Yankees' Weaknesses: The Lineup
Image courtesy of © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsThe Yankees Lineup (Also) Looks Like The Walking Wounded
Twins fans who are lamenting the injury bug that has afflicted their lineup can take some consolation in the Yankees travails. Like the Twins, their starting center fielder (Aaron Hicks) is out for the season. Twins fans are wondering if Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez will be at full speed since they missed the last series of the season. Yankees fans are wondering the same about designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who has 34 home runs this year, suffered an oblique injury, and was held out of the last Yankees series.
There’s more. While Twins fans wonder if nagging injuries might limit some of their better players, Yankees slugging catcher Gary Sanchez just returned last week, played in two games and went 1-6 with four strikeouts. Finally, Twins killer Didi Gregorius, who went 8-10 with 10 RBI in two games this year at Target Field (read that last fragment again), seems to be wearing down as the season goes on after returning mid season from Tommy John surgery. He’s batting just .190 in September.
That raises questions about the #3, #5 and #6 hitters in the Yankees lineup, which isn’t to say this isn’t a killer lineup. But recognizing that some players might not live up to their previously established reputations makes it easier to concentrate on match-ups. Which is handy because….
The Heart Of The Lineup Can Be Navigated Using Match-ups
Overall, the Yankees offense has been pretty effective versus both right-handed (.823 OPS against) and left-handed (.852 OPS against) pitching. But that high-level balance is a result of a lot of blending of extreme splits.
Leading off is right-handed batting DJ LeMahieu. The 31-year-old is having one of his best years, hitting .327 with an .893 OPS. That includes a respectable .830 OPS against right-handed pitching, but in insane 1.066 versus left-handed pitching.
Next up is Aaron Judge, one of the superstars in MLB right now. The 27-year-old also bats right-handed and features similar splits: .847 OPS (including a .247 BA) against right-handers but a .343 BA with an 1.124 OPS against left-handers.
Likely batting fourth will be Giancarlo Stanton, who has had a legitimately crummy year due to a variety of injuries, posting just 72 plate appearances. But the (stop me if you’ve heard this before) right-handed batter has crushed left-handers in those 72 plate appearances to the tune of 1.055 OPS. Against right-handers, he loses 200 points of slugging percentage, with an .844 OPS. This is fairly consistent with the rest of his career.
It goes on. Seven of the nine regulars in the Yankees lineup will be batting from the right-handed side of the plate, with two left-handers. One is the previously mentioned Gregorius, who has killed Twins right-handed pitchers over his career. The other is center fielder Brett Gardner, who posts similar crazy splits, but the opposite way: right-handers must be very careful against him, while he’s posted just a .654 OPS against southpaws.
So expect to see a lot of right-handed relievers on the Twins roster on Friday. Before you get too giddy, limiting the best players to a mid .800s OPS doesn’t ensure victory. For comparison purposes, the Twins lineup as a whole posted a .832 OPS this year. But to take the heart of the Yankees lineup and downgrade it to “better than average” is a trade the Twins should gladly take.
Of course, they’ll still need to score some runs. We’ll take a look at how they might be able to do that in Part 2 tomorrow.
Again, for even more on the batters I mentioned above, check out Andrew Thares' breakdown of how the Twins will likely approach LeMahieu, Sanchez and Stanton.
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