On Monday we looked at how Yankees hitters fared against ground ball pitchers. In 187.1 innings, the Yankees’ offense hit ground ball pitchers hard, scoring 4.80 runs per nine innings. The sample included the top 13 ground ball pitchers in the AL, of which the Yankees faced 12. There are a few problems with this analysis, including the small samples against individual pitchers, and that many of the pitchers on the list can be defined by more than just their ground ball tendencies. Still, I’d like to get through one-dimensional pitcher types, then plot them and see how the Yankees fare against, say, ground ball pitchers with low walk rates.
Continuing the series, today we’ll look at how the Yankees fared against the top fly ball pitchers in the American League. Since the AL pitcher with the 10th highest fly ball rate, Jeff Niemann, sits at just around 40 percent, and since A.J. Burnett ranks 11th, we’ll go with the top 10 this time. These pitchers include, in descending order: Jered Weaver, Scott Baker, Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Verlander, Jarrod Washburn, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, John Danks, Zack Greinke, and Niemann. Reluctantly, I’ll include Kevin Millwood, since the Yankees did not face Greinke, and also because Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia rank 13th and 14th.
The initial problem with this analysis is evident by looking at the FB% column. There’s an over three percent drop-off between Weaver and Baker, and a nearly four percent drop between Weaver and Guthrie. Further, there’s a nearly 12 percent difference between Nos. 1 and 10. And then there’s the sample size issue, but we’ve already noted that.
Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson both murdered the Yankees in a similar number of innings. I wonder if this is an effect of them pitching in the same series, perhaps catching the Yankees hitters in similar trends. Both had good seasons, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that they pitched well against the Yankees. In Jackson’s case, however, we see more extra base hits than singles. That seems curious, and I think it might be a little luck-involved. True to that, Jackson posted a .194 BABIP agains the Yanks.
Niemann presents another odd case. The Yankees sent 70 men to the plate against him and put 26 of them on base, a .371 OBP. They also swiped four bases and got caught only once. Yet just five of those 26 base runners came around to score, 19 percent. Overall, 769 batters faced Niemann this season and he allowed 253 of them to reach base, a .329 OBP. Yet 84 of those 253 came around to score, 33 percent. Again, it seems like Niemann got lucky with men on base against the Yankees.
Against Weaver it appears the Yankees got lucky, since his 6.05 RA against the Yankees sits far above 3.75 ERA (and, for equal comparison, 3.88 overall RA). He allowed 26 of 81 batters to reach base, an OBP of .321 (though B-R for some reason has it at .325). Of those 26 baserunners, 13 came around to score, 50 percent. Overall he allowed 266 of 822 baserunners to reach, a .302 OBP, and allowed 91 of them to score, 34 percent. The Yankees did have the top offense in baseball, which can account for this. But to score 50 percent of your base runners seems a bit high, especially when the pitcher — and a good pitcher at that — usually allows 34 percent to score.
(Oddly enough, Weaver held the Yankees to a .226 BABIP, against his .281 season-long total.)
Now that I’m getting more into this data, I’m more interested in the breakdowns than how the Yankees actually scored against these guys. It shows that it’s tough to find correlation in small samples, of course, but it also has led me to break down some of these guys further.
As for the fly ball stuff, the Yankees performed worse against the top fly ball pitchers than the top ground ball pitchers, though in about 40 fewer innings. Surprisingly, they hit more home runs against ground ball pitchers, 1.63 per nine innings, than against fly ballers, 1.36 per nine. Against ground ball pitchers they put 204 men on base and brought them around to score 100 times, or 49 percent. Against fly ball pitchers they put 153 men on base and scored 68 of them, or 44 percent.
Next up, we’ll look at the best strikeout artists in the league. Apologies again to Zack Greinke for his omission.