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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Perspectives: Some Bigger Ideas...

by Paul Semendinger

May 3, 2024

***

The Yankees got off to a great start. People were saying how special the team is. The 10-2 start was a 12 game sample. People saw it as defining.


Since then, the Yankees have gone 10-11. That's a 21 game sample. We're told that this is just a bump in the road, that 21 games isn't defining.


Which is it? (For me, the bigger sample size seems to tell more, no?)

***

One thing many Yankes fans can't get enough of saying is how bad a right fielder Juan Soto is. Okay. We knew that coming in. So he's not a great defender. Fair enough. Move on. The more people focus on his defense, the more they fail to appreciate what a great player he is.


I think some people spend more time talking about Soto's bad defense than they do talking about what a difference-maker he has been on the team. It's as if they went to a pizza parlor (does anyone call them that any longer?) and had the greatest pizza they ever had. Imagine that. Imagine the "One Bite" Pizza Video Guy and him saying, "This is a 10." Then you try the pizza and agree. You've never had a better pie. It was that magnificient; that delicious Then, instead of talking about how great the pizza is, you complain about the salad. "You know," you say, "I usually prefer a few more olives." And then, that's all you talk about. "How was the pizza?" you're asked - and all you mention is the side salad without enough olives.


My goodness, if we can't appreciate who Juan Soto is as a player, I don't have words or an answer for that. Juan Soto is, and has been, a difference maker on the 2024 Yankees. Without him, the team is probably in last place. That's not an exaggeration. And yet almost a day doesn't go by where we don't hear about how he could be or should be or isn't a better outfielder. I find this amazing. The Yankees have one of the best players in the game. And all some people can do is complain about his defense - which in the end hasn't even been as bad as advertised.

***

At the same time, as fans pick on one player for his supposed weaknesses or a bad play, the same people conviently ignore those same mistakes when a player they like more makes the same mistake. Juan Soto didn't call off Anthony Rizzo on a tough play on Tuesday night. "What a bum," we heard. Later in the game, Aaron Judge, on an easier play, didn't call off Anthony Volpe, even bumped into him, and not a word from the people who criticized Soto. It seems if Juan Soto can't handle a difficult play, that's a problem, but if Aaron Judge makes the same mistake, it's okay.

***

One thing we hear, all the time, when watching sports, is "momentum." He has momentum. They have momentum.


People said that about the Yankees heading into the Baltimore series. The Yankees have momentum. If there is such a thing, and it's meaningful, they did. The Yankees had just scored 30 runs in two games. The Orioles had blown some games against the A's. If momentum had any true meaning, how did the Yankees lose the three of four against the Orioles?


There is no such thing as momentum in sports as far as having any meaning on the next game's outcome. I remember watching a football game and the announcers couldn't get enough of that word. "The Chiefs are driving and have the momentum..." "Now the Bills have the ball and... touchdown!" If momentum changes that quickly, what is it except a silly talking point? You win, you have it. You lose, you don't. You score a run, you have it. They score, you don't. Whatever it is, it doesn't predict anything. While you have it, you have it, so people can talk about it. "He has momentum." Until you fly out. Then it's gone and it can't be recaptured, until three weeks later when you go 3-for 4. "Oh, he's got it." Until the next day, or the next play, or the next at bat.

***

We also hear this a lot with batters. A guy is in a slump. He gets a hit. "That'll get him out of it." Until it doesn't. A player has a big game. "Now he's back." Until he isn't.


Aaron Judge has a great two games to close out the series with the Brewers. "He's back!" Then he had one hit in four games against the Orioles.


Did Judge have momentum? Did he find his swing? Whatever he had last weekend, he lost on the flight to Baltimore.

***

I keep hearing how Giancarlo Stanton is back. I'm sorry, I don't see it. He had a few good games. He homered off a position player a few weeks later. He isn't having a good year. And that's with that little burst at the start of the season.


Was anyone happy with the Giancarlo Stanton of 2022? That's who this player is right now. The stats are very similar.


