New York Yankees: Gregorius team’s most improved hitter

The shortstop was never known for his hitting ability. But after a few years with the New York Yankees, Didi Gregorius has become a recurrent threat at the plate.

This was the year the Yankees returned to normal. Dubbed the “Baby Bombers,” guys like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez helped bring back the intimidating lineup that used to be associated with the New York Yankees.

Several players improved considerably in 2017, and some proved they would play legitimate roles for the organization in the near future.

But everyone’s individual improvement pales in comparison to Didi Gregorius. In two years, the shortstop has essentially erased any doubts people had regarding his ability at the dish.

Early in his career, he was apparently just another low-lineup hitter for his respective teams. Though he was never as terrible a hitter as some middle infielders, like Adam Everett, he couldn’t compare himself to the more illustrious hitting shortstops – think Troy Tulowitzki and a young Jimmy Rollins.

He still isn’t deemed the best hitter in the league for his position. But he’s among arguably the most talented slew of shortstops in recent history, with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor turning heads at such a young age.

Still, “Sir Didi” deserves some recognition.

Among MLB shortstops, he ranked fifth in both OPS and average in 2017. Before this year, he never ranked in the top five in either category.

Gregorius perfected his approach against right-handed pitchers. He hit .295 against them in 390 at-bats this past season. But it’s not much of a surprise, as he’s hit better than .255 against them in four of his five complete seasons in the league.

Additionally, he flourished on the road compared to at home in the lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium. He’s always been a road warrior throughout his career.

He’s hitting 50 points higher on the road than at home in his career – .291 against .240. In four of his five pro seasons, he’s hit better than .275 on the road. He slapped 30 of his 52 extra-base hits away from home in 2017 alone.

Gregorius has also become a premier pull hitter. Looking at his hitting chart from 2017, it’s clear he didn’t attempt to go the other way, as all of his home runs, and all but eight doubles landed in right field. He has yet to hit a home run the opposite way in his career.

But that doesn’t matter because he’s become one of the most efficient hitters in New York.

Gregorius’ main difficulty in the past came against fastballs. Before this year, the best average he sported against heaters was .270, which isn’t ridiculously high. But he still only managed to get singles, as he never eclipsed 11 extra-base hits against fastballs before 2016.

The Netherlands product’s troubles against off-speed stuff varied by year. But finally, in 2017, he conquered virtually every pitch thrown against him.

Success Against Each Pitch (At-BatsAverage/OPS/)

Four-seam Fastball: 249/.285/713

  • Sinker: 102/.275/.833
  • Slider: 89/.281/799
  • Changeup: 85/.329/.965
  • Curveball: 68/.324/.892
  • Cutter: 38/.237/.670
  • Splitter: 9/.338/.778

He also wasn’t fazed by as many payoff pitches last season as before. He garnered his second-best on-base percentage in his career in 2017, and he was one of the few qualified shortstops with fewer than 100 strikeouts.

Compared to most hitters, his strikeout-to-walk ratio may seem subpar. But compared to some of his teammates, such as Aaron Judge, it’s not as extreme.

By October, it was clear that Gregorius was a vital part of the lineup for the New York Yankees. He showed off his superior swing in the ALDS by slugging a pair of homers in Game 5 against Corey Kluber, the probable AL Cy Young winner.

Heading into 2018, the sky is the limit for the New York Yankees stud shortstop. He may not boast the prestige of Derek Jeter, but many can argue that he’s on his way to becoming a more efficient hitter than the future Hall of Famer.