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Yankees At-Bat of the Week: Harrison Bader (6/25)

Bader came through in the clutch once again this weekend.

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

It is crazy to see this Yankees team stay afloat in the playoff race despite little offensive production from multiple key veterans and the prolonged absence of Aaron Judge. Now more than ever, the team will have to rely on Harrison Bader, Anthony Volpe, DJ LeMahieu, and Giancarlo Stanton to play at or near their best ability at the plate.

I was seriously concerned heading into the weekend that this would be the time when the Yankees would fall to fourth in the division and potentially out of a Wild Card spot. The Rangers’ offense likely would be too much for this team to handle, but thanks to fantastic pitching, the Yankees had a shot to win multiple games. In the rubber matchup on Sunday, they headed into the bottom of the eighth inning down a run with Volpe due up. After he hit a double into the gap to start it off, Jose Trevino made his way on base. Gleyber Torres followed up with an unproductive at-bat and yielded the stage to Bader.

All year, Bader has maintained controlled aggression. That is one of my favorite hitting styles to watch. This is the type of hitter who is looking to drive in runs when there are the ducks in the pond waiting for him. To me, one of the most displeasing things to watch of recent iterations of the Yankees was their tendency to be passive with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, you typically can’t drive guys in with walks or long at-bats. Passing the baton is nice for setting the table, but when there are guys out there, you need to bring them in.

Bader embodies that strategy, and his at-bat against Yerry Rodriguez was another great example of that. He has hardly played many games at all in pinstripes, but it’s clear that he is somebody they can rely on in high-leverage situations. With that praise out of the way, let’s jump into the quick at-bat, and focus on what Bader’s controlled aggression looks like in practice.

Pitch 1 (0-0 count, slider)

When you make a mistake on pulling the trigger, it’s important to remain in control. Sometimes, you sell out for an 0-0 fastball with the tying run on second because you have the full intention to hit that guy in. As a reliever in a situation like this, you want to fill up the zone and usually the fastball is the way to do that. But Yerry’s slider-heavy profile makes him unorthodox and instead somebody who will consistently pitch backwards. This wouldn’t stop Bader though. He will be aggressive no matter what the speed is if he gets his wish on something in the zone.

Pitch 2 (0-1 count, slider)

This time around, Rodriguez went too far out of the zone and it was an easy take for Bader — though it was clear he was still in swing mode. I’ve said this when writing about him in the past, but he has a Yes-Yes-Yes mentality that can turn into Yes-Yes-No in the blink of an eye. That’s what happened this time around. With the slider not starting up in the zone, he was able to spit on this one quicker. In the even 1-1 count after two sliders out of the zone, this was the perfect time for Bader to sell out on the heater.

Pitch 3 (1-1 count, 4-seamer)

And there it is! This pitch wasn’t poorly located at all, but Bader was sitting dead red on a fastball in the upper half, regardless of whether it was or a corner or not. With a flat, quick swing, Bader can get to these pitches pretty well.

This is the type of approach that other Yankees hitters would benefit from with runners in scoring position. If you’re going to take hacks ahead in the count or in an even count, have controlled aggression. You can still get your swing off without coming out of your shoes. Bader might not be an otherworldly talented hitter, but he has a sound approach and knows what he needs to do to be successful.