The Unlucky OffenseBy
The Yankees have the best offense in the league (and second best in all of baseball) thanks to a .352 wOBA, but they’ve actually been pretty unlucky through the first 27 games of the season. Their .272 BABIP is well below the ~.300 league average, so they’ve been robbed of some hits along the way. Of course it’s not that simple, they’ve hit a lot of homeruns and those don’t count as balls in play (since the fielder doesn’t have a chance to make a play on them), but we can find out just how unlucky the offense has been using xBABIP, or expected BABIP. I’ve introduced you to xBABIP before.
The table above shows the team’s actual performance as well as expected performance using xBABIP. I calculated the same for some other situations, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Right now the Yankees have a .321 xBABIP, 49 points higher than the actual number. They’ve managed to lose 43 hits somewhere along the way, and if we assume all 43 are singles, their team wOBA would jump from .355 to .392. That’s pretty nuts.
Now about those homers. The Yankees lead the league in homerun-to-fly ball ratio at 17.4%, far ahead of second place Texas (just 11.4%). That’s not a sustainable pace, even in Yankee Stadium with a lineup built to hit the ball out of the park. The other 13 teams in the AL have an 8.4% HR/FB, and the second row of numbers in the table assumes the Yankees were hitting homers at that pace instead of their current one. They’d lose 19 (!!!) homers if they were hitting them at the league average pace, which is just insane. It’s almost half their season total. They would lose 17 homers if they hit them at 9.1% HR/FB rate of the other 29 MLB teams. Either way, they’re still missing over 40-something hits according to xBABIP, even adjusting for the extra homers.
Of course the Yankees aren’t an average team; their ballpark is conducive to homers as is their regular lineup. Using last year’s pace of 12.1% HR/FB, they’d lose just 11 homers overall. That’s still a ton, just not as much as before. I also ran the numbers assuming that the nine Just Enough homers they’ve hit this year according to Hit Tracker were outs (a Just Enough homer is one that clears the fence by less than ten feet). Those numbers come eerily close to the numbers generated using last year’s HR/FB%. So maybe the difference between this year and last year is just some homerun luck. Maybe the weather has helped so far, maybe playing so many home games did the trick. It’s probably both, plus other factors.
Two things to note: First, all those homeruns that disappeared in each data set? They don’t automatically become outs. Fly balls have a .223 BABIP this year, so in each situation they would have lost 10+ homers but gained about four (theoretical) singles. It’s not much, but it changes the BABIP and xBABIP numbers slightly. Secondly, ten homeruns have come on line drives this year, and those stay put. Our sample of fly ball homers is 36, that’s the number that has been changed.
Now that you’re sufficiently confused, all you need to know is that the Yankees have been screwed out of 40 base hits this year. Don’t ask me how, but based on their batted ball tendencies, they should have a much higher BABIP than what they do now. Even adjusting for the absurd homerun rate, they’re still missing a ton of hits. Regressing to the expected results isn’t a given for an individual player, but at a team level, when you’re talking thousands of plate appearances and balls in play over the course of a season, it’s almost inevitable. The Yankees’ offense has been really good so far, but it should have been better. That’s good news for us and the Yankees, bad news for everyone else.