Yankees have taken a very odd approach to their batting order, and it’s working

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees, alex verdugo
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have established a solid top three in their batting order, but recent decisions concerning the heart of the lineup, particularly the cleanup spot, have raised some eyebrows.

Traditionally, this role is reserved for power hitters who can drive home the runners frequently on base from the top of the order. However, the Yankees have shifted away from their usual strategy of placing a slugger like Giancarlo Stanton in the cleanup position, opting instead for a more contact-oriented approach with Alex Verdugo.

Yankees’ Shifting Dynamics in the Batting Order

Stanton, traditionally the Yankees’ power force in the four-hole, has recently been moved to the fifth spot, where his performance has noticeably improved.

This season, while batting cleanup, Stanton’s numbers were less than stellar, with a .200 batting average and .246 on-base percentage, including just one homer in 65 at-bats. However, since shifting to the fifth spot, his stats have surged to a .283 batting average, .333 on-base percentage, and a .652 slugging percentage over 92 at-bats, culminating in a .985 OPS with 10 homers and 21 RBIs.

Alex Verdugo, taking over the cleanup role, has demonstrated better plate discipline and contact skills, though his power metrics, such as home runs and hard-hit rates, are lower. Verdugo’s season stats stand at .255/.328/.406, with five homers and 24 RBIs. He excels in plate discipline, reflected in his 10.6% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate, and is highly ranked in the 98th percentile in whiff rate and 97th percentile in strikeout rate.

MLB: New York Yankees at Milwaukee Brewers, alex verdugo
Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees seem to be leveraging Verdugo’s ability to handle the bat and work counts, setting the stage for Stanton to deliver impactful hits.

This strategy was evident in a recent game against the Seattle Mariners, where Verdugo contributed significantly with three hits and three RBIs, thanks to a crucial double in the first inning and a single in the fifth inning. His performance in the cleanup spot allowed Stanton to see better pitches and make a significant impact from the fifth spot.

Creative Strategies Yielding Results

The Yankees’ willingness to deviate from conventional lineup strategies reflects a broader willingness to innovate and adapt. By experimenting with different lineup configurations, they aim to optimize player performance and extract maximum value from each spot in the order.

This approach has not only revitalized Stanton’s output but also demonstrated the potential benefits of flexibility and creativity in managing player roles and expectations. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how these adjustments continue to influence the team’s performance and strategy.

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