The Yankees heard your cries on Monday afternoon after their moribund 4-5 start to the season and changed the lineup entirely ahead of their clash with the Blue Jays.
They did not, however, do the one thing I most wanted to see: place Gio Urshela where he belongs.
A win’s a win, and nobody’s furious that the team escaped Tampa’s dusty rubber dungeon with an extra-innings victory Sunday evening, but by no means is the lineup conundrum “solved.” The team finished 4-15 with runners in scoring position, though the three hits came in their four final at-bats under those circumstances.
The main offenders? Both the leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu and the three-hole hitter Aaron Hicks. We can help!
Monday’s mish-mash of lineup alternatives features a two-three of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge for the first time we can recall, plus promotions for Gleyber Torres (fourth) and Urshela (fifth).
Hicks is sitting, and no doubt needs this breather to clear his head — in fact, he chose to sit in the wake of yet another senseless police shooting in Minneapolis. But when he comes back, he should bat … well, maybe anywhere but third, and Aaron Boone needs to try Urshela in his place.
The Yankees lineup needs Gio Urshela batting third moving forward.
This is not a knee-jerk reaction to Urshela’s spectacular return to the order this weekend, capped by a mammoth homer to center and an extra-inning two-run single in a 4-for-5 performance … but, you know what? Though he’s earned the promotion with two-plus years of solid fundamental baseball and occasional bursts of fantasy, this proposed move also is based on riding the hot hand, at least for the purposes of experimenting.
Conventional wisdom says the No. 3 hole comes up most often with two men on and no one out, rendering it rather unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But in 2021, Hicks has seen the bases clogged a number of times from that position.
Hicks is a valuable Yankee, whose on-base skills are unmatched and whose power can surprise at the most opportune times. Regrettably, he doesn’t seem to bring his most focused mindset to the three hole. This isn’t an indictment of his skills, but rather an assessment based on the pressure he’s put on himself. Look at his results with the bases loaded in his career; a .137 average without a home run. Hicks is incredible at turning over a lineup towards the bottom, or perhaps at setting the whole thing in motion as a leadoff hitter. With the onus all on his shoulders after a team-wide slump? It’s just not working.
Enter Urshela, whose effortless line drive stroke and occasional stunning power have made him among the team’s most valuable hitters, and one who has no business hitting seventh or eighth, especially when he’s locked in.
The Yankees offense will begin to get hits with runners on. They will stop running into outs at the plate.
But until that happens, the team’s red-hot hitters deserve a confidence boost and a lineup promotion.
Urshela in the three-hole might not be the solution this team needs long-term, but it’s one they need to flesh out in the immediate future.