Jun
29

Yanks win, but don’t hit much, in interleague

By

Batting average might not be the most useful analytical statistic, but that doesn’t render it useless. Instead, like OBP and FIP, it tells us one thing, namely how frequently the team records a base hit or home run. Like OBP, this is a binary statistic. Either the player recorded a hit or he didn’t. The denominator might present problems, but the stat still serves its purpose. To their credit the Yankees have a high team batting average, .275, fourth in the majors (and fourth in the AL). A few weeks ago, however, they were a bit higher on the list. Interleague play has bumped them down a bit.

Even so, interleague play went pretty well for the Yankees. They lost only one series, but they swept one as well. With their win over the Dodgers on Sunday they finished their NL tour with two wins in every three games, which is a bit better than their overall season win percentage. Yet, again, they did it while lowering their team batting average. The key to winning in the NL, it appears, was the team’s ability to not just hit the ball, but hit the ball hard. The Yankees certainly crushed the ball during the past few weeks.

(Just to be clear, I’m counting the first Mets series in the pre-interleague stats because it would be a pain to subtract that one too.)

Before their game on June 11 against the Astros, the Yankees as a team hit .282. During their 15-game interleague romp that fell all the way to .249. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since the Yanks had trouble putting men on base in the last two games of the Phillies series, and really even into the Mets series. The team slugging predictably fell, from .452 to .410, but more importantly that also represented a drop in ISO, from .170 to .161. So not only did the Yankees hit the ball less frequently during interleague play, but they also did not hit for as much power.

The Yankees also didn’t get on base at nearly the clip they had achieved earlier in the season. From Opening Day through June 10 the team had a .364 OBP, but from June 11 through last Sunday they were at just a .337 mark. So what, then, did the Yankees do well during interleague? Pitch, of course. They also hit home runs a bit more frequently, once every 30 PA, against one every 33.87 PA earlier in the season. That might not seem like a huge change, but for two players it was.

The core of the lineup, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, started blasting the ball when facing NL opponents. To start the season Teixeira hit a home run every 30.68 plate appearances. During interleague he hit one every 16.75 PA. A-Rod showed even more improvement, hitting one every 31.86 PA before, and one every 15.67 during the NL stretch. Both of these are close to their career marks. A-Rod has hit a home run ever 16.69 plate appearances in his career, while Teixeira has hit one every 19.53 PA.

Clearly, A-Rod and Teixeira are among the heroes of interleague. Teixeira hit .246/.358/.474 overall, meaning he’s showing power and patience but still not the ability to find the open field consistently. (He would have hit .280/.388/.509 with just two more singles.) A-Rod similarly hit for a poor BA but made up for it otherwise, hitting .256/.362/.563 in his 47 interleague PA. Robinson Cano also hit well, though not like his overall season, at .293/.369/.500 in interleague. Brett Gardner was the beastliest of them all, hitting .349/.440/.395. Jorge Posada, too, crushed the ball, .268/.373/.512.

The laggards? They include Nick Swisher (.233/.288/.350), Derek Jeter (.241/.343/.379 — though we’ll forgive him because he walked in 13.4 percent of his PA), Curtis Granderson (.200/.267/.400), and Frankie Cervelli (.267/.290/.400). It’s not that they performed excruciatingly poorly — nearly half of Granderson’s hits went for extra bases, Swisher’s 14 hits ranked third on the team in that span, and Cervelli did hit for some power — but rather it’s just the random fluctuations of baseball. Some guys will hit well and some guys will hit poorly. The Yankees just happen to get their best performances from their best players, Jeter notwithstanding. That’s certainly a positive.

What we’re looking for with the return to the AL is for the offense to all fire at once. If Teixeira’s and A-Rod’s recent performances are indicative of their return to form, the offense could become something special. We might not see it immediately — the Yankees do, after all, face Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez in the next two games — but by the All-Star break we could see what this offense can really do. I said it before the season and I’ll say it again: this offense has the potential to be better than last year’s. With a few breaks we just might see it in action soon.

Categories : Offense

85 Comments»

  1. Don says:

    The Yankees actually lost two series – the first series at Citi Field (Mets) and the home series against the Phillies.

  2. vin says:

    I wonder how much the numbers are dragged down by replacing the DH with the pitcher’s spot in 9 games?

    If they can get Tex and Alex going, then this team will go on a tear much like the one they had after the ASB last year.

  3. kimonizer says:

    Shouldn’t most of this just come down simply to the fact that we were batting a pitcher for all the away games. That would have an obvious impact on the aggregate team stats. I wonder what the team stats would have been if you subtract the pitcher’s spot?

  4. Bret says:

    Your last paragraph is typical homerism and ignores some obvious things like the guys in the lineup who are overperforming.

