What a season it’s been for Mike Tauchman. With extended injuries to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks, the Yankees’ seemingly minor preseason acquisition has paid immediate dividends. The outfielder has posted a 122 wRC+, played solid defense, and helped the Yanks sit atop the AL East for most of the season.
The question surrounding Tauchman, and many other out-of-nowhere players for the Bombers, is if this production is sustainable. Of course nobody expects him to consistently maintain the 221 wRC+ that he posted in July, but could he be a player that sits around 20% above league average in offensive production?
The past month has shown that Tauchman might be coming back down to Earth, and trending towards what could be his norm, at least for now. Since August 7th, Tauchman holds a .652 OPS in 96 plate appearances, while hitting to just a 51 wRC+ in the small sample size of September. What’s changed? The explanation might be as simple as the baseball gods restoring order in the luck department.
In the month of July, Tauchman’s had a ridiculous .514 BABIP. Since August 7th, however, that number has plunged to .254. Now, here comes the weird part: Tauchman’s hard-hit rate since the start of August is actually considerably higher than it was in July! He had a hard-hit percentage of 32.5% in July, then 40% in August, and now 38.5% so far in September. His line-drive percentage was exactly the same in July and August, so the best explanation is that Tauchman’s balls in play simply aren’t finding holes anymore.
It’s actually fascinating just how in line some of Tauchman’s advanced numbers are between July and August, yet the baseline results are so different. His swing-and-miss rate was exactly the same between the two months, and is actually even lower now in the early parts of September. There are some noticeable changes, though, like a 10% drop in HR/FB rate despite a 10% spike in fly-ball percentage. After a month of seeing the ball well and getting blessed with the best baseball luck, Tauchman has watched his baseball karma swing in the other direction, waiting for when it will turn back in his favor.
The results haven’t been the same for Tauchman over the past month, but given the changes—or lack thereof—in his contact numbers and the nature of his contact, he might just be experiencing the two extreme sides of baseball fortune. Since his scorching July, his strikeout numbers are down and his walk rate is up, so he’s not looking lost at the plate or putting up unproductive at-bats. He may just need to bide his time until some of those balls in play start finding holes again. Many may ask what the real version of Tauchman is, whether it’s the All-Star caliber bat they saw in July or the bottom-of-the-order hitter they see now. The answer might just be somewhere in the middle.