The 2019 Yankees offense isn't your father's Yankees offense.
This year's squad ranks seventh league-wide in both runs and home runs - not bad, but not quite what the team was expecting coming into the year. After injuries to sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius and Miguel Andujar, among others, it's understandable that the Yankees' offense would see a decline in the power department.
Has that stopped them? Not one bit.
Amidst a 22-7 stretch that has seen the Bombers surge back into first place in the AL East, the offense has succeeded in different ways. The team's collective batting average is the eighth-best in the league, the team's BABIP is 12th-best, and they have stolen the 13th-most bases.
Compare that to last year's ranks (16th in average, 28th in BABIP and 25th in steals) and it's easy to see how the Yankees have been establishing themselves on offense - a rededication to situational hitting, and aggressive baserunning.
There are a couple of reasons for this change. The biggest factor is all of the injuries. Guys like Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Tauchman aren't known for their power, and no one is going to just come in off the street and make up the lost home runs from Judge, Stanton, Gregorius, and Andujar.
However, all the replacements excel at putting the ball in play, something the Yankees strived to improve this season. When the Yanks lost to the Red Sox in the playoffs last year, it was clear that Boston could neutralize the Yankees' offense with strikeouts. Conversely, the Red Sox won the World Series in part due to their high contact rate and lineup depth, which resulted in the league's third-best BABIP.
BABIP measures batting average on balls in play. This eliminates home runs and strikeouts from the formula, and more accurately provides a picture of the team's batted ball profile. Although the 2018 Yankees featured record-setting power, the team's low BABIP and propensity for strikeouts exposed a crucial flaw. The Yankees just weren't putting enough balls in play to advance runners without the long ball.
It's no coincidence the Yankees subsequently went out and acquired players in the offseason who make quality contact. Urshela, LeMahieu and Tauchman (who has yet to hit his stride in the bigs compared to his minor league numbers) all came in with histories of high averages and low strikeout rates, and they have continued that success with the Yankees this year.
One of the keys to achieving a high BABIP is hitting the ball with a high exit velocity. After all, line drives are the most likely way to get hits. LeMahieu has always had an above-average exit velocity (career 90.1 mph, MLB average is 87.4 mph), while Urshela and Tauchman's exit velocity figures have also climbed this year.
The Yankees pride themselves on exit velocity - Judge, Stanton and Luke Voit were top-11 in exit velocity last year, recent acquisition Kendrys Morales was 18th, and Gary Sanchez is fifth this year. While management knew LeMahieu, Urshela and Tauchman wouldn't hit as many home runs as other guys, they fit an organizational shift in strategy that prioritized hard-hitting, high-contact batters.
One final offensive change this year has come on the basepaths. The Yankees are running wild, at least compared to past seasons. Their 23 steals are above the league average, which is notable because the Yankees have only had above-average steals one other time over the last four years (2017).
They have also been efficient with their swipes - their 82 percent success rate is second-best in the league. Although no one on the team has more than five steals, nine players have at least one.
While the Yankees' offense isn't going full National League, they've adapted from a home run-heavy team that struck out too much into a more complete offensive unit. Urshela, LeMahieu and Tauchman may not keep up this level of hitting, but they've helped the Yankees survive and thrive despite the loss of their best offensive players.