The second half of June was a disaster for New York. After the twelfth of the month they suffered a huge slide which saw them go 8-17 between then and the 14th of July. However, in the second half of July they turned that around with a sequence of 12 wins out of 17 games which saw them return to the head of their division. A lot of the success was led by the pitchers but which of the batters were also at the forefront of the turnaround?
|New York Yankees 2017 – Batting – Month – July|
The team batting average was only .237 but thanks to some good power hitting and a few outstanding performances, the offensive side of the team certainly contributed.
Austin Romine had a miserable month at the plate and Gary Sanchez had one of his poorer months since he exploded into the regular line-up at the tail-end of last season. Romine batted only .185 with only two doubles in terms of extra base hits. Sanchez was better (.231, 9 extra base hits) but the Yankees received little from the catchers’ position. In addition, Sanchez is giving up too many passed balls and is proving weak at cleanly catching third strikes.
The month was a confusing one at first base. It saw the Yankees give another chance to Chris Carter after injuries left them bereft of options – a chance that didn’t last long. It also saw them promote J-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper from the minors as they looked for internal possibilities. Cooper had arrived from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Tyler Webb in the middle of the month and was initially assigned to Scranton but after a very brief stay was promoted to the big league club.
All of this to-ing and fro-ing came to an abrupt ending on the 19th but not with the arrival of a new first baseman but with the trade for Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox along with relief pitchers, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson who both have history with the Yankees. Frazier, a power-hitting third baseman, took that role from Chase Headley and Headley, in a move that surprised me, moved to the opposite corner of the diamond. Headley is still learning his trade there defensively but he had a great month at the plate – batting .333 with 10 extra base hits (9 of them doubles, meaning that he easily led the team in that category over this sample period). The Yankees gave up reliever Tyler Clippard and three minor league players to gain the clutch of names from Chicago. The White Sox are really cleaning house.
Austin Romine also saw a little time at first base. Garrett Cooper who has become second choice, with Choi designated for assignment and Carter released, batted .240.
Things were just as surprising at second base where Starlin Castro only played six games in July before returning to the disabled list with more hamstring problems. Castro was only batting .227 on the month when he was stepped down and Ronald Torreyes moved up capably to take over his role. Torreyes’ .283 with 3 extra base hits is much less than you’d hope for from a fully fit Castro but once again the Yankees are so relieved to have an asset like Torreyes on the bench. Tyler Wade who has been called up again following Castro’s injury is in a partial platoon with Torreyes but is really struggling at the plate.
Fit-again shortstop, Didi Gregorius has been in storming mood since the All-Star break and this saw him increase his figures for the whole of July to .277 with 7 home runs and 3 doubles. He ties Aaron Judge for the team July lead in homers.
Third base became Todd Frazier’s corner and territory. The wisdom of signing Frazier is going to be a debated one. He struggles to hit for average and has made a slow start to power-hitting since joining the Yankees.
After the Dustin Fowler injury, the next man in line was Clint Frazier, a young man with great bat speed and a capable corner outfielder but a brash and almost arrogant figure for his age – the kind of personality that the Yankees haven’t seen in the clubhouse since Joba Chamberlain. Whilst Chamberlain, never really cut the mustard and just became an embarrassment, Frazier is showing every possibility of being the real deal. He has 17 appearances in leftfield so far, as well as 4 in right and two as designated hitter. He has hit .270 in July with a team-leading 13 extra base hits including an also team leading 3 triples. For Frazier, if he can survive the reappearance of Aaron Hicks when Hicks is fit again, the future might just be now.
Aaron Judge, who won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game seems to be pressing just a little too much since then. He always seems to be swinging for the fences and therefore his production of singles and doubles is falling away.
The emergence of Clint Frazier means that Jacoby Ellsbury has been the one to lose time on the field with Brett Gardner appearing in 27 games to Ellsbury’s 15. There is a clear statistical reason for this as we compare these two very similar players. In July, Gardner has hit .261 with 8 extra base hits (4 home runs). Over the same period, Ellsbury has hit .151 with no homers. I would normally be one to be in Ellsbury’s corner but at the moment it is a no contest.
In addition to the usual group, Tyler Wade has made one appearance in leftfield. Aaron Hicks has spent the whole month on the disabled list.
The big question is what the Yankees will do when Hicks is fit again. Will they simply move Clint Frazier back to the minors until the rosters expand in September? His ego will probably not handle that well. Will they try to move Ellsbury despite his large contract and his no-trade clause? It is going to be a real step into the unknown which might be just a few days away as Hicks gets ready to appear at Scranton.
One wrinkle in all of this is the massive falling apart of the performance of Matt Holliday at designated hitter who until the middle of the season had seemed a godsend for a Yankees line-up who have struggled to produce from this position for several years. Holliday, you may remember, was diagnosed with a mysterious viral condition which saw him added to what was then a long disabled list of Yankees and has now returned to the team but not to anything like his earlier season form.
In July, he batted only .130 with 2 extra base hits. Sanchez, C. Frazier, Ellsbury, Gardner and Judge have all been used in a limited way in the role but the Yankees may need to come up with a more long-term solution. Clint Frazier or Ellsbury could be used there. Sanchez’s defensive difficulties could see him there a little more with Romine then given more time behind the plate. It could be a role that is rotated when Hicks returns. But someone will have to go to balance the numbers. Could it be Holliday? Asking that question would not even have occurred to me in June.
The Yankees have already shown themselves willing to make changes. From the surprising – who would have guessed Headley as the everyday first baseman? – to the predictable (Rob Refsnyder has gone to pastures new). Something will happen soon, but what will it be?