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Perspectives – After the Orioles Series

by Paul Semendinger

April 8, 2021

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The Mighty Yankees are just 3-3. They don’t look great. They don’t look sharp. The offense isn’t “clicking.” Big time players, just a week into the season, need to rest.

It’s not a great look.

If the Yankees are doing one thing very well it’s making many of us here at SSTN seem like geniuses. (Gleyber isn’t a shortstop, there are too many righty-hitters who swing and miss, poor fundamentals will lead to losses, the players are too fragile…) I could go on…

Here are some perspectives on this off-day after they lost last night in extras:

I am thrilled to see how well the pitching has been. The pitching has been lights out great. Lights out great.

The entire pitching staff has allowed just 14 runs through six games. If they keep that up, that will help tremendously.

Wouldn’t it be amazing, if this team’s strength was the starting staff? Each starter, except Domingo German (which kind of pleases me), has been on top of his game. It’s been fun to watch that part of the game.

I was fine with the short starts from Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. They both impressed me. Their first starts were just “get to know you” and “get comfortable” outings. Hopefully they can grow from there.

How great was the Giancarlo Stanton grand slam on Monday? Boy was that needed. BIG TIME. The problem is it never seems to last.

The problem was it never seems to last.

It never seems to last.

A few batters before the slam, Aaron Judge looked at a BP fastball right down the middle from a kid making his first big league appearance. A veteran (superstar?) like Judge can’t let a kid get the better of him like that.

The Yankees have too many hitters that all profile the same. Right handed. Great power. Tremendous exit velocity. All of that without the ability to actually not just swing big seemingly every time and miss far too often.

I think, and I’ll revisit this often, that the Yankees’ big hitters are mostly guess hitters. If they guess correctly, they mash the ball. If they guess wrong, they look terrible. Too often good pitchers make them look terrible.

Here is an example of the power (and misuse) of statistics:

On Baseball-Reference, they show each player’s 162 game averages. How is this for Aaron Judge? .272/45/102 Impressive, right. The man is a superstar. He averages 45 homers a year!!!

But, how are these numbers? .274/21/48. Those are Judge’s real numbers over the last three seasons. Yes, he’s averaged just 21 homers.

Now, before anyone says, “Wait, it was a shortened season last year,” let’s remember that Judge was hurt and might not have even played in the games that were missed had there not been a pandemic shutdown.

I’m just not convinced that Aaron Judge is the superstar will all wish he could be and many think he is. Aaron Judge will be 29 later this month. His contract runs out in two years. He has not been able to stay healthy. He sat on Wednesday night with soreness. One excuse from Aaron Boone was that he had DH’d a game or two before and “he swung a lot.” Boone actually said that. He swung a lot? DHing is supposed to be the rest. Now Aaron Judge needs a rest from resting.

Let’s just think about this for a minute – The great Aaron Judge needed a rest so much, he was so much in need of a rest, that he couldn’t even bat in an extra inning game. Mind you, this player is supposed to be the Yankees’ biggest star. He is the guy. The Guy. THE GUY. But THE GUY was so sore, so tired, so much needing a rest, that he sat on the bench in extra innings as the Yankees went down in defeat.

The last supposed “superstar” I saw who did that, who just sat and sat and sat, was Nomar Garciaparra is the Jeter “dive into the stands” game. I remember seeing Nomar sitting on the bench and wondering why he wasn’t able to find a way to play. It wasn’t long before Nomar was gone from the Red Sox.

The great players find a way to get up there. Think of all the great sports moments. So many show the superstar of the team leader getting up and getting it done.

But these Yankees need days of rest, the day before an off day, one week into the season.

I know this is not allowed to be stated, but at this moment, I would not give Judge an extension, at least not a big money, mega-contact one. Before I’d extend him, he’d have to show that he can play a significant amount of games. I am not convinced he can.

I know, I know… how can anyone say this… Aaron Judge is supposedly a superstar. Maybe he is, but I can’t think of a superstar on another team that they would trade for Judge. Would the Dodgers trade Mookie Betts for Judge? No way. Usually it’s a debate. Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? Mickey Mantle for Willie Mays? Not in this situation. I can’t think of a team that would trade their superstar player today for Aaron Judge.

Would the Mets even trade Michael Conforto for Judge? Think about it… They wouldn’t.

Here are Aaron Judge’s games missed percentages the last few seasons (see if you see a trend):

2020 = 54%

2019 = 48%

2018 = 31%

I am concerned that Judge just wasn’t resting. We have seen the manager and the organization without total candor and honesty (time and again) when it comes to the players’ health. I can see Judge resting on Friday (“just one more day”) and then flying to New York (“just to rule a few things out”) and then being shut down for a week. If that happens, we’ll see him again in August. 2023. (I hope I am very wrong about this.)

Aaron Hicks has proven he is not a #3 hitter. Here are some appropriate uses of statistics. These are Aaron Hick’s numbers as a #3 hitter in his career:

2020: Traditional: .229/3/14 and his Triple Slash: .400/.390.790

2019: Traditional: .261/5/18 and his Triple Slash: ..320/.500/.820

2018: Traditional: ..222/6/19 and his Triple Slash: ..343/.410/.754

2017: He didn’t bat third in 2017

It’s underwhelming, especially for such an important spot in the batting order.

It is precisely that the Yankees failed to get a decent every day left-handed bat, for the last many years, that Aaron Boone is compelled to bat Aaron Hicks third. It is readily apparent. He can’t bat Judge and Stanton back-to-back. (This isn’t me saying it – it’s the Yankees doing it.) Thus, because the Yankees failed to address one of the team’s biggest needs (for years), they have a guy batting third that should never bat third. Worse, when Hicks was benched for a game, Boone batted Brett Gardner third. WHAT?

In the second game of the Orioles series, it was awful seeing Stanton, Torres, and Frazier all strikeout with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning. That is just horrible baseball. I’ll say this again and again and again. The Yankees, as an organization, from the GM, to the manager, to the hitting coaches (yes, they have two), and even to the players, have to have a better approach at the plate. They just do. This swing from the heels time and time again leads to poor results. The grand slams are fun and they make us hope that something changed, but then, almost immediately, we get brought back to earth.

The truth is, these are just not great hitters when they face pitchers with good stuff and/or pitchers who know how to pitch. They can run into an occasional fastball and look great. But then we also see examples like the above. There is no reason that a team this talented with this many big hitters should be 3-3 when they have allowed just 14 runs in six games.

People talk about how baseball has become too long and too boring. That problem is really the Yankees’ approach in a nutshell. Three true outcomes. Walk, strikeout, or homer. All or nothing. I’m tired of the approach. It’s not fun. It has not worked long term. It’s not working this year.

And I hate, with fervor, the extra inning rule. It is horrible. It’s a mockery of the game. It is an absolute mockery of Major League Baseball. The greatest players in the world need the games to end more quickly? They need imaginary base runners to help them score? It’s horrible. Baseball is ruining itself. This is a self-inflicted wound that must be fixed.

Now the Yankees head to Tampa Bay where they never play well. Oh boy…

Let’s Go Yankees!

#AaronHicks #AaronJudge

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