Last night, as the Yankees won for the 22nd time in their last 26 games, the bottom of the lineup once again provided impact. Neil Walker doubled in a run and hit a solo homer, his first of the season, and of course Gleyber Torres hit two homers. Even with Tyler Austin going 0-for-5 as the No. 7 hitter, the 7-8-9 portion of the lineup went 4-for-13 (.308) with four extra-base hits. They drove in five of the team’s ten runs.
The Yankees lead baseball in basically every offensive category at the moment. Runs (261), runs per game (5.87), OBP (.343), SLG (.469), wRC+ (119), you name it. You don’t do that with a top heavy lineup. The Yankees have a deep lineup that can beat teams one through nine, and that is especially true since Torres arrived. Here are their combined 7-8-9 hitter ranks among the 30 MLB teams:
- AVG: .266 (3rd)
- OBP: .319 (5th)
- SLG: .439 (3rd)
- OPS+: 129 (3rd)
Those numbers do not include pitchers for National League teams, so the Yankees rank third behind the Cubs and Pirates in AVG, SLG, and OPS+. New York’s bottom of the order has been the best at basically everything among American League teams.
As always, the bottom of the order has been something of a revolving door this season. Gleyber is now entrenched in the No. 9 spot as the second leadoff guy. The Nos. 7 and 8 spots have mostly gone to Walker, Austin, Miguel Andujar, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine. The top six spots in the lineup are fairly set. Everyone else slots in at the lower third of the order.
The productive bottom of the order does three things. One, it does not give the opposing pitcher any sort of breather. Pitchers absolutely look over the opposing lineup to find the soft spots, so to speak, and the Yankees don’t have any. There’s a reason the Yankees have done a great job driving up pitch counts and getting starters out of the game early. One through nine, the offense doesn’t let up.
Two, it gives the Yankees that much more offensive depth, and means they have a chance to score in every inning. The Yankees are among the highest scoring teams in literally every inning this season. Usually there’s a lull in the third and sixth innings, when the bottom of the order typically comes up, but not for the Yankees. They can score at pretty much any time. It’s great.
And three, a productive bottom of the lineup means more men on base for the top of the lineup. Well, I suppose if Torres keeps socking dingers, the top of the lineup won’t bat with as many men on base. You know what I mean though. Gleyber has a .389 OBP and that means that many more runners on base for Brett Gardner and especially Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
The Yankees, moreso than at any point since 2009, have a dangerous circular lineup that can beat teams one through nine. There’s power up and down the lineup and on-base ability as well. That’s why, when Judge or Stanton (or Gary Sanchez) gets shut down, the Yankees are able to win anyway. The Yankees are 6-2 when Judge doesn’t reach base. They’re 7-4 when Stanton doesn’t reach base. They’re 2-0 when neither reaches base.
Austin has been great against lefties, and with Greg Bird nearing a return, the bottom of the lineup will be that much more dangerous. Even if Bird slots into the 3-4-5 spots somewhere, it pushes someone else (Aaron Hicks?) down in the lineup. The Yankees have been great offensively this season and their circular lineup is a big reason why. The bottom of the lineup has been great, and there’s a chance it will soon get even better.