Last week Hubbs, Barstool‘s Yankees writer, was gracious enough to hop on the Seams Legit podcast. Naturally Didi Gregorius came up in the conversation, Hubbs even went so far to say he could become the next Yankees captain, citing Aaron Judge as his other possible candidate.
This isn’t about Hubbs’s…well…aggressive opinion that Gregorius should be the next one to follow in Derek Jeter’s footsteps. I think it’s farfetched, but Hubbsis all over the Yankees, so he may have a better concept of whether Gregorius is fit to lead.
Plus, let’s be real, captains in baseball are a total sham. Captains in all sports are generally nonsense. A guy doesn’t need a title or a “C” on his chest to be a leader. I get it serves an actual purpose in the NHL and NFL, but the leadership aspect of it is overblown.
Guys know who commands the locker room.
But this is about Gregorius’s performance, not his intangibles. Particularly a trend I saw someone point out on Twitter after “Sir Didi” went yard yesterday against Toronto.
Say what you will, but Gregorius has definitely become a top-10 shortstop since moving to New York — a deal I didn’t expect to work out so favorably for the Yankees.
His first year was more of what I expected: .265 average, .318 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage, 9 home runs and 56 RBI. Good enough shortstop if he’s a halfway decent fielder.
Since then he’s obviously developing into much more, hitting 20 and 25 home runs in 2016 and 2017, respectively, while posting a slash line of .276/.304/.447 and .287/.318/.478.
When you look over the Yankees lineup that has the three giants (including Gary Sanchez, as much as he’s has underperformed this year — and continues to be a terrible defensive catcher) Gregorius is easily the fourth-best hitter when everyone’s clicking.
In fact right now, he and Judge have the best numbers on THE TEAM.
It’s not like his numbers only the best because the Yankees have underperformed. As of Monday, he’s tied for first in home runs (6) with Judge and doubles (7) with Miguel Andujar. Gregorius leads the Yankees with 20 RBI, a .333 average, .742 slugging percentage and 1.184 OPS. He’s also second in OBP (.442) to Judge (.462).
Oh and he’s only struck out 7 times, despite playing in all 20 games the Yankees have played this season. For a point of reference — and sticking with shortstops because the Yankees obviously have a lot of players who strikeout a lot — Carlos Correa has 23 strikeouts in 22 games, Corey Seager has 13 in 19, Francisco Lindor has 21 in 19, and I think you’re getting the point.
Gregorius will at some point regress to his mean like everyone else, but he’s clearly only gotten better since becoming Yankee.
Let’s circle back to the home runs though.
So he has 6 this year, bringing his career total to 73, 60 while with the Yankees, 36 at Yankee Stadium.
You know why I bring up Yankee Stadium.
And when you look at this chart of his home runs, you’ll understand even more:
Not one. Not a SINGLE HOME RUN that Gregorius has hit in his 6-year Major League career has been to the left of right-center (not counting 2012 since he only played 8 games for the Reds and hit no home runs). The closest one to straight-away center would have gone almost directly over the second baseman’s head if he was playing in the standard position — maybe double-play depth if you REALLY want to split hairs.
You think Brian Cashman had some idea of that when the Yankees acquired him? He might’ve only had 13 home runs, but he pulled all of them. Get him on the cheap — Yankees dealt Shane Greene for him, who was a halfway decent reliever for the Tigers in 2017 — so there’s low risk, with the idea that he could be a hell of a lot more than what he was in Arizona.
If Hubbs was right about one thing it’s that this is one of Cashman’s best moves ever.
Once this trend was brought to my attention I checked out his hot-zones (based on slugging-percentage) on Brooks Baseball from 2017 for a more accurate depiction. His hottest zones were up-and-out, down-and-in, down-and-in off the plate and up-and-in Also did well with pitches belt-high in off the plate, as well as middle-down.
You know what though, charts can be confusing. I like looking at the specific act. Thankfully, someone compiled all of Gregorius’s home runs from 2017 into one video.
It’s about 6 minutes long, so I watched the whole thing so you don’t have to. The camera angles make it tricky at times, but if you pay attention to the catcher’s location and whether or not he moves when the pitch is delivered.
Sure, Gregorius hit a home run on a least one from every location in the strike zone — middle, belt-high in, belt-high out, up-and-in, up-and-out, down-and-in, down-and-out, middle-up and middle-down. — and even even out of the zone.
But some of them were homers that would never leave a stadium that’s not in the AL East. The ones he seriously destroyed were all inside, especially belt-high in and down-and-in. Middle-down was probably hot-spot 3 based on the video, just outweighing up-and-in.
Here’s a thought: maybe guys shouldn’t challenge him there that much?
Clearly Gregorius can hit a any pitch well for average based on the charts, but in terms of power he’s doing less damage on pitches away.
Obviously you can’t pitch there exclusively, but when you get a lefty who’s pull-happy — like almost every lefty-handed hitter — and he plays at the cracker jack box that is Yankee Stadium, it’s probably in your best interest to not throw it to the area that usually leads to Pitcher’s Whiplash.