It’s been an unbelievable season for the Yankees, as the Bombers relentlessly overcame injuries to finish with 103 wins and the AL East title. Even with all the success, a few players didn’t have the performances they hoped for entering the season. Some were injured and never got up to speed, while others stayed on the field and underperformed expectations.
October baseball, however, gives them a clean slate. As the Yankees prepare to face the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, these players could change the way we look at their 2019 seasons by providing some important hits or innings pitched.
Look back over the last two postseasons. They’re littered with memorable at-bats from Gregorius. The home run to tie the game against the Twins in the 2017 Wild Card Game, taking Corey Kluber deep twice in Game Five of the ALDS, and last season hitting a single after an Aaron Judge walk against Craig Kimbrel to keep the Yankees alive. He was the cleanup hitter in 2017 and hit third in 2018, splitting up the right-handed hitter in the heart of the order. After missing the first two months of the season following Tommy John surgery, however, Gregorius has not been the same player.
Sir Didi finished the season with an 84 wRC+ and an fWAR of 0.9, both the lowest marks he’s produced in pinstripes. It’s difficult to believe Gregorius will contribute more than the other left-handed bat in Brett Gardner. If Gregorius is able to perform in the postseason, providing some pop and generating a below-average strikeout rate, all could be quickly forgotten.
Gregorius has been one of the core pieces during this Yankees era. An impending free agent, there’s no guarantee he returns next season. A great postseason could either encourage the team to bring him back, or give him a fitting sendoff in pinstripes.
Happ came over from the Blue Jays last season, and he gave the Yankees everything they could have ever asked for—and more! He managed not to lose a game in August and September. The two-month performance earned Happ a multi-year contract. It didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time, considering Happ logged four consecutive years of a sub-four ERA. In 2019, however, Happ flirted with an ERA over five for most of the season.
Once the calendar flipped to September, Happ has been able shift his season in the right direction. While one strong month won’t erase the mess he made earlier in the season, the playoffs can. The Yankees naturally won’t ask Happ to carry the rotation in October; maneuvering through a lineup twice while allowing two runs or fewer could be all the Bombers need with an elite bullpen looming. If Happ is able to continue his September success in the postseason, a forgettable 2019 could become a memorable campaign for the veteran southpaw.
Stanton provides an astonishing amount of power at the plate, but fans have been known to write him off because he strikes out too often. Nevertheless, Stanton is one of the best hitters in the game, generating a 144 wRC+ mark from 2014 to 2018, good for eighth place in that span. Even though he only played 18 games this season, adding that caliber of production to the lineup cannot be overlooked. Stanton has a weakness against breaking pitches, generating a whiff percentage over 40 every year save for his rookie campaign in 2010. If he’s able to put some balls over the fences during the postseason, though, his strikeouts will surely be forgiven.
When everyone got hurt at the beginning of the year and a small cast of regulars needed to carry the team, Voit didn’t shy away. Over the first three months of the season, Voit showed his 2018 second-half was no fluke, producing a 140 wRC+ with plenty of power. The first baseman accumulated 340 plate appearances batting second or third in the order during that span. It’s easy to forget how productive Voit was considering how things ended for him in September.
As much as we would like the early-season Voit to return, injuries have stalled his progress. The first time he returned from the injured list in mid-July, Voit produced a 116 wRC+, but he didn’t look like himself. He was striking out more often than usual and the power just wasn’t there.
Unfortunately Voit injured himself again at the end July, and when he returned for September, he looked like an entirely different player. He produced an 80 wRC+ over his last 94 plate appearances of the year, finishing with a 1-for-34 stretch at the dish. His September display has been one to forget, but Voit may have an opportunity to redeem himself in the ALDS. If he finds a way to get close to the 140 wRC+ player he was early on, the Yankees will benefit greatly from his production.