The increasingly impatient offense


(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Power and patience. Those two traits have defined the Yankees’ offense for more than two decades now. They work deep counts and force pitchers to throw a ton of pitches, then take advantage by driving the ball all over the field and homers over the fence. It’s brutally effective, but lately the Yankees seem to have gotten away from the patience part. They’re still hitting for a ton of power — second in baseball in homers (61) and fifth in extra-base hits (135) — but the at-bats don’t seem to be as long as usual.

Anecdotally, we’ve seen a whole lotta first pitch swinging of late. Heck, Alex Rodriguez saw a total of six pitches (!) in four trips to the plate just yesterday, so this isn’t completely a case of my mind playing tricks on me. Bronson Arroyo started the eighth inning with a pitch count of just 83 on Friday and a day later Homey Bailey needed 97 pitches to navigate seven innings. When right, the Yankees have the opponent’s pitch count up in the 80s by the fourth or fifth inning, so clearly something has been amiss during this recent offensive slide.

At the moment, the Yankees average 3.83 pitches per plate appearances and that is actually below the league average. Granted, it’s below average by one-hundredth of a pitch per plate appearance, but below average is below average. The Yankees as currently constructed should be far above the league average in terms of seeing pitches. I was floored when I dug this up. It just doesn’t make sense. Worst of all, they’ve been hovering right around the league average all season…

(click to embiggen)

Other than a short climb in late-April and early-May, the Yankees have sat right around the league average in pitches per plate appearance since things stabilized about ten games into the season. That coincides with Brett Gardner‘s injury and he’s obviously a guy that will work counts and see a ton of pitches each time up. One guy isn’t enough to explain the huge difference from what the Yankees have established as the norm. They saw 3.92 pitches per plate appearance in each of the last two seasons and that’s right around where they should be in 2012 even though Jorge Posada has been replaced by Raul Ibanez.

It stands to reason that fewer pitches seen would result in a decline in walk rate, and sure enough…

(click to embiggen)

The Yankees have walked in 9.0% of their plate appearances this season, above the 8.4% league average. That walk rate has steadily declined as the season has progressed, particularly in the last 15-20 games. Last season they had a 9.9% walk rate and the year before it was 10.4%, and that’s right around where they were sitting this year until this ridiculous offensive slump set in about three weeks ago. Obviously hits are better than walks but this isn’t an either/or situation, the Yankees have dominated offensively for years because they’ve done both, hit and walked. Lately they haven’t done much of either.

The run production has been dreadful of late, like throw your remote at the television awful. The Yankees have scored two runs or less in half of their last 20 games and it’s no surprise given some of the at-bats. Maybe they’re pressing, maybe it’s irreversible decline, maybe it’s bad coaching, maybe it’s just small sample size noise, maybe it’s all of that and more. The Yankees have gotten away from being patient and waiting for the pitcher to make mistakes, and although we can’t definitively say it’s the root cause of their offensive problems, it sure seems to be a contributing factor. The sooner they get back to grinding out at-bats (in all situations!), the better.

Categories : Analysis, Offense


  1. Pat D says:

    I’d always get pissed at Bobby Abreu when he would take two strikes in an at bat, especially when they seemed like very hittable pitches.

    Now I’m longing for someone on this team to do so.

    • JohnnyC says:

      How’s Abreu doing these days?

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

        Batting 3rd for the Dodgers last I looked. He’s not doing as well as Melky is batting 3rd for the Giants.

        But it’s the NL West so it doesn’t count…..

      • Pat D says:

        Yea, he’s been completely rejuvenated since the Dodgers picked him up. SSS, of course.

        My point had nothing to do with Abreu’s current production anyway. It was just wishing that these guys would start making the pitchers work again.

        • the Other Steve S. says:

          The problem with Abreu was that he NEVER swung at pitch 1 and everybody knew it. Because of that he was always in an 0-1 hole because the pitchers all grooved strike one. Used to drive me batty.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            He still managed to have a good career…

            • Samuel says:

              Bobby Abreu’s Yankee career when swinging at first pitch:

              33-87, 12 doubles, 4 HRs, 29 RBI. His slash line was .379/.379/.648/1.027 OPS.

