We’ve heard a lot about “Too many home runs!” and other problems with the Yankee hitting so far this season. The Yankees have scored 77 runs in 14 games, which ranks us 5th in the AL, although it should be noted that we’ve got 1 game in hand over all the teams who have scored more runs. If they scored 5 runs in their make-up game in hand, the Yankees would be #1.
Here is how they got there:
You already know that the Yankees have scored a ton of runs on the home run this season. They lead the league by a mile in slugging at .490, although their batting average and on base percentage are middle-of-the-pack. Add it all up, and you’ve got the #1 OPS+ in the league at 125. I put Yankee ERA and ERA+ rates in there to compare to. All the other statistics are for hitters.
Yankee hitters are getting to their batting line in an odd combination of ways. They are struggling to hit line drives and fly balls, but when they do hit fly balls, 20% of them go out of the park. They are hitting a high number of ground balls, but have a very poor BABIP. They’re taking an above-average rate of walks and very rarely striking out.
This explains what we’ve all been watching: the Yankees hitters seem impotent when not hitting a home run. That impotence is a function of both bad luck and bad inputs. The Yankees are making contact, controlling the strike zone and seeing a lot of pitches per plate appearances. However, when they do make contact, they are not putting themselves in a good position. They are hitting too many balls on the ground, and not enough in the air.
The good news it that they can expect far more balls to find holes for hits than they have been seeing so far. The bad news is that they’ve been extremely lucky with home run rates at the same time. The high HR/FB rate is eventually going to come down to earth, and when it does the Yankees better be hitting a lot fewer ground balls. However, even if they keep doing what they are doing, the Yankees should see their team BABIP, BA and OBP% rise, as their high contact rate combines with better luck to produce an above-average offense, even if it has its problems.
Of course, the Yankees can’t survive with an above-average offense. With their team ERA+ of 92, the Yankees are going to need a slam-dunk offense to win the AL East. That involves more fly balls, more line drives, and a continuance of their current trends in K% and BB%. We all know what individuals we need to point to for this to happen. But I think its worth looking into on a team-scale on an off day like today.
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