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The Benefits of Yankees Swinging at the First Pitch

Attack, Robbie, attack!
Attack, Robbie, attack!

As fans, it can be a challenge realizing why exactly players are doing something that has not been working out during a game. In particular, people often get frustrated when Yankees swing at the first pitch in an at bat and give the opposing team a quick out. These frustrations become more apparent when the offense goes through a short inning because the hitters jumped on the first pitch too much. However, there is a method to the madness that is sometimes lost on the fans--the Yankees do really well when they swing at the first pitch.

Yankees Swinging on the First Pitch
Derek Jeter 84 .381 .536 3
Curtis Granderson 28 .321 .464 1
Robinson Cano 75 .453 .816 7
Alex Rodriguez 57 .368 .561 2
Mark Teixeira 35 .257 .429 1
Nick Swisher 23 .391 .609 1
Raul Ibanez 22 .273 .591 2
Ichiro Suzuki (SEA/NYY) 65 .308 .431 1
Russell Martin 39 .282 .564 3
Eric Chavez 19 .526 1.000 2
Andruw Jones 23 .261 .696 3
Casey McGehee (PIT/NYY) 40 .275 .500 2
Jayson Nix 18 .222 .278 0
Chris Stewart 14 .214 .214 0
2012 Yankees* 471 .350 .588 26
*Totals do not include Ichiro's Seattle splits and McGehee's Pittsburgh splits

It's probably not surprising that the players with the fewest at bats in this chart are patient hitters who often take the first pitch, even if it's a strike right down the middle. That is how Granderson, Swisher, and Ibanez had similar at bat totals to part-time players. For most of the individual players, it is a small sample, so that can skew averages somewhat, but the most important stat line is at the bottom. The Yankees as a whole have hit .350 with a .588 slugging percentage in 471 at bats attacking the first pitch. That total of at bats is substantial, and it should show people something---the Yankees are not just being impatient when they swing at the first pitch. Cano and Jeter, much maligned for their first-pitch swinging tendencies, have hit .453 with seven homers and .381 with three homers respectively on the first pitch. They are aggressive hitters, but they are not often swinging at slop.

The Yankees know what they are doing when they swing at the first pitch, even when several previous batters have done so. Sometimes, the best pitches are the first pitches, and it can be even more frustrating when a player takes a strike right down the middle just for the sake of taking a pitch. Trust the hitters. Well maybe not Stewart, but trust most of them.