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Here are Some Dismaying Stats about the Yankee Offense

Boy have the Yankees been bad lately, huh? It’s borderline unfathomable to me. They’re implementing the classic formula for a struggling baseball team: when the offense is good, the pitching is bad; when the pitching is good, the offense is bad. And, of course, when both are good, the bullpen blows the late lead. It’s brutal.

Anyway, the Yankee offense has been horrible since the 5-14 stretch began on August 18. I was going to write a whole post about it, but it’s honestly pretty deflating. Besides, what is there to say? We all know they’ve been horrible. There’s very little new ground here. So, instead, I’m going to bullet out this misery:

  • Yankees batters have a .205 batting average in their last 672 plate appearances. That ranks 28th out of 30, ahead of Cincinnati (.202) and Arizona (.197).
  • They have a .304 on-base-percentage, ranking the Yanks 25th in the league.
  • Amazingly, the Bronx “Bombers” have a .354 slugging percentage over the period. It’s better than just two other teams, Texas (.341) and Arizona (.328).
  • For the team, they’ve been hitting .205/.304/.354 in the last nearly 700 plate appearances. That is “good” for an 80 wRC+, which ranks 25th out of 30. That is good for a .657 OPS, which ranks 27th.
  • Put another way, they have a .290 wOBA – ranking them above Kansas City (.289), Pittsburgh (.286), Arizona (.270), and Texas (.269).
  • The Yanks still have some power, with an average exit velocity of 88.6 mph, which puts them 15th and a .149 ISO that ranks 22nd. This is more in line with their .330 xWOBA, which ranks 21st.
  • Overall, the Yankees offense has posted 0.2 fWAR. That’s 28th out of 30, with just Arizona (-0.7) and Texas (-1.8) clocking in worse over the period.

Pretty bad, right? How about a few more, this time a bit more in-depth:

  • The Yanks have a .283 wOBA against high-velocity fastballs (any over 95 mph). That’s 24th out of 30. Their .184 batting average against them ranks 26th out of 30.
  • Their .190 BABIP against such fastballs is consistent with their actual batting average and ranks 29th out of 30. The good news, though, is they “should” perform better, with a .342 xWOBA that ranks 15th and an average exit velocity of 89.3 mph that ranks 18th.
  • Teams have noticed, throwing them 18.1% of the time against the Yanks, the second-highest clip in the league. Hey, I’d do it too.
  • Lest you think it was just fastballs, they also have a .188 BA (26th), .236 wOBA (25th) and .266 xWOBA (26th) against off-speed stuff.
  • As I’m sure you can imagine by now, they’ve been abysmal against breaking pitches too. Our Bombers have a .153 BA (29th), .196 wOBA (30th), and .266 xWOBA (25th) line against those offerings.
  • Finally, they can’t even hit anything right down the middle. They have a .230 BA (30th), .268 wOBA (30th), and .354 xWOBA (25th) against 692 pitches in the heart of the plate. Pretty frustrating!

If you’re still here, there are two pieces of good news. The first is that the Yankees are still taking pitches (their 28.7% chase rate is a top-10 mark) and they still walking (their 11.3% walk rate ranks 4th). That bodes well in the long-run.

The second is that every team, no matter how good, is bound to struggle at some point. It won’t stay this bad forever – even in a pandemic-shortened season, the law of averages will win out. We’ll forget about this soon, but until then, it’s rough waters ahead for the New York Yankees.

Judge or Lindor? Why not both?

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Yesterday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal weighed in on a potential choice the Yankees could face soon:

No decision is necessary just yet. But if I were running the Yankees, I’d think twice about signing the oft-injured Aaron Judge to a monster extension. Instead, I’d consider taking that money and going hard after Francisco Lindor when he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season.

I won’t give away the details of Rosenthal’s rationale since it’s behind a paywall. The gist of his argument is that Judge’s long-term health is murky, the team is loaded with outfielders, and have a ton of salary commitments already. Rosenthal believes Lindor might be the team’s better option as it’s next splurge. Not only is Lindor great in his own right, but he’s also younger and has a healthier track record. None of Rosenthal’s points are wrong, per se. But as you might have expected us to say, why can’t the Yankees have both?

Let’s address Rosenthal’s biggest concern: Judge’s health. Frankly, I can’t deny that it worries me too. He’s on the injured list yet again after playing in just 112 and 102 of the team’s games in each of the last two seasons. He probably would have played a similar total this year if not for the pandemic because of his broken rib and collapsed lung. The only real “bad luck” injury was the wrist fracture on a hit by pitch in 2018. Otherwise, we’ve seen a couple of muscle strains and that broken rib (which to his credit, he played through at the end of 2019). I suppose the rib fracture could be bad luck too. That said, it worries me that an impact play like that in right field could hurt him again.

