The Yankees are struggling this season and don’t look the same as years prior, but is the answer that they were a product of the juiced ball?
In 2019, The Yankees seemed unstoppable at times. They were finally hitting with RISP and seemed to not be so reliant on the long ball. Once Covid came around the Yankees were the favorite to win it all in the short season, and after their fast start, they seemed poised to win it all. Then the slide came and the Yankees barely got into the playoffs. After the 2020 season, MLB announced that the ball would be changed and “de-juiced” Since that has happened the Yankees have looked very beatable and it begs the question, Were the Yankees a product of the juiced ball?
The 2018 Yankees broke the record for most home runs as a team, a record that stood for 21 years. 2019 was a whole different story as four teams including the Yankees broke their own record in the year of the juiced ball. The Yankees as a team hit 306 home runs, one shy of the Twins who now hold the record. The 2019 Yankees were one of the best teams the Yankees have had on the field in quite some time and the team is mostly the same now but isn’t nearly as good. A couple of their players have really fallen off since the ball was changed.
After an MVP-type season in 2019 where DJ slugged a career-high 26 home runs and was by far the Yankees’ best player. That season DJ recorded a career-high(at the time) slugging of .518. The following season he topped that by recording a .590 slugging which was aided by the short season. Either way, the juiced ball truly helped DJ and was a big reason why the Yankees resigned him for 90 million. 2021 has DJ looking less like a machine and more like a man. Fans are starting to refer to LeMachine as LeGroundball as lately that is all he does. At the time of this article DJ currently owns a slugging % of .352
DJ has always hit the ball on the barrel but the huge difference this year is his hard-hit %. In 2019 he had a 40.4 hard-hit %, in 2020 a 35.4%, and this year he sports a 27.3% hard-hit rate. To combat that his medium contact rate is at almost 60% up 7% from 2020, and up 13% from 2019. DJ is just not hitting the ball hard anymore and each day it becomes more and more clear that he may have been a product of the juiced ball. He isn’t the only one.
After his 38 home run campaign in 2019, fans were expecting huge things from Gleyber Torres, but that power has completely disappeared. In 2020 he came into the short season overweight and out of shape which contributed to his low season homer total which was just three. In that season Gleyer owned a .368 slugging. Coming into 2021 Gleyber was in much better shape and seemed poised to have a great bounce-back year, but once again his power is gone and it’s much worse than last season.
Currently, Torres owns a .338 slugging which is almost the same as his on-base. Gleyber can’t seem to get extra-base hits anymore. In the 2 seasons prior to 2020 Gleyber had a slugging of .480 and .535, clearly, he benefited greatly from the juiced ball. Torres never was a 35+ homer hitter, he is more of a .300 average and 25-30 homer hitter. His 38 homers in 2019 were the worst thing that happened to him, but that is a topic for another day.
In 2019 Gleyber Torres had a 39.5 hard contact %, in 2020 it went down to 30.6%, and now it is a career-worst 21.7%. His medium contact % is at 62.3 which is 8% higher than 2020 and almost 20% higher than 2019. He is just not hitting the ball hard at all and it is one of the reasons the Yankees haven’t taken off yet.
Next Man Up
The Yankees were destroyed by injuries in 2019 but somehow got through it thanks to the next man up. One interesting thing about that is it seemed like anyone the Yankees called up became hitting machines no matter where they came from. Cameron Maybin until his injury was a staple in the Yankees lineup during the height of the injuries, and he hit a career-high in homers that season with 11, in only half a season(81 games) Maybin also recorded a career-high in slugging with .494
Players like Mike Ford, came up and became sluggers for the Yankees and were hitting homers and extra-base hits like it was nothing. Ford in only 50 games hit 12 home runs and recorded a slugging of .559 and since that season hasn’t slugged over .283.
You could go through all of the players that played on the 2019 team and compare their stats to now and will see that they are struggling to slug the ball and hit extra-base hits.
The Yankees team as a whole is also hitting the ball on the ground a lot and lead the league in GIDP’s. It is no question that the Yankees were aided by the juiced ball and it is their job to prove that they can win without it.