Yankees injuries a boon in disguise for the team’s middle offense

Anthony Volpe, Anthony Rizzo, and Aaron Judge are signing national anthem prior to the Yankees vs. Athletics game at Yankee Stadium on May 9, 2023.

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The Yankees have a chance to take advantage of their series against the struggling Athletics and Tuesday’s 10-5 victory provided a potential strategy, which involved making key contributions from the middle offense on two separate occasions.

While their biggest stars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton remain on the injured list, the middle of the Yankees’ batting order stepped up. The first glimpse was visible in their on-road series loss to the Rays. As they face the A’s at Yankee Stadium, this became more pronounced. Even on the day Judge returned, it was the middle offense that stole the limelight with a 10-run hammering of Oakland.

Gleyber Torres, in particular, played a leading role with a single RBI and a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Harrison Bader and Jake Bauers also contributed, while Anthony Rizzo provided the much-needed leadership for the team.

Yankees need Torres more than ever

Gleyber Torres’ current hit streak extends to five games, and he has hit home runs in consecutive games against Oakland. This streak may suggest that Torres is bouncing back after a difficult final two weeks of April, which would be good news for the Yankees.

The Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, admits that he believes the player is still making progress.

“He’s kinda getting his hits a little bit. Obviously the last two nights, a couple of homers. I feel like he’s close in a lot of ways.”

Except for the first two games of the 2023 season, Torres has been placed in the top five spots of the batting order in all games where he started. Since the All-Star break in 2022, it has been crucial for the Yankees to have batters hitting in the top five spots of the order to protect Judge, but they have often struggled to do so.

glyber-torres-ny-yankees
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It has been reported that Torres’ condition has greatly improved this week. The game was already decided by the time he turned on Drew Rucinski’s first sinker on Tuesday and sent it into the left-field bleachers.

Two innings before Torres hit a home run, he had already contributed to the score by getting a hit during a sequence of plays that followed two consecutive walks to Jose Trevino and Aaron Hicks. Judge then reached an error, allowing Trevino to score.

The Yankees often have to find a replacement for their MVP around this time. Toress is emerging as an alternative.

The outcome is encouraging for Boone. Nonetheless, the well reveals much more to him.

“For hitters, it’s just about getting into that strong position all the time,” Boone said. “And when Gleyber does that, his swing is such that he’ll start squaring it up all over the yard. And I feel like he’s getting there, but I also feel like in a way, he’s not all the way there, which is exciting to see.”

Although Torres has been performing well in recent games, it is important to remember that this is only a small sample size and does not necessarily reflect his overall performance. This is especially true considering the decline in his production during the second half of the 2022 season and his lackluster performance in the last two weeks of April.

And this is what the Yankees are hoping to see from Torres. So far, at least, he has been true to his word.

Harrison Bader is in sizzling form

Harrison Bader is celebrating during Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

Since it is still early May, small sample sizes continue to be the primary basis of analysis in baseball. The importance of small sample sizes in baseball is particularly relevant for Harrison Bader of the Yankees, who played in only his seventh game of the season on Tuesday due to an oblique injury sustained during spring training.

It’s crucial to avoid overreacting when observing the differences in Bader’s Statcast data that may account for his impressive start, considering that it is still early in the season.

The statistics cited, though, comprise a surge of 13.4 degrees in launch angle, a significant increase of 95% in Bader’s batting average on breaking balls, and a rise of 22.4% in the frequency of hitting to the opposite field. All of this adds up to .381/.409/.857 going into Tuesday.

In the Yankees’ 10-5 victory over the Athletics, Bader continued his strong performance, bringing him closer to the point where his impressive start becomes significant.

In the game against the Athletics, Bader had a productive night, with three hits, all of them singles, and one of them resulting in an RBI during the team’s five-run third inning. On that particular evening, the Yankees received offensive contributions from numerous players, and Bader’s performance was characterized by straightforward and effective hitting.

“I think experience breeds a lot of willingness to change and have confidence in some change as you formulate a plan on offense and position yourself on defense,” Bader told The Post before the game. “A lot of it has to do with just experience. Learning from other teammates and being around successful players. Just focusing the same way that they do. We’re all talented at this level — I think the separator is just remaining confident in who you are as a player. Going out and trusting it to show up, and I just prepare accordingly.”

On Tuesday, Bader’s preparation paid off as he hit an RBI single to center field off Drew Rucinski during the third inning, despite being down in the count 0-2. During the seventh inning, when the game was mostly under control and they faced Spencer Patton, Bader hit another single that set up Jake Bauers to hit a two-run home run.

Anthony Volpe with Harrison Bader after hitting a home run for the Yankees against the Guardians on May 2, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
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Bader has been in the major leagues for seven seasons and is currently in his first full season with the Yankees. However, he has only played in over 100 games in a season three times. He admits that he has improved in all aspects of his plate appearances prior to stepping out of the dugout.

“You have to have a plan on all sides of the baseball,” Bader said. “Having a plan in my opinion means preparing for when you see something on the field take place. In offense, having a plan is studying the pitcher.

According to Bader, he has improved every aspect of his plate appearances, including analyzing the pitcher’s delivery, timing, and mental approach. He emphasizes the importance of having a plan and preparing well to achieve success at the plate.

Rizzo giving leadership to Yankees

Anthony Rizzo leads the Yankees’ batting lineup with a .301 batting average, putting him among the 29 qualified hitters in MLB with a batting average of .300 or better. However, his most significant contribution is his role as a team leader. Despite the challenges, he strives to keep the team united while balancing his connection with his teammates and feeling like an outsider.

Anthony Rizzo is confronting Kyle Higashioka following his mistake against the Rays on May 6, 2023, at Tropicana Field.

Recently, Rizzo displayed his leadership skills by confronting catcher Kyle Higashioka after a costly mistake that resulted in a blow to the Yankees during a game against Tropicana Field last Saturday. Following a devastating two-run double, Rizzo was seen cautioning Higashioka, a microcosm of how he provides leadership on the team.

Jake Bauers, who has struggled with a .167 batting average this season, made a strong impact in the Yankees’ 10-5 victory over the Athletics by hitting a home run and driving in three runs in two at-bats. Despite a high 40% strikeout rate, Bauers has shown potential with a solid .368 wOBA and emerging as a key player in the Yankees’ middle lineup.

It looks like the Yankees middle offense is flourishing in the limelight and is ready to take up the responsibility when big hitters flop or are away.

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