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Fixing the Yankees’ offense is a challenge that Dillon Lawson must embrace

The Yankees have badly struggled in the second half, and their primary hitting coach also deserves some of the heat.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees had the majors’ best offense in the first half. I know, it seems like ages ago, but in reality, it was just about seven weeks ago. Before the break, they led the majors in fWAR with 22.7, and in wRC+ with 122. They were also first in runs scored with 497, and home runs with 157. They were on top of the world.

Before Friday’s game, New York fell to third in wRC+ (115) and fWAR, with 27.5, because they have been sleepwalking during the entire second half. At the time of this article’s submission, the numbers hadn’t updated, but Friday’s embarrassing shutout at the Trop only sank them lower.

Since the All-Star break, New York’s offense is nowhere to be found. They are 15th in fWAR with 4.9, 19th in wRC+ with 97 (below the league average), and 19th in runs scored, with 155. They are sixth in home runs only because of Aaron Judge: they would be a bottom-barrel team in the power department without him, at least in the second half.

Of course, not all the issues with the Yanks’ bats have to do with performance: injuries have also played a role. Giancarlo Stanton missed time with an Achilles problem and hasn’t found his rhythm since returning. Matt Carpenter fractured his foot and is out until late September. Even among those not on the IL, Anthony Rizzo has been dealing with back pain on and off and is not with the team in Tampa, while DJ LeMahieu is likewise affected by a toe injury that even Aaron Boone admitted had sapped his power.

New York’s extensive injury history this summer, however, does not mean that there isn’t a serious issue with the offense since July. The unit is just not competitive at the moment, and this has been the case for a while.

Look at how some of the Yankees’ regulars have performed since the All-Star Game, in terms of wRC+:

Yankees struggling hitters: second half

Player 2nd half wRC+
Player 2nd half wRC+
DJ LeMahieu 102
Josh Donaldson 94
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 69
Gleyber Torres 47
Aaron Hicks 34

The Yankees, more than ever, should be thankful that Aaron Judge plays for them, because if it wasn’t for him, God knows where they would be.

Hitting in MLB is obviously not easy. Ending a prolonged slump and turning a season around is, evidently, a challenge for each struggling hitter on an individual level, but it’s also a challenge for Yankees’ hitting coach Dillon Lawson (and assistants Casey Dykes and Hensley Meulens).

Every hitter presents a different challenge for the hitting coach. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments, and it doesn’t seem the Yankees offense has been able to adjust back. Each player is responsible for what he can control, but this extended stretch is Lawson’s first major adversity period in his short stint as the Yankees’ hitting coach since being hired in December 2021. Obviously, he’s not the guy swinging the bats, but he must find a way for the team to produce more.

Lawson has the tools to work things out. He has the knowledge (here is a peek at his resume upon taking over the Yankees’ hitting), the experience, and the philosophy. His “hit strikes hard” motto worked for a sustained period of time, and his methodology also yielded terrific results with the Yanks’ minor leaguers in the past. MLB pitchers are the best in the world, so they made some adjustments against certain hitters.

It will be up to the Yankees’ hitters to adjust back, and to do that, they need the help and guidance of their hitting coach. After all, not all batters have the same issues: some may be expanding the zone, others might be showing passivity, and so on.

Now, it’s Lawson’s time to shine. It’s his job to correctly diagnose what ails each one of his struggling hitters, and come up with mechanical and/or approach-related solutions. Again, it’s an extremely difficult job, but the Yankees trusted him to occupy the role for a reason.