Painful. Impotent. Futile. Just plain, plain awful. These words, and others like them, can be used to describe many things, but most relevantly to us here at Pinstripe Alley, they describe the Yankees offensive performance when the season began.
This has been well-documented here at the site: Tom and Peter have written about Aaron Hicks and his struggles from the left side of the plate, Erica has talked about how Clint Frazier is just being just too picky while Cooper has dissected the mechanics of his swing, and Jon reminded readers not to put too much stock into the small sample size of the early season and to trust the players’ track records.
Well, Jon was right, because, amidst all the discussions about the rotation’s improved performance over the last two weeks, the offense has quietly heated up. Compare, for instance, the team’s performance from the start of the season to April 20th (when they were 5-10 and in the basement of the entire American League) to their performance since then (over which time they have gone 12-6, not including yesterday’s game):
That’s a substantial improvement, from about 14 percent below average in terms of wRC+ and bottom-five in runs/game to 20 percent above average and roughly league average in runs/game. So what changed? Let’s take a look at how individual players performed in that span of time, using wRC+ to capture as much offensive performance as possible in a single number.
With the exception of Gary Sánchez, Brett Gardner, and Mike Ford, every single Yankees player has posted a wRC+ of at least 99 since April 20. Since then, Sánchez has lost his starting job, and now cedes the majority share of the catcher platoon to Kyle Higashioka, while Ford will lose regular playing time upon the imminent return of Luke Voit. The only black hole, then, who will regularly be in the lineup is Gardner.
But why, when watching the games, does it feel like the Yankees lineup has still been remarkably inconsistent? Looking at a week-by-week breakdown of the main offensive contributors sheds some light on that question.
In every single week, at least one significant member of the offense has struggled mightily, to the point of producing a single-digit or negative wRC+ — Frazier in the week of April 11, Sánchez the week of April 18, Gardner the week of the 25th, and both Aaron Judge and Rougned Odor last week (and Higashioka was not far behind, either). Although, on the whole, Giancarlo Stanton’s hitting streak, Gio Urshela’s consistency, and the beginnings of breakouts by Frazier and (possibly) Hicks have allowed the Yankees offense to consistently put up runs, the regularity of black holes in the lineup has kept the Bronx Bombers from truly clicking on all cylinders.
The runs may have not come quite at the rate that the Yankees and their fans would like, even in the past two weeks. Despite this, however, there’s plenty of evidence that the offense has begun to break out, and given enough time, the runs — and thus, the wins — will be there.