The Yankees seemed rather to take their eye off the ball, metaphorically speaking, in September. They finished the month with a 15-12 record which was enough to seal their wildcard spot and even to give them home-field advantage in the forthcoming playoffs, but along the way the management made some peculiar and bewildering decisions in terms of who was on the field of play. Let’s look in this first article at the batters who exploded and those who really struggled.
And so the statistics:
|New York Yankees 2018 – Batting – Month – September|
With the rosters expanded, the Yankees used 3 catchers in the last month of regular play. Given the time of year and Sanchez’s struggles, it was surprising to see Aaron Boone call upon Gary Sanchez behind the plate for a higher percentage of the time than they had done in any of the previous months of 2018. Sanchez appeared in 21 games of a possible 27 as catcher and batted a paltry .179 albeit with 3 doubles and 4 home runs. The received logic was that if the Yankees kept playing him then he would break out of his offensive slump and his defensive work might improve too. He ended the season leading the league in passed balls for the second straight year and with one of the worst batting averages of all time for Yankees with the significant amount of plate appearances he was given. Conversely, other players who struggled – for example, Greg Bird (offensively) who lost playing time entirely and Miguel Andujar (defensively) who was lifted to put in a defensive player repeatedly late in the game – were not given the “practise” time to improve. Presumably, the Yankees know something about Sanchez’s psychology which we are not privy to. Romine on very little time did nothing of note at the plate whilst Higashioka was hitless on the month and not for the first time.
Luke Voit had his second month in pinstripes and continues to be astounding his public (and probably his management). He hit .333 with 10 homers (15 extra base hits) and consequently reduced the aforementioned Greg Bird to the occasional pinch hit and a little time at designated hitter (DH). Gleyber Torres wasn’t the player at the plate that he had been earlier the season. He mustered only .233 but this was on a team that really wasn’t too good at hitting as a whole and still saw as the fifth best Yankee batter in terms of batting average (BA) on the month and a single point over the team batting average. Neil Walker was also used at 2nd but the majority of his appearances were either subbing for Miguel Andujar or coming into cover for the same player’s much talked about defensive weaknesses in the late innings. Walker batted only .186 compared to Andujar’s .284. Andujar led the team in doubles and was second only to Voit in total extra base hits. Ultimately, you would have to think that Andujar was VERY bad with the glove for the Yankees to be willing to give all this up and from my seat overlooking the field I wasn’t seeing it. He isn’t as good as he could be but I’m not seeing that big a gap in performance compared to his peers. Tyler Wade, like Walker, saw time at second, third and right-field. He’s fine defensively but doesn’t offer anything with the bat. It will be interesting to see if he is in the Yankees’ Spring Training camp in April or whether he will have gone elsewhere.
Didi Gregorius continues to pick up injuries and this month Adeiny Hechavarria was used in more games than Gregorius while Sir Didi actually played in more innings. This basically 50-50 arrangement worked reasonably well in the circumstances. Didi is better with the bat. Adeiny probably just has the edge with the glove. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees try to keep Hechavarria next year but if they do it will be presumably on a smaller salary than the $5.9M he won in arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays for this year. The Yankees have had him playing for them for a fraction of that. Gleyber Torres was also given some playing time at shortstop when Gregorius was unavailable, and he might be another option depending on who is regularly on the bench. That role for the last few years has gone to Ronald Torreyes whose bat has gone quiet in the latter part of the season and who has fallen behind Walker in the Yankees’ pecking order and seems likely to be moving on.
Besides Luke Voit displacing Greg Bird at first base, the other remarkable change that has happened is Andrew McCutchen dethroning long-standing left-fielder Brett Gardner. The month began with Aaron Judge on the DL and with Giancarlo Stanton struggling with a tight hamstring. This meant that new arrival McCutchen was in right-field but as the month progressed he gradually made left-field his own. Judge came back from injury by the end of the month and it was Gardner who was collecting splinters. Aaron Hicks (when fit) became the only certainty. It didn’t hurt McCutchen’s case that as well as leading this group of players in batting average, he was solid defensively and picked up more extra base hits than any of that group except Stanton who has mentioned couldn’t play the field everyday anyway.
Hicks hit .231 with 7 extra base hits. Judge, not surprisingly, looked like he’d just returned from injury and was used initially as only a late innings fielding replacement. Gardner’s .209 was remarkable only for a couple of triples.
Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury are still not available.
Giancarlo Stanton appeared in 17 of the 27 games as a designated hitter. He was used more in left than right-field, but his .213 batting average showed a player whose problems with his legs were becoming more notable as the season approached its conclusion. He did contribute a lot in terms of extra base hits as our chart shows.The fans, however, were not inclined to see his contribution in a charitable way. Andujar, Higashioka, Judge, Sanchez, Voit, Bird and McCutchen each had a little at DH with Higashioka being the only real surprise as it is not at all obvious what the team gains by having a good-defense, no-hit player in an offensive-only role.