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The RailRiders Era was cute for a while

The Yankees ended the West Coast trip 6 – 3. Not bad considering the starting lineup was a who’s who of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. You never want a rash of injuries to come at any point in the season but if you had to pick one time, facing a string of bad teams like the Angels and Giants in the first month of the season is probably that time.

Unfortunately, once those RailRiders rode on down to Arizona and faced off against a .500 team lead by a crafty pitcher in Zack Greinke, it’s not surprising the Tyler Wades and Mike Tauchmans of the world were shut down. Against this incarnation of the Yankees Greinke, just needed to do two things:

  • Pitch around the exceptional hitters in Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez.
  • Pitch to the aforementioned Tauchman and  Wade who, in Backyard Baseball 2005 for GameCube, would be classified on the field as an “easy out.”

Actual Footage of Tyler Wade vs. Anybody

By the time day two in the desert came around, it was a foregone conclusion. The Yankees were down by three runs early and it felt like an 11 – 0 deficit. The RailRiders were on their last rail even though they mounted a comeback late.

Now, all we can hope for is that we’re close to being done with lineups like this one where the bottom of it is a pitcher’s dream:

Granted it wasn’t the worst of the RailRiders era because you had Gary hitting balls the hardest San Francisco has seen since Barry Bonds, Voit continuing to take walks and mash balls for 41 straight games and Gleyber Torres who, after a little slump has managed an eight game hitting streak. Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu have been pretty sweet too but once you get passed those guys that’s when you get to the wasteland.

If you were the type to spend a whole winter complaining about Giancarlo Stanton’s at-bat against Craig Kimbrel, Miguel Andujar’s defense, Clint Frazier’s tweets and Aaron Hicks’, whatever people complain about Aaron Hicks about, well this is what a lineup looks like without them. In some ways it feels like we’re living through the karmic residue of bad fans who think you can just delete these players from your lineup and think things can be fine. It’s true that you can  get through bad teams with a rotation like the one the Yankees have as our own Frank Marco touched on but eventually, when you’re taking on the Greinkes of the world – and Greinke isn’t even close to to what he once was – things are going to get bad.

This is why when you hear news that Stanton and a few of our boys are close, it’s time to celebrate. To quote Florence + The Machine:

The dog days are over.

Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton had his struggles last year but really, sign me up for 38 home runs and 100 RBI’s on an off year. If that’s him when he’s off, what’s it look like when he’s on.

It’s a super, super small sample size against a very bad Baltimore Orioles team but this year, in 15 at-bats, Stanton reached base 9 times. Two were hits and seven were walks. For a guy that struck out 211 times last year, it looked like he was having the type of comfort at the plate that we didn’t see him have last year.

For the most part, other than the strikeouts, Stanton was at where he always was in terms of those underlying numbers at the plate in 2018. His Contact % was 46.9% last year. He generally averages 46.1%. The total percent of pitches he swings at is 45%. He averages 44.7%. The percent of pitches he made contact with outside the zone was 30.9%. He averages 30.6%. All we can hope for is his second year in the Bronx will bring him the type of familiarity he needs in order to feel at home in the box.

Combine the same power that landed him 21 of 50 spots in the Exit Velocity leader boards in 2018 with more plate discipline and once Stanton is back he can be a difference maker in the lineup. It looked like he was getting there too. His single on opening day off Andrew Cashner is still ranked #1 in terms of Exit Velo for 2019.

Clint Frazier:

Wade and Frazier are really good friends. I’m selfish, though, and in terms of my viewing experience, I’m okay with seeing less of Wade once Frazier comes back. Hopefully it doesn’t open up a rift between the superstar Frazier’s going to be and Wade, a guy you can expect to stand at the plate for a minute before sitting down again.

This year, Wade did the thing where he had a hot spring and then when the season started, he used every tool he had as a baseball player except for his bat.

Wade’s 2019: 0 HR, .208 AVG, .309 OBP, .208 SLG, .517 OPS, 43 OPS+

Compare that to what Clint has done in 2019, and what you’re looking at is a black hole sized difference:

6 HR, 17 RBI, .324 AVG, .342 OBP, .632 SLG, .975 OPS, 152 OPS+

In games where the Yankees won, Clint has been at the center of it:

6 HR, 14 RBI, .390 AVG, .405 OBP, .902 SLG, 1.307 OPS

In high leverage situations, Clint has been an animal too:

1 HR, 6 RBI, .353 AVG, .316 OBP, .647 SLG, .963 OPS. 

Every year it feels like the Yankees have that one kid who breaks out. For Clint Frazier, it has been a long time coming. If he keeps this up when he comes back, #77 is going to keep #99’s seat warm for the time being.

Miguel Andujar

Andujar isn’t a good defensive third basemen. He was arguably the team’s most complete hitter in 2018 though. You could even say he was the difference between the Yankees playing the Wild Card game in the Bronx and watching the team have a slow death to the beat of that horrible drum in Oakland. This is why his defense – as bad as it was – is overblown.

When you see just how much the Yankees struggled to get that big hit against a decent team in Arizona, it really makes you miss what Andujar did at the plate in 2018. We can file him under irreplaceable:

Just like Clint was this year when he was healthy, in games where the Yankees won in 2018, Andujar was at the center of the offense:

19 HR, 69 RBI, .320 AVG, .352 OBP, .593 SLG, .945 OPS

In high leverage situations he was also the team’s resident Captain Clutch:

8 HR, 39 RBI, .315 AVG, .358 OBP, .593 SLG, .951 OPS.

Another note on Andujar: In 120 high leverage plate appearances, Andujar only struck out 21 times. He was a REALLY hard out when the Yankees needed him most. Pitchers had to earn their way out of his at-bats. This is just another reason why his bad defense is overblown. He has too special of a bat.

Aaron Hicks:

I’m not the type of person to dump on Brett Gardner – especially since I was at that grand slam game against Boston – but the biggest difference between Gardy and Hicks at this point other than power is consistency. In 2018 there was a stunning difference between the first and second halves of these two ball players:

Aaron Hicks:

1st Half 2018: 16 HR, 44 RBI, .249 AVG, .348 OBP, .491 SLG, .839 OPS

2nd Half 2018: 11 HR,  35 RBI, .246 AVG, .388 OBP, .436 SLG, .824 OPS

Brett Gardner:

1st half 2018: 9 HR, 33 RBI, .254 AVG, .345 OBP, .403 SLG, .748 OPS

2nd Half 2018: 3 HR, 12 RBI, .209 AVG, .288 OBP, .316 SLG, .604 OPS

I guess this is a generic thing to say, but the baseball season is long. Hicks isn’t the sexiest player in terms of star power but you can at least count on him having that same production throughout the year. Gardy has had some great moments this year but in terms of his age and the miles he has put on during his baseball career, once the second half rolls around we might end seeing that steep drop off again. If the division is close, every piece in the lineup counts.

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