The New York Yankees keep on winning. They are doing so with players most of us didn’t even think would have as much playing time as they’ve seen thus far. Although the lineup has lost regular members for substantial amounts of time, what’s interesting is that the offensive statistics have been similar compared to last year.
The Yankees are marginally walking less and striking out a bit more. The one area where we can see some difference is in the BABIP department. After batting for a .285 BABIP in 2018 which ranked 28th in the major leagues, this season the Bombers have a .297 BABIP ranking 12th.
A couple of new Yankees are now the current leaders of BABIP when considering players with 80 plate appearances or more. One of those players is DJ LeMahieu. It wouldn’t have been hard to guess LeMahieu would help the Yankees reach a higher BABIP. He has produced a .320 or higher BABIP six out of his last eight seasons (league average was .296 for 2018). His contact skill gives him the ability to strikeout 10% less than the rest of the majors. But that’s just one part of the equation. What has also helped LeMahieu is the fact that he’s just hitting the ball hard. A look at his statcast page shows LeMahieu in the 87th percentile in hard hit percentage, currently ranked 17th overall with players who have 120 batted ball events.
We expected this from LeMahieu, but Gio Urshela has been a pleasant surprise. Earlier this season I broke down what Urshela has been doing differently this year compared to his seasons before. One of the biggest differences I noticed was his ability to avoid weak contact. Only Judge was better than him at the time. Since then, he has dropped his soft hit percentage rate from 12% to a current 8.5%. Not only is that a best for the Yankees, but 5th overall in the majors.
Another player who has shown improvement is Gary Sanchez. The catcher is currently ripping the cover off the ball. He has ranked first in barrels per plate appearances basically all season. Similar to last year, however, Sanchez is below the team mark regarding BABIP. His current mark of .246 is much better than the .197 BABIP he posted in 2018. Recently, colleague Joshua Diemert addressed how Sanchez’s approach of not hitting as many groundballs has once again made him a presence in the lineup. Since he is a lot better at avoiding outs when he hits the ball in the air versus the ground, this has helped him to raise his performance in multiple areas of the game. We have seen his dominance in barrels, now his BABIP numbers are on the rise, too.
Lastly, finally having some first base production will surely improve the Yankees’ ability to put the ball in play. Luke Voit ended 2018 with an unbelievable .380 BABIP for the Yankees and left the fan base all wondering if he could repeat that type of production. A .303 BABIP this season is not the same and no one should have expected it to be, but it is a lot better than what Neil Walker (.257) and Greg Bird (.230) were able to provide.
BABIP is just one statistic of many other offensive statistics that give us a quick look into what a player or team can do. More specifically, it allows us to see how often a player is able to find a hole in the field to reach base and avoid an out. Urshela and LeMahieu have been extremely valuable during this injury-riddled start and continue to be as they just keep hitting. Hopefully Sanchez is able to keep this trend going for him as well. While an increased BABIP hasn’t caused the Yankees’ reserve team to win, having the ability to avoid outs and extend innings can only help.