In his quarter century as general manager, Brian Cashman never fired a coach during a season.
But he has never faced such a crisis as the Yankees have been dealing with an offensive crisis the past five weeks as the blandness of an Aaron Judge-less lineup has put their season in jeopardy. So the Yankees are at least considering what changes should be made, and how could that not include discussions about firing coach Dillon Lawson?
Most recently on June 21, when asked about the Yankees’ overall hitting and Lawson’s safety, Cashman defended his second year hitting coach, noting that the organization has an “ecosystem” that they What do offensive players value and how is it taught throughout the system? Thus, only one person is not responsible for the ups and downs.
But the fallout has become so pronounced as to increase organizational discomfort with the status quo. It would be negligent not to seriously consider whether the change could open the door to a vulnerable attack. The first part ends on Sunday afternoon, and the first round of the draft ends on Sunday evening. Cashman will be in Tampa for the draft with Hal Steinbrenner and several of his top lieutenants. So they’ll all be together during the All-Star break, which is a traditional time to consider the big issues.
Cashman was headed to Tampa on Saturday and did not want to comment on the status of anyone on the coaching staff.
When he did so as part of a broader defense on June 21, Cashman noted that Lawson and his assistant, Casey Dykes, were in charge last year when the Yankees averaged 4.98 runs per game, second in the majors. was in place. But that crime was also largely perpetrated by the judge. For the whole of 2022, Judge had a 1.111 OPS and the rest of the Yankees had .708, but it got even more motivated in the second half when Judge had a 1.286 OPS and the rest of the Yankees had a .652 OPS.
Nevertheless, there were no significant changes to the lineup made in the offseason. Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter both left in free agency (neither of whom are doing well in 2023). Of course, Judge was retained on a nine-year, $360 million deal and through his June 3 injury was again hiding problems elsewhere. But the Yankees’ offense has been disappointing ever since he sprained his right big toe after colliding with the lower cement support at Dodger Stadium.
Overall for the season, his .230 average was tied for second-worst with the Royals as of Friday, and his 4.38 runs per game was 19th. The on-base percentage in MLB has increased from .312 in 2022 to .320 this year. Still, the Yankees’ .299 would be their worst since 1968 – the pitcher’s year –.
But there has been a marked decline in the results since June 4. The Judge-less Yankees had the lowest batting average (.214) and on-base percentage (.284), and they scored the second fewest runs (107) as they went 13–16 through Friday.
Lawson’s strongest defense is that much of the problem is centered on veterans who should probably be better able to improvise themselves or have outside hitting gurus to turn to. If DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo had been average this time around, the Yankees’ offense wouldn’t have been terrible. But among those with 80 plate appearances through Friday, June 4, LeMahieu had the fourth-worst OPS in MLB (.472), Stanton sixth-worst (.495) and Rizzo 12th-worst (.529). Josh Donaldson was hitting .130 during that time.
But the overall offense under Lawson’s guidance remains abysmal – for example, Osvaldo Cabrera’s massive regression has been crippling for these Yankees. Perhaps most condemning of the current hitting coaches is that the best Yankees hitter in this current Judge-less span has been Anthony Volpe (.838 OPS), and his improvement comes from studying tapes with Yankees Double-A catcher Austin Wells. came from, not with the Yankees. , coach.
Cashman has long established that he does not want to change managers or coaches during the season. And complicating the decision whether or not it has anything to do with Lawson, Dykes or first-year hitting assistant Brad Wilkerson is that philosophically the organization is committed to pulling the ball into the air. Thus, it’s not like they can just reach down and grab someone who might be coming from a different platform. In general, the hitters liked working with assistant Hensley Meulens last year, but he left to become Colorado’s hitting coach. So there is no ready, obvious replacement.
Still, it’s hard to ignore that the Yankees improved the output of several pitchers when they joined the organization, especially relievers. He isn’t finding that much success with hitters. Asked about Lawson’s influence in that area on 21 June, Cashman said:
“He knows his stuff, as well as I know how the whole ecosystem works, so was it when [hitting coaches] marcus thames was here or kevin long or even back [Chris] Chambliss, they weren’t the end all. You had coaching clinics running. You had data support. You have your seasoned presence that has its own style, and it’s just partnering with them. Nothing is different now.”
But what’s different is that it took three more weeks of bad offensive information since Cashman offered this sentiment. Apart from this, it is increasing organizational inconvenience. Is that enough to inspire Cashman to do what he’s never done in his long tenure?