              His Yankee numbers after he was down 0-1 in count was an OPS just over .725.

              His Yankee career after he had two strikes was an OPS just over .700.

              Maybe Abreu’s career would have been more productive if he swung at more hittable first pitches, especially with men on base.

          • Jim Is Bored says:

            He also wasn’t always in an 0-1 hole.

          • Randi B says:

            Who cares! Abreu is part of the reason why A-Rod drove in 100+ runs a couple of years ago. Abreu is a walk machine. He always got on base.

            • Samuel says:

              Abreu got on base more often and high a higher SLG when he swung at the first pitch.

              Practically every hitter does.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Someone will do so as Gardner gets off the DL.

      • jim says:

        I said this in a reply a few days ago. Someone take a pitch. Two straight walks, bases loaded, AROD swings and pops up the first pitch. Jeter, Cano, and Swish are in a hurry to leave the stadium. Yesterday, Sabbathis started the seventh with 73 pitches…through the Reds patience, they ended with a run and three straight walks. The pitch count was 118….45 that inning. Runners on, 3-0 count to Grandy, swing and two pitches later…..’he gone’. Congrats to Ibanez for finally…a Yankee….getting something other than a solo blast. Girardi cries about the wind stopping Alex’s blast. it didn’t stop the two Reds shots. When Alex gets fives and applause for his weak RBI grounder to short, well, this is a bad team. The proof being that so much hope is put into Gardner coming back. Maybe defense, but, the big ‘O’? Sabbathia’s last inning went over 35 minutes. The first two Yanks went down on three pitches. I wouldn’t throw Cano and Tex a fastball or anything near the strike zone. You don’t have to. And A-Rod…he won’t hit the big homer numbers anymore, bu8t, something more than 15RBI would be nice. Grandy if the lefty throws a ball that’s heading toward the outside, let it go. Jim Kaat..”If it’s low, let it go.” Again, Long hasn’t gotten anyone out of a slump. Rothschild was hired to fix Burnett…How’d that go? The proof is in the numbers, rising like the Temp. The 1969 Yanks were terrible, but, even they knew to take a pitch, and be patient when your pitcher had a long inning….and there were alot of them.

      • Pat D says:

        Good point.

  2. JohnnyC says:

    The increasingly impatient Yankees batters reflect the increasingly impatient fanbase. It belies Girardi’s even-toned responses to the daily questions about this team.

  3. Robinson Tilapia says:

    It HAS to be too much pressing to me. I know that a perfect storm of regression from some players makes for a beautiful narrative, but how can some guys on this team not press more when reserves seem to be batting 7-8-9 more? I’m hopeful that, with a return to the lineup which was envisioned for this team at the start of the season, the pieces will begin to fall into place. They are not this bad.

  4. Tampa Yankee says:

    To me this is always a “chicken or the egg thing” meaning that teams know the Yankees are patient and like to work pitchers over so the opposing pitcher throws more 1st and 2nd pitch strikes to take advantage of the Yankee hitters patience. The Yankees see this and as a result they start swinging at more first 1st or 2nd pitches because they think the opposing pitcher is going to try and sneak one by them to get a head in the count. Then as the Yankees get more aggressive, opposing pitchers start backing off and throwing more junk to lead off an at-bat and the Yankee hitters back off knowing they are not going to get a good pitch to hit early in the count then the cycle continues.

    So back to my original “chicken or the egg” thing, are the Yankees being more aggressive on their own or are they being forced to swing earlier because teams are going right after them and if they are too patient they are in 0-1 and 0-2 holes all day?

    • JohnnyC says:

      This is something opposing pitchers just figured out? C’mon, pitchers have tried the same strategy for more than a decade. The fact is these guys are not hitting, regardless of what approach the pitcher is taking to them.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        That pitchers didn’t just figure this out doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Without knowing if the Yankees are seeing the same number strikes, there’s really no point in talking about how many pitches they’re seeing.

