Much has been written about the struggles of the Yankees' offense following the All-Star break. While the Yankees made numerous trades between June and the trade deadline to improve the team for this year and beyond, the offense continues to sag while the Yankees pitching staff has generally been unable to compensate. To make matters worse, the Yankees held a 0.5 game lead in the AL East as recently as July 28th. That lead has since evaporated and the Yankees now find themselves staring up at the Red Sox with 4 games to make-up as of August 8th. In what could be either a blessing or a curse, the Yankees will play the Sox in back-to-back weekend series beginning both this Friday and next Friday. If the Yankees hope to give themselves a fighting shot at a playoff run as something more than a lottery ticket Wildcard, they need to do better than split the next 6 games with the Red Sox.
At first glance, taking 4 of 6 from the Red Sox is a tall task given the way the Yankees have performed recently, having lost 6 of their last 11 games. Aaron Judge's prodigious offense from the first half has slowed considerably in the second half; Matt Holliday's offense has cratered and he just hit the disabled list; Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks, top performers in the first half, remain shelved with injuries; and the Yankees are playing Garrett Cooper and Chase Headley at first base. As a team, the Yankees have produced well below-average offense during this stretch, as shown below courtesy of baseball-reference.
While the Yankees have continued to hit for power during their slump, their BB-SO ratio has plummeted and their .299 OBP would be last in MLB over the course of a full season this year. Despite their inconsistency with runners in scoring position, the Yankees need to start making pitchers work harder and put more runners on base. With Matt Holliday on the DL, the Yankees have an opening for ABs at DH and conceivably 1B. Below are the minor league stats of two minor league first baseman.
Given the fact that the Yankees have struggled to put runners on-base and need some patience in the lineup, most of us would take the 1B in the second image, right? The first image shows the stat line of Garrett Cooper, who currently occupies the Yankees roster. The second image shows Mike Ford's stats. Garrett Cooper has performed admirably in his short appearances in the majors this year, but given the track record of both players, Mike Ford is clearly a better fit for the roster in the short-term. Over the last two years, Ford has compiled a 117-91 BB-K ratio (!) while getting on-base more than 40% of his plate appearances, while showing pop at the plate, particularly this year. All of his statistics have been compiled in the high minors, hinting at his ability to translate some of these skills to the next level.
While it's true that Mike Ford has lived under the radar of the most popular scouting outlets, he does appear prominently on Fangraph's mid-season update of KATOH rankings. KATOH uses a player's minor league statistics to predict a player's WAR through the first 6 years of their Major League career. There are obviously pitfalls involved with only scouting a player's stat line, but the self-stated intent of KATOH is to find players who have slipped through the cracks. Here's the link: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/katohs-midseason-2017-top-100-lists/. Here, we find Mike Ford has the 64th rosiest projection. As a point of comparison, KATOH only places super prospect Eloy Jimenez 10 spots and 0.3 WAR ahead of Ford. 22 spots and 0.8 WAR behind Ford, you'll find 1B Dominic Smith, consensus top-100 prospect in the Mets organization due to make his Major League debut any day now.
To his credit, our own EJ Fagan has been on the Mike Ford train all year. I wanted to see the Yankees snag Lucas Duda at the trade deadline, but that didn't happen. Now that the Yankees' roster is mostly set for the remainder of the year, the Yankees have to put the best 25 guys on the field. Mike Ford has dominated upper minors pitching this year; is well-liked by statistical projection systems; to my amateur eye, has a simple, quiet swing that should allow him to adjust to MLB pitching; and has a unique skill set that can definitely help the Yankees as they come to the most crucial point of their season. Quite simply, the Yankees need Mike Ford.