Does Mike Ford have a future with the Yankees?

Over the previous few years, the Yankees’ hitting coaches have proven a knack for remodeling relative unknowns into fearsome massive league sluggers. Simply have a look at the leaps taken by Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford. And whereas Voit and Urshela have maintained or improved upon that manufacturing — entrenching themselves as main league stalwarts — others have crashed again to Earth.

Yesterday, my colleague Dan Carty delved into the regression of one of those players. He explored how Mike Tauchman’s precipitous decline from 2019 to 2020 has thrown his function on the workforce into the realm of uncertainty. There may be one important contributor from 2019 whose standing is even murkier: Mike Ford.

Ford burst onto the scene within the latter phases of the common season final 12 months. The southpaw compiled a monstrous remaining 39 video games deputizing for the hobbled Luke Voit, pacing the team in slugging (.619) and ISO (.345) whereas trailing solely Aaron Judge in OPS (.952) and wRC+ (145) over that stretch.

Heading into spring coaching 2020, it appeared Ford had accomplished sufficient to drive a competition for the beginning first base job. His prodigious manufacturing, together with Voit’s diminished efficiency whereas playing through a core injury within the second half, meant Voit must as soon as once more show himself. And that he did, sprinting out of the beginning gate and by no means trying again. Voit would go on to say the main league house run crown, leaving Ford with valuable few probabilities to interrupt into the lineup.

Sadly for Ford, he was unable to capitalize upon these restricted alternatives. Simply as Dan did with Tauchman yesterday, let’s evaluate Ford’s stats from 2019 and 2020:

2019: 50 G, 163 PA, .259/.350/.559, 12 HR, 10.4% BB%, 17.2% Okay%, 136 OPS+, 134 wRC+

2020: 29 G, 84 PA, .135/.226/.270, 2 HR, 8.3% BB%, 19.0% Okay%, 37 OPS+, 36 wRC+

…Oh expensive.

These numbers include the apparent caveat of small pattern dimension, as neither 2019 nor 2020 offered a big sufficient pattern to attract many definitive conclusions about the kind of participant Ford is or could be. Nonetheless, it’s nonetheless regarding to see this steep of a drop throughout the board.

Earlier than we get into the majority of his issues, let’s get among the peripheral points out of the best way first. His plate self-discipline took a minor hit in 2020, nevertheless each his stroll fee and strikeout fee nonetheless hovered round if not higher than league common this 12 months. His strike recognition suffered a tad, as each his swing p.c and speak to fee on balls within the zone dropped, although not terribly so. He was additionally a sufferer of some dangerous luck, as his anticipated batting, slugging, and wOBA far exceeded his precise efficiency. Moreover, his BABIP stood at an unsustainably-low .140, one thing nearly sure to regress again to the imply.

Now onto the world that’s trigger for many concern: the near-complete neutralization of his energy. Ford’s average exit velocity dropped by over two MPH whereas his most exit velocity fell by 1.5 MPH. His barrel fee dropped from 9.6% to six.8% whereas his arduous hit fee went from 45.2% to 39%. What makes this so alarming is that batted ball knowledge turns into dependable with a comparatively small pattern dimension — about 50 batted ball events. Ford’s 59 batted ball occasions are sufficient to inform us that the facility has been sapped from his sport.

It’s not simply the facility that suffered a blow this 12 months. Actually, nearly all of his batted ball metrics confirmed worrying indicators of decline. Ford’s average launch angle flattened out significantly, from 15.6 levels in 2019 to only 8.4 levels in 2020. Correspondingly, his floor ball fee jumped from 39.1% to 50.8% whereas his fly ball fee fell from 33% to 16.9%. All of this contributed to a greater than 100 level drop in anticipated slugging and 70 level drop in anticipated wOBA.

So mainly Ford went from a burgeoning energy hitter to a floor ball specialist (no not the great variety) who couldn’t sq. up the baseball. What are we to make of all this? Does a participant of that profile have a spot on the main league roster? Nicely… it’s difficult.

The Yankees would not have one other readymade backup at first base, particularly with the infield thinned by DJ LeMahieu’s free company. They don’t have one other dependable lefty pinch hitter on the bench, not that Ford supplied a lot in that division this 12 months. Nonetheless, the Yankees are higher served giving Ford’s bench spot to somebody who provides considered one of: positional versatility, defensive soundness, offensive upside, and/or pace.

Regrettably for Mike Ford, in the mean time he checks none of these bins. Subsequently it’s in all probability finest that he start subsequent season in Triple-A, with out the stress of being thrust right into a high-leverage scenario for his first at-bat of the sport. He can work on lifting the ball once more, and hope that his energy stroke returns. Given the litany of harm points on the main league roster, Ford may get the decision again ahead of he would possibly assume.

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