In his brief stint with the Yankees this year, Mike Ford did not exactly wow with the bat. He posted a .179/.378/.321 slash, with only five hits (one home run) in 37 plate appearances over ten games. He walked a lot — hence the high OBP — but besides that, most of the analysis discussing Ford’s potential role have focused on his minor league track record and his major breakout this year at Triple-A Scranton.
Focusing on his minor league stats makes sense, given the extremely small sample size at the major league level. However, a look through the Statcast data suggests that Ford can be more than just a quality backup who gets on base a lot, avoids strikeouts, and can occasionally run into one.
So far this season, Ford has a barrel percentage of 11.1%, which is fourth on the team, behind Luke Voit at 18.5% and ahead of Mike Tauchman at 9.4%. That’s almost twice the league average of 6%. Additionally, his average exit velocity is 92.5 MPH, which places him sixth on the team (league average is 87.4%), with a launch angle of 16.7%. These numbers combine to give him an xSLG of .461 and an xwOBA of .404, both top five on the team and well above the league averages of .408 and .316, respectively.
Furthermore, compared to his minor league career, Ford has cut his groundballs down from 45% last season to 27.8% at the big league level. Most of those turned into line drives (which is up from 14.1% to 38.9%). While it remains to be seen if these trends continue (they unfortunately have not at the Triple-A level, where he has a 53.2% ground-ball percentage), their existence at the major league level indicates a possible shift in approach. Such a shift could allow his increased performance to be sustainable over the long haul.
Of course, the difficulty in making any major predictions for Mike Ford stems from his limited experience at the big league level. In 37 plate appearances so far, Ford has struck out 10 times and walked 8 times, which means on 19 occasions, he put the ball in play. This is a remarkably small sample size — he has so little data that Statcast does not include any similar batters — and it is very possible that this is simply a hot streak and things could change during his next stint in the Bronx. That said, Ford’s numbers should provide the Yankees with some hope that he could be a contributor at the next level.