OK, it doesn’t take a genius to pick up on these trends, using both hard data and gut feelings. But the Yankees would clearly rather you keep them to yourself.
In each instance, the Yanks’ motivations are clear.
We’re dealing with a worrisome early-season trend that’s actually bleeding into 2021 from 2020. The kind of thing that might give a team buyer’s remorse after they (maybe?) got bullied by fans into deviating from the plan.
We’re looking at a semi-prospect in the minor leagues who’s … basically hitting the ball like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge who they’d rather the rest of baseball not find out about.
And, every five days, we’re left examining the most obvious unstated truth in the sport once again.
We’re not reinventing the wheel here, but we are choosing to lay bare three trends that have flown under the radar in Yankee Land, either by force or by omission.
This Yankees team loves attempting to distract its fans by dangling the smallest amount of information possible in front of reporters and those in the know. Remember when Aaron Judge disappeared for three days, then he was “under the weather,” then his side was sore, and then Aaron Boone refused to call the issue an “injury”? It was, like, three days ago. It wasn’t fun, and it’s probably not over yet.
If you read between the lines of what the Yankees are doing and how they’re operating, you’ll discover these truths. But they won’t say them out loud.
The Yankees don’t want you thinking about these 3 open secrets.
3. DJ LeMahieu Has Struggled Since 2020 Playoffs
DJ LeMahieu, one of the Bombers’ most consistent players (typically), has been killing the team in the early going in huge situations.
(Ducks) He was doing the exact same thing in the 2020 playoffs, often turning opportunities into smoke.
Usually adept at taking pitches right back where they’re thrown with authority, as well as not letting the moment get to him, LeMahieu has seemed oddly skittish at the plate this year, rolling over grounders with extreme regularity (especially when a double play seems like an absolute death sentence).
The surface numbers (.268 average, 123 wRC+) aren’t that worrisome. But the reality is he has seven strikeouts and three double-play grounders in 10 games played this year, “milestones” which took him 18 and 48 games to reach last year, respectively. He’s also removed nearly a full win from his teams thus far (-0.9 Win Probability Added!), which is somewhat insane. Remember Opening Day? Remember his ill-timed grounder Sunday in Tampa? It’s all adding up quickly.
Last postseason, fans who like to give LeMahieu a pass (and why wouldn’t you?!) recall only his game-winning single off Brad Hand. In reality, though, he displayed many of the same worrisome trends, and decreased the Yankees’ championship probability in the ALDS by 2.2% (-0.05 WPA).
There’s no harm in signing LeMahieu to the contract he earned … we think … but this trend of grounders is a worst-case scenario for a team that may have preferred to wait until 2021-22 to sign an expensive middle infielder.
Basically, this is what happens when the luck of “clutchness” runs out.