Are the Yanks trying to hit fly balls?By
One thing that’s become apparent over the course of this season: the Yanks are built for their home ballpark. Among their nine regulars they have just two righties. The rest are lefties or switch-hitters. Since the majority of pitchers are righties, that means the Yankees bat from the left side of the plate more often than not, which gives them a nice, short shot at the right field fence. This has led Pat Andriola of The Hardball Times to wonder whether the Yanks hitters are trying to put the ball in the air. Unsurprisingly, some players are experiencing the highest flyball rates of their careers: Mark Teixeira, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada, while Hideki Matsui is in the midst of his second highest rate season.
Is that necessarily good, though? Sure, Tex is just three homers behind his total from 2008 and is at his total from 2007, but it has come at a cost. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls, which has led Teixeira’s BABIP to fall to .289, the lowest of his career. Ditto his line drive rate, at 16.6 percent, and his batting average with runners in scoring position, .268. It’s also led to a high number of infield flies.
Also, Tex’s fly balls aren’t getting out at a greater rate. He has a 17.2 percent home run per fly ball ratio, which is at or below most of his previous years. It would make sense to swing for the fences more if the fly balls were going out at a greater rate, but they’re not. Then again, it’s tough to complain about Tex’s season at all right now. Maybe he’d be better off leveling his swing as in the past, but we just can’t know that. What we do know is that he’s battering the ball at Yankee Stadium.
Strangely, Swisher is not hitting more fly balls this year. In fact, it doesn’t look like he’s tailoring his swing to the new Stadium at all — or if he is, then it’s not working. Hey, maybe that explains his poor home splits. If he’s trying to put the ball over the short porch and is failing, well, that might explain his .206 BA and .323 SLG at home.
It’s an interesting thought, though. Considering how well the Yanks have played at home this season, it would seem to be working, if in fact that’s the case.