Last Updated on October 29, 2023 at 12:23 pm by John Allen
Update: Dillon Lawson has been dismissed
The Yankees are actively considering the necessity for potential changes, and naturally, this would involve discussions regarding hitting coach Dillon Lawson. A decision to part ways with him is likely to come next week as the Yankees’ top brass set to meet in Tampa during the All-Star break and decide the team’s future.
Through Friday, the Yankees’ overall season statistics were far from impressive. Their team batting average of .230 was tied with the Royals for the second-worst in the majors, while their average of 4.38 runs per game ranked 19th. In contrast, the league-wide on-base percentage has seen a slight increase from .312 in 2022 to .320 this year. However, the Yankees’ on-base percentage of .299 would be their lowest since 1968, famously known as the “Year of the Pitcher.”
Throughout his twenty-five-year tenure as the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman has never dismissed a coach while the season is underway. However, a decision is worth considering the offensive struggles the Yankees have endured over the past five weeks. The absence of Aaron Judge in the lineup has significantly weakened their offensive firepower, posing a threat to their overall season.
The U-turn by the Yankees over the hitting coach’s future
Just a few weeks ago, on June 21, Cashman defended Lawson, emphasizing that offensive success is a collective effort within the organization, rather than the responsibility of a single individual. The Yankees prioritize a comprehensive offensive approach that permeates throughout the system.
Nonetheless, the team’s pronounced offensive downturn has raised concerns within the organization, prompting serious consideration about whether a change could ignite a much-needed resurgence. With the first half of the season concluding and the draft approaching, Cashman, along with Hal Steinbrenner and other top executives, will convene in Tampa during the All-Star break. This period traditionally offers an opportunity for reflection on significant matters.
As Cashman was en route to Tampa on Saturday, he refrained from commenting on the status of any coaching staff members.
Offensive meltdown of the Yankees
During his defense of Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes on June 21, Cashman highlighted that the Yankees batting lineup averaged 4.98 runs per game, second in the majors in 2022. But even in that wrongdoing, Judge bore a heavy load. For the whole 2022 season, Judge had a 1.111 OPS while the rest of the Yankees were at.708. However, in the second half of the season, Judge’s OPS increased to 1.286 while the rest of the Yankees’ OPS decreased to .652.
However, the Yankees made minimal alterations to their lineup during the offseason, with no significant changes implemented. While Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter left, Aaron Judge, a key player, was retained through a substantial nine-year, $360 million contract. Unfortunately, since Judge’s injury on June 3, when the ligament of his right big toe was torn during a catch at Dodger Stadium, the team’s hitting prowess has plummeted to abysmally low levels.
Aaron Hicks finds his swing back after leaving the Yankees.
The most concerning decline has occurred since June 4. In the absence of Aaron Judge, the Yankees have struggled immensely, posting the lowest batting average (.214), on-base percentage (.284), and the second-fewest runs scored (107) among all teams in that timeframe. Their record during this period stands at 13-16.
Lawson’s responsibility for Yankees’ offensive woes
One argument in defense of Dillon Lawson, the hitting coach, is that a significant portion of the offensive struggles can be attributed to underperforming veterans who should ideally possess the ability to self-correct or seek guidance from external hitting experts. Had DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo performed at an average level during this time, the Yankees’ offense would not be in such a dire state. However, among those with a minimum of 80 plate appearances between June 4 and July 7, the veterans were limping to carry the offensive burden.
However, despite Lawson’s guidance, the overall performance of the offense has remained lackluster. The significant decline of Oswaldo Cabrera, for instance, has had a detrimental impact on the Yankees’ performance. What further highlights the criticism towards the current hitting coaches is the fact that the standout hitter for the Yankees in the absence of Judge has been Anthony Volpe, with an impressive .838 OPS. Interestingly, Volpe’s improvement came after his friend and Double-A catcher Austin Wells suggested changes, rather than relying solely on instruction from Yankees coaches.
Cashman has made it clear for a long time that he has no interest in making managerial or coaching changes in the middle of the season. The organization’s conceptual commitment to “pulling the ball in the air” makes it more difficult to decide what to do with members like Lawson, Dykes, and first-year hitting instructor Brad Wilkerson. Consequently, it’s not like they could just grab someone coming from a different pulpit. The hitters had a good time with former assistant Hensley Meulens last year, but he has already moved on to become Colorado’s hitting coach. Therefore, there is no clear substitute.
However, it is undeniable that the Yankees have consistently demonstrated the ability to enhance the performance of numerous pitchers who join their organization, particularly in the realm of relievers. However, they have not achieved the same level of success with their hitters. When questioned about Dillon Lawson’s influence in this aspect on June 21, Brian Cashman offered the following response:
“He knows his stuff, plus I know how the whole ecosystem works, so whether it was when [hitting coaches] Marcus Thames was here or Kevin Long or even back to [Chris] Chambliss, they weren’t the end all be all. You had coaching clinics taking place. You had data support. You have your veteran presence that has its own style, and it is just partnering with them. Nothing is different now.”
However, what has changed is that we now have three additional weeks of poor offensive performance since Cashman expressed those sentiments. What has also changed is the increasing level of discomfort within the organization regarding this issue. The question that arises is whether these developments will be enough to compel Cashman to take unprecedented action in his long tenure as the general manager.
What do you think? Leave your comment below.