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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Why Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole approve of new analytics whiz in dugout

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hits his 62nd home run, breaking the American League single-season record, during a game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Oct. 4, 2022. After the Yankees finished last season 82-80 and in fourth place in the American League East, Judge said he wanted the team to focus more on some statistics and less on others. (Nathan Hunsinger/The New York Times)

By Brendan Kuty

The New York Yankees had a communication problem. Amid all the things that went wrong last year that led to a season general manager Brian Cashman called a “disaster,” some players felt as if the analytics they received from the front office were not delivered well, coming at the wrong time or in the wrong ways or from the wrong people. The information was good, and the intentions were better, but something was off. Even outfielder Aaron Judge alluded to it after the final game of the regular season. They needed a fix.

Enter Aaron Leanhardt, who has a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. and spent seven years as a physics professor at the University of Michigan.

“It’s an important role,” pitcher Gerrit Cole said.

Leanhardt, who spent the past two seasons as the Yankees’ assistant hitting coordinator, will be the newest face in the dugout, taking over the role previously held by Zac Fieroh. Fieroh is still employed by the club and will work in an off-the-field role.

Manager Aaron Boone said he was impressed with Leanhardt.

“Intelligence, work ethic, he’s connected well, started to forge relationships, and he’s done a good job with all of it,” Boone said.

Boone pointed out Leanhardt’s coaching background, which should help him better understand how to facilitate communication between the clubhouse and the front office. Leanhardt worked as a hitting coach in the lower level of the Yankees’ minor leagues for three seasons and has been in the organization for seven. He also coached at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana.

Last Thursday, team owner Hal Steinbrenner said he had been speaking with Cole recently about how information was being presented to players.

“We’ve added a new person in the clubhouse,” Steinbrenner said, “a guy here from Tampa that is unbelievably versed and intelligent in analytics but also was a coach — a college coach, actually. Great working with people, great explaining things and teaching things and listening to what the people he’s dealing with had to say. Judge already met with him one-on-one over there for an hour or two, working with him, and he likes him. So he’s going to be a great addition.”

After the Yankees lost to the Kansas City Royals to finish last season 82-80 and in fourth place in the American League East, Judge said he wanted the team to focus more on some statistics and less on others. He also suggested that the team needed a “better process” for communicating analytics to younger players.

“As a player, I do a pretty good job filtering what I need to filter, but I think maybe some of the younger guys are just kind of getting into it,” Judge said at the time.

Cole said Leanhardt’s blend of analytics knowledge and experience dealing daily with baseball players would prove vital, adding that communication between the front office and the clubhouse would not be just top-down. Leanhardt will be helpful when players want to convey messages about certain things to the front office.

“We have a lot of coaches who are versed in analytics to a certain extent,” Cole said. “But Aaron has a thesis that’s published. It’s a different level. But also just super-versed in the clubhouse dynamic and the player dynamic as well.”

If Leanhardt’s students are any indication, he should excel. His page on Rate My Professors has a perfect score.

“He’s the main faucet that kind of taps into the players,” Cole said. “It’s an important piece.”

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