The Case of the Missing Yankee Offense

My word do the Yankees stink right now. Another loss last night dropped them to 6-11 on the season. To put that another, somehow even bleaker way: over a full season, that’s a 57 win pace. It is their worst start to a season since 1991, when they finished 71-91. To say it’s not fun to watch the Yankees right now is an understatement.

Now, it must be annoying to hear me say “it’s early” or “don’t react emotionally to April baseball” every time I fire up the ol’ WordPress or Twitter apps. I get it. It’s still true, of course, but I get it. So I’m here to make a confession: the Yankees are infuriating right now, specifically the offense. It is exhausting. I am exhausted. Night after night, they look lifeless at the plate. Seventeen games does not a season make, but it is certainly longer than I, or anyone else, expected to see the team completely fall flat on its face offensively.

There are plenty of numbers to back this up. As a team, the Yankees are hitting just .205/.296/.334 (83 wRC+). That ranks them 28th in baseball, ahead of just Baltimore and Colorado, and just behind Milwaukee and Detroit. Amazingly, they have negative fWAR (-0.1), which is better than just Detroit. Through 17 games, they’ve scored just 59 runs, 28th in the league. That’s 3.47 runs per game.

It’s all being driven by a complete evaporation of their marquee strength: their power. It’s honestly pretty baffling. Here are some statistics in which the Yankees rank in the bottom 10 of the league, for context:

  • Hard Hit Rate: 37.8% (21st)
  • Exit Velocity: 88.7 mph (22nd)
  • Isolated Power: .129 (27th)
  • wOBA: .284 (29th)
  • Extra Base Hits: 37 (29th)
  • Slugging: .334 (30th)

That is wild. It really is. Now, I know hitting is down league-wide this year – collectively, teams are hitting just .233/.312/.391 – but this level of “production” from the Yankees is still borderline incomprehensible. Who could have ever predicted that the lineup would be fully healthy for the first 17 games of the season and every hitter would be mired in a completely lifeless slump? Baseball is a bizarre, bizarre sport.

If there is a bright side to all of this, it’s that the team’s walk rate remains high (10.9%, 4th in the league) and discipline is good (they’re a top 10 team in chase rate). They’re middling when it comes to swinging at strikes (17th). They could be more aggressive, sure, but that really hasn’t been their big problem. Their biggest issue is that they’re simply not doing anything at all with the strikes they do see.

I think we all remember this from the weekend’s stinker against Tampa Bay, right? Remember this?


How could you not? This, unfortunately, is not an anomaly. The Yankees have done zero damage on pitches in the zone at all this season. Overall, the Yanks are hitting just .238/.243/.393 on strikes. (League average is .269/.271/.469.) Their 81.1% contact rate when swinging at pitches in the zone is 25th in the league. The team’s .274 wOBA on strikes is dead last in baseball, considerably below the .315 league average, as is their .393 slugging percentage on such pitches.

Overall, the team is rolling over these pitches and hitting them into the ground. Look at their spray chart on strikes:

That is a good recipe for grounding into an incredible amount of double plays, is it not? The Yankees are getting strikes to hit, but they’re not doing anything with them at all. It is true across the board. In fact, the Yankees only home run against a pitch faster than 95-miles-per-hour in 2021 came off the bat of Kyle Higashioka. Yes, you read that correctly.

That about sums it up, I’d say. Taken together, this can help explain why the Yankees are not hitting for power. Pitches in the zone are the damage pitches, and the Yankees are just missing them. As for why that is happening, I have absolutely zero idea. It’s not like these guys just woke up and forgot how to hit strikes. It seems like one of those weird baseball trends, but yeesh is it frustrating.

Alright, so what to make of all of this? Most fans are incredibly frustrated and it’s easy to see why. The Yankees are horrible right now. But while the Yanks could use some more length from their starters, or Boone could use the bullpen a bit more strategically, the stats laid out above are the root cause of the problem. Coming into the season, we knew that Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber would likely need to shake off some rest, and we knew they’d need to build up their strength. We also knew that the same was probably true for Domingo Germán.

The Yankees’ gamble, which was and remains reasonable, was that the offense would hit enough to paper over those early-season concerns as they built up their strength. That has not happened. If anything, they’ve given the rotation, bullpen, and manager absolutely on margin for error on a given night. Personally, I don’t think it can or will last. This is an incredible slump from top-to-bottom. It would be bad during the middle of the season, of course, but it’s significantly worse at the start. I’m sure it will turn around. It almost has to. Until it does, though, the 2021 Yankees will remain as frustrating a Yankees team as any in recent memory.


