Checking In on the Yankees Offense One-Third of the Way Through the Season

Paul J. Bereswill

With the conclusion of Tuesday night’s game against the Padres, the Yanks’ season is now a third of the way over. I know I said this the other day, but it really is crazy how fast the season has gone by so far. Anyway, now that a third of the season is gone, I took a deep dive into the state of the Yankees, starting with the offense. I’ll get to the pitching (broken up by the rotation and the bullpen) in the next few days. Let’s get right into it, but remember: they’re doing this at anything but full-strength.

Overview

You don’t win two-thirds of your games without scoring runs, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Yankees have been one of the league’s best offenses so far. They’re averaging 5.38 runs per game, good for 5th in the league (4th in the AL). That puts them on pace to score about 870 runs this year. For perspective, the 108-win Red Sox scored 876 last year. It’s worth taking that with a grain of salt, though, because there is convincing evidence that the actual baseball is juiced again in 2019, like it was in 2017. Still: we should be encouraged by the production so far.

Here’s how the team stacks up against the rest of the league in some key offensive categories, with their standing in the league in parentheses:

  • AVG: .258 (7th)
  • OBP: .335 (7th)
  • SLG: .451 (8th)
  • OPS: .786 (6th)
  • wOBA: .334 (6th)
  • wRC+: 107 (7th)
  • fWAR: 8.5 (8th)

The Yanks rank in the top 10 in baseball in every one of these categories. That, obviously, is really good. Few teams are better than the Yanks on the offensive side, and that’s with many of their most potent offensive bats in the lineup. I’ll take it.

Plate Discipline/Contact

Diving a little deeper reveals even more encouraging signs. Consider their plate discipline and contact numbers, again with league ranks in parentheses:

  • Swing%: 45.6% (12th lowest)
  • O-Swing%: 28.8% (6th)
  • K%: 22.6% (11th)
  • Z-Contact%: 85.7% (8th highest)
  • BB%: 9.6% (11th)

In English, there are a few takeaways from this. First, only 5 teams in the league chase fewer pitches (O-Swing% means the percentage of pitches swung at out of the zone) than the Yankees. Second, the Yanks are again in the top 10 at making contact on pitches they swing at that are located in the zone (Z-Swing%). In other words, the Yanks lay off the junk and make contact with the hittable stuff in the zone. That’s a recipe for a good offense.

(A quick aside: there’s a narrative going around that the Yankees are striking out less this year than last. The “proof point” there is that guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are sidelined and the fact that the team added contact-heavy players like DJ LeMaheiu. Don’t buy it. It’s not true. The Yanks 22.6 K% is only one-tenth of a percentage point lower than last year. It pays to look at the data, folks.)

Power

Next, let’s take a look at their power numbers. They are the Bronx Bombers, after all, and last year they hit for truly historic power. This is where the sustained loss of Judge and Stanton will really take its toll, especially over the long-run. (I explored the impact of the loss of Stanton, especially in the context of the OF and DH slots, on Tuesday.) You just can’t replace their power, no matter how fierce Gary Sánchez has been. To the data:

  • Doubles: 78 (28th)
  • Home Runs: 90 (6th)
  • ISO: .193 (7th)

The Yanks are still one of baseball’s most powerful teams, but they’re also not nearly as dominant as we’d expected. Turns out that losing the two players in baseball with the most impressive raw power skillset will do that. Who knew?

It’s also interesting to see them hit so few doubles. The Yanks actually rank higher in triples (21st) than they do in doubles. Just like we all drew it up, right? I wonder what’s up with that. My best guess, again, is the fact that so many Yanks are hurt. And it’s not just Judge and Stanton here, either. If the Yanks had Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and extra-base hit phenom Miguel Andújar, as we’d expected, you can bet that this wouldn’t be such a low number. The Hospital Yanks have been fun, but it’s about time for the big guys to return, don’t you think?

Conclusions

To sum this all up, the Yankees have far exceeded even the most positive projections after their 6-9 start. All those injuries could have really derailed their season—I mean, it’s a third of the way through now, and that’s not a short time—but they didn’t. It just didn’t happen. The replacement Yanks have stepped up in a big way, and they’ve gotten some huge performances from the guys who’ve stayed (mostly) healthy. They deserve a lot of credit, top-to-bottom. From the front office on down.

The Yankees sit comfortably as one of baseball’s top 10 offenses, but there are two things to remember here. One, a substantial number of teams are hardly trying to win at all, which is important context to consider for any league ranking. Two—and more importantly—there are only greener pastures ahead. In the next few weeks, the Yanks should get significantly better at the dish when Judge, Stanton and Gregorius return. That can only mean good things for our Bombers, and it suggests that the last two-thirds of the year should be a whole hell of a lot of fun.

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11 Comments

  1. yanks317

    hile I agree looking at the data provides some perspective and I’m tired of hearing about how Stanton and Judge are bad for the team, comparing this year’s K rate to last years, the 2 highest AND 2 lowest (Didi and Miggy) have been out. Those are cancelling out and they are striking at at the same rate overall. Even without Miggy in the fold, I think the healthy Yanks K at a similar rate to last year – those ABs are taken by contact oriented DJLM and Gio. Ultimately it all boils down to the Ks with runners on that will be complained about to no end (and the disbelief that a HR in those situations is better than a single lol).

    • Chip

      You mean scoring one run at a time isn’t better than scoring multiple runs?

      • Val - Sonny Gray The Goat

        Chip, Ladies and Gentlemen. The Speaker of The Purest of Facts.

  2. Chappy in New Canaan

    The strikeout stat surprised me, because when watching the games it really does feel like the team is better this year at stringing together hits and having productive at bats. Oh well. Learn something new everyday!

  3. Joy Illimited

    Thanks for your great content, so glad to have another baseball blog with good content on the market.

    Tiny thing – shouldn’t it be that only five teams chase fewer, not more, pitches out of the zone, per the O-swing%?

    • Bobby

      yes, you’re right — duh! dumb oversight. corrected

      • Madrugador

        Thought I was seeing things for a second there. The first time I read your article I noticed that but then when I came back to it later you had made the change. Either way, I enjoyed the analysis. Thank you.

  4. Chip

    6th in HRs…so can we stop this nonsense about the team without Judge or Stanton being better because they’re taking a small ball approach?

    • Bobby

      this is easily my least favorite narrative going around these days, and that’s saying something. 2nd on the list is the idea that they’re striking out less, which just simply isn’t true at all.

      • Chip

        Well, and then you have the intersection of those two narratives: Where getting Stanton back ruins the team because he will hit homeruns and strike out rather than take a more contact-oriented approach that moves players around.

      • German's Hermit

        Bobby, stop ruining everyone’s narratives with your fancy facts

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