The New York Yankees clearly panicked mid-postseason about the opportunities with runners on base that they’d been stealing from Aaron Judge, Certified Leadoff Hitter.
Somehow, in their on-the-fly attempt to rectify this issue with both Andrew Benintendi and DJ LeMahieu injured, they made things much worse.
Judge is certainly not your prototypical leadoff man. Sure, he gets on base, but when a behemoth hits 62 home runs in a 162-game season, it’s probably logical to make sure he’s preceded in the order by another OBP machine, rather than a No.9-hitting catcher or No One.
Benintendi and a healthy LeMahieu would both be ideal options, but one of ’em snapped his wrist off taking a normal swing, and the other has been plagued by the Curse of the Unhealing Toe and can only hit dribblers.
So, who you gonna call midway through the postseason?! How about playoff stalwart Gleyber Torres, who (checks notes) hits well over his career marks at every spot in the lineup other than leadoff or cleanup, where he struggles. Got it.
Leadoff hitter Gleyber Torres isn’t helping Yankees
Torres has been a primetime performer throughout his playoff career; in fact, his only career postseason series where he hit below .280 was … the 2022 ALDS against Cleveland, which he finished with a .158 mark. That bodes well.
After losing his stroke entirely during the Yankees’ catastrophic August (.180 AVG with a .260 SLG), Torres rebounded heading into the postseason, hitting .323 with a .573 slugging percentage during Sept./Oct. before missing the final games of the season battling an illness.
While no one will ever truly know what was to blame for his midsummer cratering, the working theory was that his progress was thrown off by the last-second trade rumors he found himself attached to. Whether that’s true or not, it would seem to be in the Yankees’ best interest to avoid changing his role (SS to 2B and back again) or throwing off his rhythm by sticking him with a task he doesn’t enjoy.
Leading off, based on his career numbers, would seem to qualify as another such distraction.
At least the Yankees’ offense is humming on all cylinders and the drop-off probably won’t be noticeabl — sorry, what? They’re in the midst of what would be the worst offensive playoff run of any World Series winner in the Wild Card era? Ah. Yeah, that’s not great.
When Yankee fans scream about finding a .280 hitter with moderate power to help balance the lineup, Torres is exactly what they’re screaming about.
But not from the leadoff spot. Try again.