During Corey Kluber’s no-hitter on May 19th, some fans joked that the Yankees purposefully hit into so many double plays (5) to avoid long innings and prevent Kluber’s arm from getting cold. While it’s possible that Kluber benefited from the quick innings, the team’s propensity to ground into double plays (GIDP) is troubling. Entering play on Friday, the Yankees led both leagues with 49 GIDP and if they’re not careful, they could end up setting a record. It’s not the kind of stat where you want to be number one.
An optimist would suspect that the Yankees are hitting lots of grounders into so many double plays because plenty of players are getting on base. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As a team, they have an on-percentage of .318 — not terrible, but not particularly impressive either since 10 offenses sit ahead of them. Fans wish that this was the root of the problem. It’s not.
Some players are contributing more than others. Although he has been one of the Yankees’ more productive hitters, Gio Urshela also leads the team with seven GIDP. Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t trail far behind with six; Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier have five. While GIDP doesn’t exactly correlate with winning (the Pirates and Rockies have the fewest), it is frustrating when the Yankees’ baserunners are erased with a double play, considering the team’s offensive woes right now. The Yanks are struggling to score runs and the high GIDP total has definitely contributed.
Grounding into double plays also means that the team is hitting more ground balls than they should. At about 46 percent, the Yankees currently have the third-highest GB% in the American League.
That DJ LeMahieu has been grounding out a lot more than he has in previous seasons is particularly worrisome. The trend started last year, and in 2021, DJ is hitting balls on the ground nearly 57 percent of the time. That’s quite a jump from 2019, when he hit balls on the ground less than 50 percent of the time.
At the end of the day, double plays typically stem from two issues:
- Swinging at bad pitches outside the strike zone
- Failing to do damage with pitches that are hittable
Not swinging at good pitches seems to be somewhat of a reoccurring theme for the Bombers in 2021. In a previous article, I discussed this issue with a focus on Clint Frazier. What applies to Clint goes for the whole lineup: allowing too many pitches to go by puts the Yankees’ batters in scenarios where they have to protect the plate. In other words, hitters are forced into situations where they have to swing at borderline pitches to avoid striking out.
Perhaps the Yankees need to get better at recognizing pitches and knowing which ones to expect? It’s unclear why pitchers have been able to surprise batters like Stanton and Frazier with their pitch sequencing, but it might be worth investigating. Aaron Boone suggested something along these lines in a postgame interview several weeks ago. The Yankees are “going to hit into our share of double plays,” he said. “I just want us to start grinding pitchers down.”
The team had a slow start, but it’s almost June. The Yankees have to find a way to advance runners and take advantage of scoring opportunities on a consistent basis. Otherwise, they’re just going to keep rolling over and wasting outs on twin killings.