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Under the Hood: Cameron Maybin has been a revelation for the Yankees

The veteran outfielder has some staying power

MLB: Game One-Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Indians in exchange for cash considerations.”

Among all of the Bombers’ low-cost acquisitions in recent memory, the former top prospect joined the team in the most nondescript fashion. That says a lot considering that the club has recently traded for or signed the likes of Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, and others.

Embracing the fly-ball revolution, Maybin has achieved career highs in exit velocity (89.9 MPH) and launch angle (12.8 degrees) which has resulted in personal bests in a myriad of offensive categories, most notably a 142 wRC+

He’s hitting the cover off the ball

The outfielder is hitting the ball harder than ever before: e ranks 102nd out of 435 qualified hitters in barrels per batted-ball event with 10.4. Yes, you guessed it, that’s another career high. He has also achieved his highest hard-hit percentage figure in his 13-year tenure in the majors, with an amazing 44.8%.

Statcast defines hard-hit batted balls as those that travel at least 95 MPH right off the bat. It is mind-boggling that a batter, who once had the reputation of being exclusively a speedster, is raking at such pace.

While his defensive contributions are no longer what they used to be—he is, after all, 32 years old—he has offered a healthy 1.5 WAR to the Yankees in limited playing time. Per FanGraphs, he has been a negative with the glove (-4.1), but he has helped the team with positive ratings on the basepaths (1.2) and with the bat (12.1).

He has also been consistent

Maybin’s monthly OPS marks are as follows:

April: .825
May: .721
June: 1.153
July: 1.000
August: .975

Maybin is also two home runs away from tying his personal record of 10, achieved in 2015 and 2017, and there are still several weeks of the season left to play. While he has a triple-slash of .257/.325/.376 for his career, this season has represented a marked improvement. He has managed to perform at a .313/.392/.528 level.

While he has been a little bit lucky according to xWOBA (he has a .354 figure, compared to a .390 wOBA), he has some staying power. His contact quality has markedly improved and he has been everything the Yankees hoped he would be, and then some.

After years of hitting the ball on the ground at alarming rates, he is now basically batting one groundball for every fly ball. At a time in which the Bombers have endured so many injuries in the offensive side of the ball, Maybin has been a breath of fresh air just like Tauchman, Urshela, Voit, and company.

Room for improvement against breaking balls

Statcast data also shows us a more detailed breakdown of Maybin’s performance. It is not at all uncommon for batters to perform significantly better against fastballs than against breaking stuff, but Maybin could use some improvement against the latter.

Consider this: Maybin has batted .396 against fastballs in 2019, with an xAVG of .331. He has a .653 SLG against the pitch, with an xSLG of .570. He has raked against the most common pitch in baseball.

Breaking stuff, however, is another matter. He has batted .213 against curveballs and sliders on the season, but with an expected .153 average after including quality of contact and other factors. The SLG and xSLG figures are .383 and .269, respectively, even suggesting that he is getting a little lucky against breaking pitches.

His xwOBA against the sliders, curveballs, and the like is a paltry .219. Maybin has fared a little better against offspeed stuff judging by xwOBA (.302,) but not according to batting average (.185.)

Batting is a science; and no, it isn’t easy. Maybin has done a tremendous job and has played well above replacement level, but if he can lay off the breaking balls and defend the low part of the strike zone more consistently, the Yankees would be absolutely thrilled.

Making consistent, quality contact on major-league breaking stuff (or even fastballs!) that are borderline strikes in the lower part of the zone is extremely complicated. However, Maybin is already seeing a high amount of breaking balls—34.3 percent, an increase of the 28.5 he saw in 2018. If pitchers spot that he can be somewhat vulnerable in that particular area, the percentage can further increase until he shows he can adjust.

As things stand now, the Yankees have quite a logjam in the outfield, and that’s because of the excellent performance coming from unexpected sources, like Maybin. The team has Clint Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Maybin, Tauchman, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge for three spots plus the designated hitter slot. There are definitely worse problems to have, if you are a general manager.