The Yankees are a team that hasn’t struggled to get the offense in years past, until 2021. In what was a weird year, the Yankees had weird problems.
The traditionally slug-first, pitch-second Yankees became a pitching-oriented squad that scored just enough to get by. It didn’t impede the Yankees enough to prevent them from grabbing a playoff spot but come Wild Card night, the Bronx Bombers were held at bay in Boston. It was the Judge and Stanton show, which isn’t enough to consistently be in title contention.
These problems start at the top of the lineup, where the Yankees only posted a mere 95 wRC+ (24th in baseball). Seiya Suzuki could solve a lot of the Yankees’ problems offensively, and they need to sign him.
Diagnosing the Offense’s Problems
Typically, the Yankees are criticized for at least one of three things:
- Too many strikeouts
- Too many power hitters
- Not enough speed
The first thing is to see if there even is a correlation between contact rate and offensive production, which we’ll measure with Weighted Runs Created Plus. In fact, I would like to reference a post made by my dear friends on Instagram @mlbmythbuster who recently made a post about strikeouts.
In their post they created a correlation chart between contact rate and wRC+. They also did the same with K% and wRC+, and here were their results:
As you can see, the correlation between contact/strikeouts and wRC+ is nonexistent. To put it simply, strikeouts just don’t affect offense enough to be a factor for us to look for in a team, especially since in this same timespan (2018-2021) the Yankees were only 13th in K%.
For those who will say “well balls in play could be errors or hits”, to that I say that all outs are created equals, not all batted balls. If the Yankees exchanged strikeouts for barrels, they’d no doubt get better, but they often times exchange strikeouts for groundouts or flyouts. Let’s talk about the actual problems the Yankees have.
Here are how the Yankees ranked in power and speed metrics:
This is unacceptable for a lineup that was supposed to win a title, and it needs revamping. There is a lot of power on the market, but not a ton of speed. That’s where Suzuki comes in and fixes a multitude of issues.
Seiya Suzuki Fits Like a Glove
Seiya Suzuki in 2021 posted a ridiculous stat line:
That’s Mike Trout-type stuff, and while yes it’s in Japan and not in Major League Baseball, it should translate in him being a productive hitter in the States.
ZiPS project Suzuki to slash .281/.350/.469 in 2021, which would be the Yankees’ 4th best projected OBP and 5th best projected SLG. He would also provide some good speed for the Yankees, making him a perfect leadoff bat. I think DJ will be a good hitter in 2022, but he’s way more sluggish now and Seiya could provide a greater advantage with his speed. The Yankees have a prime opportunity to get significantly better, but is Seiya Suzuki destined to become another NPB bust?
Special Talent At the Plate
Suzuki’s doubters will point to hitters like Yoshi Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama who struggled mightily in their transitions. The difference between these guys is that Suzuki has significantly better chase rates and also has a better hit tool. Suzuki had a lower swinging strike rate, lower chase rate, and higher contact rate than either of the two all while posting better raw OPS totals. He’s not only produced better, but he’s just more talented at baseball. Suzuki’s power isn’t a question, and when it comes to prospects and foreign players transitioning to the majors, it’s their hit tool and plate discipline that determines if they’re going to stick.
The Yankees have a prime opportunity to add speed and power to their lineup. At the age of 27 years old, I expect Seiya Suzuki to hit his prime in the US, and he should be doing it as a Yankee.