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  • E.J. Fagan

Four Thoughts About the Yankees Rough Patch

by EJ Fagan

July 3, 2024

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NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission. This was published a few days ago so the stats don't include the last few games.


Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.

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I haven’t written about the Yankees recently because I haven’t had a lot to say. They have been tough to watch. I’ve tuned out a lot of games after they give up half a dozen runs the first time through the order.


I’ve been holding off on writing a “the sky is falling” post. The Yankees have collapsed in the second half in each of the last three seasons. I don’t think that is what is happening to the team right now. What’s the difference between the 2024 and 2021/2022 Yankees? Let’s talk about it.


Juan Soto Sets a High Floor for the Offense

The biggest difference between 2021/2022 teams and the 2024 is Juan Soto. In 2022, Aaron Judge had one of the greatest second halves of any player in baseball history, and the Yankees were a sub-.500 team. Baseball is a team sport. One player can only do so much.


Juan Soto changes things. The Yankees have the two best hitters in baseball at the top of their games. On a pure WAR basis, they are on track for 18+ wins between the two of them, well more than the combined WAR of all Yankee hitters in 2023.


Even if the rest of the Yankees lineup looks like 2023, Soto and Judge combined sets a very high floor for the Yankees. If the supporting players improve the way that I expect, they allow the Yankees to have a truly special offense.


Ben Rice Looks Legit

When Rice broke out during the second half of last year, I was skeptical. We were in the middle of watching the group of Peraza, Pereira, Wells, Volpe and Florial all flop in the major leagues after strong Triple-A performances. I did not trust anyone’s minor league numbers. Rice barely cracked deep prospect lists even with an OPS over 1.000 at Triple-A.


But sometimes, scouting the stat line works. Rice looks like a professional hitter and athletic fielder. He works counts. Extremely small sample caveats, but Statcast really agrees:



Rice has just barely missed a few home runs. He’s made consistent solid contact, had exceptional control of the strike zone, and taken his walks. I’ll be watching the bat speed distribution. Also: he’s not too slow! Rice might be the third fastest runner on a very slow team.


If Rice can be a merely productive hitter, say .270/.340/.450, he would be a massive addition to the Yankee lineup. Rizzo has been so bad this year that don’t need an MVP candidate to upgrade. Rice has been one of the very best hitters in the minor leagues for both 2022 and 2023. And I think Rice has room to hit much better than that.


The Yankees Are Overdue for a Lineup Reshuffle

Anthony Volpe is batting leadoff. Alex Verdugo is batting 4th most of the time. Both have an OPS of .700 or below on the season, and are worse lately. Something has to give.


The problem is that it’s not immediately obvious who should take their places. Ben Rice is a candidate, but they probably want to wait a few more weeks at least before putting that pressure on him. Torres felt like he was back in Toronto, but it’s only been three games.


I think that LeMahieu is probably the best leadoff option right now. He’s finally starting to look like his old self lately. The two doubles were nice, but I’ve also noticed that LeMahieu is striking out a lot less likely; 12% since June 15th. LeMahieu sneakily has a .312 xwOBA, better than Volpe (.294) and just a touch behind Verdugo (.322, but much worse lately). Maybe there’s a Verdugo/LeMahieu leadoff platoon coming up soon.


It’s Discovery Time for the Bullpen

The Yankee bullpen right now is half filled with DFA candidates. Caleb Ferguson, Tim Hill, Jake Cousins and Josh Maciejewski are not long for this roster. However, the trend deadline is still a few weeks away.


The Yankees have a bunch of guys starting to work their way into the major league picture. J.T. Brubaker is one or two starts away from major league longman duties. Clark Schmidt is on his way back. Jack Neely has three scoreless appearances at Triple-A. Scott Effross only needs a few more appearances to complete his long rehab.


The Yankees need to figure out which of these guys is going to be a long term part of the playoff bullpen before the trade deadline. Do they need to go out and get an ace relief pitcher? Two? They won’t know until they play these guys. I’m a little surprised that Neely isn’t up already.

16 Comments


zx11c3macky
zx11c3macky
Jul 04

This season can work out. It's gonna take all kinds of money. They Yankees have all kinds of money. They also have a managing general partner guarding the money. I see DJ nothing more than an utilityman at best. Volpe needs to be shown that he has reverted back to his 2023 standard operating procedure. Too many K's! Money and prospects will need to be used to fix Third Base. Coming into the season with DJ expected holding down that position was a bad decision. Maybe a trade with the Angels for Carlos Estévez (RP) and Luis Rengifo (INF) would work. IMHO, Jose Trevino has to go. The Yanks have Carlos Narvaez at SWB. Young defensive catcher, right handed batter…

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Chris D.
Chris D.
Jul 04

In Well's defense, if you don't get into the starting lineup, how are you supposed to show them, you're better than Trevino ??!! Bullpen has got to go

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Philip Cashier
Philip Cashier
Jul 04

Rough Patch? 5-13, 9-15 -- This "patch" is the size of Alaska!

Like

mikemarinelli54
Jul 04

Volpe and Wells did not exactly “flop” last year.

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mikemarinelli54
Jul 04

The lineup is out. Rice leading off. Volpe 6th.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jul 04
Replying to

And they sat LeMahieu too!

Like
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