The Yankees are a walking contradiction on offense right now

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to offense, it’s become painfully clear that hitting for power is the most efficient way to score, and the Yankees understood that concept for years. From 2017-2020, no team in the sport had more home runs or a higher ISO, and as a result, only the Houston Astros had a better wRC+. Sure, the postseason often resulted in coming up short, but one could argue that their pitching played just as big of a role in their demise as their offense did. Right now the Yankees are trying to fit a circle into a square hole, playing to a contact approach without the proper personnel to do it.

The worst baserunning team in baseball is trying to place pressure on defenses by selling out for contact, and in their biggest slump of the season, someone in the organization needs to point out the contradiction in philosophy.

Yankees Have the Wrong Personnel For the Wrong Kind of Profile

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees

One of the most head-scratching things about the Yankees is the lack of depth in terms of slugging prowess in their lineup. Despite having some of the best slugging metrics in the league, they have just four players (min. 100 PAs) with an SLG% that’s better than the league average, while teams like the Orioles and Dodgers have nine such players. No team in baseball has a worse average Sprint Speed than the Yankees, which would make you think they’d build their offense around having various home run threats.

Slow contact hitters are great for opposing pitchers because with runners on they can be double-play threats, which are far more valuable than a strikeout. The only team in baseball with five players with a below-average ISO, above-average strikeout rate, and negative BsR is the Yankees, meaning they have the most players who’d fit the profile of a great double-play threat. Despite the short porch in right field, Alex Verdugo rarely pulls the ball in the air after making a killing off of it to start the season.

The Yankees are the worst baserunning team in baseball in terms of BsR, there’s nothing to gain from trying to force contact when defenses often don’t feel rushed to make throws. Sure, when Ceddanne Rafaela or David Hamilton are dashing first, you’re going to speed up your throws and transfers to try to have a chance to get them out, but Alex Verdugo and DJ LeMahieu are most certainly not doing that for you.

Anthony Volpe completely zapped his game power, but it’s not as if he’s walking a ton to balance it out, he’s actively swinging more out of the zone. Alex Verdugo doesn’t walk a ton despite having a low chase rate, and the same goes for Oswaldo Cabrera. None of these players make enough contact to try to force the ball in play nor do they have the hit tool to guide the ball wherever they want it, and the Yankees need to open their eyes to this problem.

In May, seven of their nine most frequent hitters had an above-average ISO and SLG%, which was the key to their success, and yet they’ve completely lost their way in June and July. Aaron Judge has made up for a lot of their struggles in June, as the team offense doesn’t look as bad as it’s actually been because of him. If the Yankees want to turn this around, they have to cue their hitters to try and get some more power out of them, and Brian Cashman has to add a power bat.

READ MORE: Why the Yankees should prioritize going after this left-handed closer

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Angels
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

When the Yankees were hitting for power, Luis Rengifo made sense to me because his aggressive in-zone swing rates would counteract what teams were trying to do to Anthony Volpe at the top of the lineup. Now that their power numbers have completely disappeared, he’s the least attractive option possible for this team. Another hitter who lacks any power skills, the Yankees would be foolish to acquire him, and I’d argue they have no idea what they’re doing if he was their big ticket item offensively.

Instead, they should shift gears toward acquiring a bat like Matt Chapman, who has a 12% Barrel Rate and 12 home runs through his first 88 games of the season. He has the fifth-most doubles in baseball (24) and is one of the faster players in the league, providing an above-average BsR and ranking in the 80th Percentile in terms of Sprint Speed. People can say he’s “not a difference-maker”, but his 116 wRC+ and above-average ISO numbers would beg to differ. The Yankees would get better defensively, and they would add someone who has the kind of approach they sorely need.

I highly doubt anybody in the Yankees’ organization is reading this, but if they are, this isn’t a criticism of their holistic view on offense, because we have publicly available data at Triple-A that indicates they value power immensely. The Scranton RailRiders are tied for fifth in Pulled Flyball rate and are top-10 in Damage Rate as well, with prospects like Caleb Durbin and Jorbit Vivas excelling at pulling the ball in the air and veterans like Jose Rojas and Jeter Downs going off because of their shifts in approach to getting out in front.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Rice immediately came up and supercharged the offense with his pull-heavy approach, balancing power and contact well, but there seems to be some sort of desire for the guys at the Major League level to sell out for contact. Why did Anthony Volpe go from a prospect who relied on pulling the ball in the air to generate power to a slap hitter who can’t do much of anything offensively? Why did Oswaldo Cabrera abandon his pull-heavy approach that helped him contribute in 2022?

Why do the Yankees, who emphasized uniformity at the Minor and Major League levels, still choose to fly in the face of what they teach players to do in their developmental stages? The Mets got guys to use weighted bats thanks to J.D. Martinez and they haven’t looked back, the Orioles have players who are completely bought into their player development, but Aaron Judge’s hitting coach is taking public shots at them. Buy-in was a problem last year, and it feels like something of a problem again in 2024.

It’s up to them to fix it internally through getting their players back into the cues that helped them succeed in May and Brian Cashman needs to add some power at the deadline. This is their year to try and win the World Series, and squandering it because of a backward approach would be a disservice to the organization and fans.

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