        • Manny's BanWagon says:

          I highly doubt all of a sudden after all these years, opposing pitchers are suddenly this year throwing the Yankee batters more strikes early in the count than in the past. I think it’s more likely that they’re pressing and expanding the strike zone.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            It’s a tiny sample we’re talking about–two small ~10 game dips early in the season sandwiched between upticks. The whole reason people refer to “small sample size” is that variation is huge in small samples, so they are not reliable as indicators for the underlying population.

            No one is saying that Ps have “figured something out” or that they’ll keep this up. We are trying to figure out what has actually happened. Whether they’re swinging at balls or strikes and whether they’re hacking more early in the count or getting more early strikes on them are very relevant questions.

            You think something is more likely… but they actually keep data on this stuff. All someone has to do is look it up.

            As I said… without knowing what pitches they’re seeing, there’s no point in talking about how much they’re swinging.

            • Manny's BanWagon says:

              “As I said… without knowing what pitches they’re seeing, there’s no point in talking about how much they’re swinging.”

              That statement, you can take that up with Mike.

              In my mind, the 2 most logical explanations are as you stated, small sample size skewing the data or the batters are pressing and not working the count.

              The 3rd most likely explanation is the most concerning if true and its that the core of the lineup has regressed to the point that teams are coming right after them with strikes early in the count and the Yankee hitters aren’t able to do anything about it.

  5. Manny's BanWagon says:

    The lack of patience is concerning because grinding down starters and getting to the weak under belly of teams pitching staffs which is usually middle relief has been a Yankee trademark for the last 15+ years.

    To me, it’s a sign of pressing and that’s something Kevin Long needs to get corrected.

  6. JohnnyC says:

    The Yankees rank 22nd in baseball in runs scored this month. They’ve scored one more run than the Twins. If they hadn’t, the Yankees would be this month’s lowest-scoring team in the American League.
    It is not all due to Gardner’s injury.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I don’t think anyone’s claiming that. However, his absence is a pretty significant factor.

    • CP says:

      Per Baseball Reference, they’ve actually scored 1 less run than the twins this month (68 for the Twins, 67 for the Yankees). The Mariners are the worst at 64.

      Interestingly, the Yankees are 4th best in the AL in OPS this month (tied with the Tigers, behind Baltimore, Boston and Texas).

      • DF says:

        That’s interesting. Is it just that the hits aren’t coming in beneficial sequences? I’m not sure how you would quantify that, but if you take two teams with say, the same 5 hits in a game, and hypothetical Team A gets all their hits in one inning while hypothetical Team B spreads them out over the course of the whole game, I think (think) Team A would score more runs while having an identical OPS.

        And I imagine this isn’t a skill but rather pretty random. Which suggests maybe with some patience, the Yankees will come out of this and return to their usual offensive prowess.

  7. JJ says:

    So who has to start kicking some veteran tail to get them to be more selective again? K-Long? Girardi? Obviously the players have gotten away from a successful formula and are not policing themselves. Time for the coaching staff to exert a little more control over this dreadful offense.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      “This is going to get turned around. If it’s not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to.” – Hank Steinbrenner in his finest/stupidest hour

      • JJ says:

        Hank seriously needs to disappear – between him and Levine making absurd remarks like this – the two of them just embarrass the team.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Well, Hank has pretty much dissappeared. That was a pretty old comment. I just included that because you can’t simply ask the coaches/manager/owner to exert that much control over what goes on. At some point, the guys at bat need to stop pressing, and I think that comes when there’s the type of 1-9 solid lineup being put out there again.

          I also think Ted’s point all over this thread is spot on and worth exploring.

          • JJ says:

            Very true – I was thinking more along the lines of A-Rod swinging at the first pitch following 2 consecutive walks. That just makes you want to scream. Even little leaguers are taught to wait out a wild pitcher for at least a pitch to see if they can get it over the plate….

