The Yankees had an amazing month in June. Staggering in the way it came together… and then fell apart.
Through to the 12th of the month, they went 8-3 with the bats exploding. Thereafter, it was 5-12. This left them with a month of 13-15 and a clear leadership swept away with Boston opening, in turn, a clear lead on the boys from the Bronx.
A lot of this was due to injuries but also the team saw some of their players returning to the form they might have expected at the beginning of the year. Let’s review it all… starting with the guys with the lumber.
|New York Yankees 2017 – Batting – Month – June|
Gary Sanchez was one of those players who was an injury worry in the middle of the month but fortunately this only resulted him being considered of day-to-day status with Kyle Higashioka being called up for additional cover. It wasn’t necessary to use Higashioka at all with Sanchez bouncing back quickly.
Indeed, there was no huge drop off in Sanchez’s hitting although most of his homers came before his day out of the line-up. Ultimately, he batted .307 on the month with 9 round trippers (of 13 extra base hits). He may have been a little over shadowed by Judge this year but he is acquitting himself well.
Second choice catcher, Austin Romine continued to do well with .250 on the month including a couple of doubles.
Six players were used at first base with none of them coming anywhere near making the role their own. The mystery of Greg Bird‘s problems saw him transferred from the 10-day disabled list (after an unsuccessful assignment to triple-A Scranton) to the 60-day list. Given that he was expected to not only be the Yankees everyday first baseman but one of their principal hitters, this is proving to be an insurmountable problem. The player who had been his replacement for most of the season, Chris Carter had reached such a low ebb that he was designated for assignment on the 24th of the month. He was so far out of favour that this saw him clear waivers and accept an assignment to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders – only then to find himself recalled to the big leagues by the end of the month. On the month he batted .243 with 7 extra base hits with his defensive work looking increasingly less confident and haphazard.
The reason for his reassignment was the return to fitness of Tyler Austin who had been injured since Spring Training. Austin’s return to full fitness was very short-lived and 5 days later he was placed on the DL again with hamstring damage. During his call-up, he had hit .154.
The rest of those used at first-base were a mixed bag of fill-ins. Sanchez and Romine were given a little time there when they weren’t using the tools of ignorance and utility player, Refsnyder and DH, Holliday too.
It’s all a bit of a mess and one that the Yankees need to address before the trading deadline.
The centre infield pair of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro had a good month but by the 27th of the month that pairing was broken once again. This time it was Castro headed to the DL with a right hamstring strain. Fortunately, the Yankees have enthusiastic bench-player, Ronald Torreyes to call on, who relishes being an everyday player.
Before his injury, Castro had been hitting .289 with 5 home runs (9 extra base hits) on the month, whilst Gregorius was .315 and had 11 extra base hits. The extra playing time saw Torreyes just a slither under .300 for the month. He’s a real asset for the Yankees.
Prior to Castro’s injury, Torreyes had been used primarily as back-up to Chase Headley at third base. Thankfully, Headley has broken out of his May slump and batted .296 in June. He could still do more in terms of power and defensively but he is doing enough to ensure the Yankees will stick with him for the remainder of 2017.
The Yankees had been very reliant on the quartet of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and rookie Aaron Judge to boost their batting through the first two months. Gardner had a great May and Judge has been on an amazing tear of home-runs.
Sadly, a wall saw all of this begin to crumble very early in the month. I refer to the outfield wall that Jacoby Ellsbury ran and crashed into and that saw him go on the 7-day disabled list (concussion) and then eventually be shut down from all baseball activities – staying out until the 26th of the month.
Aaron Hicks did well in stepping up to everyday play but on the 26th, he too was disabled with an oblique strain.
To add to the malaise, Gardner’s bat went quiet – perhaps his successful May meant that he was now trying too obviously to swing for the fences in an effort to match his power spurt for another month.
Only Judge came through the month unscathed. Amongst, the regulars in June, he led the team in runs (30), home runs (10), walks (30), batting average (.324), slugging % (.686), and inevitably OBP (.481).
With all these problems, the Yankees drew on a rather motley crew of the inexperienced and struggling to make up the numbers. Tyler Wade (.143) and Rob Refsnyder (.111) were used here as well as being called upon for the odd day in the infield. Slightly, more effective was Mason Williams who has been in the background waiting for an occasional chance in the big leagues over the last few years. Sadly this may be his last opportunity with the Bronx Bombers. His .250 wasn’t overwhelming enough that the Yankees felt they could wait for one of their younger farm hands to mature and to make room for one of them to come in, they released Williams from the 40 man roster.
The player in question was Dustin Fowler who made his debut on the last day of the month. In the first inning of the game against the Houston Astros, he ran into a low wall in foul territory which he fell over and ruptured his right patellar tendon. Requiring immediate surgery, he never even got to his first major league at-bat before needing to be removed.
This is a tragedy for the player and the team. We wish him well and hope he can resume his baseball career in 2018.
The DH spot has been almost entirely the province of one player this season: Matt Holiday. He has far exceeded anything the Yankees have had from that role over the last few years. But even he has succumbed to the current reign of injuries that has torn through the Yankee roster (more on this when we get to the pitchers in our subsequent column). Holliday (who was batting .264 with 10 extra base hits in June) has been disabled with an unexplained viral condition since the 26th of the month.
This month rather than 1 player in the designated hitter role, the Yankees have used 8. Sanchez and Judge have appeared there on 4 occasions each. Torreyes, Austin, Castro and Gardner have each made one appearance there.
The only encouraging note is that for one day (the 28th) the Yankees called up young 3rd baseman, Miguel Andujar for a day in this role. As you can see in our chart, he responded phenomenally to his chance with 3 hits (2 singles and a double) and 4 RBIs. It was only one day but a good start. He was called up again a few days later after Dustin Fowler’s injury but was not used. We are sure to see him in September and he may well be the third baseman of the future.