It’d be easy for someone to come in here, and prop up the narrative that adhering to the new guard, strictly going for power without really worrying about the speed aspect, has been the downfall of the Yankees. But we all know it’s more complicated than that. If you can, the priority is always to go after quality bats, and whether they can even run much, that’s just a bonus. However, what do you do when you end up with a lineup producing at a below league-average rate, and with no athleticism to show for?
I for no one never perceived this team as a very speedy one. The likes of Corbin Carroll and Bobby Witt Jr. don’t really frequent Yankee Stadium these days. Still, even with that in mind, it was surprising to see just how low these Yankees rank in most speed-related leaderboards in 2023.
Entering play on Sunday, the Yankees ranked dead last in bolts across all 30 teams. For those unfamiliar with the term, bolts are defined by Baseball Savant as occasions in which a baserunner reaches a speed of at least 30 ft/second. In total, Yankee players have had six bolts in 2022, and it’s not that hard to guess the names behind it. Anthony Volpe, the team’s biggest injection of youth from the start of the year, had half, with three. Estevan Florial was occasionally used as a filler member of the roster and managed to log a couple, and Jasson Domínguez rounds out the group with one.
With these six bolts, the Yankees aren’t just the team at the bottom of the pile but one of only a few teams to be this far down the well. The next closest team are the Mets with seven and the Blue Jays have earned 10, but if you jump up to just 27th place, the Tigers have more than triple the Yankees’ total with 21.
As you can see by the different qualities of these teams, one can find all sorts of examples. There are slow good teams, bad ones, fast good teams, and fast bad ones — case in point, the Royals lead all of baseball in bolts, and the Nats and A’s are in the top 10. However, as we’ve talked about it before, when your lineup as a whole is faltering and you add on that they’re basically a non-factor in the running game, it just feeds the bleak outlook.
But bolts are just one category, so let’s take a look at some different angles. The Yankees are also last in the sport when it comes to sprint speed from home plate to first, with an average time of 4.62, and the Chicago White Sox come in at 4.59 as the next worst. They have some of the slowest players in the league by sprint speed percentile:
- Jose Trevino (4th percentile)
- Giancarlo Stanton (4th percentile)
- Anthony Rizzo (5th percentile)
- DJ LeMahieu (12th percentile)
Unsurprisingly, the Yankees’ average sprint speed is also the lowest in the league, coming in at 26.6 ft/second, followed by, you guessed it, the White Sox (26.7). There were just so many instances of the team looking sluggish and unathletic on the basepaths while bouncing into double play after double play.
Looking at the stolen base numbers, it’s actually a bit of a surprise that this team managed to come in ninth in the American League, although there were some ill-advised attempts in there. Gleyber Torres, whose overall success this season was soured for many fans by his many boneheaded mistakes that blipped on the radar, was the poster-boy for this. The Yankees’ second baseman got caught 6 times on 19 attempts, and at only a 29th-percentile sprint speed, he’s not exactly Elly De La Cruz out there.
Volpe led the team with 24 successful steals, but hopefully, with a better-hitting season in 2024, he can be even more aggressive on the basepaths. Volpe certainly has the tools to swipe 40-50 bags on any given campaign, and looked on pace to do so early this year before his struggles to get on base arose.
The Yankees didn’t do much to remake their lineup after a disastrous ending to their 2022 campaign, and that came back to haunt them in 2023. They’ll certainly be making some changes for next year, whether its by promoting from within or adding from outside the organization, and it couldn’t hurt to look to add some speed alongside the more consistent bats that they desperately need. It’s not the biggest priority, but at the very least it gives their offense another dimension to produce some runs.