            • Ted Nelson says:

              A-Rod is not a little leaguer, though. He has one of the highest baseball IQs in MLB. He knows what you’re “supposed” to do… and he also knows that if a pitcher cruises one down the middle just pressing to throw a strike and expecting A-Rod to take… he might put one in the parking lot and crack the game wide open. Usually you’re looking for a certain pitch in a certain zone in that situation, and if it’s there some hitters will have the green light to swing. It was one instance where he failed in taking a chance. It’s frustrating anecdotally, but every hitter is going to fail the majority of the time.

              • Havok9120 says:

                See, this is the thing. You take pitches and work the count in order to get a better pitch to hit. If the first pitch is a grooved fastball, that’s almost certainly the best pitch you’re going to see, especially if you take it and go down 0-1.

                Working the count is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. This is especially true for very good and/or power hitters, who can do far more damage swinging the bat than most guys can.

      • eephus_pitch says:

        Wasn’t Hank responsible for the A-Rod extension?

  8. Dan says:

    I know everyone raves about Long as a hitting coach, but could a change there help? Outside of the work he did with Granderson, it does not seem like he has done too much to help other players (as Jeter’s fix came when he was away from Long). The Angels recently fired Hatcher, who is very well-respected. So maybe it would help to fire Long and replace him with Hatcher if he is still available? Also, Hatcher is probably familiar with Tex from his time with the Angels and might be able to help fix his swing from the left side.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero says:

      Yes. Fire Long. He will be first to go if we continue the tailspin and maintain our dominance in risp failure.

      When the Yanks have Nix, Wise and Stewart coming up to bat I’m thinking…..time to watch another game for a few minutes.

      Baseball theater tonight. The King and Yu.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Pretty tough to say from the outside looking in.

    • sangreal says:

      He was most recently credited with fixing Ibanez (by Ibanez). I don’t think he will go anywhere as long as the players keep praising his work (and there is a pretty decent list besides Granderson)

      • Dan says:

        I hadn’t heard about Ibanez, but either way in these situations (similar to what the Angels are going through) the hitting coach is usually made to be the scapegoat. I think it will take another week or two of inept offense for this to become more of a possibility because of how much the players love Long, but the Angels players loved Hatcher and he was still fired so I am not sure how much patience management will have.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          That the Angels did something doesn’t necessarily mean that the Yankees will, though. There are underlying reasons for the offense’s struggles (injuries to Gardner, Swisher, Tex), a slow start by Cano, demoting Cervelli and Nunez for defense in favor of worse offensive players). Long certainly could be fired and may well deserve to be fired (I have no idea), but as an outsider it’s hard to fault him given the context.

          • Dan says:

            I never said that the Yankees would fire Long because of what the Angels did. I was saying that situations where the team goes on a prolonged slump and significantly underachieves usually ends with the firing of a coach because the players are harder to get rid of and you usually don’t want to sell low. I agree though that as an outsider its impossible to know how much Long is contibuting to the problem, but just looking at trends as an outsider there is usually a trend to make changes to the coaching staff in these situations.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I disagree. Teams slump all the time, and hitting coaches don’t get fired all the time. My issue is with taking one instance and expanding it to be more than it is.

              The Yankees hitters are 3rd in baseball this season:;sort=15,d

              I don’t think many hitting coaches of the 3rd best hitting team in baseball get fired after a week long slump.

    • eephus_pitch says:

      What “fix” did Jeter make?

      • jim p says:

        In a recent interview he said he realized he had to “stay back more” while he was on the DL and working with his main guy. iirc, he might have said something about “lunging at the ball.” Certainly it was to that effect.

        • Samuel says:

          Yeah, no hitting coach teaches “staying back” on the ball except Jeter’s guy – who’s name is Gary Dembo.

          I am sure Long is constantly preaching “lunge at the ball” guys. “Try to get yourself out of your power zone by lunging. Lean forward, bring your upper body weight with you and while you’re at it, try and pull everything, too, OK Tex?”

      • Havok9120 says:

        Stayed back on the ball more to give him a bit more time to see the ball and swing. Helps take it the other way.

  9. Ted Nelson says:

    It’s an interesting observation, but not a complete picture. Are they seeing the same number of strikes?

