Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are currently both in Scranton making their way back to the major leagues. The Yankees are hopeful they will return during the seven-game homestand against the Rays and Astros. Right now the Bombers need pitching help more than anything. The return of Stanton and Judge will help solve one problem, though, and that’s the Yankees’ woes against left-handed pitching.
So far this season, the team has performed under league average against lefties according to FanGraphs. Last season they finished 2nd overall with a 115 wRC+ and are currently 25th with a wRC+ of 80 in 2019. With Judge and Stanton returning, the Yankees will receive their two biggest sluggers against southpaws who accumulated more than 140 plate appearances against them last season. Their returns also mean that some of the most unproductive hitters against lefties so far—Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, and Kendrys Morales—will get fewer at-bats.
Here’s a look at the three areas where the Yankees should see improvements:
The drop in isolated power has been drastic—it was .222 last season and is just .137 this season. For example, that would be like currently comparing Gleyber Torres’ power to that of DJ LeMahieu’s. Torres has 14 homes runs and 13 doubles, while LeMahieu has seven home runs and 15 doubles. Judge and Stanton easily passed a .222 isolated power mark last season, doing so by posting the highest hard-hit percentages on the team against left-handed pitching. Stanton finished with a 55.6% hard-hit rate and Judge at 50.0%. With those power marks, both of them finished in the top ten in the major leagues considering players with more than 100 plate appearances against southpaws.
Walks aren’t the most sought out statistic, but they do indicate how well a player is able to see an opponent’s pitches to avoid swinging at balls outside the strike zone. That ability leads to fewer strikeouts, and more potential to put the ball in play. Judge and Stanton aren’t candidates to lower the current Yankee strikeout rate of 26.3% against southpaws, but they should heavily affect the current walk rate of 7.8%. That’s especially true for Judge, who not only had the highest walk rate on the Yankees against southpaws, but against the entire league at 21.7%.
As mentioned before, the Yankees finished second in overall rating last season against left-handed pitching, and with their difficulties against them this season, they have actually improved in BABIP. Both LeMahieu and Gio Urshela have helped find hits against the southpaws, while Torres has improving his 2018 BABIP of .275 to .400 this season. With that said the team’s BABIP should only be on the rise, as Judge and Stanton had the highest BABIP against southpaws on the Yankees last year.
Judge and Stanton will improve the Yankees in multiple ways on their return but this is one area where they will see an automatic improvement. Both players have had huge success against left-handed pitching during their careers. For the first time this season the Yankees will be able to put together a healthy lineup that might even resemble a potential playoff lineup. The Yankees will still be missing keys players in Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, but finally seeing the lineup take shape is one huge sigh of relief for the organization and fans.