    If Robinson Cano ends the year with a 1.000 OPS or higher while walking fewer than 50 times as he is currently on pace to do, I will buy everyone here beers. I’m pretty sure that has never happened in baseball history. This is a guy with a career OPS of .836 who is suddenly Barry Bonds without the walks? And you see no regression?

    I realize batting average isn’t a great stat but Swisher is hitting 40 points above his career average which is in turn inflating his OPS. Brett Gardner is currently 50 points above his career OPS in THE MINOR LEAGUES. Posada is 20 points above his career OPS and is 39 years old in six weeks.

    Plus, Arod is not having that bad of a year, if you expect him to repeat 2007 you better get BALCO on the phone. Tex is not enough to make up for those other one way aberrations.

    • Dirty Pena says:

      Bret 1, Straw Man 0.

      First of all, nowhere does it say Robinson Cano won’t regress. Of course he’ll regress.

      Jeter AND Teixeira AND Granderson AND (yes) A-Rod are all underperforming. A-Rod is having his worst season since 1997.

    • If Robinson Cano ends the year with a 1.000 OPS or higher while walking fewer than 50 times as he is currently on pace to do, I will buy everyone here beers. I’m pretty sure that has never happened in baseball history.

      It’s happened six times during the Expansion Era.

      Andres Gallaraga and Juan Gonzalez in 1993, Fred McGriff in 1994, Mike Piazza in 1995, and Juan Gonzalez again in 1996.

      If they did it, Robbie Cano can do it.

      • (Oh, and it’s happened a whole shitload of other times pre-expansion era, but I was trying to be nice.)

      • Angelo says:

        To be fair, all of them took steroids!

      • Bret says:

        1994 was strike shortened. Mike Piazza played in only 109 games when he did it. Juan G played in 140 games in 1993, only 134 in 1996, Andres G only played 120 games in 1993. No one has done it post-expansion in a full season and Juan G hit 47 and 46 homers, which Cano won’t do and Andres G hit .370 which is very unlikely for Cano as well.

        The Yankees need a bat and if they are willing to give up Vizcaino for 1 year of Javy Vazquez sucking they should be willing to give up a good prospect for Dunn. It seems like a no brainer to me given the obvious need and the organization philosophy.

        • Dirty Pena says:

          If Cano is going with a 1.000 OPS through 140 games, I frankly don’t give a shit how his last 10 or so games turn out. Also, “Andres G” and his batting average have no connection to the point you’re trying to make.

          • Bret says:

            Also, McGriff had 50 walks in 1994 even though it was strike shortened (and he only played in 113 games) so facts are off on that one. He would have had 70-80 walks in a full year.

        • Angelo says:

          You can’t be serious?

          The Yankees need another big bat? Really?

          Cano isn’t going to fall off the face of the Earth, even if he does decline. The Yankees also have Tex and Alex, along with Granderson and Swisher. In a 162 game schedule all of these players are above average power hitters.

          You talk about homerism, but you’re the exact opposite of that when it comes to the Yankees.

          • Dirty Pena says:

            Also: coming to a Yankees blog and complaining the writer is too slanted towards the Yankees is like walking into a strip club and complaining the girls don’t have enough clothing on.

        • JGS says:

          Usually, “full season” is defined as “qualifying for rate stats”, meaning having at least 3.1 PAs per team game, or 503 for a full season.

          • Bret says:

            Right but Cano is going to walk fewer than 50 times and play in every game. That is different than a guy walking fewer than 50 and only playing in 140.

            Plus, as someone mentioned earlier, the steroids totally distort things. 46 HR in 140 games will never be approached again in history. It is like comparing how fast a greyhound living now is to a dinosaur.

            • Angelo says:

              That’s irrational in itself. And I’m the one that said it. Partially joking because their is obvious truth to it. But it’s not impossible to believe that a player can do that.

              Unlikely > never

            • It is like comparing how fast a greyhound living now is to a dinosaur.

              That’s quite possibly the oddest analogy I’ve ever heard.

            • JGS says:

              Right but Cano is going to walk fewer than 50 times and play in every game

              You know that? He has 22 walks in 75 games, which is awfully close to a 50 pace. He won’t walk much more than 50, but it’s not crazy to think he might get there.

              46 HR in 140 games will never be approached again in history

              Roger Maris had 55 through 140 games (that’s games he played in. He had 54 through the team’s first 140). It’s happened before, it will happen again.

              • Let’s sum this entire conversation up:

                Bret: A 1.000 OPS with under 50 walks is impossible, it’s never happened.
                Me: It’s happened a 5 times in the past 20 years.
                Bret: Sure, but none of those were true, real, legitimate instances of that happening.

