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  • Cory Claus

Yankees need a full-time DH

The Yankees have followed the new modern blueprint to build their baseball team. But that's not working as the Yanks are still on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Maybe it’s time for an old idea to be new again; maybe it's time the team added a full-time DH.

Yankees need to bring a big bat to the stadium
Yankees Stadium

The Yankees are coming off a three-game sweep of the Royals. But, while those wins boosted their playoff hopes, they still have a host of problems.

The starters are inconsistent, while their vaunted bullpen has become unreliable. But their biggest problem is their offense.

They’re not hitting enough, and they’re not doing enough damage when they do.

A quick comparison will prove the point. Here is the Slugging Percentage (SLG) for the Yankees who have gotten the most at-bats this year. For those who don’t know, SLG takes a player’s Batting Average and factors in how many bases each batter collects per hit. The more doubles, triples, and homers, the higher the SLG.

Gleyber Torres has a decent SLG of .432, but the numbers go down quickly after that: Anthony Rizzo: .379; Anthony Volpe: .377; DJ Lemaheiu: .373; Isiah KIner-Falefa: .368; Oswaldo Cabrera: .308.

Giancarlo Stanton is carrying a SLG of .456, but he’s also carrying a BA of .200. He’s hitting the ball hard, just not enough. Aaron Judge is leading the team handily at .674, but he hasn’t played since before Summer started.

But those numbers don’t mean much in a vacuum.

They take on a lot more meaning, though, when compared to some of the top teams in baseball. For instance, here are the Orioles with the most at-bats: Anthony Santander: .483 (they clearly have the best of the three Anthonys); Adley Rutschman: .425; Austin Hays and Gunnar Henderson: .467; Adam Frazier: .412; Ryan Mountcastle: .424; Cedric Mullins: .454.

To add salt to the wound, even Aaron Hicks is slugging .452.

Let’s not stop there. Here’s the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.: .578; Austin Riley: .494; Matt Olson: .577; Ozzie Albies: .496; Eddie Rosario: .471; Marcell Ozuna: .445; Orlando Arcia: .441; Sean Murphy: .555.

Jesus, those guys can hit.

I could actually keep going because the first hitter they’ve got whose SLG is below the four hundred mark is Vaughn Grissom, and he’s only gotten 65 at-bats.

The Yankees just don’t hit for enough power to compete with the top teams in baseball.

Yankees Fear Taxation without Representation

Normally the answer would be to trade for a couple of big bats. But owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman are sending every signal that they’re not going to add significant payroll. That means guys like Juan Soto (SLG: .506), Cody Bellinger (.539), and Jeimer Candelario (.478) aren’t walking through the door anytime soon.

They [the Yankees] want to stay below the $293M “Steve Cohen tax” threshold (they are at $290M), and aren’t opposed to giving Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial a shot.
The Yankees were interested in Andrew Benintendi but just for four years. They liked Michael Conforto, but not at the $36M deal and two years with a player option he got with the Giants.

That belief was backed up just last week by Ken Rosenthal:

Citing “sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking,” Rosenthal reports that the Yankees’ Deadline dealings could be influenced by a desire to get under the highest CBT threshold of $293 million. FanGraphs estimates New York to be roughly $1.1 million over the threshold.

All of that adds insight into this recent statement by Cashman.

"And then to answer your question, yeah, we'll continue to focus on maybe a bat there that could be more of an established everyday offensive contributor in left field -- if that's viable or not remains to be seen. So whether it's a right-hand bat that would platoon with what we already have or whether it's a full-bore everyday position that can lock it down against lefties and righties remains to be seen as we move forward and what's obtainable and if the prices can match with us." [emphasis mine]

I’m sure Cash was talking in part about the price in terms of prospects, but I’m also sure he meant how much a player will cost in cold hard cash.

Even under the best scenario in which Judge returns and the team adds one really good hitter, like Bellinger, they’re still going to need at least one more big hitter in the middle of their lineup in order to compete.

