On Location: A Look at Which Yankees Use the Whole Field

Earlier in the week, Mark Teixeira raised some eyebrows by suggesting he may start dropping down an occasional bunt when the infield is shifted against him. In the right situation, such a strategy could be productive, but for the most part, Teixeira’s locational splits suggest the slugger would be better off continuing to swing for the fences as a left handed hitter.

Yankees’ Hits and Home Runs by Field Location
Pie2_medium

Source: fangraphs.com

As a team, the Yankees are pull conscious when it comes to the long ball: almost 80% of home runs have resulted from that approach. However, 55% of the team’s base hits were directed either up the middle or to the opposite field. So, there is at least some diversity in the Yankees’ offensive attack, although it varies from batter to batter. To help illustrate the tendencies of each member of the lineup, the following charts display how each prominent Bronx Bomber performed by locational split in 2011.

Pulling Out the Stops: How Yankees Have Performed on Balls Hit to the Pull Field
Pullteam_medium

Note: Batters with over 100 total PA included.
Source: fangraphs.com

Just about every Yankee batter was productive when pulling the ball in 2011, as evidenced by the 12 entries with a wOBA of at least .375. Leading the pack was Curtis Granderson, whose 33 homers fueled a wOBA of .625 in that split. Not far behind were Andruw Jones followed by Mark Teixeira (from both sides of the plate), whose combined 37 home runs to the pull field led the team. Two surprise entrants near the top of the pull ranking were Russell Martin, who slugged 14 balls into the left field seats, as well as Jorge Posada from the left side, which again suggests the Yankees best left-handed DH option may still be the retired veteran.

Posada's success pulling the ball from the left side was mirrored by equal failure from the right side. In 71 plate appearances as a right handed hitter, the former catcher had only one base hit to left field. Otherwise, only Eric Chavez and Derek Jeter posted disappointing returns when turning on a pitch.

Down the Middle: How Yankees Have Performed on Balls Hit to Center
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Note: Batters with over 100 total PA included.
Source: fangraphs.com

Nick Swisher is noted for bringing levity to the clubhouse, but on the field, he was the Yankees best straight man in 2011. From both sides of the plate, Swisher posted two of the Yankees' top wOBA rates on balls hit to center, including an impressive .556 as a right handed hitter. Alex Rodriguez and Eric Chavez were also standouts when using centerfield, while Martin and Teixeira (again from both sides of the plate) were the most notable laggards.

Opposite Attracts: How Yankees Have Performed on Balls Hit the Other Way
Oppoteam_medium

Note: Batters with over 100 total PA included.
Source: fangraphs.com

There's something pure about watching a hitter line a base hit to the opposite field, and on the Yankees, no swing is sweeter than Robinson Cano's. So, naturally, the smooth second baseman led the Yankees with a wOBA over .400 on balls hit the other way. After Cano, there's a big gap to Francisco Cervelli, Teixeira (from the right side), and Jeter, but otherwise, Yankees' batters have had limited success going to the opposite field. In particular, Posada from the right side and Teixeira from the left each struggled mightily, posting a wOBA below .100 on balls hit to the off field.

Combined Locational Splits for the 2011 Yankees
Teamspray_medium

Note: Batters with over 100 total PA included.
Source: fangraphs.com

For the most part, each Yankees hitter was averse to at least one part of the field. The lone exception, however, was Cano, who was the only Bronx Bomber to post a wOBA over .400 to all three field locations. In fact, only one other player rated at least .350 in each segment, and many Yankees fans will be surprised to learn it was Cervelli. Otherwise, what jumps out from the juxtaposition above are the seemingly backward rates of Brett Gardner. Often thought of as a slap hitter, the Yankees left fielder has defied that convention wisdom, as well as the normal profile expected of a speedster, by thriving on balls that are pulled while struggling when hitting to the opposite field. If ever there was player ripe for improvement via the bunt or a more concentrated opposite field approach, Gardner seems to be the one.

Because of the limited samples involved, a one season look at batted ball data is hardly a definitive basis for future expectations. Nonetheless, the tendencies implied by the data are worth noting, particularly in the case of players like Teixeira, who have exhibited a more meaningful trend. Unfortunately for the Yankees' first baseman, the rest of the league seems to have already gotten that memo.

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