Every year, when I jot down a list of topics for the season review series, I always end up with extra stuff that doesn’t get written. I’m nice and ambitious at the start but by the end I’m just ready for it to be over, so some stuff doesn’t get written up. This year I had a few talking points I wanted to write up mostly because I was interested to see the information myself, though the topics weren’t necessarily worth a full post of their own. So I’m going to lump them all together here. Here are some random statistical tidbits about the 2014 Yankees.
The Yankees went only 43-38 at home this year and were actually outscored by 22 runs. That includes a ghastly 18-23 at home in the first half, so at least they improved at home after the All-Star break. The Yankees outscored their opponents by 1.002 runs per game at home during the first five years of the new Yankee Stadium, yet they were outscored in the Bronx in 2014.
The Bombers both hit and pitched marginally better at home than on the road this past season, at least on a rate basis. They scored fewer runs at home even though they hit slightly better in terms of OPS+. Here are the offense’s home/road numbers:
The pitching staff, on the other hand, allowed 12 more runs on the road in 33 fewer innings pitched. Here’s the home/road splits for the pitching staff:
Opponents had a 104 OPS+ against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium but a 94 OPS+ against them on the road, so they did hit them harder in the Bronx. Yet it resulted in fewer runs allowed. The Yankees hit better at home than they did on the road, but scored fewer runs. They pitched better on the road than at home, but allowed more runs. Weird.
Once Alfonso Soriano showed he was cooked, the Yankees had very little right-handed power on the roster. Derek Jeter had zero pop and both Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran failed to make an impact from the right side of the plate. It wasn’t until the Martin Prado trade that the team had a bonafide above-average right-handed hitting everyday player on the roster.
And yet, the Yankees hit quite a bit better against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers in 2014, mostly because their lefties mashed same-side pitchers. Here’s the team platoon splits:
|vs RHP as RHB||1132||95||255||53||2||13||84||54||228||.245||.289||.337||.626||.299||84|
|vs RHP as LHB||3227||333||687||120||16||95||319||274||572||.238||.306||.389||.695||.263||94|
|vs LHP as RHB||1043||116||238||46||3||21||109||74||199||.250||.310||.371||.681||.295||87|
|vs LHP as LHB||680||89||169||28||5||18||79||50||134||.276||.334||.426||.760||.325||134|
Overall, the Yankees had a 94 OPS+ against righties, including an ugly 84 OPS+ against righties by their right-handed hitters. Their lefties, meanwhile, had a 134 OPS+ against left-handed pitchers. Left-on-left was the team’s single best platoon split this year. Thank Jacoby Ellsbury (121 OPS+ vs. LHP) and Brian McCann (143 OPS+) for that in particular.
That is sorta scary because McCann’s reverse split this year is a total outlier compared to the rest of his career. He had a 92 OPS+ against lefties from 2011-13 while with the Braves. Considering he batted only 145 times against southpaws this past season, I’m guessing this is just small sample size noise and not some newfound skill. I hope that’s not the case but it likely is. The offense would have been worse if McCann hadn’t performed unusually well against lefties. Yikes.
The pitching platoon splits are interesting only because the Yankees’ right-handed pitchers dominated opposing left-handed hitters. I’m not going to embed the table but you can see the stats right here. Masahiro Tanaka’s splitter acts like a changeup and allows him to be very effective against lefty hitters. The same goes for Hiroki Kuroda, just to a lesser degree. Michael Pineda’s slider is so good it doesn’t matter what side of the plate the hitter is on. David Robertson has dominated lefties for years and Dellin Betances dominates everyone. Those five are a big reason why the team’s righty pitchers performed so well against opposing lefty hitters.
There is more velocity in the game right now than ever before. Pitchers simply throw harder these days thanks to many reasons. Improved training, better understanding of mechanics, advanced throwing programs, more short relievers, better genetics, all of that and more is a factor. Throwing 96+ just isn’t as rare as it once was (unless you’re the Twins).