That’s why the Yankees need a full-time Designated Hitter (DH).

Everything Old is New Again

It’s an old idea that once upon a time every team in the American League believed in. But then general managers started to believe that a club needed versatility to survive a 162-game season. To them, a player who could only hit was a hindrance to success, not a help.

So they started splitting their DH duties between their best hitters who also play the field, often a first-baseman or corner outfielder.

Remember that these are the same brilliant minds who told us every guy should be a three-true-outcome hitter, and that bunting and base-stealing were bad for the game. All of these ideas are blowing away faster than Anthony Volpe stealing third.

Besides, when what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to try something new.

Now I’m not sure if the idea of adding a full-time DH is in-the-box or out-of-the-box thinking, but I do think the Yankees' brain trust has their collective heads in a box. Or somewhere else more odiferous.

David Ortiz of the Red Sox, for instance, played most of his career as a Designated Hitter. He spent 115 games at DH in 2004, 140 games there in 2007, and 129 games doing nothing but hitting and hitting big in 2013.

Do those years ring a bell? In each of them, Big Papi was an All-Star who led his team to a World Series victory. Remember what that feels like, Yankees fans?

Because Boston does.

The Yankees Need to Add a Full-Time DH Who Costs Nothing

That’s especially true if the Yanks are serious about keeping their payroll where it is. That stops them from simply trading for an impact bat.

Fortunately, they don’t have to.

The solution might already be in the system in the form of Andres Chaparro. The man has a big-league bat and a little-league glove. But, man, can he mash.

Chaparro has spent the season at Scranton, where he’s slugging .490, with a batting average and on-base of .252 and.341, respectively. And those numbers are not a fluke. Last year mostly at Double-A Somerset, he put up a SLG of .592, to go with his .292/.370 BA and OBP.

That makes the man a no-cost addition with the big bat the Yankees need.

And where would he get his at-bats? The answer lies with Stanton. Giancarlo has lost the right to be an everyday player. Not to mention that he can’t play in the field too often or he’ll get hurt again (and again and again). But he also can’t and shouldn’t be benched.

So the Yankees need to put Chaparro and Stanton into a three-day rotation. On day one, Stanton plays the outfield, and Chaparro is the designated hitter. On day two, Stanton is the DH, while Chaparro is the main pinch hitter. On day three, Stanton is the pinch-hitter, and Chaparro is once again the DH.

Not only does this put an extra big bat in the lineup two out of every three days, but also provides an actual threat off the bench late in games. Those are both sorely missing these days. Teams feel little threat right now when the best the Yankees can do is pinch-hit Kyle Higashioka or IKF late in a game.

Again, I’ll let the numbers tell the story. The two men who’ve spent the most time at DH are Stanton and Willie Calhoun. While Stanton’s numbers are mediocre for a power hitter at best, they’re even worse as a DH. He’s played 32 games there this year, slugging an Anthony Rizzo-like .390, with a BA and OBP of .186/.278.

That's just throwing away a spot in the lineup.

Calhoun is markedly better as the Designated Hitter, with his SLG of .452 to go with his .280/.352 BA and OBP. But he’s only got three home runs in his 93 ABs. Willie’s more of a doubles hitter, with seven over the same span. Plus, the Yanks need Willie in the outfield on the days Stanton isn’t playing defense.

Chaparro, meanwhile, has 19 home runs, 18 doubles, and 2 triples in his 336 ABs.

Yankees Need to be More Offensive

The Yankees can still make the playoffs. If Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon pitch to their potential, the team has a chance in every series they play. But the Yanks are going to have to slug their way through a few games to get there, and even a few once they are there.

Right now, they don’t have enough firepower to do that. Unless they think they’ll be playing the Royals at home in every playoff series.

But by going back to something that worked for decades, they might have enough offense against the better teams. Now we have to see if the Yankees' visionaries can see behind them, to what is old and what has worked.

Otherwise, it’s likely to be a short playoff run. If they get there at all.



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