“I think that’s what makes this team different from other years, just having that diversity in the lineup,” Aaron Judge told reporters in late April, as the Yankees offense rolled along. The 2021 days of frustration looked long gone, as the “new look” offense kept scoring runs — never mind that the only new players with regular playing time were Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Trevino.
Certainly the results have been there so far. As of this writing, the team’s hot start has them tied for the second-most wins in the league, and gave them a nice cushion as injuries have begun to hit them. Still, those injuries have exposed or exacerbated some preexisting issues with this team, on offense in particular. Without the power of the injured Giancarlo Stanton, the lost Joey Gallo, or even the mercurial Gary Sánchez, the lineup does look a lot shorter. It begs the question of if the team is still too reliant on the home run ball.
I’m certainly not saying that the offense has been bad, especially pre-injury outbreak. Even after this slower stretch, the Yankees are first in MLB in expected slugging percentage, second in expected batting average, and tied for third in home runs hit. They’re hitting the ball hard, and getting results.
However, there are some metrics that are not as nice to look at. Somehow, the Yankees have only hit 62 doubles, the third-worst mark in the league, directly behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. The idea of a station-to-station offense may not be what’s really happening. The 2021 Yankees finished dead last in doubles. They’re middle of the pack in hits overall, too, this year.
The numbers don’t bear out that the Yankees have been much improved at hitting for contact rather than power. They’re 21st in MLB in zone contact percentage, meaning that they have been worse than most other teams at putting the balls in play that they should. Their current mark of 81 percent is only 0.4 percent better than it was in 2021. They are also in the bottom half of the league in chase percentage, sandwiched in between the struggling Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics.
Additionally, one of the players that the Yankees brought in specifically for his contact skills haven’t really hit at all, period. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was touted as a speedy contact hitter who would be a nice change of pace from the sluggers around him, but his current on base percentage is only .307, despite a better walk rate than he’s featured most of his career. His BABIP also doesn’t suggest he’s been unlucky. The .258 hitter the Yankees have might just simply be who he is.
The 2022 offense is clearly better than 2021’s, at least when fully healthy — if current trends persist, they’ll finish better in pretty much every stat. Assuming Stanton returns quickly and is no worse for wear, they should start putting up more runs again. I do wonder how the offense would rate if Aaron Judge was having a season that was just good, not one for the history books like he’s currently on pace for. Besides his titanic performance, the offense is probably not as different from last year’s as he likes to tell reporters it is. His performance, and the improvements from the likes of Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu are driving things, like they were supposed to last year. Their philosophy overall doesn’t appear much changed.