For the first time in the Brian Cashman era, the Yankees have fired a coach mid-season. For the longest time they really liked to ride out their issues before acting on them. Well, things got so bad with the offense in the first half of this season that a change had to be made. Dillon Lawson is out as the Yankees hitting coach, let's talk about it.
Now some may look at this as a necessary move. Others view it as Cashman nominating his scapegoat to distract from his incredibly poor lineup construction. To some maybe it shows the front office actually is feeling the hot seat a bit from ownership and are not going to be as patient with the struggles as originally thought. I'm a believe it's a combination of the three.
We'll start with the first part. This had to happen. You know why? A few weeks ago on an off-day in July, Anthony Volpe made a noticeable change to his batting stance. He was at home with his former minor league teammate Austin Wells having some home-cooked chicken parm when Wells noticed Volpe had veered from his approach that garnered him top 5 prospect in baseball recognition. They agreed he needed to open up his stance more and move closer to the plate. Volpe wasn't hitting any outside pitches prior to that game and was instead pulling off. Since that change Volpe's season has been given CPR. He's hitting .300 with a .900 OPS since the adjustment and look like a much more confident, relaxed hitter up there.
All of that is great, but you know what was alarming about that adjustment? It took being noticed by Austin Wells, a Double A prospect, to actually happen. Not the team's hitting coach whose job is to be on top of this shit, but a minor leaguer.
Dillon Lawson's mentality was basically to keep believing. This clip below from a few weeks ago is almost 10 minutes long, but if you listen from the eight minute mark on you get an idea of who we were dealing with.
Lawson got his promotion because of the great work he did in the minors, but it just wasn't translating this year. Almost everyone in the lineup has underperformed. The team ranks in the bottom five of batting average and OBP across the league. According to Lawson he didn't care about that.
THE HITTING COACH DIDN'T CARE WHERE THEY RANKED IN OFFENSIVE STATS.
His "hit strikes hard" approach that harped on exit velocity has failed miserably. If you've watched them all year it's bizarre as there's little to no approach from anyone. They don't work counts whatsoever. They let starting pitchers enter the 7th inning more than anyone in the league. The starting lineup today only had two hitters with a .300 OBP. That can't happen no matter who the hitters you are sending up. Something had to be done.
Now another part to this is it's definitely not all Lawson's fault. There's a chance his firing results in no change at all in terms of results. Why's that? The lineup Brian Cashman has constructed here is abysmal. It relies on way too many often injured, older players to produce and channel back their glory days. Stanton, Donaldson, and LeMahieu have been zeroes. Anthony Rizzo hasn't homered in a month and a half. They straight up just don't have a left fielder. There are infielders playing the outfield almost every single day. Without Judge there's no one to rely upon to get them going. Make no mistake about it, Brian Cashman should be shouldering the blame here.
A GM who has made as many mistakes as he has, with no success to show for it should be out of a job. Instead he was rewarded with a 4 year extension this past offseason and once again failed to improve an offense that desperately needed improving. Once again he ran with the hope that players who underperformed and were injury prone/aging would bounce back. Now we're here again with the same damn issues. No matter how big he is, you can't just hide behind Aaron Judge to disguise your flaws. This is on Cashman.
The optimistic way to look at this is that the rare firing of a coach like this is a wake up call across the board. A lack of urgency is something this entire organization lacks. Maybe something like this lights a fire under Boone and co. to wake the fuck up. Maybe they start holding guys accountable and we stop seeing quotes like this after a play that basically cost them the game on Sunday.
There was also this quote about wanting Domingo to enter the 2nd half on a positive note so they pulled him with 74 pitches in the 7th while he was cruising.
Players feelings > winning baseball. Hell yeah. I love pulling guys just to pull guys. Yes Hamilton should have been out of the inning if Gleyber doesn't boot the ball, but at the same time why even send Domingo out for the 7th if you were pulling him that quickly anyways. They hate giving relievers clean innings and it'll always bother me.
So will this change be a sign of good things to come? Let's be realistic, probably not. The roster is still painfully flawed. Even trading for someone like Cody Bellinger likely won't be enough. I'd very much welcome a hitter of his caliber who can field like he does, but they need about 3-4 new hitter plus the re-addition of Judge to really make themselves a true contender. Pitching wise I do think they have enough, but the offense needs so much it's sad.
If there's one glimmer of hope with the firing it's that Cashman said he was going to replace Lawson with someone outside the organization. Usually he'd just hire someone from within who shares the same philosophy. They desperately need a shakeup with their approach. Supposedly they have it narrowed down to two external candidates. Pray it's someone who preaches getting on base, situational hitting, and not worshipping launch angles. I am so fucking tired of launch angles. I wish Francesa was still on WFAN so people could call up tomorrow incessantly and beg for Jason Giambi.
The Yankees will enter the 2nd half on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. They're just a game in front of the Red Sox for fourth place. Tampa has gone on a big slide lately and they were unable to gain any ground. They had a chance to hop the Orioles this week for 2nd place in the AL East, but now find themselves six back of the birds. While they have their work cut out for them, whoever takes over Lawson's role will have an opportunity to hit the ground running fast and flip the script with the team's opening nine games coming against COL, LAA, and KC. That could also be a stretch where we really come to the realization this team is hopeless. Fun times ahead!