    • Mainer says:

      IMO, Ted, it appears pitchers aren’t being as careful with guys like Alex and Mark because they do not fear them as power threats as much as in the past. Therefore, certain Yankee hitters can’t work counts because they are going right after them. Unfortunately with the exception of Ibanez and to a certain degree of late Cano, guys are missing of very hittable pitches. Either swinging right thru, fouling off or rolling over resulting in pitcher’s counts

  10. Mike E says:

    Great work Mike.

  11. JohnC says:


    How bout another draft profile?

  12. Mainer says:

    Once again, Mike you have cracked the curious case that is the anemic Yankees offense. In my very humble opinion, this has been the problem. Hitters not hitting in hitters counts. Falling behind in counts, fouling off hittable pitches or swinging through them, swinging at the 1st pitch and the like. Swisher, Gardy and Alex have always been great at making pitchers work until a mistake comes through the middle.

    I think pitchers, especially quality arms, know this and decided to attack Yankee hitters immediately. Which, when going right, usually led to a 3-0 lead after 2 innings because they would start to mash. But these guys right now aren’t destroying 1-0 fastball down broadway. They are swinging through, fouling it off or rolling over on it. Pitchers have no fear against guys like Alex and Mark because of their there decline and that is a big problem because they are the middle of the lineup….

    I hate to blame this on the “Cage Rat” but I am going to give him the lion share of the blame. He is the hitting coach. Instead of doing that short swing HR drill with Cano and Grandy, maybe he should be adjusting these guys to what is happening in the present.

    This team is clearly not as good as advertised, but they are not a last place club, nor do I expect them to remain there after they lose and Boston wins tonight. I don’t care if it si “May” or Opening Day this lineup needs a wake up. A firing (Long), a demotion (Martin), a callup (Mustelier), a shuffle (whatever) just something has to rattle this guys because losing clearly hasn’t…..

    • CP says:

      maybe he should be adjusting these guys to what is happening in the present.

      Particularly in baseball, the worst thing you can do is adjust your approach to every new situation. One bad week or a bad month does not mean the Yankees or any individual player or coach needs to change their approach.

      • Mainer says:

        But is this a new situation or is this what they should expect from opposing pitchers. Every “expert”, beat writer and fan knows the strength of the Yankees is usually patient at bats. I know if I was an opposing teams pitching coach I would try to take someones strength and make it a weakness. As long as the Yankee lineup is not taking advantage of hittable pitches, why not attack early in the count.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s a long, long season.

  13. NYYROC says:

    In postgames a lot of hitters credit K.Long. Funny how I seldom hear pitchers credit Rothschild.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      That means absolutely nothing.

    • Rainbow connection says:

      It’s hilarious that these ‘amazing’ ‘professionals’ even need a hitting or pitching coach that sits there the entire game.

      • Mike Axisa says:

        One of these days you’ll contribute something meaningful to discussion.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        OMG, here it is: The stupidest thing you’ve ever said!

        Every fucking line of work on the face of the earth has some sort of mentoring relationship on an ongoing basis.

        • Jim Is Bored says:

          It’s almost as if swinging a bat and having the reflexes and vision good enough to hit a 98mph moving fastball are different than the skills required to analyze said swing.

          I don’t even know why he’s here anymore; he doesn’t stick around to troll, he just says stupid shit and leaves.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            He gets in your head, though. I literally sat here for about 20 minutes thinking about professions where some type of coaching/mentoring/etc isn’t relevant. Couldn’t find one.

    • Havok9120 says:

      We see him and hear of him tweaking mechanics during games/ between starts fairly often. *shrug*

  14. Now Batting says:

    Thanks for this. Anecdotally I had been thinking the Yanks can’t hit with RISP because all they do is take walks. Perhaps they’re pressing.