                Logic FAIL.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_scotsman

                • JGS says:

                  Apparently even catchers have to play every game of the season for their stats to mean anything.

                • Bret says:

                  First of all, 5 times in the last 18 years does not really make your case. Secondly, you included a strike shortened year and still got the data wrong. And finally, in the 5 cases you mentioned that were legit the players did not play more than 120 games which is 3/4 of a season except for Juan Gone who has been proven to have taken steroids and who is far ahead of Cano’s current home run pace. In a long season, it is impossible to make that work.

                  I think Cano’s final line for 2010 will be an OPS below .900. I just want to make that clear now so I can remind you of it at year end.

                    • Bret says:

                      I’m not throwing out completely what you provided. However, I said fewer than 50 walks and McGriff had 50 walks in 113 games so that is excluded not by me but by incorrect statistical data provided by you.

                      The other 4 all have flaws with them when you try to equate them to Cano.

                      1. Cano is going to play in 150 games minimum
                      2. Cano isn’t on steroids
                      3. Cano isn’t going to hit 46-47 homers which is how Juan Gone achieved it.

                      And even if I give you full credit on all 4, 4 times in 18 years by every player to have played during that time is unbelievably rare. And when you consider no one has been able to do it clean for more than 120 games in a season you see just how impossible it is for him to maintain.

        • Mike HC says:

          The good thing is, we only have to be better than our competition. And while I agree that I would like to have a healthy, hitting DH, it is not a necessity unless Cashman can get the right deal (and I’m sure he always has his ear to the ground). This offense is still ridiculous without an everyday DH.

        • The Yankees need a bat and if they are willing to give up Vizcaino for 1 year of Javy Vazquez sucking they should be willing to give up a good prospect for Dunn. It seems like a no brainer to me given the obvious need and the organization philosophy.

          A.) Javy Vazquez doesn’t suck.
          B.) Adam Dunn isn’t available.

    • bexarama says:

      Do you even… like… like the Yankees?

      • bexarama says:

        For clarification’s sake, of course you can criticize the team and still be a Yankee fan. That said, Bret, I’ve never seen you say one positive thing about players on the team or the organization as a whole. So I just have to wonder.

        • Mike HC says:

          Oh, he is clearly not a Yankee fan. Which is fine, in my opinion if fans of other teams comment. As long as they do it in a rational way, which I think Bret has done more or less.

          • bexarama says:

            Eh… not really. See what tsjc just said about assuming that everything bad will continue being bad forever, and everything good will stop being good. I don’t think that’s too rational.

            Funnily enough, I think he *is* a Yankee fan, because only (some) Yankee fans can really think like this about their team.

            • Mike HC says:

              As opposed to how “we” think for the most part, which is everything bad will turn around (Javy, Teix, AJ) and everything good is the real deal (Cano, Swish, Hughes, Pettitte)

              I just see it as a different viewpoint which I disagree with.

              • bexarama says:

                Nah, not really. I think people expect at least some regression from what’s been awesome so far this season.

                I think most people expect Hughes to struggle eventually, and he has throughout a few starts, though of course there’s a lot of optimism about the future and such. I keep fearing Pettitte’s regression like no other. Swisher probably can’t keep his BA up, but he didn’t have a sparkling BA last year and he was still an extremely productive player.

                Do I know if Cano will have a 1.000 OPS? No, but I can very easily see him staying well above .900 and maybe even winning the MVP, certainly getting votes. I don’t see how that’s outrageous; he’s a very good player who’s in his prime.

                • That.

                  I think Cano will cool off and regress, and not end up OPSing 1.000 on the year. If I’m wrong and he does, though, it wouldn’t surprise me. He’s that good, and hot streaks can last an entire season.

                • Mike HC says:

                  I really don’t want to defend the guy, because I do disagree with him, but it is not like he claimed everything is going to blow up. Just that guys will start reverting to career averages and older guys are on the decline. It is really not that far out there.

                  Agree to disagree I guess.

                  • I Voted for Kodos says:

                    The problem is that he seems to be pointing out all the negative regressions to the mean while ignoring all the positive regressions to the mean. There’s nothing he’s saying that’s really all that unreasonable, but it’s an extremely pessimistic viewpoint, and I think that’s what most are taking issue with.

    • Mike HC says:

      And you know what the great thing is. Even if everything happens as you say it, this offense will still be one of the best, if not the best in the league.

      It feels great to be a Yankee fan. You should try it.

    • JGS says:

      What’s wrong with homerism? This is a Yankees blog by and for Yankee fans. Nothing wrong with optimism as long as it’s not absurd

    • Are you one of those fake Yankee fans who rooted for the Mets in the 1980s and thinks the team is one bad week away from collapse? It sure sounds like it from me.

    • Pete says:

      the yankees are good

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