Aaron Boone was ejected Thursday afternoon for arguing balls and strikes. It wasn’t quite the vein-popping fury Girardi used to display, but Boone went viral and rightfully so. Sticking up for the team is important, and Brennan Miller was pretty, pretty bad.
But the best part of Boone’s rant was that it was mic’d up, meaning we get to know what he said. Boone screamed, “our guys are f’n savages in the box”. I’m not so sure I–or anyone else for that matter–know exactly what that means. In fact, I don’t think Boone really knows what that means, either. But my guess is that it means that Yankee batters are really, really good.
Of course, Boone is right, but that’s an excuse to take a deeper look at the offense. Let’s try and qualify Boone’s claim by analyzing the three offensive aspects of baseball: patience, contact, and power.
Patience at the PlateEmbed from Getty Images
The Yankees patience at the plate is key to their offensive success. So far this season they have a walk rate of 9.6%. In other words, almost 1 in every 10 batters reaches via walk–about one walk each turn through the lineup. Pretty damn good. 9.6% is good for 5th best in the league and an entire percentage point above league average (8.6%). The four top teams are only marginally better than the Yanks, with the Cubs leading the league with an impressive 10% walk rate.
The Yankees are also good at laying off pitches outside the zone. They swing at only 30% of the balls they see. Only seven teams lay off more balls than the Yanks. This is especially important to a team like the Yankees. Their O-Contact%, which measures the rate of contact on pitches outside the strike zone, is below league average. In other words, the Yanks aren’t good at hitting balls. So it’s important they don’t feel the need to chase outside the zone, a skill they’re better most of the league at.
Interestingly, the Yanks don’t swing at more strikes than most teams. In fact, they are exactly league average, swinging at 68% of the strikes they see. This shows that the Yankees are patient even in the zone–they want to wait for their pitch.
So no wonder Boone gets fired up over horrendous umpiring. The Yanks rely on patience, and poor strike calls can really impact their strategy at the plate.
And no, the Yankees are not too patient at the plate. They strike out almost exactly league average, 23.1% of the time versus 22.8%. Sure, you can argue that the league strikes out too much, but you can only judge a 2019 team based on 2019 data.
The Yankees have an above-average eye at the plate. Check number 1 on the “savage in the box” list.
ContactEmbed from Getty Images
I know that batting average is a dying stat nowadays, and I get why, but it’s still an important number when analyzing offensive success. The Yankees team batting average is .265 on the season, 6th best in the league and 12 percentage points higher than league average. According to Statcast, the Yankees have an expected batting average of .252 on balls in play. League average is only .248.
Hard to complain about the Yankees’ batting average numbers, especially when it’s paired with their ability to get on base in general. The Bombers have a team OBP of .340, good for fourth-best in the league.
Amazingly, the Yankees rarely leave runners on base despite being one of the best teams in the league in getting on base. The Yankees have left 620 runners on base this season, 30 less than league average. By contrast, the very good Dodgers have left 737 men on base. The Yanks get on base, and they seldom leave them there.
In addition, they record an RBI every 6.3 AB–the best rate in the league. Pretty damn good, especially considering that is more than one run every turn through the lineup.
In terms of contact, another check on the “savage in the box” list.
Power with the batEmbed from Getty Images
And finally, the most obvious of all: power. To the surprise of literally nobody who knows anything about baseball, the Bombers have a powerful offense.
Let’s start with some standard numbers. The Yankees have hit 160 homers this season, good for fourth in the league. They score 5.63 runs per game, behind only the Red Sox who score 5.64.
They are the fourth-best when it comes to hitting the ball hard, averaging 89.5mph off the bat. The best in the league is 89.8.
So, it’s not surprising that they also hit a lot of home runs. The Yankees hit a bomb every 20 ABs, or 4.4% of the time–good for second best in the league.
Safe to say we can check off power on the “savage in the box” list.
ConclusionEmbed from Getty Images
So yes, the Yankees are savages in the box. And yes, that should continue to be their brand.