  15. MAS says:

    Last year, while watching a lot of Yankee games it was easy to understand that this team had offensive problems. They are built on home runs and I am sorry but that does not guarantee winning. You can look at the stats and see how many teams that lead baseball in home runs have won in the past 20 years and it is not a long list. Maybe one or two. Since Damon and Matsui left this has not been the same offense. Especially with Alex and Teixeira declining and becoming wasted money. The offense was the reason this team lost to the Tigers last year and it will be the reason why this team will finish out of the playoffs this year. Simply put Cashman and company did not fixed what I thought was the biggest concern in the offseason. They traded Montero and now they have the worst hitting catcher in baseball at 0.168. They traded Austin Jackson for Granderson and he is hitting almost 80 points better than Curtis, though you cannot blame Granderson because he at least works counts and have good at bats. They thought that Alex and Teixeira will turn it around and they were wrong. So I am sorry for all of us Yankee fans but this team is not a good hitting ballclub and it will not be. They simply have too many 260 hitters that strikeout a lot and are very bad in situational hitting, because it seems they are always swinging for the fences.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Well, I guess that settles it. Bring back Damon and Matsui. We’ll have to retrofit the dugout and clubhouse for walkers but….

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        To be fair, he didn’t say that was the solution. However, he also didn’t offer up any suggested changes, so …

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          You’re a kind man, Pengiucci.

          • Cris Pengiucci says:

            Just trying to be level-headed, at least once in a while. Something not everyone on here does.

            It also comes from my work environment. Difficult to call anyone out without hearing about it.

        • MAS says:

          Jaja my first post and the first person that replied did not seem to like it. Thanks to you for being fair about it. I read this blog everyday and I have learned a lot by reading it. I am not a baseball expert and I am not even from your country, but I am a fan and has been since the 80′s. I have been watching Yankees baseball since 1984. Having a solution for the offensive struggles is hard to suggest since we seem not to have many options at this time. Maybe putting Switcher second all the time, so that he is more patient, batting Granderson fourth, then Alex, Ibanez and Texeira. I think Texeira is worst than Alex at this moment and he will continue to be. Hopefully when Gardner comes back he will be at his best, and the bottom of the lineup will be better, though I won’t bet he will be the same, because of the type of injury. Martin has to get his average in the 240′s at least or they will have to look for a solution elsewhere. That is a bigger problem I Think.

  16. Voice of Reason says:

    Swisher’s approach has really gone to hell (again) this season. Walking at just 8% and he’s swinging at 46%, so it’s not like he’s leaving many on the table. I hope he remembers what works quickly for his sake, because Nick Swisher with an average walk rate is not a very desirable player.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      He’s struggled in 14 May games, but was on fire before going down (and had a 9.7 BB% in April). Give the guy a break.

  17. Cris Pengiucci says:

    Don’t hold your breath.

  18. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Ryan Ruocco currently trying to be the voice of reason as to the Yanks on 98.7. I think I’ve heard it all now, although I think he’s much better with Stephen A. than he was with Lundberg. Listening to those two together was absolutely painful.

    • JohnnyC says:

      Listening to Mike Lupica is tantamount to corporal punishment.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Listening to Lupica in the 80′s was torturous. People think Joe Magrane is bad in his Yankee-hate? Lupica hated Steinbrenner so much he could link any topic to how much he hated the Yankees.

        I don’t mind the current radio Lupica, although I do check that my window are reinforced before turning his high-pitched voice up too high.

  19. JJevans says:

    Mike don’t even waste your time.

  20. Alibaba says:

    When you are ahead 3-0, why would you chase a pitch? That’s what the team has been doing lately.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Well sometimes its what people in the baseball like to call, “a good pitch,” and hitters swing at them because, well, they look like a great pitch to hit coming out of the pitcher’s hand. Do you really not want to give guys like Cano, Grandy, ARod, or Jeter the green light on 3-0? Maybe Jeter because he probably won’t hit one out anyway, but the others?

  21. Cuso says:

    And while it would stand to reason that the fewer pitches seen can’t be attributable to one guy (Gardner), it discounts the fact that when one guy does it more people follow suit.

    Think about it. Gardner works a 10 pitch AB and works a walk. The entire team watches the AB. They’re not going up there to hack at the first pitch. My opinion – but I say yes, one guy can make a difference and account for most (perhaps not all) of the impatience we’re seeing.

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