New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from home run show over the Phillies

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial

The New York Yankees entered the series with the Philadelphia Phillies last night with a rag-tag team with a higher positivity rate than any time in the season after winning a series against the Boston Red Sox. Even with their beleaguered team with several players on the IL, they were hoping to take their second series in a row. With decent pitching and multiple home runs, the Yankees won the game 6-4 for their third win in a row.

Yankee pitching improves

Right-hander Domingo German was on the mound for the New York Yankees. German could have been lights out, but also could have struggled mightily. He was 4-5 with an ERA of 4.72. In his last outing against the Red Sox, he lasted only 1 inning using 17 pitches before being removed. The Yankees had lost seven of his last ten starts. Last night was considerably better. He went four innings, giving up just two earned runs, but striking out five.

Luckily the Yankee bullpen came to the rescue. Luis Cessa, Lucas Luetge, and Chad Green combined for three scoreless innings. However, returning Zack Britton still showed some rust after not pitching in almost two months; he gave up a homer. Likewise, closer Aroldis Chapman, who has been pitching poorly of late, gave up a homer in the ninth inning, but it was no harm by entering with a three-run lead. Striking out 3 Phillies and allowing just the home run was an encouraging sign for the Yankees.

Yankee power explodes late in the game

A lack of hitting has dogged the New York Yankees all season long. However, last night that seemed to be far in the past as the players; some not from the regular lineup, exploded with four home runs in the game. Veteran Brett Gardner led off the barrage in the fifth inning with his homer off Phillies starter Aaron Nola. In the following inning, Gary Sanchez hit one of his own, knocking Nola out of the game. Then in the seventh slugger, Giancarlo Stanton hit his 16th homer of the season. But the Yankees weren’t done; Estevan Florial, a center field fill-in, slammed another home run in the eighth. Every Yankee got at least one hit in the game with the exception of Tyler Wade who went 0 for 4.

It should be noted that the powerful explosion overshadowed three facts. First, Greg Allen got another hit and scored twice. Second, Estevan Florial went 1 for 3 driving in two runs. Both of these players are fill-ins. Also, being short players, the Yankees had to use catcher Rob Brantly at first base. He, too, got a hit in the game. All, however, was not good; although the home run saved the Yankees, they went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, another issue that has plagued the Yankees.

Yankee fans behaving badly

New York Yankee fans have been making news of late, not for their excitement for the Yankees, but their bad behavior at the Stadium in the Bronx. In the last game against the Red Sox fan threw a ball, hitting the back of Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, halting the game for a time. That fan has since been banned from attending any Major League game for the rest of his life. On the same night, the wife of former Red Sox catcher and current assistant coach Jason Varitek reported that their 9-year-old daughter was spat upon when leaving the Stadium.

Last night was another night of bad behavior as a fan ran onto the field in the sixth inning, halting the game momentarily. A chase ensued when the fan was tackled and crushed to the ground. He was escorted out of the stadium by security guards and New York Police. New York Yankee management has strongly condemned these shenanigans, saying that there is no place for these actions at Yankee Stadium.

Notes: Tonight is the last game of the Phillies series; either team has not released starting pitchers for the game as of this writing.

 

New York Yankees Analysis: Is this the year of the dead ball?

It’s no secret that the New York Yankees have been struggling in the hitting department with eight players, including the Yankee bench, that are hitting .200 or on the interstate. For instance, the quick bat of Clint Frazier is hitting .149, switch hitter Aaron Hicks is hitting  .198, Brett Gardner is hitting .190, and Mike Ford is hitting just .103. Why is this? Most of it is probably because of the weather, or they haven’t found their timing yet. Or is there some other sinister reason?

There could be a reason that is not proven, and that reason is the new baseballs being used this year that are making pitchers look good and hitters look horrible. As of the beginning of this week, hitters across all of baseball are hitting .236/.309/.396 – a .705 OPS. That’s a good 10 points lower than expected for April and May when hitters are not at their best. For the New York Yankees, it’s not even that good. They are hitting .222/.320/.381.

