Easier Said than Done

On Thursday, Bobby took a look at the Yankees’ new hitting coach and his directive for the team in 2022: Hit. Strikes. Hard. As many have noted, this is a pretty easy philosophy to have when it comes to hitting. But, as Bobby showed Thursday and Jaime showed earlier, it’s easier said than done. Curious about the Yankees and their relatively weak hitting against strikes in 2021, I did a little digging to see if I could find more under the surface. I did. And it’s not pretty.

My approach was to see if there was any certain pitch type that, when thrown for a strike, the Yankees had trouble with. And in some way, it was kinda, sorta…all of them. Let’s start with fastballs in the zone, going by wOBA.

Yankees vs. in-zone fastballs 

StatwOBAxwOBAwOBA – xwOBA
Total.333.352-.019
Rank (30)13T-63

A .333 wOBA isn’t bad, but it’s not great. A .352 xwOBA is top-10 in the league. So logically, yeah, they should’ve done better at handling fastballs in the zone. Yet…they didn’t. Hitting fastballs in the zone, even good ones, is something a (supposedly) slugging team like the Yankees should do. Their differential between the two was the third highest in the league.

Yankees vs. in-zone offspeed

StatwOBAxwOBAwOBA – xwOBA
Total.264.308-.044
Rank30211

The Yankees were dead last in MLB against offspeed pitches in the zone. They should’ve only been 9th worst, apparently. But even so, their differential was the biggest in the league.

Yankees vs. in-zone breaking

StatwOBAxwOBAwOBA – xwOBA
Total.304.318-.014
Rank1583

Breaking pitches tell a similar story to fastballs: middling performance that should’ve been better and the exact same differential rank. Let’s sum it up against all pitches in the zone:

Yankees vs. in-zone ALL

StatwOBAxwOBAwOBA – xwOBA
Total.317.338-.021
Rank1972

What this tells us is that the Yankees were a mid-tier offense–at best–that should’ve been better, way better, but wasn’t. This backs up the feeling I think a lot of us got during the season that the Yankees were missing hittable pitches, that they weren’t doing damage on pitches they should’ve. The same pattern we see with wOBA is reflected in the power numbers, too:

Yankees vs. in-zone fastballs

StatSLGxSLGSLG – xSLG
Total.507.536-.029
Rank1364

Yankees vs. in-zone offspeed

StatSLGxSLGSLG – xSLG
Total.400.453-.053
Rank30221

Yankees vs. in-zone breaking

StatSLGxSLGSLG – xSLG
Total.450.472-.022
Rank24102

Yankees vs. in-zone ALL

StatSLGxSLGSLG – xSLG
Total.478.509-.031
Rank1962

The half-empty view of this is clear: the Yankees missed pitches, didn’t do enough damage, and underperformed badly on strikes they should’ve hit. The half-full view is that this should be correctable and there is room for some bounce back here. New hitting coach Dillon Lawson is inheriting a very talented bunch that looked pretty flat at times last year. Hopefully, his simple strategy is easily implemented and the Bronx Bombers return in 2022.

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9 Comments

  1. At this point I’m just hoping the entire season is washed away by the lock out, Matt. If there’s no season there can be no disappointment at yet another lost year. If there’s no season there can be no agony of another long season watching failure after failure. If there’s no season there can be no additional misery in our miserable lives. The hitting coach sounds like a caveman. Strike swing, hit good, miss bad. If this is the best and brightest they could find I’d rather drink a cyanide capsule and take solace in the fact that I won’t have to endure yet another season of heartbreak. When the Bengals have had more success than you in the last 10 years you know it’s time to just quit and throw up.

    • sevrox

      Love ya, Eddard, but even that’s a bit way far outta your standard negative comment range! Take a walk outside, Bruv!

      • Baseline Dribbler

        Disagree. Right on point lol. It’s not just the Bengals, it’s Eli Apple and the Bengals. I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.

  2. MikeD

    The year could fall into the randomness bucket that will correct on its own. Perhaps it’s not the type of pitch the Yankees weren’t hitting, but the sequence of pitches leading up to the out. For example, the Yankees were hitting a lot of ground balls this year. Was that caused by a change in approach by the pitchers? If so, it’s an area the Yankees can identify and correct. Hitting wise, the entire 2021 season seemed to be filled with a whole bunch of weirdness for all hitters not named Judge or Stanton.

    • Scout

      Randomness affects small samples. When the result involves thousands of at-bats, we need to look for more systematic explanations.

  3. I think they just stink. Torres, Hicks and Sanchez have jumped the shark . Pray that DJ isn’t trending downward. I don’t feel comfortable with touting Urshela as our rock of Gibraltar on the left side of the infield. You are not buying your way out of this. Only way out is to bring up the kids

  4. Matthew Duffy

    Do you think that being near the top of the league in wOBA differential could have to do with playing a disproportionate number of games with the deadest ball? Just felt like there were A LOT of warning track fly outs last year.

    • Can’t all teams fall back on that reasoning?

    • Scout

      The Yankees hit more ground balls last season than in prior years. Ground balls die long before the warning track. 🙂

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