May 2018 was a strange month in the annals of the New York Yankees. They had a game which started on the 15th of May and didn’t finish until the 18th of June. To think that in my country of birth, they say that cricket Test matches are long because they end five days after they started.
When the game finally came to its conclusion the Yankees lost to a home run from a player for the Washington Nationals (Juan Soto) who hadn’t made his debut yet. All of this in what was a month which saw the Yankees become once again the lead team in all of Major League Baseball. As I keep saying, in these articles,…confused – you will be.
In short, the game on the 15th of May was declared an official or legal game because it had completed the 5th inning when the weather turned and the game had to be suspended, tied at 3-3 until an extra date at Nationals Park could be found to complete it – a matter complicated by the fact that this was one of the inter-league games of the 2018 season (so the Yankees weren’t scheduled to return there otherwise) and also by the fact that there had been a further weather effected game which would need to be played in its entirety on the same day. More complexity was added as the complete game rearrangement would count against the Yankees’ June stats but the suspended games 7th, 8th & 9th innings would be recorded as though they had happened on that long-past date in May so the stats for May and this column weren’t able to be compiled until now. I’m not even going to mention that on the date that the game started Juan Soto was in single-A ball because this is a feature about Yankees’ statistics and that matter and historical anomaly that it created has been covered extensively in every web-based baseball site and in the regular press!!
|New York Yankees 2018 – Batting – Month – May|
Austin Romine continued to excel and Gary Sanchez continued to disappoint. That is problem enough even before you consider that that Sanchez played in 23 games and Romine in 8 and that Sanchez had a little over three times the number of bats allowed to the Yankees’ number two catcher.
Romine’s .458 and 6 extra base hits was so far ahead of what might reasonably expected whilst Sanchez limped along (.230, 4 doubles, 5 home runs). Add this to the fact that Sanchez whilst having a cannon of an arm when it comes to throwing to second, was weak in pretty much every defensive element and Romine was strong. It is a quite a puzzle but it will be hard to maintain this balance of time behind the plate unless Sanchez can turn things around.
When the Yankees assigned, fit again, recent signing, 25 year-old, Brandon Drury to Triple-A Scranton in the middle of May, it was a sign-of-the-times. In the Spring, the Yankees seemed to have cold feet about potential rookie phenoms like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar spending all of 2018 in New York. A combination of injuries and great form at Triple-A meant they got their chance early in the season anyway and their form on the Bronx Bombers means the Yankees are struggling to find space for gap fillers like Drury, Neil Walker and longterm bench player, Ronald Torreyes. It’s a nice quandary to have but it means that Drury is still at Triple-a despite some exceptional performances at that level.
Until the Yankees activated Greg Bird from the disabled list (DL) on the 26th of May, Walker had been slightly ahead of Tyler Austin in terms of appearances at first base and also had the occasional moment at second base, third base and designated hitter. His very solid .294 with 6 extra base hits on the month had placed him in that position and meant that when they needed to reassign someone to make room for Bird it was the eminently likeable Torreyes who was making the journey. Austin, on the other hand, had a terrible month although he continues to exhibit a little power. He seems to be in the process of blowing his big chance in pinstripes.
Aside from Torreyes and Walker (1 appearance each), Gleyber Torres was the automatic choice at second base and took his chance with both hands – exhibiting great skill in the field and all round value at the plate. His batting average of .325 with 9 homeruns exceeded even the wildest hopes that Cashman and Boone might have had at this stage.
Miguel Andujar wasn’t quite as hot as Torres but he wasn’t far behind and as noted made Drury surplus to requirements. He quickly accumulated 8 extra base hits in the month and this seems likely to be one of his on-going strengths.
In April, all the talk was of Didi Gregorius as a potential MVP but those voices became very quiet as the new month saw his bat become suddenly very quiet for no reason that made sense. His .149 batting average with only 1 homer suddenly made him look very human again and left the Yankees hoping that the real Didi would turn up again in June.
Bench-player/utility man Torreyes didn’t have an awful month (.238, 2 doubles) but it wasn’t enough to stop him being reassigned. Even Boone said he didn’t deserve it but this is the dilemma on a team that is doing so well and is frankly spoilt for choices.
Brett Gardner played 17 games in leftfield and 3 in centrefield in May. More importantly he turned his season around with some great batting performances. By the end of the month, his stats showed that during the fifth month he was leading the team in OBP (on-base percentage) amongst those who were every day players. His .313 batting average and 9 extra base hits was such an improvement on his lukewarm April.
Aaron Hicks played the rest of the time in centrefield but aside from hitting the same number of home runs as Gardner there were no other categories he was ever going to match the Yankees’ number eleven in.
The peculiar decision that the Yankees made of signing a second world-class player whose usual position was right-field has not resulted in many changes in the roles that the players are actually being used in in the field. Indeed, Giancarlo Stanton is accumulating more innings in left-field than in right. First choice is therefore, rightly and appropriately, the property of Aaron Judge who has been busy showing that 2017 was no fluke. His power-stroke remains in place with a team-leading 14 extra base hits in May, 8 of those were round-trippers which was also a team-leading statistic. Regrettably, he is also striking out at a team-leading pace and this led to a May time drop in his batting average. On a team where Torres and Stanton’s strikeout numbers are a little higher than they could be this is one of the few areas where the Yankees could realistically improve.
Now that there seems to be no question in Boone’s mind as to where his best outfield partnership lies, there is a clear trend to using Giancarlo Stanton as first choice in the DH role. Over the month, he spent 50% of the time in that role. This must be assessed bearing in mind that some games this month were played at National League stadiums and consequently with no designated hitter in the line-up. There remains a question, however, whether the adjustment to spending more time during the game on the bench is the factor, or one of the factors, in his dip in performance at the plate. His figures are still more than adequate (.264, 5 doubles, 6 home runs in May) but they are not the equivalent of what he was achieving last year in Miami.
Amongst the players we have already mentioned Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Miguel Andujar and Neil Walker all shared a little time at DH.
The only player on the whole roster who only appeared in the line-up as designated hitter was youngster, Clint Frazier who like Brandon Drury must be wondering if his future lies elsewhere. In his one appearance, he hit a double in only two at-bats but this wasn’t nearly enough to make the Yankees think they needed to carry another outfielder for the longer term.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury remains a long term absentee and is still not partaking in any baseball activities.