Yankees Statcast Studs: May 14th, 2023

May 13, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-8 at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

In a hard-fought contest where the Yankees came a few inches away from tying the game, there was plenty of important data to evaluate from the game. This marks the start of a newsletter-like series where we take a look at the day before and take a look at some of the most eye-popping pieces of data we got from the game and the reason said data is significant. With all of that out of the way, there were plenty of well-struck baseballs and interesting pieces of data for the Bronx Bombers, who dropped seven runs and continued their offensive rampage this week, and some interesting data from the Scranton RailRiders in Triple-A.

Anthony Volpe Continues to Generate Hard Contact

May 10, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) celebrates his grand slam home run against the Oakland Athletics with right fielder Oswaldo Cabrera (95) and second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) and catcher Kyle Higashioka (66) during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While Anthony Volpe doesn’t have an elite raw power tool, with just a 34th Percentile Max Exit Velocity (107.4 MPH), he’s consistently reached high exit velocities and generated contact damage. In yesterday’s game, both of Anthony Volpe’s batted balls came in the form of hits with a single and a two-run home run, but just as importantly, both balls were struck north of 100 MPH. Despite just a 92 wRC+ over his last 13 games, he’s barreled 21.1% of batted balls with a 92.9 average exit velocity. He’s got a .373 xwOBA in the month of May, and despite chasing fewer times than his season total, he’s walking under 4% of the time.

We’re consistently seeing Anthony Volpe generate hard contact, and if he can continue this trend, we should see him round out his offensive numbers. With three home runs over his last five games, as Yankees’ skipper Aaron Boone hit it on the head when he mentioned that Volpe had been having good at-bats even when he slumped. The rookie shortstop has a 0.9 fWAR and 1.0 bWAR, both ranking in the top 10 among all shortstops. He’s likely to finish somewhere in the top 3 for AL Rookie of the Year voting if he gets his wRC+ or OPS+ above 100, as his defense and baserunning have been top-notch for the Yankees to start the season.

This 394-foot blast would have been a home run in all but one ballpark, being Camden Yards with their odd dimensions in LF following a stadium renovation prior to the 2022 season, and was Volpe’s 11th barrel on the season, making him one of just six rookies to have double-digit barrel totals this season. He’s also now third on the Yankees in barrels, behind Anthony Rizzo (12) and Aaron Judge (19), which is shocking considering his smaller stature and the overall struggles he’s had remaining consistent offensively.

We’ve also seen Anthony Volpe continue to man the shortstop position admirably, as with an 83% Success Rate, he has the highest success rate among all shortstops in baseball. His +1 OAA and +2 DRS are solid marks as well, and he could be the first Yankee to ever register an OAA total in a season better than +1 if he continues to remain a stout and reliable defender. Expect the power to continue to improve for Volpe, as he’s currently on pace to hit 21 HRs over the course of 150 games, and he could be the first Yankee since Brett Gardner to record a 20-20 season.

Aaron Judge Continues to See Worse Results from Barrels

aaron judge, yankees
May 13, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned earlier, Aaron Judge leads the Yankees in barrels, and in fact, he has the two greatest barrel seasons ever (2017 and 2022), which is unsurprising considering his raw power tool. That being said, barrels for Aaron Judge aren’t resulting in the same damage contact they were before. He’s still obviously generating great results from barrels, but relative to his MVP season, it’s not as effective. In the bottom of the 9th, Aaron Judge registered his 19th barrel of the season, tied for the 6th most in baseball, and everyone (including Jason Adam) thought he just tied the game.

This 111.9 MPH 399-foot flyball was the hardest-hit ball of the game and the ball that traveled the most, and yet it fell just short of extending this game even further. When we look at Judge’s output from barrels in 2022 and 2023, we see a dramatic difference:

Everything’s down across the board, and while it’s a small sample size, it’s also likely a result of just not being able to replicate history. It’s really hard to hit 62 HRs, as batted ball direction, weather, the ballpark you hit the barrel at, and the opposing defense can all play a massive role in the results of these barrels. For example, that flyout from earlier would have been a HR in 19 of the 30 MLB ballparks, meaning that if Judge had generated this barrel against an opponent like Boston in Fenway, he would have walked away with his 9th HR of the season instead of a simple F8.

Baseball’s about generating timely outcomes as well as generating positive ones, and that’s the difference between an All-Star caliber season with MVP votes for Judge and a historic season where he runs away with the AL MVP.

Could the Yankees Call Up this Left-Handed Standout?

matt krook, yankees
Mar 22, 2022; Dunedin, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Matt Krook (77) throws a pitch in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After returning from the IL, LHP Matt Krook wasted zero time auditioning for a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen. With the struggles of arms like Albert Abreu and the ridiculous amount of injuries the Yankees have to their MLB pitching staff, could they turn to him to give them stability at the backend of their bullpen? After tossing a scoreless frame where he walked one and struck out three batters, Krook’s whiff metrics are through the roof. He generated a 56% Whiff% in his inning of work on Sunday, and his sweeper remains virtually untouchable.

Batters are whiffing 42.1% of the time at this pitch, which generates 17 inches of horizontal sweep on average with a 50% groundball rate and a 57.9 MPH Exit Velocity. He’s running an 83.9 Average EV against as a whole with a hard-hit rate of 23.5%, making him one of the best soft-contact inducers in the International League. He’s keeping the ball on the ground at a 53.3% clip, and while his sinker sits at just 89 MPH, its extreme movement allows it to remain an effective pitch for soft contact and ground balls.

When you analyze Krook’s arsenal, you see that he has a plethora of elite-level weapons to handle a myriad of batters, which has allowed him to take a massive leap as a reliever. Last season he struggled to generate a strong K-BB% and prevent the longball (1.23 HR/9), but the additions of a cutter and changeup have made him significantly more effective. His changeup and cutter work excellently off of the sweeper and sinker, with the changeup working as a pitch that goes down and away to right-handed batters with a 45% Whiff%, whereas the cutter can be used as a pitch to generate strikes (38.1% Called Strike + Whiff%) and soft contact (50% GB%).

We’re seeing a steady diet of these four pitches, with Krook mixing them in well and allowing him to remain rather unpredictable. It’s not often you see four strong pitches in one’s arsenal, much less for a reliever, but Krook has definitely displayed the ability to execute all four of his pitches in a variety of different situations. Considering the recent struggles from the pitching staff, this seems like a situation the Yankees will keep close tabs on.

Matt Krook is putting up videogame numbers out of the bullpen with Scranton, and he’s also already on the 40-Man Roster, so the Yankees don’t have to DFA anyone to call him up. In nine games thus far, we’re seeing a 1.49 ERA and 1.74 FIP in 12.2 innings, with multi-inning versatility as a former starting pitcher. He’s yet to allow a home run this season, and with a 49.1% K%, we’re seeing some elite-level strikeout stuff. It’s also important to note an ugly 17.4% BB%, but a 32.1% K-BB% cannot be ignored. He’s too good for Triple-A, and we could see him in pinstripes helping the Yankees soon.

They’ll begin a series with the Toronto Blue Jays tonight as Alek Manoah takes the mound against the Yankees, and with a 126 team wRC+ in the month of May, the Yankees are hoping to reverse their trends against Alek Manoah and give me more batted balls to write about tomorrow morning.

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