I’m sure many of you have scratched your heads on that one many times this year.
Ford has 72 plate appearances this season — 14 of which have been in the five-hole and 27 of which have been in the six-hole. That’s 57 percent of his plate appearances hitting in the middle of the order. Ford is hitting .133.
Obviously, it’s not just Ford, but it reflects the entire philosophy. I can guarantee that the only reason Ford is hitting fifth is that he is a lefty and we need to split up the righties. How’s that working for us? Ford is hitting .100 against lefties and .149 against righties. And when half our team is hitting below .200, it really isn’t doing much other than preventing us from putting our best lineup out there. If guys get a hit every few weeks, then why on earth should the other team care about if they need to bring in a righty or a lefty?
Right now, they could bring in a guy who has never seen a ball in their life and they would get a weak ground ball to the right side. It doesn’t matter!
We need to be focusing on putting our best lineup out there regardless of which side of the plate the players hit from. Why would any pitcher give Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton anything remotely close to the zone if they know Mike Ford and his .133 average is right behind them? Again, not trying to zero in on Ford, but he’s definitely part of the problem.
Who are the Yankees’ current left-handed hitters? Brett Gardner, Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, and Mike Ford (recently optioned). Combined, they are hitting .186. Don’t you think that putting a right that hits perhaps .250 is a better option even if it means putting five righties in a row? All of their on-base percentages are lower than .290. For context, FanGraphs defines an OBP of .290 to be “awful”. For more context, Jacoby Ellsbury was never below .290 during his tenure in New York — in fact, he was never below .318.
Sure, we don’t have many options, but the team is 27th in the entire league in runs per game at 3.76. In 2020, we were third at 5.39. Yes, the deadened balls probably are partly to blame, but the crux of the matter is that handedness should not matter at all at this point. Maybe if we have seven or eight solid hitters who were producing, but not when you have confidence in only one or two guys to get the job done.
Judge is somewhat amazingly hitting .290 with a wRC+ of 160 (which, if sustained, would be the best mark of his career since his rookie season) when 70 percent of his plate appearances have been hitting third without any protection. The Yankees’ cleanup hitters this season have collectively hit under the Mendoza line at .196 with a putrid .574 OPS, which happens to be the second-worst of any lineup position for them outside of sixth (.573 OPS). That’s not your ideal cleanup hitter. They’ve also struck out the second most times at the four spot in the lineup and have walked the least. Why would any sensible pitcher give Judge anything good to hit?
Aaron Boone doesn’t have a ton of options, but maybe not having Ford available will allow him to construct better lineups because most of them don’t seem to make any sense from a baseball perspective or an analytical perspective.