No more fairy dust: What happened to Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells?

hafner-wells

The Yankees were much better than expected during the month of April and a large reason for that was the superb play of both Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. However, since May Hafner both players have gone in the tank and the Yankees offense has followed it.

Just take a look at the difference:

  • Hafner in April: .318/.438/.667.
  • Hafner in May: .179/.286/.299.
  • Wells in April: .300/.366/.544.
  • Wells in May: .220/.250/.360.

Those are just the results though. Let’s take a further look into the numbers to see what’s happening.

HAFNER

It’s important to remember that Hafner dealt with a bit of a shoulder problem earlier in May which certainly could have had an impact on his numbers. He’s been back and playing every day for nearly two weeks now though so it’s probably not the biggest contributing factor.

Hafner has stopped hitting the ball with authority though. His line drive percent was a robust 20.4% in April and it has dropped to just 11.6% in May. This could be because pitchers are throwing him significantly fewer fastballs while throwing more changeups, curves, and sliders.

Considering that he hit .345/.486/.966 against fastballs in April then, yeah, it’s going to bring his numbers down. He did well against the offspeed stuff in April too, but that came with a .500 BABIP and a lower LD% that was just unsustainable. Pitchers seem to have begun to recognize him as the trouble spot in the Yankees lineup and are not giving him anything good to hit.

As a result, Hafner is not chasing more pitches, but he is pulling the ball more often and hitting it on the ground more too. In April he pulled the ball just 30.6 percent of the time while in May that number jumps to 46.5 percent. His ground balls have jumped to 44.2 percent in May versus just 28.6 percent in April.

Hopefully as players come off the DL, Hafner will get better protection and a diet of more fastballs will correct this. However, we can’t know that for sure right now because the sample sizes are just too small. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out.

WELLS

Wells has had no injuries so this is just regression after an amazing, and unlikely, month of April. The same basic thing seems to be going on with Wells as with Hafner — he’s seeing fewer fastballs while pulling the ball more often and hitting the ball on the ground more.

His ground ball rate is up from 35.5 percent in April to 44.0 percent in May. He’s also pulling the ball more — 39.5 percent in April versus 47.6 percent in May.

The biggest difference for Wells though is how he’s hitting, or not hitting, against lefties. He crushed them in April to the tune of .342/.395/.632, but that has dropped off a cliff to just .259/.310/.259 in May.

From looking at the data it appears that lefties have begun to pitch away to him more often, 34.6% pitches on the outside of the zone in April versus 45.6% in May. Meanwhile, he’s trying to pull the ball more than ever, 36.4% in April versus 47.8% in May (these numbers are all against LHP only).

The other thing with Wells is that he’s hitting much better on the road than at Yankee Stadium. It’s not like he’s killing it on the road though, hitting just .258/.270/.435 in May, but it is the difference of nearly .250 OPS points. It could be just a small sample size, but considering that part of the problem is that he’s pulling the ball more often, perhaps YS is making him pull happy.

Maybe with fewer fastballs, he’s feeling pressure to compensate and pull the ball more often. Maybe just playing in YS has led to bad habits. Whatever it is, he’s really hurt his offensive production. Like Hafner, hopefully this goes away a bit when players come off the DL and the pressure gets taken off of him. However, based on his lack of success over the last two seasons prior to joining the Yankees, I do fear that he’s potentially just fallen into a bad habits and what we saw in April was the result of a lot of good luck.

OTHER NOTES

• Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis are expected to be activated today. They both went 1-for-3 during seven innings of a Double-A game.

• It’s official, Andy Pettitte will be back on Monday to face the Indians. What’s not official is who will get sent down, but it will probably be Vidal Nuno (unless he’s not sent down today for Teixeira or Youk).

• Another thing we knew, but was not official — July 28th will be Hideki Matsui Day. He’s expected to sign a one-day contract before he officially announces his retirement.

• Chien-Ming Wang can opt-out of his minor league contract today. He isn’t expected to do so unless he gets a major league deal though and the Orioles have been monitoring his starts.

• Brian Cashman hasn’t said what the club intends to do with Michael Pineda once he comes off the DL roughly a month from now. Cash said it’ll be based on, “whatever the circumstances dictate at the time.” The Yankees could delay his free agency by a year if they send him to the minors for a little more than two full months.

• Curtis Granderson agreed to donate $5 million to his alma mater, the University of Illinois-Chicago, for a new baseball stadium. The stadium will cost $7 million and will be called Curtis Granderson Stadium.

Photo credit: (April 26, 2013 – Source: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America).

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24 Responses to No more fairy dust: What happened to Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells?

  1. Sal raimondi says:

    Wow ! Curtis Granderson is a class act. That is an awful lot of money too donate and help out his home town. I just wish he'd hit 275 for the Yankees. With his power numbers that would really be great !

  2. mikefoxtrot says:

    ya don't think that part of Well's drop-off is due to the fact that he's been exposed as the only dangerous right-handed bat in the line-up?
    perhaps if Youkilis and the right-handed part of Tex hit well, Well will see slightly better pitches and can feel free to return to going to right a bit more.

  3. vinnny says:

    they cant be everyday players, but yanks had no choice…but they are true proffessionals that would be great to bring off the bench to pinch hit….WHEN WE GET TO PLAYOFFS AND WORLD SERIES THIS YEAR

  4. Michael R. says:

    Geesh, 5 mil is staggering. Hats off to the Grandy man.

