Marcus Thames may not have a bat to change the Yankees’ offensive fortunes himself, but the hitting coach said he has bags under his eyes as proof that he’s doing everything he can to turn things around.
As the Yankees finished one-third of their season scoring just 3.74 runs per game — tied for the fourth-worst mark in all of baseball — Thames remained confident in his hitters’ ability to snap out of their widespread funk, but wasn’t sitting around waiting for it to happen on its own.
“I don’t sleep,” Thames said Tuesday before the Yankees faced the Rays. “I tell guys this all the time, I’m in every pitch with these guys. From pitch number one to the last pitch of the game and you feel it. You know how hard they’re working and how much preparation they’re doing. Of course, it wears on you a little bit. But that’s what we signed up for.
“It comes with the territory of when guys are struggling, you hear a lot of heat or whatever. But at the same time, you gotta keep working because I believe in those guys in the room.”
A lineup that entered the season expecting to put fear into opposing pitchers — as it did in Thames’ first three seasons, when it ranked among the top four in scoring each year — has so far failed to live up to its expectations. Entering Tuesday, the Yankees had scored two or fewer runs in nine of their past 12 games, which the franchise hadn’t done since 1971.
“It hasn’t been pretty at all,” Thames said. “That’s the big elephant in the room everywhere: the offense, the offense, the offense.”
There was blame to go around up and down the lineup, but among the culprits:
The infielder was hitting .262 through Monday but had an OPS of just .684. Those numbers pale in comparison to the spark plug LeMahieu had been for the Yankees in his first two years with the team, when he combined to hit .336 with an OPS of .922 across 195 games. Last year alone, he led the league hitting .364 with an OPS of 1.011.
“When he goes, we go,” Thames said. “His numbers are decent, but they’re not DJ LeMahieu’s numbers right now. He’s just gotta continue to get pitches. He’s starting to expand [the zone] a little bit. I think that comes with the overall offense struggling, he’s just trying to put the team on his back instead of just being himself. We talked about it earlier, just get your pitch and don’t miss it and do what DJ does. When he does that, he’s gonna get back to normal.”
Thames said at times, LeMahieu is getting started late at the plate, leading to a lack of solid contact.
Gleyber Torres’ power outage
The shortstop arrived in the big leagues in 2018 and crushed 62 home runs over his first two seasons. In 87 games since, he has hit just five home runs, including two in 45 games this season.
“We’re just trying to keep him behind the baseball a little bit longer,” Thames said. “His lower half is his key when he’s hitting. He’s just rushing out there, trying to go get the ball. He needs to let the ball travel a little bit more.”
As much as Thames is working with hitters on mechanical tweaks, he admitted that the mental aspect of the game is also part of the battle.
“I told the guys the other day, some days it looks like they’re not having fun,” Thames said. “But they gotta go have fun and let this game slow down a little bit and get back to where we need to be.”