Is the Yankees’ homer problem really a problem?

The Jesus Montero Stock Rollercoaster
The RAB Radio Show: April 12, 2011
No, Russell! Not a homer! (Elise Amendola/AP)

The way I’ve seen fans and media tell it, the Yankees are killing themselves by hitting too many home runs. That is, too often they’ve done the best thing any batter can do at the plate. There are, in fact, not one, but two articles in the Daily News this morning (by Mark Feinsand and Christian Red) lamenting this very woe.

That all sounds very silly. The Yankees have hit a lot of home runs this year, and it has led to one of the top offenses in the league. Yet, for some reason, the preponderance of home runs is a bad thing. I suppose that’s because they’re not going to maintain their current pace, which is for 324 home runs. When the home runs stop flowing, the logic goes, the Yankees will face trouble scoring runs. Yet this blatantly ignores what we’ve all learned from years of watching baseball.

The team you see on the field will change in the course of the next few months. The players might remain the same, though there’s a good chance we’ll see changes there, too. But the manner in which the team plays will always be changing. As they say, the team they field in April isn’t the same as the team they’ll field in July. That’s because hitters go through fits and starts, peaks and valleys, slumps and streaks. Yes, their home run pace will slacken. But the concern over the team seems to ignore that other aspects will get better.

For an illustration of this point, we can turn to SG of Replacement Level, who looked at the Yankees’ BABIP and xBABIP to this point. Unsurprisingly, the actual team BABIP, .243, is considerably lower than what one would expect given the team’s batted ball profiles. Their xBABIP sits at .322. So while the home runs trend downward, the Yankees’ other hits will trend upward. Then they’ll start scoring runs with singles and doubles in addition to the homers.

We don’t even need to delve into advanced statistics to prove this point. To be worried that the Yankees rely too much on the homer is to worry that Curtis Granderson will OBP .250 on the season, that Nick Swisher will continue hitting .219/.289/.250, that Mark Teixeira won’t heat up as the weather does, that Brett Gardner had the flukiest of fluky years in 2010, that Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter are completely cooked. Maybe one of those things is true, but I even doubt that. Streaks and slumps happen. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the season they’re a bit more noticeable and too much ends up being made of them.

This type of thing happens every year. At some point people say that the Yankees don’t do this, or the Yankees don’t do that. Maybe it’s true for that moment in time. But as the season progresses the team changes. Players who slump early start to streak. Guys who hit a ton of homers might cool down, but that doesn’t mean they become unproductive. It’s just that some of those homers stay in the park — which means some go for doubles instead. The Yankees offense as a whole, though, will be just fine. To think otherwise is to ignore years of experience watching a 162-game season unfold.

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The Jesus Montero Stock Rollercoaster
The RAB Radio Show: April 12, 2011
  • YankeesJunkie

    Very nice article. Also, so what if the Yankees score more runs off homers it does not affect their BABIP is the long run.

    Referring back to the RLYW article is that even Jeter had been hitting up to xBABIP his season thus far has been pretty terrible either way you slice it.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      In fact, their high homer rate probably deflates their BABIP a bit. If some of those homers hadn’t cleared the fence, they probably would have been doubles (rather than flyouts) at a rate higher than the current BABIP rate.

      (No, I have no way of proving this.)

  • Gary Walsh

    We have to stop our guys from trying to hit too many homers or it will forever damage their RBI skills.

    /Eric Karros’d

  • ADam

    Why’d you guys take down the D-Rob dry hump counter??? That was hilarious….

    • Sayid J.

      Off topic and people complained because kids read RAB and it was a little inappropriate

  • Monteroisdinero

    Homers were a problem Sunday night. Fortunately, less than 24 hours later the Rays made up for it and DOTF did too.

    One of the many reasons I love baseball.

  • The209

    All April analysis should be filed under “whimsy.”

  • China Joe

    If the Yankees were hitting a buttload of triples, would people still be complaining?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Yes.

      • CS Yankee

        All wheels but no torque.

  • Big Apple

    as long as they win, i don’t care if they scored all of their runs by advancing on catcher’s interference.

    • YankeesJunkie

      I am trying to decide if this game would be tremendously hiliriaous or a disgrace to baseball.

      • Big Apple

        i say hilarious…scoring on defensive indifference woudl be an utter disgrace!

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        It would be a tremendously hilarious disgrace to baseball.

  • KeithK

    The amount of HRs isn’t the problem. The overall lack of hits and reaching base is. Or would be if it persists.

  • BavarianYankee

    OMG we’re hitting to many homers!!! Where’s Ramiro Pena when u need him?

    • FachoinaNYY

      He actually homered in AAA – so clearly he isn’t an option either!

  • nsalem

    I read both News articles (which I don’t often do) and didn’t think either writer was lamenting the slow start by Yankee hitters. I thought that they were more or less suggesting the truth about it (that their perceived slow offensive start is more or less a non-statistic)and not suggesting it was a problem.

  • Zack

    I think the problem is that the Yankee are trying too much long ball and pitchers are adjusting to that.
    Look at last week’s game where we lost to the Twins. The pitcher simply adjusted his pitches and the Yankee batters didn’t bother to try and adjust to it.

    • Big Apple

      tis true..pitchers will make adjustments. Dice K made the adjustments last night b/c he felt really bad about the Rays dismal offensive output up until that game.

      every now and then a pitcher will throw a very good game….and sometimes the yankee pitchers do that as well. it’s one game (two with beckett) and it happens.

  • Cuso

    The Yankee homer “problem” is only a “problem” if Jeter continues to hit to a .233 average and Gardner continues on a pace for .125 this year.

    Then and only then will the Yankee homer thing be a problem. Because eventually you get to a point where you NEED to manufacture runs.

    And without table-setters, yeah, eventually it will be a problem.

    In April? Uhhhh, no.

  • Big Apple

    is this problem a bigger problem than the Sox have where they can’t hit with RISP? The sox are squandering opportunities left and right and they can not come up with a big hit when needed.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      #unclutch

      • CS Yankee

        Grit savers?

    • Ted Nelson

      The Red Sox problem is bigger in that they are 2-8 while the Yankees are 5-4, but going forward I’m also not sure if that’s much of a problem or a small sample glitch… Is hitting with RISP really a skill at all? If it is did a bunch of Red Sox lose it from 2010 to 2011?

  • Owen

    Tim McCarver is struggling to understand this post.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Tim McCarver is struggling to understand this post this complex maze on the back of his IHOP placemat.

      Fixed.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Rainout tonight?

    No homers? (to stay on topic)

  • JerseyDutch

    Homers are rally killers anyway.

  • Ted Nelson

    Strong analysis

  • Matt

    Too much power is not a problem.

    Too little OBP is a problem.

  • gargoyle

    Rule #1 of baseball journalism – Everything the Yankees do is wrong or bad.

  • luckiBelle

    Aaaaand we have a winner! See ya!