Depending on your WAR metric of preference, Judge was a five-win player in 2018 and 2019 in spite of missing so many games. There aren’t many outfielders who do that in a full season! If you could only pencil in Judge for 115 games annually but knew you’d get 5 WAR a pop, I think you’d be thrilled. And with guys like Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier around to fill the void, those other games aren’t exactly being filled by scrubs. The caveat: Judge needs to be healthy when it matters most in October.

Speaking of Tauchman and Frazier — yes, the Yankees have in-house options to step in for Judge after 2022, when he becomes a free agent. But as good those two look, they’re not Judge and they almost certainly never will be. Plus, Tauchman is 1.5 years older than Judge. Frazier is a little more than a year younger, though. Hell, Jasson Dominguez might be ready for the show come 2023, but that’s a ways away from now. Who knows what happens between now and then.

Finally, we get to payroll. I think we’ve argued this ad nauseam, but the Yankees aren’t in dire straits as much as some may lead you to believe. There is a lot of money coming off the books this season, even if you consider the large arbitration raises for guys like Judge, Gary Sánchez, and Gio Urshela (among others). Masahiro Tanaka ($23M), JA Happ ($17M), James Paxton ($12.5M), DJ LeMahieu ($12.5M), and Brett Gardner ($12.5M) could all depart this winter. Now, it wouldn’t be great to lose that much talent, it’s just worth noting. Per Cot’s, these are the Yankees’ salary commitments through 2024:

  • 2021: $132M
  • 2022: $103M
  • 2023: $82M
  • 2024: $78M

Almost all of that is tied to Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton (but don’t forget, the Marlins are paying a. Of course, this doesn’t account for the larger arbitration increases for guys like Judge in 2021 and 2022, but still. There’s money to play with and it doesn’t have to be Judge or Lindor. It can be both.

Keep in mind that Judge might not be as expensive as you think. The Yankees can continue to go year-to-year in arbitration through the 2022 season. While that could cost them something like $40 million over the next two seasons, that’s a pittance for Judge’s production. Further, Judge becomes a free agent in advance of his age-31 season. This isn’t a Manny Machado or Bryce Harper free agency when guys sign for $300 million in their mid-twenties.

So, I’ve spent all this time talking about Judge’s health and the Yankees’ financial status without really talking about Lindor. He’s great and the Yankees should absolutely sign him after 2021. Move Gleyber Torres back to second base, and depending on what happens with LeMahieu in free agency, the Yanks can play either DJ or Urshela at third. Don’t forget about Luke Voit at first base. That probably would be the Yankees’ best infield since 2009.

It’s exciting to think about the prospect of Judge and Lindor in pinstripes, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It would be awfully fun to have both of them around, but the focus at the moment is winning this year and next. Unless there’s a trade, Lindor can’t help just yet.

JA Happ, Clarke Schmidt, and the Trade Deadline

When is enough, enough? Earlier this week, we learned that the Yankees would skip JA Happ in the rotation because of two off days this week. This was a sensible decision given the continuation of his bad 2019 into his first two starts of 2020. The veteran lefty, or at least his rotation spot, isn’t in need again until Monday. But instead, the Yankees announced that he’ll start Sunday against Boston. I know it’s just a difference of one day, but Jordan Montgomery could have gone on regular rest Sunday. Plus, a certain pitching prospect is in line for Monday.

Running Happ out against Boston’s lineup isn’t likely to get him back on track. Yes, the Red Sox have struggled this year. Still, even without Mookie Betts, there are some excellent hitters in that lineup who probably wouldn’t mind facing Happ. How could hitters not want to face him? He’s given up three homers and walked eight in just seven innings this season to follow up last year’s 4.91 ERA. Do the Yankees really need to keep trying this? We know what Happ is at this point. So, with the trade deadline a little more than two weeks away, it’s time to figure out what the organization has internally (i.e. Clarke Schmidt). Not only is Happ bad, but if Paxton can’t regain his velocity, the Yankees should nab another starter. Maybe that starter is already in waiting at the Alternate Site.

Schmidt was scheduled to throw five innings in Scranton yesterday, which would put him in line to make his next turn on Monday. That should be in the Bronx, but it looks like it won’t be. And it could have worked out just fine, too. Again, instead of Happ Sunday, Montgomery could have pitched on normal rest leaving Monday wide open. Alas.

Putting Schmidt in the rotation now would allow him to start three times before the deadline. As Bobby said earlier this week, might as well size him up before the deadline. Now, I don’t know if that’s enough time to evaluate his readiness to stick in the rotation, but it’s better than not seeing him face big league hitters until mid-September when it’ll be too late to make a trade.

