Even before hitting his 19th home run on Friday night against the Oakland A’s, SF Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski has been mired in a brutal slump. Are his struggles just the natural ups-and-downs that come with any season or cause for long-term concern?
SF Giants: Reason for hope for outfielder Mike Yastrzemski?
On the year, the left-handed bat is slashing .219/.309/.454 (103 OPS+) with 19 home runs, 48 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 416 plate appearances. This includes a 9.9 percent walk rate against a 23.6 percent strikeout rate. These are perfectly acceptable numbers for any player.
That said, Yastrzemski can carry a team when he is hitting well and we just have not seen that from him in 2021. Since the All-Star break, the 30-year-old has posted a .182/.242/.418 slash line with seven home runs and 14 RBI across 120 plate appearances.
Yastrzemski still has no problem blasting the ball over the fence as his seven homers would suggest, but he is struggling in almost every other facet in the batter’s box.
Could that be due in part to poor luck? The power-hitting outfielder has a .243 BABIP, which is significantly below the league average mark of a .300 BABIP. So, it is possible that Yastrzemski is hitting into a lot of unlucky outs. Where he is hitting the ball could be a factor.
On top of this, the Giants outfielder has posted a .235 ISO, which is a measure of raw power and simply calculated as slugging percentage less batting average. With a career ISO mark of .247, Yastrzemski is not far behind his career norm. Perhaps, this is not surprising given that he continues to hit for plenty of power.
In terms of Statcast data, nothing sticks out as a red flag. In fact, Yastrzemski’s 89.1-MPH average exit velocity is higher than the 88.2-MPH mark he set in 2020 where he earned MVP votes. His launch average angle (18.3 degrees) and barrel rate (10.0 percent) are also both consistent with his career norms. Or, to put it differently, he is hitting the ball about as well as he has in the past according to Statcast.
There are no red flags in his batted ball data, either. The SF Giants outfielder is hitting line drives (18 percent), ground balls (35.2 percent), and fly balls (46.8 percent) at similar rates to his career marks.
One number that does stand out is that Yastrzemski’s pull rate (48.1 percent) is the highest of his career by far. He might be making quality contact, but he is hitting baseballs in the shift more frequently than he has previously.
Perhaps, spraying the ball all over the field more consistently is what he needs to do to return to his old form. This is all to say that while Yastrzemski is struggling at the plate, the underlying numbers remain healthy or consistent with his track record. There is hope that he can regain his old form in 2021, ideally starting with his solo shot on Friday night. As the Giants only remain 1.5 games ahead in the NL West, they will need a productive bat from him down the stretch.