Of all of the surprise performances in a 2019 season filled with them, Mike Ford’s was one of the most fun. He had been in the farm system for years, having signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of college.
He broke through and made the majors, and turned into a very fun story. In 50 games, he put up a .909 OPS with 12 home runs. Ford especially mashed against lefties, slugging 1.000 against them. That meant he was pretty much a lock to be on the 2020 roster, but the magic didn’t exactly carry over to the new season.
2020 Statistics: 29 games, 84 plate appearances, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .135/.226/.270, 37 OPS+, .224 wOBA, -0.6 WAR
2021 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
Ford made his 2020 debut as a pinch-hitter and singled. That was about as good as his season got. Over the course of the first half of August, he went just 4-29 while never walking once. That and Luke Voit’s incredible season would lead to Ford getting just occasional starts. After September 6th, which was the Yankees’ 40th game of the season, he didn’t start any game and got just four plate appearances in total.
The reduction in playing time certainly didn’t lead to any uptick in numbers. From mid-August on, Ford put up a miserable .354 OPS, having gone just 3-38.
Most troubling was the cratering of his numbers against lefties. As mentioned, Ford’s stats against them in 2019 arguably ensured his spot on the team for 2020. Now this was already a small sample size of a season, and this is an especially small sample size within it. That being said, Ford did not record a single hit off lefties all year. He went 0-8 with one walk, which is good for a .111 OPS. That is a drop of 1.278 points from 2019. Even if that is just nine plate appearances, yikes.
Ford’s season highlight came in a game on August 1 against the Red Sox. He went 2-4 with a home run and three RBI in a 4-2 win. On the other hand, that game accounted for 20% of his hits and 27% of his RBI for the season. Without that performance, he would’ve hit .114/.213/.214.
Again, this whole season was a small sample size and Ford didn’t play a ton in it. Even for as bad as his numbers in 2020 were, his overall career ones are still above average after what he did in 2019. It’s possible this season was an aberration and he can still be a productive major league player, and the various projection systems out now have him as an above average hitter in 2021. We’ll have to wait and see if Ford can bounce back and settle in as a useful depth bat, or if 2020 was an unfortunate sign of things to come.