As we approach mid-May, the New York Yankees haven’t been totally decimating by their lack of hitting, although they have surely lost several games because of a lack of hitting. They haven’t been burned because of some surprisingly good pitching recently highlighted by some timely hitting, primarily by Giancarlo Stanton. In the most recent homestand the Yankees went 7-2. Some of this is due to good pitching and some because the other teams aren’t hitting either.

“Certainly, offensively I know there’s more in there for us,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday after the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Nationals. “We’re gonna find our stride.”

But finding that stride may be made more difficult by the newly introduced baseball used this season. Home runs are down. It seems that many balls hit off the bat at a high velocity are dying on the warning track, just feet from being a home run. The balls that would go over the head of infielders are now being caught at a higher rate, causing far too many hitters hitting into double plays.

Is the culprit the new baseball? The bottom line here is that this baseball being used today isn’t the baseball MLB said it would be.  MLB announced before spring training that they would alter the baseball for the 2021 season. Keeping the size, lowering the weight somewhat, and that the change according to the Associated Press, would not impact the ball’s velocity.

In the memo to all 30, MLB clubs explained the difference in the baseballs but did not mention anything about the drag of the new balls. The drag on the ball is resulting in less successful hitting this season.

According to Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter at MLB.com:

MLB’s balls are hand-sewn by workers at the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica, which can result in minor deviations in production. The league requires all baseballs to have a coefficient of restitution (COR) — in simple terms, the bounciness of the ball — ranging from .530 to .570, but the average COR had trended toward the top of that range in recent years.

 

Rawlings has loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings within the ball. The company’s research believes this adjustment will bring the COR down slightly, while also lessening the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing its size. According to the AP, MLB does not anticipate the weight change to impact pitchers’ velocity.

It appears that MLB’s change to the baseball has backfired. Balls being hit out into the outfield are dying. Rob Arthur, a data scientist who spends his days examining the various changes to the baseball, explained the changes best.

“(I)magine hitting a balloon and a dodgeball with a bat, swinging with the same force and angle each time. When you hit the balloon, it will explode off the bat at high velocity. But as it travels, air resistance will rapidly slow it down, and it won’t go very far. A heavier dodgeball, by contrast, won’t come off the impact as quickly, but it will also keep traveling once you hit it.

“A ball with reduced mass would behave a little more like the balloon and a little less like the dodgeball: higher exit velocity and less carry. And that’s exactly the pattern in the data: at the upper end, exit velocities are up by around 0.8 mph, which ought to boost fly-ball distance substantially (by around four feet). But the reduced carry from lower weight cancels that out, and average fly-ball distance has actually dropped slightly. (In raw terms, distance is down about five feet from 2019, but if you adjust for the weather, it may only be down a foot or two.)”

Here is the home run rate per fly ball in the 2020 season -14.8%; for this season, the same rate is 13.8%, and it’s not because of the weather; these are figures for over 6,000 balls hit during April for both years. For pitchers, fastballs stay up in the zone for longer than in previous years, and curveballs are dropping more.

According to the Athletic, Aaron Judge has said the pitch movement is what he has noticed about the new baseball.

“When you square it up, it’s still a home run, right?” Judge said. “So people are still hitting ’em. I’m seeing (Giancarlo Stanton) light up the scoreboard with 118, 120 mile per hour (exit velocities), so I don’t think it’s really changing too much. They’re just moving all over the place, really.”

The new ball can’t be blamed for the hitting malaise of the New York Yankees or any other team. There are still mechanics, timing, stance, and approach, but still, it is a factor that is too new to analyze fully; it will take a full season to do that. Stay tuned.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

 

 

New York Yankees: Why is the powerful Yankees lineup impotent

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees lineup is one of the most powerful lineups in baseball, yet a lack of hitting that has dogged them since the beginning of the season has found them at the bottom of the American League East. This is not to say that the Yankee pitching has been stellar because it hasn’t been. But this is not the biggest problem facing the Yankees. It’s that the team-wide hitting has been impotent. And it’s no just one or two hitters; it’s pretty much across the board and all at the same time. Even last year’s batting champ DJ LeMahieu isn’t up to par. Let’s look at each player in the lineup and how they are or aren’t performing.

