includes 1st October (to end of regular season)
The New York Yankees were sensational with their bats during September – especially Jacoby Ellsbury who was so consistent and Aaron Judge who having struggled with his mechanics since the All-Star break suddenly bounced back with immense power. Let’s look at how the whole line-up performed:
|New York Yankees 2017 – Batting – Month – September and October|
Gary Sanchez played in 20 games as catcher in this period, Austin Romine appeared in 12, new guy in town Eric Kratz played at catcher on two dates.
Sanchez was quiet in July, really hot in August (12 home runs) and landed somewhere between the two in September. His average in September was up (.303) but his power was down (10 extra base hits). His fielding was more solid than it had been but still not the best and this left the Yankees relying substantially on, second choice, Romine.
Romine had only a couple of extra base hits and a pair of walks amongst his 35 at bats. He is, however, very solid defensively. The Yankees will require him or someone who is as good defensively and better offensively to be around in 2018, until Sanchez gets the kinks out of his defensive mechanics (if he ever does).
The Yankees acquired Kratz from Cleveland after the mayhem in the Detroit game in late August saw both Sanchez and Romine suspended. It turned out he was a good pick-up. In his very small role he worked both as a designated hitter and catcher and got a double and single in his two at-bats. He is unlikely to be on the Yankees roster next year and it will be certainly something to tell his grandchildren about – the year he batted 1.000 with the Yankees.
Greg Bird, after a very troubled year, finally became the Yankees’ first choice first baseman in September. Chase Headley who was still very much part of the regular starting line-up only played in 10 games at first base in the month but also saw some time in his old role at third base and frequently appeared at DH. Also in the mix was Tyler Austin who played there in 3 games as well as 6 in rightfield and a single appearance at designated hitter.
Bird, who has had a wretched season, has improved but will end 2017 with the Yankees still not convinced that he is the real deal. He has power (6 home runs in September) but whilst he managed to hit for average in limited time in August, he dipped to .232 in the last full month of the season. The Yankees do seem to prefer him over Austin whose .200 in September is very difficult to assess as he was used for so little time.
Chase Headley is a real question mark for the Yankees. He lost his role at third base to Todd Frazier. Now he has lost his role at first base to Greg Bird. He is set to earn $13m in 2018 which would make him a difficult trade. On the other hand, his .276 with 4 home runs in September show that there are offensive reasons to keep him around. His defensive work this (and last) season has not been the strongest.
Starlin Castro didn’t have his best month of the season in September but after dividing July and August between fitness and the disabled list, the Yankees will be pleased with .277 and 4 home runs. Because he was fit for the whole month, the Yankees had little need for a backup second baseman. They used Ronald Torreyes for 6 games but they used him more at shortstop. Utility man, Tyler Wade played at second base for 1 game but also saw most of his time elsewhere. We will come to both of these players in a moment.
Shortstop, Didi Gregorius struggled at times in September and by the end of the month, his .245 with 6 home runs was his lowest monthly total of the season. However, it must be borne in mind that he has had an excellent year and has hit more home runs in one season than any shortstop in Yankees’ history. The aforementioned Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade were the other two players used at shortstop in September. Torreyes had a most peculiar month. He appeared in 10 games between the 1st and 20th of September. Five of these involved him appearing as a batter and five only as a late innings defensive replacement. In 12 at bats during this period, he produced no hits. The Yankees recognising his struggles left him out of the line-up for the next few games. When he returned to the team on the 25th, it was to see him achieve 5 hits in 7 at bats across two games. That took his average on the month up from .000 to .263! Wade split what little time he was given across second base, shortstop, leftfield and designated hitter. He hit .333 in 6 at bats and this useful player could find himself in a run off for a utility spot on the 2018 team with Torreyes.
Third base? Todd Frazier with a little assistance from Chase Headley, Miguel Andujar and Torreyes. Frazier had his best month of hitting for power since he joined New York mid-season (6 home runs and 3 doubles) and continues to be good defensively and an excellent clubhouse presence. Even his batting average was up slightly but there lies his problem. With the increase, his monthly figure was .229 and the season across White Sox time and his time with the Yankees was only .213. Not good and difficult to see him being back in New York next year unless the Mets have some interest in him. If he is not re-signed then that could mean a competition between Headley and Miguel Andujar in Spring Training or the addition of a new face. Given this scenario it might have been expected that the Yankees would give Andujar opportunity to show his chops in September but this hasn’t happened. In 4 appearances, he achieved 3 at-bats and 1 hit which tells the team precisely nothing about how he would cope over an extended run in the team.
One player who has been given an opportunity to show his ability a little earlier than expected is Clint Frazier. The touted ginger-haired possible phenom has produced mixed results. This can be partially put down to injury (he missed nearly all of August and the opening part of September) and also to inconsistency. July had seen him produce .270 with 4 home runs. August and September were not so shiny. Indeed in September and the 162nd game which fell in October, his figures dwindled to a team worst .174 with no 4-baggers. This very much meant that when Aaron Hicks also returned to fitness, Clint Frazier became very much the fifth outfielder.
After Hicks’ return, Hicks hit .222 with 2 homers but really not much more was expected – the Yankees were just trying to fast track him so he might be ready for the post-season.
Jacoby Ellsbury was the one to “benefit” from the fact that two of the outfielders were not available for much of recent weeks. For the first time all season, he became one of the three regular starting outfielders and produced a return to the form akin to the performance he had shown in April and May – prior to his own injury. Indeed, in terms of hitting for average he was better than he had been in those early months but now there were no home runs. Ellsbury will be another to make the Yankees’ brass scratch their collective heads in the close season. He has three years remaining on his contract with a full no-trade clause and is paid over $21m a season. When the Yankees signed him from Boston, they thought they were getting a power hitter. It hasn’t worked out that way. At Boston, he hit 45 home runs between 2011 and 2013 (albeit with 32 of them coming in one season). In the four seasons since moving to the Bronx, he has only 39 (23 in the last three seasons). What to do with him next?
Brett Gardner continues to be consistent: .282, 9 extra base hits and 5 stolen bases in September. Nothing much to grumble about there.
The Yankees had begun to worry a little about rightfielder, Aaron Judge whose bat had gone quite quiet after a first half that exceeded everybody’s expectations. And then September dawned. July .230 with 7 home runs; August .185 with 3 home runs; September .311 with 15 home runs. Whatever had been wrong suddenly fixed itself. Those who said that major league pitchers had adjusted to Judge second time around and that he would never again match the figures of the early part of the season were silenced. In September, he was the finest offensive player on the Yankees and indeed in the entire Major Leagues.
On the second of September, Matt Holliday returned to being the first choice DH for the Yankees – not everyday like he had been before his time out but he regained the majority of the time in that role. 6 other players saw a little time there – Kratz, Judge, Sanchez, Austin, Andujar and Wade. One other – Chase Headley – now found that he was virtually sharing time there with Holliday.
Holliday batted .237 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles. His form in the second half of the season seems unlikely to gain him a second year in pinstripes.
As the Yankees have qualified for the post season, many of the bit-players will disappear until Spring Training. The batters have given them a reasonable chance going into the playoffs. I can’t see them in the World Series but it has been a better year than I’d hoped for.