Game 17: More Of The Same


Cleveland Series Preview: April 22 to April 25


  1. Broussardyankee

    These posts seem a little extreme. I share everyone’s frustration. I agree Judge is always injured (a Troy Tulowitski clone), Sanchez is a big disappointment, Torres is the worst defensive Yankees SS in my long lifetime (back as far as Rizzuto), Stanton is way overrated, and Hicks is a good but not great CF and hitter. That being said, this club should still be doing much better than they are. Forget the idea of tearing it down. That is crazy. These players are in their prime. This is not 2016 with an old non-competitive club. Firing Boone won’t change anything. He is not the one misplaying ground balls and looking at third strikes. I don’t see wholesale changes as realistic. If I could envision one major addition that I would like to see it would be Trevor Storey at SS. And, then we could move on from this fruitless effort to make Torres into a SS. But that is not going to happen.

  2. I’ve detached myself from rooting hard for the Yankees after being a fan for over 65 years, it’s far easier to occasionally watch them do nothing now.

    The bottom line is that they have been in the World Series 2X since 2001 and that number isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future as their core young players have not only not gotten better but have basically fallen off the table, particularly Torres and Sanchez.

    Hicks just looks incredibly overmatched at the plate and, from the looks of his one throw last night on the sacrifice fly, no longer has anything close to a + arm from center field.

    It’s a long season and maybe they will come around, maybe they will continue to not score runs, but one thing is for sure-Boone isn’t the guy that will lead them to multiple championships, he’s way too much of a front office puppet who has bought into the bs analytics-driven approach to in-game decisions.

  3. Mike Cassier

    I’ve never seen a whole team go in the tank for this long a period of time. It’s hard to watch. Homerun happy. You don’t hit homers off of good starters and now with the specialized bullpen its even harder. This team is going nowhere. Gonna be a long summer. Many teams have caught up and passed the Yankees and it happened overnight.

  4. kesheck

    I find it mildly humorous that some people seem to believe that angry speeches from the manager are the cure for slumping batters.

  5. Wire Fan

    I think walks are becoming overvalued. Hicks is a classic example. He walks a lot but it’s not like his OBP is great because his average is so low. Over the past 3 years he basically has the same OBP as Urshela has had in pinstripes. This stunned me.

    Maybe it is confirmation bias, but it seems like the Yankees take a lot of middle middle fastballs either on the first pitch of an AB or in hitter dominant counts like 2-0 or 3-1.

    Given how great bullpen arms have become, working the count to get the starter out seems like less of an advantage these days. A 2-0 or 3-1 count should be an opportunity to do damage, not to rack up the pitch count or hopefully get a walk later in the AB.

    Don’t know if the data is available but it might be better to look at swing rate on fastballs in the zone in hitters counts as opposed to the aggregate (all pitch types, all counts)

    • DanGer

      Driving up pitch count isn’t as important but working the count still is. Seeing more pitches likely means better chance one of them is a mistake.

      Also Hicks OBP doesn’t show that walks are bad so much as that he lacks contact skills ( Gio’s a bit of the reverse).

  6. Gerreddardit Cole

    Boone’s gotta go, Bobby. They’ve stopped competing for him and that is clear with their performance. All DJ does anymore is hit a slow grounder to 3rd. Gleyber doesn’t even run hard anymore because he’s quit. Clint looks like a depressed emo teenager. Stanton will hit one ball hard all game and strike out the other 3. Hicks supposedly made changes and still looked lost last night. Judge looks injured and gimpy. The only guy that was hitting, Gio, is now injured because this training staff can’t keep anyone healthy. Gary did look good early but now looks lazy again.

    The only thing to do is blow the whole thing to smithereens. Get the kids up here and start seeing what they can do. Fire Boone and hire a disciplinarian like Buck. Someone who isn’t afraid to bench Gleyber for not running to 1st. Boone is way too laid back for this job and the pacemaker just makes it worse because he won’t even come out and tell at the umpire anymore. Cash has got to be fired too for spending $200 million on this crap. Other clubs do more with a half or a third of that. And fire the entire training/medical staff for not keeping anyone healthy. Start calling contenders and see what we can get for Chappy, O’day and Judge.

  7. Yanks317

    There’s been a lot of vitriol pointed at the pitching staff as well on socials. But the bullpen has been outstanding, taillon has impressed 2 out of 3 outings, kluber I’m hoping just ran out of gas last night and the first 4 innings was a sign of what could come, Monty has been a solid #3-4 option, and Cole is Cole. The 5 spot I’d like to see more of an open competition, but I guess they are slow playing with Deivi. Overall, a lot to like from the pitching staff right now.

    But why on earth did they line up Cole vs Bieber when they could have avoided it. That’s the game you must have in the back each turn through the rotation… Cole could blank that lineup and still lose.

    • Pitching has been fantastic. Kluber and Taillon SHOULD be able to give up 3-5 runs over 5/6 innings and still get the W, but last night when Kluber gave up the one run on back to back doubles it felt like the game was over. Sad time in the Bronx indeed.

      • Mike Cassier

        Billy Martin would light a fire under under this club. Then again, the snowflakes probably couldn’t handle being disciplined.

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