5:55PM: Speaking to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter links) and other reporters, Cashman said that he hopes to have the new hitting coach in place when the Yankees begin their second-half schedule on Friday. Cashman also said that the new hitting coach will come from outside the organization. Dykes and Wilkerson will remain with the team in assistant hitting coach roles.
5:14PM: With the Yankees lineup continuing to struggle, the team has announced it has parted ways with hitting coach Dillson Lawson. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link) first reported the move, and the Yankees confirmed Lawson’s departure in a press release. Yankees GM Brian Cashman explained the reasoning behind the decision in the release:
“It has been well documented that I have been reluctant in the past to make changes to our coaching staff in the middle of a season. I am a big believer that successes and failures are collective efforts. However, I ultimately felt that a change was needed and that a new voice overseeing our hitting operations would give us the best chance to perform closer to our capabilities as we move forward into the second half of our season.
I want thank Dillon for all his efforts. He has a bright baseball mind that will continue to lead to a long and fruitful baseball career.”
As Cashman noted, in-season coaching changes aren’t his preference, and this indeed marks the first time since Cashman became GM in 1998 that the Yankees have fired a coach during a season. Since there was no word on the status of assistant hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brad Wilkerson, it would appear that both men will remain with the team, and either could be a candidate to take over the lead hitting coach role on at least an interim basis. The Athletic’s Brendan Kuty reports that the Yankees have two finalists in mind for the job, and Lawson’s replacement could be known as early as tomorrow.
Though New York enters the break with a respectable 49-42 record, it is fair to say that the pitching (particularly a quietly outstanding bullpen) has carried the team. The Yankees are near the bottom of the league in average and OBP, and are around the middle of the pack in home runs, slugging percentage, and wRC+. While the club is still hitting lots of home runs, the one-dimensional approach isn’t leading to much offense overall, and the Yankees’ lack of hitting has become even more glaring in the month-plus that Aaron Judge has been on the injured list.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted in a piece yesterday, the Yankees’ reliance on Judge extended back to 2022, when the AL MVP’s season for the ages helped mask the fact that the rest of New York’s lineup generally underperformed. Blaming these struggles entirely on Lawson isn’t fair, of course, as Sherman notes that several veteran bats aren’t producing, and questions can be asked about Cashman’s decision to rely on these veterans rather than further bolster the roster with other position players. As well, the Yankees’ offense was already showing some inconsistency even prior to Lawson’s hiring in the 2021-22 offseason.
With this in mind, a new hitting coach shouldn’t be expected to instantly revive the Yankees’ batters, especially with Judge’s recovery timeline still so uncertain. Still, the timing of Lawson’s firing and the fact that it was made at all clearly indicates some extra pressure in the Bronx to get the season back on track. The Yankees are currently outside the playoff picture, sitting a game behind the Blue Jays for the last AL wild card spot and eight games behind the Rays for first place in the AL East. The Rays’ recent struggles have slightly kept the Jays, Yankees, and last-place Red Sox within striking distance in this loaded division, though it might be hard for any of these teams to really catch up to Tampa or the second-place Orioles, making a wild card perhaps the likeliest route to the postseason.
Lawson worked as the Yankees’ minor league hitting coordinator from 2019-21 before his promotion to lead hitting coach. The 38-year-old previously worked as a hitting coach in the Astros’ farm system, and he has a long history of coaching in the collegiate ranks.