On Thursday, Mike Petriello, writer and host of the Statcast Podcast for MLB.com, joined the The Bronx Pinstripes Show to talk about the first month of Yankees baseball. Here are some key things discussed.
The Yankees invest in analytics at all levels
One question that has been burning in the mind of every Yankees fan — and probably Cardinals fan’s minds too — is how did Brian Cashman and his team find Luke Voit?
Voit is currently riding a 41 game on-base streak during which he’s hitting .316 with 16 homers and 23 walks. Since August 1 of last year, Voit ranks 7th in baseball with a 172 wRC+ — higher than players like J.D. Martinez, Bryce Harper, and Aaron Judge.
On the podcast, Petriello talked about how the Yankees have given Voit the tools to succeed and he has embraced them. The Yankees invest time and resources in minor league analytics, make sure the data is accessible to players at all levels, and educate them on how to apply it to their performance. It is a big reason why Didi Gregorius has been one of the best hitting shortstops in the league for the past two seasons and why Aaron Hicks ranked third in WAR for center fielders last year. The Yankees, along with teams like the Dodgers and Astros, find a talent they like and give them the tools to succeed.
Gio Urshela won’t sustain this level of offensive production
To date, Urshela has picked it at third base and posted a shockingly good 139 OPS+ (144 at the time of this recording). As Petriello points out, one of those is not sustainable.
Because of injuries, Urshela has a chance to play and made the most of it, but a lot of his offensive production may be due to luck in a small sample. Gio has never hit in his professional career and, barring his luck continuing, will probably regress at the plate. The Yankees should be grateful for his contributions while Miguel Andujar has been sidelined.
The Yankees still hit the ball very hard
Ok, this isn’t a groundbreaking takeaway because the Yankees are notorious for hitting lasers. But how are they ranked 1st in MLB for average exit velocity with many of their monster freak hitters injured?
For one, Aaron Judge was leading baseball for average exit velocity before he went down. DJ LeMahieu is also an above-average all around hitter who has a 50% hard hit rate. And obviously Luke Voit has been a consistent force all season.
When looking at the lineup, the only players who are below league average for hard hit rate are Brett Gardner, Gio Urshela (see above section), and Tyler Wade. Even with injuries, there is not a clear black hole in the order.
Should we be concerned with Judge’s pre-injury performance?
Despite leading baseball for average exit velocity, Judge’s slugging percentage is down this year. His 2017 was so insanely good that it may never happen again, but that’s ok! Before he went on the IL Judge was having a very similar season to last, which was still All Star level production. Don’t read too much into his down SLG-% in just three weeks of action.
How good can Domingo German be?
German has been a huge lift for the Yankees rotation. Last season he showed signs of greatness. He ranked highly in swing-and-miss percentage but wasn’t consistent enough to succeed in the majors. He also struggled with walks and got hit hard in high leverage situations. We’re seeing a different German in 2019.
This year German has been nails with men on base, which has kept his ERA low. His fastball is in the 93rd percentile for spin rate which helps him get more weak fly balls and foul tips. On most other rosters German would be relied on to be a top-3 starter, but as Petriello discusses, the Yankees have the luxury of treating German like their 6th or 7th starter on the depth chart despite his top-end performance.
Who will win the AL East?
Tampa is for real and things could not have gone better for them in April. The Red Sox are starting to turn it around and the Yankees are starting to get healthy. Who will be atop the division at the end and could we see all three teams in the playoffs? Check out the full segment with Mike below to find out (55-minute mark).