Over the last week or so, something fairly remarkable has happened: Luke Voit’s spot on the ALDS roster appears to be in question. Voit has really struggled of late, leading Aaron Boone to say that Mike Ford is “certainly in the conversation” for the playoff roster. Steven provided a thorough overview of the argument the other day, so I won’t get into that here. You can check his post out for that.
Instead, what I am going to do is pick a side because I personally find this entire debate–one that is raging across the fandom, as a simple Google News search of “Luke Voit” will show you–to be completely silly. I think it’s pretty clear that Luke Voit will not only make the roster but that he deserves to.
To be clear, the only way that Voit shouldn’t be on the roster is if he isn’t healthy, but there’s no way for us to know if he isn’t, so I’m going to just ignore it for the purposes of this exercise. Not to mention, there’s no indication that he isn’t healthy. So with that in mind, let’s get into it.
Voit’s Recent Struggles
There is no doubt: Voit has been struggling in a serious way recently. There are a number of ways to break this up using everyone’s favorite Arbitrary Endpoints. Over the final 2 weeks of the season, for example, Voit hit a truly disgusting .031/.184/.031 (-28 wRC+), logging just 1 hit in 38 plate appearances while striking out more than 34% of the time. He hit just .200/.319/.338 (80 wRC+) with 2 HR since returning from the sports hernia at the end of August. In his final 52 games, Voit hit just 4 home runs. And on and on and on.
Here’s what this looks like in graph form. His rolling batting average:
His rolling slugging:
And his rolling wRC+:
That, folks, is what we call a slump. There’s no doubt about it. And it’s not a short one, per se–Voit had 90 plate appearances since returning from the injury.
With all of that said, there are some promising signs the further you look under the hood with Voit. More than enough to justify his spot on the roster, in fact. Here’s what I wrote the night the Yankees won the division about Voit:
“You gotta feel for Luke Voit tonight, don’t you? After Andrelton Simmons’ unreal play against him last night, Voit continued to smash the ball and got absolutely no results. Voit put two balls in play tonight. Both left the bat at over 101 mph and both had an expected batting average over .680, and yet he came up hitless.”
Turns out that this is actually a familiar story for Voit since his return–and even throughout his slump. The numbers I highlighted above are rough, for sure, but it’s worth running a Statcast and FanGraphs query on Voit since his return from injury. Here’s what you’ll find:
- Average Exit Velocity: 91.1 mph
- Average Launch Angle: 15.7 degrees
- Hard Hit Percentage: 47%
- Chase Percentage: 21.3%
- Walk Rate: 14%
Here’s what that looks like in graph form:
This tells us that while the results have not been there for Voit, the underlying data has been quite strong. That suggests a few things, namely that Voit is getting unlucky. He is hitting the ball hard, he is mostly laying off the junk, and he is drawing walks. Baseball is a game of trial-and-error, and it is often a cruel sport. All Voit can control is the type of contact he makes and the types of pitches he attacks, and there is good reason to believe that his approach remains strong. If Voit keeps it up, the results will come.
Luke Voit, since he joined the Yankees in 2018, has been hitting the ball with authority. That batted ball profile convinced me after the season that he was the real deal, it remained consistent when he was carrying the Yankees in the first half of the season, and it is consistent now amid his slump. Throughout each of these periods, Voit has remained patient at the plate and has always drawn walks. Even in this slump, he is posting an on-base percentage north of .300. That has value in-and-of-itself. In other words, Voit is one of the most talented players on the Yankees. Much like with Luis Severino and hitting Judge and Stanton back-to-back, the best playoff roster is the one that includes the most talent and gives that talent the most chances to succeed.
Ultimately, Voit’s underlying data is yet another reminder for fans not to fall prey to Voros’s Law, which tells us that any MLB hitter can put up just about any line in about 60 at-bats. (Commonly known as: beware the small sample size.) And that’s what this is, 1-32 stretch be damned. Luke Voit has looked bad at the plate, but there are plenty of promises lying underneath the slump. If the Yankees stick with him, as I expect they will, they will be rewarded–and fans will soon forget all about a slump in the doldrums of September.