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How the Yankees can use Cameron Maybin moving forward

The analytics aren’t gung-ho on Maybin’s performance, but there are signs of sustainability.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Yankees have been built on the backs of unexpected contributors, and Cameron Maybin is no exception. Acquired for cash considerations from the Cleveland Indians due to injuries to four outfielders (five if counting Jacoby Ellsbury), the veteran outfielder has been having one of the hottest streaks of his career. He has a slashline of .321/.441/.321 with nine hits in his first eleven games, good for an OPS+ of 111, along with some eye-popping defense, albeit he does get dinged a bit for his range declining over the years.

So far, he has done everything the Yankees could have asked of him and then some, and has been instrumental in more than one victory in his brief time in pinstripes. As players return from injury, however, Maybin will likely become sidelined in favor of Hicks, Gardner, and Frazier. He will ultimately serve in a more niche role as he’s expected to replace a struggling Mike Tauchman.

A niche role, however, is what perhaps fits Maybin’s profile at this point in his career. His 2019 performance is unsustainable: his BABIP is .391, which is contributing to his batting average and on-base percentage that are much higher than his career .255 AVG and .323 OBP. Furthermore, his hard hit percentage according to FanGraphs has dropped more than ten points, from 33.5% to 21% (Statcast has it at 25%, which is still lower, but not as much). While most of that has ended up falling in the medium hit percentage category, it is not an encouraging look. Statcast, furthermore, has his expected batting average at .214 and expected slugging percentage at .258, with an expected wOBA of .291 (actual wOBA is .355). None of these stats look promising.

That said, there are signs that Maybin has made some adjustments going into this year that will still allow him to provide positive value with the bat. While traditionally a pull hitter, he has been going to the opposite field more this year, pulling the ball only about 15% of the time. Additionally, his launch angle is up drastically at 15.3 degrees, up from 7.5 last season and his career average of 4.1. This has resulted in drastically more fly balls — 43.5%, compared to his career 26.6%. Lastly, his walk rate has more than doubled to 17.6% and he has cut his strikeouts slightly, to 14.7%. There has been a clear change in approach since he donned pinstripes, one that just might allow him to continue providing positive value for the Yankees even when the inevitable regression bug hits, particularly once he shifts into a part-time role.

Either way, no matter what happens with Cameron Maybin going forward, his performance in the absence of the team’s biggest stars has played a major role in keeping the team where it has been. If his adjustments work, he will continue to be an important piece on the roster for the foreseeable future.