Didi Gregorius started off the season on an absolute tear for the New York Yankees. Now he has come back down to earth. What’s changed for the smooth-swinging lefty?
April Didi Gregorius is the Didi Gregorius the New York Yankees want for the rest of his time in the Bronx. He was absolutely incredible, hitting bombs and making plays not even the legend Derek Jeter could make.
Then May rolled around and Gregorius hasn’t been the same. They say April showers bring May flowers but it seems like it was the opposite for the shortstop. As the weather warmed up, he cooled down considerably.
Gregorius now has one hit in his last 35 at-bats and his last home run came on April 27 in Los Angeles. He’s just not looking comfortable at the plate, swinging at pitches out of the zone and jumping on first-pitch fastballs.
So what’s eating Gregorius? How does he go from red-hot to ice-cold in such a short period of time? It could have something to do with just another slump. But it could be something more.
Gregorius opened up the season in Toronto batting in the sixth spot in the lineup, behind Aaron Hicks. With Hicks leaving due to injury, Gregorius found himself in the fourth spot in the lineup, sandwiched between Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. At last, he was home.
Gregorius is a lifetime .270 hitter in the cleanup spot with 15 home runs in just 68 games. So why not put him in the cleanup spot?
This season, Gregorius has hit .368 in 12 games in that slot. The other popular slot for him this season is third, where he is hitting .231 in 22 games.
But batting averages aren’t pure indicators of success. So how about this? In 10 fewer games at cleanup, he has more walks (12 compared to seven) and fewer strikeouts (three compared to 15). That’s right…he has struck out at an alarming rate when he’s batting third in the lineup.
Or what about his on base percentage and slugging percentage? Both are significantly higher when Gregorius finds himself in the four-hole. Batting fourth, his percentages are .500 and .974 respectively. When batting third? .283 and .429.
Why exactly is that? Maybe Gregorius doesn’t feel quite as much pressure being between Stanton and Sanchez, seeing as how both players have gotten off to less than stellar starts. If he was sandwiched between two red-hot stars, the pressure would be on for Gregorius. Good thing he didn’t have to worry!
What is the harm in allowing Didi Gregorius to hit fourth, a position that he’s had blistering success in this season? Honestly, there is none. With Gregorius holding the spot for 12 games, it is still a small sample size. However, he seems comfortable there and that is what the Yankees need to see out of Gregorius moving forward.
This season, the cleanup spot for the Yankees has posted a .282/.376/.644 line with 13 home runs. Didi Gregorius has played a huge role in those stats. Plus, he’s only contributed to three of the cleanup spot’s 34 strikeouts.
Could the solution be that simple? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But shouldn’t it be worth at least an attempt, at least seeing how successful Gregorius has been this season.
So Didi Gregorius isn’t number one, two or three. No, he’s actually number four and it’s time for the Yankees to realize that.