The Yankees are missing a whole lot of production from their lineup. These losses are not easily weathered no matter what kind of depth you have, and the other powerhouses in baseball would be just as bloodied (if not worse — imagine the Cleveland Indians without Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer for an extended period) as the Bombers are now. For the Yanks, treading water is the goal until the ranks are replenished. Given the moves Brian Cashman has made, the Yankees are in a position to do just that, having now won five straight.
If they manage to do that, Luke Voit will be a critical reason why. Voit, acquired last season from the St. Louis Cardinals for Chasen Shreve (already released), has proven quite a steal in less than a season in New York. He produced a jaw-dropping 189 wRC+ in 39 games as a Yankee, predicated on hard contact and plenty of walks.
Plain and simple, the dude finds barrels: 20.0% of swings in 2018, 23.7% in 2019. So what’s that mean? It means he’s producing really solid contact on a high percentage of his swings — in fact, this season he’s in the top 1 percent. His barrels per plate appearance number tops Christian Yelich, Khris Davis, Cody Bellinger and Paul Goldschmidt, among others. His walk rate is comfortably above-average this year, and unsurprisingly, given his profile, so is his strikeout rate.
For Voit, the results are just now starting to live up to what the fancier stats are saying. As David Cone had pointed out on a handful of YES broadcasts, Voit was hitting the ball really hard and kept finding gloves for his trouble. That sort of thing doesn’t last. Before last night’s game, Voit’s wRC+ sat at 110; after two more blasts (and three in two days), he’s up to 130 for the season. I think that’s probably who Luke Voit is, all told. Bryan Hoch’s recap of last night’s game featured a great quote from Voit explaining his approach:
“A lot of the guys are out of the lineup and I’m not getting as many pitches to hit,” Voit said. “I’ve just got to stay in my zone and not swing at bad stuff, try to put myself in good counts and get pitches to hit. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve got to find a way, grind out at-bats and get on base for the guys — or hit home runs.”
That’s what Voit does; smash homers and get on base. That quote neatly illustrates Voit’s importance to this depleted Yankees lineup; he’s a thumping three-true-outcomes anchor. Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner are all, at worst, professional hitters, but none pose the OBP-and-blasts threat that Voit does (Gardner’s power-heavy start notwithstanding). That’s no knock on the youngsters; rather, it’s a compliment to Voit’s talents. With Judge and Hicks out, the Yankees are suddenly thin on consistent OBP guys. Voit’s presence stops the bottom from falling out.