It was not the mediocre record that had fans worried about the New York Yankees. After all, the club had very poor starts to the 2018 and ’19 seasons. However, it is the mediocre record combined with the high expectations this team had coming into 2021. They were the odds on favorite to win the AL East, to win the pennant, and the second-favorite to win the World Series. No one could have predicted the slide that the Yankees offense has been on to start the year. What makes it worse is that it has not just been a poor start, it has been a poor season. Maybe it has to do with sticky substances, the deadened baseball, the lack of diversity, or all of the above. Regardless, the offense is too talented to be this bad all season long.
To be clear, things could be much worse. But not being as bad as the Detroit Tigers or Pittsburgh Pirates is not exactly a high bar to clear. Going into their series against the Kansas City Royals, the team’s 96 wRC+ means they have been four percent worse than the league average, ranking 22nd in the sport. Their 6.1 fWAR also ranks 22nd, they have a 389 SLG which ranks 21st, a .309 wOBA that ranks 14th, and a .704 OPS that ranks 16th. Regardless of what the issues are that have plagued this offense, the Yankees have belief in their guys and their process, and that the lineup will collectively start performing like they are capable of before long.
Yankees Offense in June
Maybe General Manager Brian Cashman is right to have been showing some patience and trust in the team that he built. Maybe the Yankees offense is finally turning that corner that fans and media have all been waiting for. Despite a relatively mediocre 10-9 record in the month of June, the offensive numbers have looked much better. The offense has collected 3.3 fWAR this month, good for ninth in baseball. Their 113 wRC+ ranks sixth and .334 wOBA ranks seventh. Additionally, their .775 OPS ranks eighth, 33 home runs rank fourth. As a result, even though they rank 19th in runs scored this month, there are some very promising signs among many of their offensive metrics. One of the most bizarre of their statistics is that the Yankees have scored the fewest runs in the American League this season.
This has been interesting for several reasons. First, they have scored 90 runs but have allowed 98 runs. They have a record that is over .500 this month despite a -8 run differential. As promising as the offense has looked in June, the pitching has regressed big time. In April and May, the team’s pitching staff put up a 3.22 ERA which was the fourth-best in the league. Additionally, their collective 8.9 fWAR ranked them number two in the sport. In June, the Yankees are sporting a 4.75 ERA, which is 19th in all of baseball. The pitching has been the club’s strength up to this point. Even with the offense coming alive this month, we have yet to see the whole team put it all together. Regardless, let’s see which players have performed much better in the month of June.
‘The Kraken’ is back! Gary Sanchez has been on an absolute tear since the calendar flipped to June. With a 1.3 fWAR, Sanchez has actually been the second-best position player on the Yankees in 2021, behind Aaron Judge. There is no doubt his torrid month has propelled him to that spot. Coming into the month, he was hitting .202/.331/.709, good for a .709 OPS and 101 wRC+. He actually started heating up at the end of May, with a late push to bring his wRC+ over 100. In June, Sanchez is hitting .305/.369/.712, good for a 1.081 OPS and 184 wRC+. He has 6 HR and 13 RBI in 17 games and has been the best hitter on the team this month. While he is still not catching Gerrit Cole, Sanchez has rightly earned back his place as the primary catcher of the New York Yankees. This hot stretch, which began on May 27th, has pulled his season line up to .236/.343/.489, which amounts to a .832 OPS and 126 wRC+. Additionally, Sanchez has been moved up to third in the batting order. What is awesome about this is that Yankees fans are now calling for him to be an all-star as his numbers are some of the best for catchers this season.
At times this season, Gio Urshela has looked like a shell of himself. A shell of the player who performed at an all-star-caliber level in 2019 and 2020. His line on the season does not look great, but it still portrays him as an above-average hitter. He is batting .273/.317/.442 which amounts to a .759 OPS and 109 wRC+. However, his batting line is .307/.333/.547, which is good for a .870 OPS and 140 wRC+. Additionally, he hit all of five home runs in April and May yet has already hit four in June. He is walking less than usual while striking out at a 30% clip, but it is clear Urshela has been putting together better at-bats and making better contact. The Yankees do not necessarily need Urshela to replicate his ’19-’20 performance if the rest of the big boppers are hitting. However, he is still a crucial member of the team as a gold glove-caliber defender at third base while being an above-average hitter.
2021 has not been kind to D.J. LeMahieu. Not only has his strikeout rate increased from 9.7% to 15.7%, but it has also been his worst overall season since 2018. Even in the month of June, LeMahieu’s .265 batting average and .722 OPS are not particularly noteworthy. However, it is his performance since June 10th that merits discussion. In that timespan, 11 games, LeMahieu has put up a batting line of .319/.385/.574, which is a .959 OPS and 163 wRC+. He has hit three home runs and driven in 10 runs in this span as well, providing some much-needed power. While 11 games is a very small sample, it has been his best stretch of the 2021 season. What is also impressive about this hot streak is his minuscule 5.8% strikeout rate. Strikeouts have been an issue this season for LeMahieu as his best skill is his ability to make contact. The best version of this Yankees offense is one in which LeMahieu is setting the table for the rest of the lineup by hitting balls hard all over the field and getting on base.
Final Thoughts on the Yankees Offense
One final player whose June has been very fascinating is Giancarlo Stanton. We all know about Stanton’s elite power. However, what he has shown in spurts as a Yankee is elite plate discipline as well. Stanton has hit four homers in 17 games this month, which is not anything special. What’s unique about his .275/.415/.529 line is that he has a 20% walk rate this month, which equals his 20% strikeout rate. It has been one of the most consistent months of baseball for Stanton during his time in a Yankees uniform.
There is a lot to like about how the offense has performed thus far in June. They have shown signs of an offensive breakout that have not been seen at any time before this point in the season. Maybe it is the warmer weather, the lack of sticky substances, or players just performing to their expectations. Regardless of what the reason is, this Yankees offense cannot stay dormant for long. This is a sentiment that Yankees management has often repeated yet their trust in this team has never wavered. It remains to be seen if the numbers will truly show what this offense is capable of because of the hole it has dug itself into. The Yankees offense is really waking up and the rest of baseball should take notice.
Embed from Getty Images