Ever since coronavirus upended our lives and postponed the MLB season, we knew that, if a season were even to take place, it would be strange, with odd rules, and very few games. It would leave lots of room for small sample sizes to mess with our heads and wonder what’s real and what’s not. This applies to the New York Yankees batters, too.
Now that we’re nearing the end of the campaign, we have a good sense of how most players’ season lines will end up. With less than two weeks to go, let’s take a look at the strangest statistical oddities this shortened season has cooked up for the Yankees’ hitters:
Clint Frazier’s 16.5 percent walk rate
Did you have Clint Frazier as the second-ranked Yankee in fWAR? Me neither. But here we are, and the young outfielder has revamped his approach and gotten wonderful results, trailing only DJ LeMahieu’s 2.0 fWAR with his own 1.7 mark.
Frazier has a career 8.7 percent walk rate, and during 2018 and 2019, he came in around six. He even only managed a 6.3 percent rate in extensive time at Triple-A last year. He was known as an aggressive hitter without exemplary patience, but that has changed in 2020, at least so far.
The slugger has doubled his BB% to an impressive 16.5%, which has enabled him to be more selective and mash to the tune of a .303/.421/.596 slash line. He has also improved defensively and is now a far more complete player.
Aaron Judge’s 4.0 percent walk rate
Whereas Frazier has dramatically increased his walk rate, Aaron Judge has seen it decrease considerably, which is especially odd given Judge’s remarkable proclivity for taking free passes at every other point during his career.
Judge owns a 15.6 percent walk rate lifetime, so a rate one-quarter of that really jumps off the page. With him, though, the small sample size caveat is even more evident, since he has taken part in only 19 games in 2020. That said, Judge has almost never seen his walk rate fall this low for any prolonged stretch of time. It’s worth noting he’s gone even 80 plate appearances with so few walks.
Luke Voit’s .363 ISO
By taking a less patient approach, Luke Voit is having an utterly impressive year when it comes to power. He is currently the league leader in homers with 19 in 45 games.
That number of round-trippers have caused his ISO (isolated power) numbers to go through the roof: his .363 mark is the highest in the American League and in the second-place in all MLB behind Juan Soto’s .367.
Aaron Hicks’ .212 BA/.381 OBP
Hicks gets very little love for a man who boasts a 20.8 walk rate. It is not ideal that he has such a low batting average, but that OBP is fantastic, and allows him to effectively set the table in front of the team’s power hitters.
Hicks has power, speed, athleticism, and a great eye at the plate. He is one of the Yankees’ most underrated players, and that separation between his OBP and average makes him even more fascinating.
Brett Gardner’s .216 BABIP
Gardner’s 2020 has been one to forget. His .185/.321/.352 slash line on the year tells you all you need to know. And for a man with a career .304 BABIP, a .216 mark catches the eye.
While it’s true that Gardner has changed his approach in the last couple of years and is not the same guy that ran .300+ BABIP earlier in his career, the .216 suggests that the decline in his skills is real. In fact, Statcast has him with an expected batting average of .228, not much better than his actual figure. Gardner appears to have lost a step in more ways than one.
Mike Tauchman’s .056 ISO
Tauchman had a breakout 2019 with a .277/.361/.504 line and a .227 ISO. But he has had all kinds of problems hitting in 2020, even with fastballs in the zone.
Overall, his offensive output has fallen off a cliff and he is running a paltry .056 ISO mark. In 104 plate appearances, he only has five extra-base hits, all of them doubles. To do so little damage a season after slugging over .500 is a real concern.