I wanted to see how the Yankees handled big fastballs this year, so, with the help of Baseball Savant, I looked at 2 mph chunks of fastballs from 88 to 100+. Here are the results (New York’s rank among the 30 clubs in parenthesis):
|NYY AVG||NYY ISO||NYY K%||MLB AVG||MLB ISO||MLB K%|
|100+||.500 (1st)||.000 (t-30th)||50.0% (14th)||0.152||0.014||54.4%|
|98-99||.278 (8th)||.000 (t-30th)||26.3% (11th)||0.206||0.084||28.0%|
|96-97||.197 (26th)||.095 (12th)||18.0% (8th)||0.238||0.091||21.2%|
|94-95||.233 (24th)||.123 (14th)||21.6% (23rd)||0.250||0.122||20.4%|
|92-93||.262 (23rd)||.176 (5th)||15.5% (15th)||0.272||0.144||15.9%|
|90-91||.276 (19th)||.146 (23rd)||10.6% (5th)||0.281||0.165||13.6%|
|88-89||.277 (20th)||.160 (17th)||10.7% (8th)||0.286||0.170||12.5%|
|<87||.272 (18th)||.187 (7th)||14.5% (18th)||0.276||0.159||13.7%|
The sample sizes here are a couple hundred pitches except at the very top of the velocity chart — the Yankees had only 18 at-bats end with a pitch at 98-99 mph this year and only four end with a pitch at 100+. They saw more total pitches at that velocity, they just took a bunch for balls and fouled off some others. Those aren’t included in the table because nothing happened.
In those four at-bats that ended with a 100+ pitch, they went 2-for-4 with two singles and two strikeouts. So, naturally, I had to dig up the two hits. And guess what? They came in the same inning of the same game against the same pitcher. Those two hits came on July 20th against (who else?) Aroldis Chapman. I totally forgot the Yankees played an interleague series against the Reds this year. First, Ellsbury put together a great at-bat to single the other way:
Anyway, going back to the table for a second, the Yankees had their most trouble with pitches in the 92-97 mph range, in terms of batting average. (I’m ignoring the 98+ pitches because the sample’s so small.) They still hit for power against pitches at that velocity relative to the league average, but getting a simple base hit was a chore. It could be that the pitches they were hitting were mistakes pitches they were able to drive. That would explain the low AVG but higher ISO.
The Yankees did have a lot of older players who looked overmatched by quality fastballs this summer — Jeter, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brian Roberts stand out — which helps explain why the team as a whole struggled against higher end velocity. That leads us into the next section…
Bottom of the Roster
Here is a very quick and dirty breakdown of New York’s plate appearances this season. I split them into three ranges: players with a 95-105 OPS+, and then anything above or below that. I figure 95-105 captures everyone who can be considered league average with some wiggle room in each direction. Here’s the breakdown (this doesn’t include pitchers who hit during interleague play):
- 106+ OPS+: 1,914 plate appearances (31.6% of the team’s total)
- 95-105 OPS+: 1,331 plate appearances (22.0%)
- <94 OPS+: 2,812 plate appearances (46.4%)
That’s a lot of plate appearances going to players who are comfortably below-average hitters and not nearly enough going to players who are easily above-average. Ellsbury and Brett Gardner combined for 1,271 of those 1,914 plate appearances by 106+ OPS+ players, by the way. Most of the rest belong to Prado and Chase Headley.
The Yankees had a stars and scrubs offense with no real stars and way too many scrubs. They have to figure out a way to raise the floor of the roster, if that makes sense. That’s much easier said than done because bench players are unpredictable, but with openings all around the infield, it’s an opportunity to really improve the team. The question is whether the Yankees can find pieces that fit, even if they have to overpay a bit. I’m totally cool with overpaying for a big bat right now. Offense is at such a premium.
For the sake of completeness, here’s the pitching staff using a similar breakdown:
- 106+ ERA+: 637 innings (43.8%)
- 95-105 ERA+: 277.2 innings (29.1%) (all Hiroki Kuroda and Shane Greene)
- <94 ERA+: 538.1 innings (37.1%)
That’s a much better breakdown. Nearly two-thirds of the innings went to pitchers who were no worse than average and most of those innings went to guys who were way better than average. More of that in 2015, please. And hopefully with an offense to match.