“We’re going streaking!”
— Frank “The Tank” Ricard, “Old School”
Aaron Boone described his team Saturday morning as one that “can turn on a dime,” and hours later, the Yankees put together 11 runs over a three-inning span, going deep three times, to trounce the Marlins, 11-4, at Yankee Stadium, and end a three-game losing streak as well as halt a downturn that saw them drop five of six.
With one game left before the playoffs begin, all we know for sure about these Yankees is they are as streaky as all get-out. It wouldn’t surprise much if they win their first World Series since 2009. It would surprise even less if they don’t win a single postseason game before heading home.
They don’t exactly shower you with confidence, do they?
“Consistency has certainly been an issue for us in the regular season this year,” Boone said. “We’ve got to find that consistency if we’re going to be a championship club. But I know when that group gets clicking, we have all the pieces necessary to go out and win and win big. We’ve got to keep working to that. Keep grinding to find that consistency.”
Here’s a radical thought: The reason the 2020 Yankees have been so streaky — you can break down their season into runs of 16-6, 5-15, 10-0 and now an ugly 2-5 — is because they have so many streaky players. So many anti-DJ LeMahieus.
The amazing LeMahieu knocked four hits Saturday, raising his batting average to .359 and virtually ensuring that he’ll win the Rod Carew Award (for the American League’s batting champ) and become the first player to win batting titles in both leagues since the 1800s.
“Anyone who’s watched knows just how special a player DJ LeMahieu has been for us these two years,” Boone said.
I know how much you hate new-age metrics, but hang with me on this one: Baseball-Reference.com offers a measure called tOPS+, which measures a player’s OPS against his own standards. With 100 being a player’s career OPS, a tOPS+ of 114 would be 14 percent above that number, 86 would be 14 percent below it and so on. LeMahieu’s career range for his tOPS+, going month by month, is a tight 14, from a high of 106 in August to a low of 92 in May. He is very much, as the Yankees dubbed him, a Machine.
How do we know that’s right? Because we can compare that tOPS+ range to other key Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton’s is 32 (from 117 in August to 85 in March/April). Luke Voit’s is 41 (from 114 in August to 73 in July). Aaron Judge’s is 42 (from 119 in March/April to 77 in August). And Gary Sanchez’s is, wait for it, 121 (from 142 in August to 21 in July).
You can see how, with LeMahieu as their most valuable player last year, the Yankees’ offense became far more consistent. This year, between the time LeMahieu spent on the injured list and the sinking of the Yankees’ supplemental lefty bats (Mike Ford, Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman), the Yankees offense has been streaky once more, even with Judge and Stanton off the IL recently. Their downturn of five homer-less games that ended Saturday with Tyler Wade’s two-run blast marked their worst such stretch since 2014.
Voit, who hit his 22nd homer that leads all of baseball, said he thought some Yankees have been too pull-happy and not settling for a good old-fashioned base hit the other way. He agreed that, with the Yankees down 3-0 Saturday in the fifth, showing few signs of life, the unexpected contribution by Wade relaxed everyone and turned on the spigot that followed, with Stanton slamming a game-tying double in the fifth and Aaron Hicks ripping a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth.
“We just need that one to get us going,” Voit said, and that surge assured rookie Deivi Garcia of a much-deserved win.
“I think everyone understands and absolutely believes that we’re capable of something special coming up here,” Boone said. “But we’ve also got to play well to do that.”
Just about time to go streaking, one way or the other. Which way will the Yankees go? They’ve left it quite the mystery.
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