SSTN Weekly Mailbag: The Lineup When Voit Returns, the Tauchman Trade, and a Yankee Turnaround!
By Andy Singer
We’re back after a one week hiatus. Sorry for the lack of notice – sometimes life aside from the Yankees gets in the way, but we’re back to our regularly scheduled mailbag programming. Since our last SSTN Mailbag, the Yanks have slowly begun to awake from their slumber, winning 6 of their last 10. Yesterday’s game was a tough loss, as a couple of bad breaks led to a late loss in extra innings. We easily could be talking about 7 wins in their last 10 today, which certainly sounds a lot better than 6. If only Gleyber’s 9th inning double hadn’t bounced just a bit too high over the wall…but that’s baseball.
As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll talk about lineup construction when Luke Voit returns, discuss the return in the Mike Tauchman trade, and dissect whether the Yankees are actually turning their season around. Let’s get at it:
Ray D. asks: The Yankees have used a lot of combinations in the lineup and on the bench with Voit out of the lineup. My question is what does the lineup and bench look like when Voit comes back?
It’s just one guy, but I think Yankee fans have been a little too willing to ignore the difference Voit’s absence has made early this season. Voit plays with a ton of fire in his belly, and despite some shortcomings at first base, is at least a real defensive first baseman. We don’t even need to talk about his offense, which has been consistently elite since joining the Yankees in 2018. The Yankees have been called out for playing with with a lack of energy and fire during their early season struggles. I can’t help but think that a guy with Voit’s mentality would help the clubhouse navigate tough stretches. I’ll get off my soapbox about Voit, but I really think he’s going to help more than most people think.
Voit certainly eliminates some of the early season variability we’ve seen in the infield this season. The Rougned Odor/Mike Ford combination loses playing time at a minimum, and we’ll see DJ LeMahieu at 2B on a much more consistent basis. I think Luke Voit likely slots into the lineup somewhere in the heart of the order, so the starting lineup should be pretty close to set.
For me, the big question is what the Yankees are willing to do with Giancarlo Stanton for the rest of the year, because it will significantly change the Yankees’ bench. At some point this year, would the Yankees be willing to give Stanton 1-2 games per week in the outfield? If so, I think Mike Ford should stick around as a good lefty bat with pop and plate discipline, getting 1-3 games per week at 1B/DH. In this scenario, Odor sticks around as an infielder with pop off the bench, Urshela backs up Torres at SS, and Wade goes back to the taxi squad.
If Stanton really can’t play the outfield, then I’m not sure there are enough at-bats available to keep Ford fresh, in which case I’d stick with Wade on the bench as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
In any case, I can’t wait to get Voit back in the Yankee lineup – they’ve missed him.
Bryan asks: How did Cashman do on the Tauchman trade? A reliever and a player to be named later feels light for an MLB outfielder.
I said it a number of times this offseason, but I had a hunch that Tauchman’s trade value was much less than most people outside of the baseball industry assumed. The big piece of the puzzle, to me anyway, is that in order for Tauchman to have everyday value as an outfielder, you need to believe that he is a well above-average defender. I know that the small sample size metrics indicate that Tauchman was an elite defender, but defensive metrics take a long time to stabilize (multiple seasons, really), so I am very willing to question those metrics. More to the point, MLB teams all have their own proprietary metrics for defense that are not available to the public. I have to believe that the Yankees internal metrics graded Tauchman’s defense lower than the general public, given the fact that the team consistently was more comfortable with an aging Brett Gardner in CF (the most demanding defensive position in the outfield) than Tauchman whenever Hicks was either sitting or out with injury. I think other MLB teams found that decision telling as well. In the end, Tauchman is interesting, but not super valuable, so the return is similarly underwhelming.
Wandy Peralta has an option remaining, so he’ll be an up and down arm for the Yankees in 2021, which they’ll need given how hard the bullpen is likely to be ridden this year. His surface stats are far from inspiring, but there’s more than meets the eye with Peralta.
Wandy Peralta Statcast Rankings
Yeah, Peralta does almost everything well, except put hitters away. He throws 96 MPH, and has multiple breaking and offspeed pitches to pair with it, so Peralta is interesting. If the Yanks can help him put guys away, Peralta could be a diamond in the rough. You can never have enough pitching, so I’m okay with Peralta as a return for Tauchman. I have no idea if this trade will work out long-term, but I’m willing to give it a chance.
David asks: Simple question: are the Yanks ready to turn it around?
The Yankees haven’t been good on the basepaths, their fundamentals leave something to be desired, and fielding has occasionally been an adventure. None of these things are particularly surprising; this is a lineup built to bludgeon the other team to the point that the Yankees’ weaknesses are minimized. While the starting pitching hasn’t provided length, it’s been good enough to get wins, and the bullpen has been spectacular save for a couple of late mishaps recently. For the Yankees to turn it around, the offense needs to start performing.
Contrary to popular belief, I think that the Yankees have done some things well at the plate this season. There is a popular impression that the Yankees are a free swinging group, and that has been true in the past. Fortunately, that doesn’t match the actual results this season. On a really simple level, the Yankees have struck out at a lower rate than league average (23.6% vs. 24.2% league average), and they walk well above the league average rate (11.3% vs. 8.4% league average). Thus far, they just haven’t capitalized on hitting middle-middle pitches.
The tide may be turning on that front. Stanton and Judge seem to have awoken from their slumber, and have each strung together a few multi-hit games. Two young guns who have struggled, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier, have each made some recent adjustments that are showing some early results.
Let’s start with Gleyber. Gleyber began the season with a big leg kick to begin his swing that was consistently late, leading Torres to swing through even weak fastballs in the strike zone. See an example of that below:
Yeah, a lot of ugly. The big leg kick has been a pet peeve of mine all season for Torres. With two strikes, Torres would occasionally go to an almost stride-less swing that was helping him make contact. I’ve hoped that he’d use that swing throughout an entire at-bat to at least start making consistent contact, because he has enough natural power to do damage even without the big leg kick. Lo and behold, Torres made the change earlier this week, and now he’s hitting. Here’s Torres’ ground-rule double yesterday as an example of his new mechanics. Note the lack of a leg kick to trigger the swing:
Frazier has been even colder at the plate, but he too has made a recent change to his batting stance. In this first stance, we see that Frazier is closed to the pitcher, coiled and ready to hit for power. The issue with this stance is twofold: it can occasionally lead to Frazier stepping in the bucket, which saps him of bat speed, and it also likely makes it harder for Frazier to see the pitch as it comes out of the pitcher’s hand. See an example of this stance below:
Frazier’s new stance maintains the coil we see in the stride leg, but it also is far more open, forcing Frazier to step into the plate, and also allows Frazier to get a clearer view of the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. See the example below:
Since making the change, Frazier has hit the ball hard. When you hit the ball hard, good things follow.
All of this is by way of saying that the majority of the lineup is beginning to come around, and even with how bad the lineup has seemed, the peripherals are good enough that I expect the rebound to be pretty spectacular. Yes, I think the Yankees are turning it around.