This listing is for players that have played in 12 or more games.

DJ LeMahieu:

Last year’s batting champion has one of the better batting averages (.250) on the team but is not performing as he has in the past two seasons. Over the offseason, he signed a six-year deal that will take him all the way to his retirement from the game. This season he has been hitting the ball, but the results aren’t there; he has hit into an inordinate number of double plays.

Aaron Judge:

Slugger Aaron Judge started the season pretty well, but since then has gone stone cold. In his last ten games, he has hit only 2 home runs and has been striking out much more than the first ten games when he often walked. It was said that if the New York Yankees could keep both Judge and Stanton on the field, there would be no stopping them. So far, with both healthy, that hasn’t been the case.

Giancarlo Stanton:

Giancarlo Stanton, I guess you could call him the most successful Yankee hitter, hitting the most home runs (5) and the most RBI’s (14), but his .192 batting average is miserable. He has been lucky enough to hit home runs with men on base, but his contact hitting isn’t there. He does seem to be one of the most energized at the plate.

Aaron Hicks:

Aaron Hicks has been awful, one of the worst Yankee players at the plate. He is hitting .162 and is usually in the crucial number 3 slot in the lineup. That’s a decision that has been criticized since the beginning of the season, but the analytics say he should be there, and even though it hasn’t worked out, manager Boone for the most part, seems to be sticking with it. Hicks has 3 homers on the season, but just one extra-base hit. He is number 3 on the team for strikeouts (20).

Gleyber Torres:

After a poor showing in the 2020 season and not being ready to play, Torres is in much better shape, but there have been no results. He is batting .208 with no home runs, only two extra-base hits, and only two runs driven in. He has more strikeouts than hits.

Gio Urshela:

Gio Urshela, in a season with few bright spots he has shown brighter than most. His batting average is .264, which is the highest batting average of everyday players. He has the second-highest number of hits with 4 extra-base hits and 10 runs driving in. He, unlike many, has better situation hitting, avoiding hitting into double plays. He also has 3 homers on the season.

Gary Sanchez:

Gary Sanchez, although starting well, with each game, his batting average keeps reducing. He is hitting .182 with only 2 home runs, and those were in both of his first two games. He has now gone 20 games without a home run while striking out 15 times with only 1 extra-base hit on the season. His backup catcher Kyle Higashioka is superior behind the plate and in front of it. He has the most home runs per game played and has the highest batting average.

Clint Frazier:

Clint Frazier, besides some spectacular plays in the field as been disappointing behind the plate, to say the least. He is batting only .142; only MIke Ford has a lower batting average. He looks ready at the plate, but his timing isn’t there yet. He has yet to hit a home run this season.

Brett Gardner:

Brett Gardner, although a bench player, has played in 13 of the New York Yankees 22 games. He started the season hot. At one time, he led the team in batting. But he, too, has gone cold, hitting just .194, with no home runs.

Rougned Odor:

Rougie Odor is a recent addition to the team and has been getting some playing time (13 games). He has a batting average of just .159, but his situational hitting has been among the best on the team. Since he has been a Yankee, the Yankees have won 7 games, he was the deciding run in three of the wins. In 13 games, he has 3 home runs. He also seems to be a catalyst playing with significant energy.

Why and how to fix it

The why and how to fix it is far above my grade. But, Aaron Boone and the coaches better figure it out sooner than later. The team needs to start playing with energy and determination. There is still plenty of time to turn it around, but that time is quickly running out. Let’s go New York Yankees!!

Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton unveils the key behind his newfound success

New York Yankees, Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

The season is still young and there can be a lot of ups and downs for New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Most people started to give up on him after his 2018 playoff disaster, and with injuries n 2019, he was determined to change. After that loss in the 2019 ALCS against the Houston Astros, he worked on himself. Not only did he change how he hit, but he changed his body too, and he’s ready to shred.

Weight Changes to Get Healthier

Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t overweight or unhealthy in his career. In fact, his size and strength are arguably his greatest attributes to his power. He’s an athletic and quick dude, but he realized the source of his injuries.