  5. jfs says:

    Bring on Tex! No more salivating over Overbay and his sub-300 OBP

  6. Tony Moschetti says:

    Nothing has "happened" except that the returned to their form of recent years, not their better years which are the ones the media writes about, and Cashman and Girardi drone on about.

    They just happened to have their "hot streaks" at the beginning of the year, thereby getting everyone's hopes up that they discovered the "Fountain of Youth." Ben Francisco and Brignac simply were who they are, skipping the getting everyone's hopes up, hot streak.

    And don't forget that all of the millionsaires and multi-millionaires are the same ones we saw in the post season last years, and most of the other disappointing post seasons.

  7. Tony Moschetti says:

    Nothing has "happened" except that the returned to their form of recent years, not their better years which are the ones the media writes about, and Cashman and Girardi drone on about.

    They just happened to have their "hot streaks" at the beginning of the year, thereby getting everyone's hopes up that they discovered the "Fountain of Youth." Ben Francisco and Brignac simply were who they are, skipping the getting everyone's hopes up, hot streak.

    And don't forget that all of the millionsaires and multi-millionaires are the same ones we saw in the post season last years, and most of the other disappointing post seasons.

  8. tommy cassella says:

    i hate to say this but i think that wells is done. yeah, he started the season great but the season lasts six months. i am really surprised at him, because i did expect better results

  9. Bob Supon says:

    With more right handed bats in the lineup, I think Wells will be alrighgt. If Hfner's shoulder gets better so will he. What we really nee is a hitting catcher, rather than an automatic out. That killed us during the Mets games. Not any production from pitcher, catcher and shortstop, has hurt a lot recently. Our best lineup has been with Nix at shortstop and Adams at third base. Who is the best catcher out there that is available??? Mc Cann, but it may cost us dearly .

  10. tommy cassella says:

    retardi is nothing but a retart. he walks Ortiz to load the bases and hughes gives up a grand slammer to Napoli. doesn't that retart know hughes is a home run pitcher. whenever he pitches, the yanks lose. retardi's inability to make the right decision helped him along. I really really hate that retart. from my way of thinking, there is nothing to like about him. whoever gave him the name retardi knew what he was talking about. that name fits him like a damn glove.

    • Mike Sommer says:

      He made the right move. Righty vs. righty, slow runner for a DP, also a batter who had 80 strikeouts this year. Hughes had him 0-2. Sometimes the manager makes the right move (as Girardi did here) but then it's up to the PLAYER to execute.

    • Thomas says:

      Tommy, your post is retardi !! It was the right call to walk Ortiz, he has been on a tear since coming off the DL. Hughes just can't finish hitters. About 7 times he had the hitter at 0-2 and eventually when to 3-2.

    • timothy derieux says:

      i don't know if this was intentional or what but the word is retard not retart. That text paints a far worse picture of you than your intended target. This is also coming from a yankee fan who is no real fan of girardi as a manager. He's no war time consiglieri. I suspect there is nothing but a giant marshmellow inside his skull.

  11. Chrisguitars says:

    Your double entendre (Girardi/retardi or "retart") is acknowledged Tommy. It might just take off from here and You'll be forever remembered as the guy who invented it. If it doesn't take off, you can blame it on society's current hypersensitivity with slags against people who aren't like you (gays, persons of color, mentally challenged, etc.). Don't doubt for a moment your cleverness. It took a comedic genius to recognize the phonic similarity between the two words, and using it five times in your posting has quite possibly made it a part of Yankee fans' lexicon. Retart…Retardi…sorry, just can't stop laughing!

  12. Tony Moschetti says:

    Too bad Hughes wasn't able to pitch to Teixeira or Youkilis, whi since their "breathlessly" awaited return have combined, in TWO games, for TWO hits, ONE rbi and TEN strikeouts, and there remains massive black holes at the SS and C positions, and perhaps LF.

    I don't know what the question is, but I do know that Hughes is not the answer. Nuno deserves a real shot.

    • timothy derieux says:

      hughes is a garbage can and so is joba. its too bad cashman treated them like gold when they had a little value. hughes at one time showed promise but joba had only one good half a season just after his debut. He's an idiot as well. Go ahead and critisize mo, good work, its the most visible hes been as a yankee in years. Go home and cry to your meth dealing mother you nebraska tumbleweed. Fat, dumb, noy very talented. lets make sure we keep him on the roster year after year after year.

  13. olie says:

    Hope you guys don't hurt yourselves hopping off and on the Wagon!

  14. pisano says:

    It's time to trade Hughes, maybe before the trade deadline, he'll walk at the end of the season,so why not look for a catcher that can not only catch, but hit also. This is the worst offensive Yankee team I've seen in years, they'll never make the playoffs with what they have on board now.

  15. tommy cassella says:

    everybody in baseball are laughing at the yanks.

  16. Dave says:

    Travis Hafner is bad, really bad lately. But Vernon Wells is a whole different version of bad. He's AWFUL. He's hit more weak grounders in the month of June than I've ever seen a single player hit in this same time span. He's a guaranteed out. Right now, he's 7 for his last 63. That's 0.111. Sit him down, permanently.

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