Are the Yankees working the count less?

Mariano Rivera and the two-seam fastball
Gardenhire bemoans pitching change shenanigans

Whenever the offense is struggling, we fans tend to get on the players for every little mistake. Did someone just swing at the first pitch after the last batter walked on four pitches? Terrible! Did someone swing at a fastball at their eyes? Awful! Are they swinging early in the count? Unforgivable! It’s a product of frustration, both our own and the players’. They’re trying to do too much while we’re expecting too much.

It’s no secret that the Yankees build their lineups around players that will foul off tough pitches to hit, won’t expand the zone, and generally just work the count to make the pitcher as miserable as possible. During their recent schneid it’s seemed like the team had gotten away from that, but is it true? Have the Yankees been working the count less over the last two weeks or so? Let’s look…

The blue dots are the team’s pitches seen per plate appearances for that individual game, the pink is the cumulative total for the season. Remember to click for a larger view.

Just looking at the graph, you can see that lately the Yanks haven’t seen as many pitches as we’ve become accustomed to, and their overall pitches per plate appearance mark has suffered in recent weeks. It’s pretty amazing how the slide coincides exactly with Curtis Granderson‘s injury, but I suspect that’s no accident. By no means are we talking about a drastic change here, but it’s a very real change nonetheless.

During this streak of ten losses in 17 games, the Yanks have seen 3.88 P/PA, which is just above the 3.86 league average. In their first 29 games prior to this little skid, the Yanks had seen 3.96 P/PA. They’ve had seven individual games below the league average during this recent slide, but just eight before that. Even worse, there’s been six instances in which they’ve seen fewer than 3.65 P/PA during the last 17 games compared just three in the first 29 games. Clearly, the team isn’t working the count like they usually do.

Thankfully, it appears that most of this can be attributed to injuries. Granderson (4.08 P/PA career), Nick Johnson (4.26), and Jorge Posada (3.88) are all currently on the disabled list and have been for quite some time, and let’s not forget that Nick Swisher (4.25) also missed a few games with a biceps injury. Replace them with Marcus Thames (3.91), Randy Winn (3.68), Frankie Cervelli (3.42) and various up-and-down minor leaguers, and that’s going to put a big dent in the team’s usually disciplined approach.

Despite a pair of wins yesterday, the Yankees’ offense is struggling, and it’s because of the combination of missing injured players and the lack of production from those who are healthy (I’m looking at you, Mark Teixeira). They’re not grinding away at-bats like they usually do, but help is on the way. Granderson will play his final rehab game tonight and is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow, and Tex won’t do a Jeff Francoeur impression all season long. For now, the pitching has to pick up some of the slack, and overall a little extra patience offensively wouldn’t hurt.

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Mariano Rivera and the two-seam fastball
Gardenhire bemoans pitching change shenanigans
  • A.D.

    Should also be noted that Jeter & Swish are down this year:

    Swish 09: 4.27
    Swish 10: 4.07

    Jeter 09: 3.84
    Jeter 10: 3.51

    Can’t complain with Swisher’s results so far, while his walk rate is down, OPS is up. However Jeter hasn’t been walking & his OPS is down

  • larryf

    Gritsky takes plenty…

    • Pete

      which, as you can clearly see from the graph, doesn’t negate the lack of pitch-taking from the rest of the team.

    • poster

      Your point?

  • Jerkface

    You should be looking at the number of times a yankee swings early in the count and fouls it off or puts it in play. I’ve noticed Tex and A-rod getting themselves down 1-2 pretty quick. Might be looking for something juicy early in the count, thinking they need to damage something.

  • PaulF

    So happy Granderson is coming back. He’ll make the lineup look way better.

  • steve (do)

    5 of these games were against the twins, who are notorious for throwing strikes. Could be a conscious change of approach to swing earlier since you are unlikely to walk. Could be at least a partial explanation. Good article.

    • jim p

      Seems to me a lot of the pitchers they’ve faced lately are the kind known to throw strikes. See Santana for example. So the hitters can’t be waiting around so much.

      And Tex needs to think line-drive more than homerun. He looked good on his swings last night, so I’m hoping that stays with him.

  • vin

    Very interesting. I also think its important to note that over the past 24 games since Curtis went down they’ve played some good teams – with presumably good pitchers. By my count, the average Winning Percentage of their opponents is .527 over this span. Not spectacular, but very respectable.

    Not sure how to research it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if pitchers perform better in May than April. I would think as they get away from ST, they’re going to feel more comfortable throwing all their pitches and their velocity should also improve.

    In the past 24 games, the Yanks have faced:
    Danks
    Beurhle
    Matusz
    Beckett (x2)
    Lester
    Porcello
    Verlander
    Liriano (x2)
    Shields
    Pelfrey
    Santana

    That’s 12 starts by each team’s 1st or 2nd best starter.

    Another point (still rambling)… among the 6 AL teams with the highest amount of walks, they’ve only faced the Red Sox. They haven’t faced Cleveland, LAA, KC, Texas, Toronto during this stretch (or all season for 3 of the teams).

  • Mister Delaware

    Yanks are actually up a bit over last year. 3.93 current (trending downward, as noted) versus 3.89 last year. Actually rank one spot higher.

    (I’d be interested to see the charts for the games under 3.65. Its possible smart pitchers have realized that littering the zone early on is a better risk than nibbling and risking falling behind.)

  • Buffalo Fil

    Hey stat whizzes, let’s get some standard deviations up there on the graph. It is really easy to do with Excel. Then we can think about statistical significance.