As you many Yankees fans likely already know, Anthony Volpe had a bit of a stance adjustment a little bit ago during the Subway Series. After some public chatter around Volpe’s potential demotion to Triple-A, manager Aaron Boone, GM Brian Cashman, and owner Hal Steinbrenner all made it clear that was not an option. Instead, the plan is to let the rookie work through his growing pains at the big league level. To be clear, I’m not at all opposed to that — the issue is that the rest of the offense is nonexistent too. If it wasn’t for that, we would probably all be inclined to be a little more patient. But either way, Volpe is sticking around and is trying to make the right adjustments to turn it around offensively.
When I wrote last month about Volpe’s tendency to step in the bucket from time to time, I was undecided about how it would affect him in the short or long term. In the last month and a half, it’s been clear that it hurts him pretty frequently and is something that needed to be addressed. In that same piece I floated the idea of a closed stride for Volpe. A closed stride may not work for everybody, but this kid is extremely athletic and can get on plane with a variety of pitch heights. I don’t think it would be something that would restrict him, and it seems he agrees with that assessment to an extent.
Since June 13th, Volpe has been playing around with a closed stance. From an outsider’s perspective, this should help him from committing too early on outside breaking balls or swinging under fastballs in the heart of the plate. While I don’t know for sure, it seems like a fair assumption to say that these two things have to be on Volpe’s mind.
Now, from a purely statistical perspective, Volpe has played significantly better at the plate since making the change. As of Sunday morning, his wRC+ since the adjustment is 140. A lot of that comes from a 17.6-percent walk rate, but it also comes with a .214 ISO due to a handful of doubles and a moonshot home run. The power-speed combo has been there for Volpe despite still running a nearly 30-percent strikeout rate. To be this productive after a simple change is a very positive development. It’s a step forward.
With that out of the way, I want to lock in on the sliders that Volpe has seen since this change. This is the biggest point of concern for his profile, in my opinion. Here are three swings on sliders that Volpe put in play:
These are all very interesting cuts. The first was absolutely roped off Verlander. This was the best swing that Volpe had taken on an outside slider all season. To see that on the first day in which he made the change was incredible. The second swing was confusing. He actually stayed on the pitch for a long time, but he seemed surprised that he could get his barrel to it as he slapped it into right. Then in the last swing, Volpe’s path was just a hair under the pitch. This is something he does frequently because of the loft he creates. As he continues getting comfortable, this should be something he parks in the seats.
I was planning on showing examples of Volpe whiffing through two-strike sliders, since that had been a big issue for him, but in doing my research, I noticed another positive development. Since June 13th, Volpe has only gone down whiffing against a two-strike slider once. He has whiffed on other sliders but none of them resulted in a strikeout. This is one of the main reasons his wOBA on swings against sliders has been .267 in this stretch of play. Don’t get me wrong – that’s still not great – but it’s way better than the .179 bar he set from before that point.
Typically, you don’t expect things to click so quickly, but the early returns have proven the closed stance Volpe is the best Volpe we’ve seen. If he continues to play like this, the Yankees will be very pleased, even if it comes with a high strikeout rate. After his rally-igniting double yesterday, it’s hard not to get excited about him turning things around and being the catalyst this team so desperately needs with Aaron Judge on the shelf for the foreseeable future.