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The Yankees need more length in their lineup

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Slumps, injuries, and insufficient reinforcements have shortened a once deep lineup.

Atlanta Braves v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Yankees aren’t exactly setting the world on fire as of late. They aren’t collapsing by any means - their second half record stands at 16 wins and 13 losses, which is certainly underwhelming but hardly cause for panic - but their performance has been a far cry from their pre-All-Star break selves, who looked and played like juggernauts.

There are many factors contributing to the Yankees’ underwhelming play in recent times. At the start of August, I argued that the mediocre rotation, especially with staff ace Luis Severino mired in a prolonged slump, was to blame. However, in the games that have passed since, it’s been clear that the offense hasn’t been getting it done as often as we’d like, either.

Prior to August 1, the Yankees played in 105 games and were held to one run or less in only 10 of those contests. However, in the 19 games since, they’ve already suffered four such offensive performances. Sure, the Yankees’ offense has acquitted themselves well in the other games, as they’ve averaged 5.05 runs scored per game in August despite those four one-run showings. However, the fact that one-run showings are occurring more frequently is certainly cause for concern.

Why have the Yankees’ offense struggled so often lately? The answer is that the lineup has too many black holes currently to consistently score runs. Below is a table of Yankee hitters’ batting lines over the past 30 days sorted by their wRC+, with a minimum of 30 plate appearances during that time.

Yankee hitters sorted by wRC+ over the past 30 days, min. 30PA
FanGraphs.com

As the table above shows, half of the Yankees’ lineup is great, and the other half is terrible. On one hand, Miguel Andujar is blazing hot right now, and Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius are all hitting like stars. Combined with a nice little bounceback stretch from Neil Walker, the Yankees currently have five very good hitters.

On the other hand, the Yankees’ offense beyond that group of five is virtually (and in the case of Shane Robinson and his -15 wRC+, literally) nonexistent. Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka have reminded us all of how much we miss Gary Sanchez. Brett Gardner, Greg Bird, and Gleyber Torres have all been slumping heavily, and while I have confidence in Torres’ ability to bounce back, my faith is running low on the other two due to age in Gardner’s case and general inconsistency on Bird’s part. I was going to write a snarky little sentence about Robinson here, but I realized I just roasted him in the first line of this paragraph. No wonder the Yankees have struggled to score as often as they have - half the lineup has had wRC+s under 70 for the past month.

Now, some may object to my inclusion of Robinson in the table above, as he is a part-time player rather than a lineup fixture. Indeed, Robinson has received just 31 plate appearances over the past month. However, with Aaron Judge still on the sidelines, Robinson and Walker are effectively the team’s fourth and fifth outfielders. Combine that with the fact that Walker also serves as the Yankees’ main backup infielder along with Ronald Torreyes, and you’ll come to the realization that we’re probably going to see more Robinson than we’d like to going forward.

At any rate, Bird, Torres, Gardner, and Romine are all going to remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future. Romine is a backup catcher who will be replaced by Gary Sanchez upon his glorious return, so it’s hard to criticize him too much for his recent performance. However, the other three are supposed to be lineup mainstays, yet all three are hitting at or around a similar clip to Romine.

As the postseason approaches, it’s hard not to get anxious for Bird, Torres and Gardner to come alive. It’s tough to make a deep October run when you have three black holes in your lineup. It seems like Bird is picking up the pace as of late, as he’s had a nice couple of games lately. Let’s hope the other two follow suit.