There’s really no need to salvage Happ at this point. Stick him in the bullpen, let him eat some garbage time innings, and maybe try him in similar situations that Luis Avilán is currently getting. Give Schmidt his chance, and if it works out, great. If not, the trade market will still be available.

Here are Some Facts about Gary Sánchez, Who Will be Just Fine

Gary Sánchez is struggling out of the gate. He is 0-12 with 8 strikeouts in the new season and he’s looked pretty miserable at the plate, even as he’s stolen a few strikes below the zone. There is no getting around it: he has been bad and difficult to watch.

As always, when Gary is struggling, he looks the part. He swings at pitches he shouldn’t and isn’t close to hitting pitches he should hit. This, coupled with an obsession with passed balls, makes Gary a very controversial player in the Yankee fandom. This is stupid, because Gary is one of baseball’s best catchers. It is also stupid because the Yankees have played just four games in 2020. Of those, Gary has started three and pinch-hit in one.

With this in mind, I wanted to put together a few facts about Gary Sánchez’s place among catchers from 2016 through the end of 2019. Do when them what you will:

  • His 105 home runs are the most among all MLB catchers. Yasmani Grandal’s 101 are second, despite the fact Grandal has played in 178 more games than Sánchez. Salvador Pérez is in third place with 78, despite playing in 29 more games than the Kraken.
  • Gary’s 121 wRC+ since the start of 2016 is the highest among all Major League catchers.
  • His .514 slugging percentage is .39 points higher than the catcher in second place (Evan Gattis).
  • Gary’s .269 isolated power is also .39 points higher than the catcher in second place (Evan Gattis, again).
  • Sánchez’s .840 OPS is tops in baseball by .17 points higher than second place, 29 points higher than third place, 24 points higher than fourth place, and 42 points higher than fifth place.
  • His .352 wOBA is also tops in baseball. His .387 expected wOBA is – stop me if you’ve heard this before – the highest in baseball.
  • Among all catchers since 2016, Gary’s 91.3 mph average exit velocity is the highest in the league. It is also 31st highest out of all 360 qualified players, regardless of position.
  • His 493-foot home run in August 2017 traveled 17 feet further than next closest non-Gary catcher. He has also hit a ball 481 feet. That looks like this.
  • His 11.6 fWAR ranks 5th out of the group despite playing in 131 fewer games than all but one catcher (Tyler Flowers) ahead of him.
  • Despite all this, his .264 BABIP ranks 30th out of 34 qualified catchers. This suggests, in fact, that he’s been unlucky.

Again, it is true that Gary Sánchez has been bad so far in 2020. Nobody, not even his biggest fan, would deny that. However, if I’m choosing between three games (and one extra at-bat) or four plus years of work, I know which choice I am making. Do you?

Moving on from the Astros Melodrama

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Spring training is here! The birth of a new season is upon us. It’s supposed to be a happy and exciting time. Well, not this year, at least not yet. Instead, the Astros’ cheating scandal and the responses to it have dominated headlines and fan sentiment. Each and every day we get a new wrinkle, and I have to say, it’s exhausting. Whether it’s Jim Crane, Rob Manfred, or Houston players insulting our intelligence, enough is enough. No one is sorry and we can’t expect contrition.

We can remain rightfully pissed at them, and hopefully that’s cathartic to some degree. But at this point, for me personally, there’s only so much more my attention span can take. This should be an exciting time of the year, particularly with such a terrific Yankees team in camp.

The media has already and will continue to ask the Yankees’ players and staff about the Astros. That’s understandable given the current headlines, but at some point soon, I really hope the focus turns to the team on the field. I mean, look at the squad the Yankees will run out this season. After back-to-back 100-win campaigns, they added Gerrit freakin’ Cole. Yes, there were a few losses in free agency, but the team’s fantastic young core is in tact. They’re a great team with a ton of easy to root for players. They should be World Series favorites. That’s what I want the focus to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to forget about Houston’s transgressions. To put it nicely: screw them. Will I still get sucked in to each day’s newest installment of the scandal’s stupidity? I may. But at the same time, I really want to move on to this current Yankees club. Again, this team is really good, though you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Baseball should be fun. Yes, it’s a big business and there are a number of issues with the sport at the moment, and not just what’s going on with the Astros. But at the end of the day, we all tune in for our own personal enjoyment. We all want to see Luis Severino fired up…

…or Aaron Judge send a ball to outer space…

Ah, that’s the good stuff.

Real games are right around the corner and I think that’s just what the doctor ordered. Seeing live action, even if it’s just Grapefruit League play, will remind us of some of the things we love about baseball. The Astros and league can’t ruin that for us, no matter how hard they may try.

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