Picking up on the Yankees' early season hitting patterns

Elsa

Which hitters have done the best job at going to all fields so far?

The Yankees' revamped offense is off to a solid start in 2014, batting .271/.328/.421 with a 107 OPS+ through their first 20 games, a figure that ranks fourth in the American League. That's not a bad beginning at all, especially considering it took them six games to hit a dinger and they lost big power threats in Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Shifting in baseball is up, but the Yankees have done a pretty good so far in adjusting to these defenses and notching more hits than all AL teams other than the Rangers and White Sox. Spray charts provided by Texas Leaguers give a good glimpse into how some of these players have fared in directing their hits.

Brian McCann

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Anyone who has watched even a few Yankee games so far this year is aware of the somewhat-extreme shifts imposed on the lefty McCann, as teams typically play three infielders on the right side, or at least place their shortstop up the middle. To McCann's credit, he has accepted these shifts and taken pitches to the opposite field for hits almost as often as he's pulled pitches. McCann is off to a bit of a mediocre start with a 99 OPS+ through 18 games, but it's refreshing to see that he does not feel obligated to try to hit through the shifts, unlike some JuicePress gurus we know.)

Jacoby Ellsbury

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Ellsbury has yet to go deep, but that's hardly mattered at all in the early goings. He's on fire with a .342/.395/.479, 143 OPS+ start to the season, the best batting average and OBP on the team. When he's made outs, they've mostly come on dribblers to the left side, but when he has gotten hits, he's spread them to all fields, from the left field line to the right field line and basically everywhere in between. It's quite comparable to what he did last season with the Red Sox, and if that's the player the Yankees are getting, he could easily be the team's best offensive weapon in 2014.

Carlos Beltran

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The switch-hitting Beltran has lived up to his talented batting reputation with a team-high five homers, 11 extra-base hits, and 151 OPS+. Like Ellsbury, he has used all fields in his approach at the plate. Actually, including Brett Gardner, pretty much all the outfielders have been using all fields. Awesome. Not much to say here other than there's a very good chance that Beltran maintains this production since he's been doing it for 15 years.

Derek Jeter

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The Captain has a more-than-fine .298/.385/.351 triple slash with a 107 OPS+ thus far, and part of that lies on the strength of a .370 BABIP, as indicated by the fact that almost all of his hits toward the outfield have fallen. However, it should not be forgotten that he has a .353 career BABIP, so he's actually not outplaying his typical BABIP numbers by that much. In classic Jeter fashion, most of his hits have gone up the middle or to the opposite field as a righthanded hitter. In fact the only ball he really pulled down the line was that near-homer during the home opener. Even though he's had little power, if this is what 40-year-old Jeter can be at his best over a full-season, then the Yankees would sign up for it in a hurry.

Brian Roberts

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Roberts has by far the lowest OPS+ of any regular on the team thus far at 49, and that is mostly the result of a 13.3% walk rate. When he has actually put the ball in play, it has not been for much power at all, aside from the one random big game he had against David Price. On the bright side, he only has a .225 BABIP at the moment compared to a .310 mark for his career, so he's probably due for a little more luck on hits soon. As of now though... woof. I prefer the Kelly Johnson "go big or hit a dribbler to second approach."

Yangervis Solarte

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Solarte's spray chart adds some credibility to his hot start. Unlike the similarly surprising Chris Colabello of .460 BABIP lore (check out his  spray chart), Solarte's had a decent number of outs that reached the outfield, and his BABIP is .352, which while higher than the ~.300 mark he had in the minors is still not outrageously high. He's due for some regression, sure, but maybe there is some hope yet that his April isn't just a flash in the pan. Nonetheless, even if his 137 wRC+ comes back to Earth around league average rate for an infielder (~92 wRC+), he's still a much more useful player off the bench than Eduardo Nunez ever was.

***
These spray charts are just a small sample of what's available on Texas Leaguers. Definitely poke around there some more to see if there are any other interesting patterns among Yankee hitters. From the small sample of players listed above who use the whole field though, it shouldn't be so surprising that the Yankees have fared well thus far at the plate.

Bonus: Ibanez still Ibanezing

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