Thursday, April 30, 2015

Can The Yankees Keep Hitting?

The most surprising thing about the 2015 season so far is the fact that the Yankees are scoring quite a few runs. Before the season I don't think anybody thought the Yanks would be anything like the "Bombers" of the past. And when I say "Bomber", I'm not just talking about runs scored, as the 2015 Yankees are actually one home run away from being tied for having the most in all of Major League Baseball.

"Yep, this came from an actual Yankees home run."

When it comes to run production, the Yankees are currently tied for 3rd in total runs in the American League at 109, meaning they've scored 4.95 runs/game. For reference, they only scored 3.96 runs per game over the past two seasons.

So the question on my mind, and likely on the minds of many, is this... can the bats keep it up?

Well, in order to try and predict that, I decided to take a look at three statistics.

The first two are likely to sound familiar to people that have read my stuff before... Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and Line Drive Percentage. The third one is something that I feel bad for not paying attention to before... Contact Percentage. 

Those three stats answer three key questions...

Is this guy making more or less contact than normal?

Is he hitting the ball as well as normal?

Is he getting lucky or unlucky on batted balls falling in for base hits or not?

The third question, and the stat that attempts to answer it (BABIP), isn't so "cut and dry". However, you can't deny that luck can play a part in production, so I think it's something that should be taken into account.

For example, if a hitter is making the same amount of contact as he normally does (Contact Percentage), is hitting the ball as hard as he normally does (Line Drive Percentage), and is as lucky as he normally is (BABIP), then chances are what we're seeing is what we can expect in the future.

I'm going to look at all the regular players... splitting them up into three categories. And after giving their name and numbers in the three aforementioned statistics, I'll give each a quick write-up.

They're Going To Keep It Up

Brian McCann
BABIP: .300/.283 (.231 last season) Line Drive Percentage: 21/19 (24 last season) Contact Percentage: 88.1/84.3 (86.1 last season)
- While I could see his numbers coming down, due to his BABIP and Contact% being a bit higher than normal, I don't think it'll be much.

Stephen Drew
BABIP: .163/.297 (.194 last season) Line Drive Percentage 29/21 (19 last season) Contact Percentage: 82.8/81.5 (78.8 last season)
- That low BABIP, plus the fact he's making a similar amount of contact as he normally does, may make you think brighter days are ahead fo Drew. However, his line drive percentage is going to go down a decent amount, which makes me think we'll see more of the same.

Chase Headley
BABIP: .296/.330 (.301 last season) Line Drive Percentage: 27/22 (31 last season) Contact Percentage: 76.4/77 (79.8 last season)
- I can't bring myself to believe his BABIP will go up towards the .330 it's been throughout his career. His contact rate is right in line with what we should keep seeing. And although he might not hit the ball as hard as he has so far this season, I don't see him going down much... if at all.

Brett Gardner
BABIP: .311/.266 (.256 last season) Line Drive Percentage 14/19 (22 last season) Contact Percentage: 83.5/88.5/86.5
-A rare example of somebody that's not hitting the ball hard, but has a higher than normal BABIP. Chances are both those numbers return closer to average, meaning his overall production with the bat remains the same. If you want to be optimstic, though, his contact percentage should improve, making his numbers go up a bit.

They're In For A Negative Correction

Jacoby Ellsbury
BABIP: .359/.322 (.296 last season) Line Drive Percentage 22/21 (27 last season) Contact Percentage: 87.2/87.6 (86.5 last season)
-That BABIP is just too high to continue. Adding the fact that his line drive and contact percentages are in line with his career norms makes me think his production will go down some.

Alex Rodriguez
BABIP: .282/.318 (.292 in 2013) Line Drive Percentage 32/19 (25 in 2013) Contact Percentage: 67.2/75.4 (72.2 in 2013)
-As you can see by that line drive percentage, Alex is hitting the ball very well. Unfortunately, I think it's too well to continue. When you take into account that a lower BABIP and contact rate makes sense after more than a year away from the game, I can see his production slipping some.

Chris Young
BABIP: .324/.273 (.247 last season) Line Drive Percentage: 21/18 (23 last season) Contact Percentage: 77.1/77.5 (81.2 last season)
-Did you really think Young was going to continue hitting for an OPS of .950? If it makes you feel any better, and I think it should, there's a good chance his production doesn't go down a whole hell of a lot. I mean, he'll still hit the ball as hard as he has been, and as often, it's just that a few less batted balls will fall for base hits.

They're In For A Positive Correction

Mark Teixeira
BABIP: .157/.286 (.233 last season) Line Drive Percentage: 22/20 (22 last season) Contact Percentage: 83.3/80.6 (79.3 last season)
-He's hitting the ball as hard as ever, so that BABIP tells me his numbers will go up. Perhaps he won't hit home runs at his currect clip, but he continue to contribute nicely with the bat. Mind you, his contact rate is a bit higher than normal, but it's not enough that I don't think an improvement is coming.

Didi Gregorius
BABIP: .271/.279 Line Drive Percentage: 13/25 Contact Percentage: 79.8/79 *he's young enough that I don't think it's necessary to look at his previous season
-He's not hitting the ball nearly as well as he has in previous seasons, but he's still making as much contact as ever. So while he's not getting "unlucky" when it comes to BABIP, there's reason to believe his production at the plate will go up.

Carlos Beltran
BABIP: .227/.300 (.252 last season) Line Drive Percentage: 23/20 (21 last season) Contact Percentage: 78.9/82.8 (83.9 last season)
-Watching him at the plate makes it really hard for anyone, let alone Yankees fans, to think he'll improve. But that BABIP is incredibly low, he's still hitting the ball hard, and he's not making as much contact. Add it all together, and I can't help but be optimistic about Beltran's future as a hitter.

In summary, four players should keep doing what their doing, three players should hit better, and two* should hit a little worse. If both of the guys that could get worse were hitting in the heart of the order then I might be little worried, but the ups and downs are spread throughout the order making me think that the Yankees could keep scoring like they have been. 

*I said "two" instead of "three" because one of them (Chris Young) is a part-timer, meaning his production or lack thereof shouldn't make a big different. Plus, if he's hitting poorly, his playing time will go down. The only reason I included him in this is because I was curious if he could keep hitting like he has.

How cool is that?


  1. Very well done Bryan Van, it is a breath of fresh air around here when you dig up some of the stuff I would never bother with...only because, I don't have the patience to do paperwork, in fact, I hate it.
    I am sure most of us appreciate your hard work, I know I do and thanks for the information.

  2. Great article Bryan, this is exactly why you need to post more.


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)