Luke Voit vs. Mike Ford might actually be a roster debate

A sigh after a strikeout (MLB.tv)

As we’ve advanced towards the postseason, Luke Voit has appeared to be a lock for the Division Series roster. But is he still? Mike Ford and the ever-changing roster picture make it a question worth asking.

Aaron Boone mentioned this weekend that Ford was in the running for the roster. Of course, if you ask him about any active player, Boone will give his positive outlook, so he’d likely say that regardless, but it rang true.

Ford can only really get a spot if he takes it away from Voit, Edwin Encarnacion or Tyler Wade. At least two of those four players will make the ALDS roster, three if the Yankees go with 12 pitchers instead of 13.

The idea of Voit missing out on the roster entirely wouldn’t have been entertained a month ago. He led the team in on-base percentage for most of the season (Aaron Judge just passed him) and he proved his 2018 wasn’t a fluke.

However, let’s look at his stats before his core injury in London, in his initial return from the IL and after his second IL stint ended on Aug. 30:

AVGOBPSLGBB%K%Exit VelowRC+
March-June.280.393.50914.025.889.6 mph140
July.268.388.41113.435.888.0 mph116
Aug.-Sept..200.319.33813.829.891.1 mph80

The overall numbers are concerning. He’s still walking a decent amount, but his power has eroded, as has his ability to get on base as a whole. It’s encouraging that Voit is still hitting the ball as hard, if not harder (hard-hit rate about the same). You just have to wonder about his confidence level in the midst of a slump, or if he can shake it off as October wipes the slate clean.

Voit’s slump hit a nadir at the end of the season with a 1-for-29 slide going into his final game of the season, when he broke through with a hit. Voit, however, doesn’t have an extra-base hit since Sept. 14 and struck out 13 times in his last 34 plate appearances.

“It’s been kind of a struggle the last couple of weeks. I feel like I’m having good at-bats. Sometimes the baseball gods don’t work in your favor too much. I’m trying everything I can do to get back to where I was,” Voit told the Daily News.

Ford, meanwhile, never stopped hitting and has made the most of his opportunities. He closed the year with seven hits, including four extra-base knocks, in his last four games and 13 plate appearances. He gives the Yankees a platoon advantage compared to their righty-laden lineup and has hit well in some pressure spots with a .971 OPS in high leverage spots compared to his .915 overall mark.

A year ago, Voit was somewhat in Ford’s shoes. Voit had just 39 games of on-fire hitting to earn his postseason role, though first base had been mostly vacated by injury and underperformance. Ford has played 49 games this season and is the same age Voit was last year. While he hasn’t approached 2018 Voit levels, he has hit consistently for two months and could provide thump in his bat off the bench as he’s been a good pinch hitter.

Voit still has more of a track record. You can’t take away his 2018, nor his first half of the season. If he’s healthy and just in need a mechanical adjustment, then he should hold off (sigh) Truck Month. As the gif at the top hints towards, Voit’s confidence could be hurt right now, but he’s busted out of slumps before. Is this any different?

Encarnacion’s injury might make this mini-debate moot. Supposed to return in Texas over the weekend, the designated hitter sat the games out and will instead take part in simulated games during the upcoming off-days. Is that enough to prove he’s OK, or will his oblique injury lead him off the roster? I’m guessing he’ll be on the roster and in the lineup Friday, which could slide Voit to the bench or off the 25-man entirely.

If the Yankees opt for 13 pitchers, there may only be room for one of Ford, Voit and Wade, and Wade’s versatility and speed could make him a better bench option. I’d still go Voit, but it’s close. Otherwise, one of Voit and Ford with Wade would be the logical bench bats (in addition to Cameron Maybin and Austin Romine) if the team goes with 12 pitchers.

Voit’s second half ultimately puts a stain on all he accomplished in the first half. He’s looked lost at the plate in recent games. Still, that doesn’t take away from his potential impact. If the Yankees believe or know he’s compromised by his hernia injury, then leaving him off the roster is understandable. Otherwise, his established bat has a role for New York this postseason, recent slump by damned.

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3 Comments

  1. William D Hudgins

    You note that Voit has looked lost at the plate recently – I agree. But Voit said he has good ABs.
    Good ABs would involve going up the middle or to right like he was during his better periods, not trying to hit every pitch to the moon. His comments indicate he doesn’t get it.

  2. dasit

    i know this is a 2019 team-wide phenomenon, but voit’s reverse home/road splits are insane
    .377 slugging at home
    .555 slugging on the road!

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