New York Yankees: Is Vernon Wells Recent Slump Cause for Concern?

Joy R. Absalon-USA Today Sports

With another rough night, going 0 for 4 Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians, is it time to worry about New York Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells?

I don’t usually overreact to a player slumping over a 30 or 40 at bat span because I believe it’s too small a sample size to make broader judgments. A bounce here, a great catch there and a decent stretch of at bats can appear to be a slump. However, some streaks are more concerning than others. Wells’ recent stretch of at bats falls under that category and it seems to be going relatively unnoticed.

In his last 11 games, since May 24, Wells has gone just three for 40 with one run scored, one double, and no triples, home runs, RBI’s or walks. That’s a pretty productive stat line from the 10-year veteran! Over this time, his average has dropped from .287 to .245 and his on base percentage has fallen from .341 to .292.

The problem with this stretch is that it really expands beyond May 24. To find his last multi-hit game you have to go all the way back to May 13. His last home run? May 15. Last RBI? May 20. Last walk? May 16. It’s June 4, folks.

The best thing I’ve seen from Wells is a few soft liners to right field. Other than that, the right-hander has routinely been rolling over off-speed pitches on the outer half of the zone and is struggling mightily against right-handed pitchers.

Early in the year, even when Wells was hot, he was doing most of his damage on fastballs and was struggling with off speed pitches. For whatever reason, pitchers were either falling behind in counts or just didn’t have confidence in their breaking pitches in the early going and continued to give Wells the heater. Despite hitting a few hanging breaking balls for home runs, for the most part, any legitimate curveballs or sliders on the outer half got Wells to swing over or pop up.

This makes me wonder if teams have caught on to Wells and are now attacking him with off-speed first and fastballs second. Until Wells proves to be able to handle a good slider away, look for him to continue seeing very few fastballs, especially in fastball counts.

At this point, his only chance to be productive may be in a platoon role. So far in 2013, Wells is batting just .227 in 128 at bats vs. righties, and .292 in 72 at bats vs. lefties. By seasons end, I think you’ll see his number of at bats vs. lefties skyrocket while getting very little action vs. righties.

On Monday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched Wells vs. right-hander Justin Masterson in favor of lefty swinging Lyle Overbay. This may be a sign of things to come. If Overbay continues to prove to be a viable option in the outfield, we may be looking at a full out lefty/righty platoon until Curtis Granderson returns.

 

Matthew Cermola is a New York Yankees and MLB writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MCermolaRantMLB and add him to your network on Google.

 

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