He wasn’t overweight but his size made injuries more frequent and common. He decided to take it upon himself and start losing weigh to trim excess weight so his body could support his strength and size. The result? Nearly 20 lost pounds according to Stanton, and he’s going to be able to stay on the field longer with a more sustainable size. Now his hitting mechanics and philosophy have ALSO changed and caused an increase in run production.

Better Plate Discipline

When it comes to chases and whiffs, Stanton was seen as the king of that in 2018 for Yankee fans. This season he’s cut down his chases. Giancarlo Stanton had a +28.5% chase percentage in both seasons as a Yankee. In 2020 so far? He’s at a 19.7%, which is very good for a guy who was known for striking out a ton. He also cut down the strikeout % to 20.7% which is better than the average hitter and almost 8% better than his career average. He’s also increased his walk% to 13.8 which is closer to that 2017 plate discipline.

With more walks and giving pitchers less leeway with breaking balls, Stanton is back and here’s here to take names.

New York Yankees to pull up Clint Frazier for playoff run?

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The New York Yankees banished outfielder Clint Frazier to the minor-league system after a string of aggressive responses towards beat reports and a flurry of defensive mishaps.

If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that the Yankees don’t tolerate drama or negativity from their players, and Frazier wound up being the example of that truth. Spending the last few months with the Scranton Wiles-Barre Railriders, the young offensive maestro has sat idly by waiting for his opportunity at the top level once again.

The question is:

Will the New York Yankees bring up Clint Frazier for the playoffs?

While his negativity towards his defensive struggles got him reassigned to the minors, he still has plenty of value to offer. His bat is one of the quickest in the league and can produce when called upon. However, he was replaced by both Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman, two journeyman players that have failed to make significant impacts throughout their careers.

The Yankees have managed to extract immense value from career-average players this season, and it has made Frazier a non-factor and justified their decision to imprison him at a lower level.

Over 53 games with the Bombers this season, Frazier has hit .283 with 11 homers, and 34 RBIs and an .843 OPS. Manager Aaron Boone stated that Frazier would likely be called up for a playoff push before the September 1 deadline.

“I think Frazier will probably be here, yeah,” manager Aaron Boone said.

While he’s not likely to earn much playing time, having his bat readily available is appropriate. Factoring in the injuries and fatigue, he’s a reliable option when it comes to plug-and-play players.  Most figured that Frazier would have been traded before the traded deadline on July 31, but the fact that he stayed with the team says two things. Either general manager Brian Cashman couldn’t find a suitor for him, or the team feels he can be an essential piece for the future.

Nonetheless, he will likely be a part of Yankees active roster in just a few days.

 

New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton Preparing to Ramp Up Rehab

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

While the New York Yankees traveled the west coast last week, slugger Giancarlo Stanton spent his time in California rehabbing from a shoulder issue that accompanied a bicep injury.

Stanton was forced out on April 1st initially, and he has been unable to swing a bat ever since. Over a month later, he’s just now preparing to ramp up his baseball activity – he was scheduled to hit off a tee on Tuesday.

Late Monday night Stanton said the plan was to “ramp it up and see how it goes.’’

It will likely take some time for the outfielder to get back to a comfortable level at the plate, as he relies heavily on his arm strength for power.

The New York Yankees have survived without him:

Despite Stanton’s absence, the Yanks have been on a tear as of late. Most recently, the team came back from a 4-2 deficit to beat the Seattle Mariners 5-4 in a three-run 9th inning rally. The return of Clint Frazier wasn’t as electric as most hoped considering his two costly mistakes in the outfield and 1-4 hitting performance. However, Gio Urshela saved the day with a game-tying 2-run homer in the 9th inning.

The one unit on the team that has struggled has been the outfield. Luckily, reserve options Cameron Maybin and Frazier have picked up the slack offensively. Maybin scored from second on a DJ LeMahieu single to win the game on Tuesday night after a short rain delay.

While the Bombers have scraped by, there’s no official timetable for Stanton to return. I anticipate it will be at least three weeks before we have an estimated return.


In other injury news — Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge are all taking baby-steps in their individual rehab plans.

Betances has started a throwing program and expects to work his way up into pitching form slowly. It will likely take until after the All-Star break for the relief pitcher to make a return.