Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Yankees' Formula To Win Has Not Changed

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone. Photo by Jason Schott.

When the Yankees acquired Edwin Encarnacion from Seattle over the weekend, the focus was on the fact that they were adding the the American League leader in home runs (he got his first homer as a Yankee on Tuesday) to a lineup with four other prodigious sluggers, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Luke Voit.

The Yankees as a team have 113 home runs through Tuesday, as Sanchez has 20, Luke Voit has 17, and even though they're not regarded as home run hitters, Gleyber Torres has 15 and Brett Gardner has 11.

When Encarnacion made his Yankee debut on Monday against Tampa Bay and went 0-for-3, it was instructive what Yankees Manager Aaron Boone had to say after the game.

"Really good (at-bats), First at-bat was, I don't know if it was 10 pitches or whatever, but I mean, you see and (Yonny) Chirinos, a pretty tough customer, especially on right-handed hitters and I thought his at-bats against him all night were all really good. Just missed a couple in his first at-bat, when he finally got him on a strikeout, lines out to short.

"He's a really good hitter, more than just obviously a great power hitter, this guy's a pro in the box and knows what he's doing," said Boone.

The fact that Boone noted the amount of pitches Encarnacion forced Rays pitchers to throw to get him out speaks to what the Yankees focus has been in the last quarter century of winning seasons, going back to Gene Michael's philosophy on how to win: on-base percentage.

The Yankees as a team have a .334 on-base percentage, with six players above .350. They have drawn 262 walks, which in addition to notching 620 hits, means they have reached base 882 times in 2,665 plate appearances.

Boone said on Wednesday morning of the Yankees' formula to win being still largely based on on-base percentage, "No question, that's a key to it all, and that's where hopefully the power shows up over time, where you consistently have guys getting on between 34 and 40 percent of the time up and down your order and you have guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and really hit, you're going to score, right?

"Control the strike zone and do damage when you get one, that's kind of the simplest form of our desire."

On Tuesday night, against Tampa Bay, the Yankees took over in the fifth on their way to a 6-3 win with one of their trademark innings.

Chaz Roe came in for the Rays with one out and Tampa Bay holding a 2-1 lead. Roe allowed a single to Gleyber Torres to start it off. Cameron Maybin singles, sending Torres to second. DJ LeMahieu singled home Torres and Maybin raced to third. Luke Voit then singled home Maybin and LeMahieu advanced to second. Aaron Hicks struck out, and Gary Sanchez singled to score LeMahieu to make it 4-2 Yankees and Voit got to third. Giancarlo Stanton (in his first game since March 31) struck out to end it.

The Yankees scored three runs in the inning thanks to five singles, as they took what Roe gave them, as they kept the line moving and wore him down as there were runners on base from nearly the moment he took the mound. Roe threw 28 pitches in his 2/3 of an inning and did not come back for the sixth.

Aaron Hicks is the prototypical Yankees hitter, and that is why the team didn't hesitate to lock him up for the future with a 7-year, $70 million contract after a season in which he notched a .366 on-base percentage, while hitting .248 with 27 home runs and 79 RBI.

This season, he missed the first six weeks due to injury, so he has played just 26 games so far this season. While his bat has taken a while to heat up (.204, 4 HR, 16 RBI), his on-base percentage is a solid .301, as he has drawn 14 walks in addition to his 20 hits in 112 plate appearances.

This past offseason, the Yankees signed infielder DJ LeMahieu, and he has been one of their most valuable players this season, perfectly fitting in with the Yankees philosophy. He is hitting .313 with 8 home runs and 44 RBI, and with 18 walks, he has a .356 on-base percentage.

Outfielder Cameron Maybin has been superb since he joined the Yankees since late April, and in addition to how he swings the bat (.315, 5 HR, 12 RBI), they love how he gets on base and he has the .387 OBP to prove it.

Gio Urshela has been one of the "super subs" the Yankees relied on to keep winning games early on with all the injuries and he delivered many clutch moments. He is hitting .306 with 5 home runs and 31 RBI, with a .358 on-base percentage, proving that the Yankees knew how to maximize his talents in a way his prior teams (Cleveland and Toronto) did not.

First baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales is another veteran hitter perfect for the Yankee lineup. Though he is hitting .177 (11-62) in 19 games as a Yankee since he was acquired on May 14, he still has done what they wanted by drawing 12 walks to give him an on-base percentage of .320.

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