was reported that Luis Severino signed his extension with the Yankees in February 2019.
When news of that came down, I was in the bathroom of our previous home, giving my son a bath. At that moment, I was so happy for Severino, for the Yankees, and for us as fans. I was also ready for the Yankees to offer extensions to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez; neither of those things happened, clearly. And, unfortunately, things have not gone well for Severino since then. He’s pitched just 19.1 big-league innings since 2019, including his appearance in the Wild Card game against Boston in the 2021 playoffs. That all may as well be history now, though, as the Yankees are counting on Severino to be their number two behind ace Gerrit Cole going into the 2022 season.