As of Wednesday morning:


2022 OPS+ = 112

2024 OPS+ = 114


2022 OPS = .759

2024 OPS = .761


2022 OBP = .297

2024 OBP = .296


2022 SLG = .462

2024 SLG = .465


It's not that Giancarlo Stanton is back, it's more. "Giancarlo Stanton isn't as horrific as he was in his worst career season in 2023." That's not being "back." It's just not being super terrible. But, on the other hand, he hasn't been.... good. Outside of last year (2023), the 2022 season was the worst in Stanton's career. So, to be more clear, Giancarlo Stanton isn't hitting the worst he's ever hit. But, again, he isn't hitting well. He's having the same stats as his second worst season ever.


And, to make this even worse, these bad seasons have been the three most recent of his career. He isn't going to get better as the season progresses.


And yet, the Yankees, still clueless since 2018, keep insisting on batting Judge and Stanton back-to-back. It makes no sense.

***

I'm wrong about momentum.


Aaron Boone has momentum in making bad lineups that have Judge and Stanton hitting back-to-back. That just goes on and on and on... even though it doesn't work.


Once, every 4,765 games, or so, they'll both have a big hit... and then people will say, "IT DOES WORK!"


Never mind that one of them homered with the Yankees up 430-2. We'll then get the stats on YES. "The Yankees win 98% of the time when Judge and Stanton homer in the same game." Or some such nonsense.


Here's a stat, "The Yankees have never reached a World Series with Judge and Stanton in the lineup."

***

I am disappointed in myself. For two years I have been saying, "Let Anthony Volpe bat 9th and leave him alone." That was the right thing to do. I said it a million times. I was right about that.


But then I bought into his hot streak to begin the year. "He is ready!" I bought into the hype. I usually don't. I wish I hadn't.


Worse than me buying in, the Yankees should have known better. The kids has been over-matched for weeks now.


Move him to 9th. Leave him alone there. Keep him there no matter what.


And then we can talk about leadoff in 2025.

***

Let's Go Yankees!

***

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10 Comments


sfs1944
May 05

Paul the player coming in on the ball I believe has the best angle and should always if they are in a position to make the play call out as loud as they can I got it Igor it like all of us who ever played the game were taught

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sfs1944
May 04

Paul I have said it before Soto is a terrific ballplayer and the Yanks are lucky to have him. Personally I don’t for the life of me understand the venom directed at his defense which has been more then adequate. All that being said the main problem with the Yanks has been as usual inconsistent offense. Volpe started out like a house on fire and I stated leave him alone but no everyone wanted to move him to the leadoff position where to say the least he has not performed. Judge has not performed along with many others. I choose to take the positive approach The Yanks are in 2nd place and there is a whole lot of baseball t…

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 03

Paul, the biggest problem with your thoughts is that they are based on baseball, only backed up by stats. The Yankees FO makes decisions based on their own egos, the all mighty $$$, and only go by their algorithms, never by what they are seeing.


Just imagine if Cashman, Fishman, Briend, & Reece had to answer questions from fans like us? Oh, why not Hal? I want him squirreled away watching this via hookup. Hey, I should know. I once asked them New York Football Giants HV Ray Handley a question. His ultimate response as told to me by Bob Papa, who was with Handley? 'Never let him ask me another question!'. He tried challenging me, thinking I was somebody'…

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fuster
May 03

The more people focus on his defense, the more they fail to appreciate what a great player he is.


again, NO, Paul


I think that Soto is a flat-out Great Hitter


focusing upon his poor defense as well as his poor base-running does not blind me one Boulder Dam bit to just how fabulous he hits. he's been even better than expected... AS A HITTER.


perhaps one of us is blinded, but

it aint me, babe


I'm not the one attempting to claim that Soto is a great player

when the understood measure of a baseball position player rests upon 5 criteria


HIT

POWER

RUN

ARM

FIELD


every one of us has heard of 5-tool players, 4-tool players.......


guys who…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 04
Replying to

"The Soto Rizzo play was much more difficult."


Which is why Soto should have called him off!


That said, there are currently 20 players with >150 innings in RF this year. Juan Soto is tied for 4th best with 2 DRS, both on Arm, which projects to +9.5 for the year. Last year in LF, he was a -5. So (SSS warning) Soto has upgraded his defense substantially (or perhaps, playing half his games in a small right field is hiding some of this positioning and read inadequacies). BTW, Judge was -3 in RF, 0 in CF in 2023, and is +1 in CF this year.

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