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How Yankee hitters perform against fastballs

Find out which Yankees are the best (and worst) batters against the heat

MLB: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 regular season is about to come to an end, and the Yankees have secured their place in the postseason by regaining the AL East throne. They have managed to overcome a myriad of critical injuries by getting the best out of their hitters through unconventional ways. The “next man up” philosophy has been on full display.

The offense has carried the team, although the bullpen and James Paxton’s resurgence in the las few weeks also deserve credit. However, a whole new level of competition is about to unlock for the Yankees, one in which anything can happen. With the series being so short, key individual contributions and the luck factor can strike at any time to turn around a game.

That is why every detail is very important. And knowing which Yankees fare better against specific types of pitches is, at the very least, an interesting piece of data to consider at the time of making decisions.

In the following table, we find the best hitters in the Yankees’ lineup against fastballs, sorted by expected weighted on-base average (xWOBA.)

Yankees’ best hitters against fastballs

Batter BA vs. FB xBA vs. FB wOBA vs. FB xwOBA vs. FB Whiff% vs. FB SLG vs. FB xSLG vs. FB
Batter BA vs. FB xBA vs. FB wOBA vs. FB xwOBA vs. FB Whiff% vs. FB SLG vs. FB xSLG vs. FB
A. Judge 336 320 439 435 21.9 636 619
M. Ford 329 326 471 423 13.2 737 584
G. Sánchez 242 268 384 422 28.7 593 646
G. Stanton 286 263 372 412 27.9 381 448
L. Voit 310 278 403 403 25.3 505 534

The expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) helps remove defense and ballpark from the equation and focuses on exit velocity and launch angle, while also adding walks and strikeouts to get an idea of a player’s performance and contribution to the team.

Not surprisingly, most of the Bronx Bombers have had their way against fastballs. Judging by expected wOBA, the most successful hitters against the heat have been Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez, Luke Voit, and, in smaller sample sizes, Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Ford.

The list of Yankee hitters that can mash fastballs is broad: Judge (xwOBA of .435 against the pitch with a .619 expected slugging percentage) will absolutely punish them, but Sánchez, Stanton, Voit, Ford, and Gleyber Torres (.389 xwOBA) will crush them, too.

When it comes to expected batting average (xBA) against fastballs, DJ LeMahieu leads the pack, among the hitters with a complete season worth of plate appearances, with .325. Mike Ford’s .326 is a tad higher, but the sample size is significantly smaller.

At the other side of the spectrum, these hitters have had trouble squaring up fastballs. They haven’t been able to produce much against the pitch.

Yankees’ worst hitters against fastballs

Batter BA vs. FB xBA vs. FB wOBA vs. FB xwOBA vs. FB Whiff% vs. FB SLG vs. FB xSLG vs. FB
Batter BA vs. FB xBA vs. FB wOBA vs. FB xwOBA vs. FB Whiff% vs. FB SLG vs. FB xSLG vs. FB
K. Higashioka 207 167 271 214 20.9 448 346
A. Romine 273 229 311 265 22.0 434 353
D. Gregorius 221 248 290 305 17.6 426 422
A. Hicks 274 241 351 318 17.5 493 419
T. Wade 292 230 393 320 23.9 500 336
B. Gardner 277 236 416 323 19.2 633 391
M. Tauchman 286 251 387 341 21.2 537 431
C. Frazier 295 268 368 350 20.4 512 481

Two backup catchers, a couple of injured outfielders (Hicks and Tauchman) and some fringe roster guys. The most notable name in the list, however, is that of starting shortstop Didi Gregorius.

It is somewhat surprising how Gregorius, who has had very good seasons with the bat in recent years, has struggled against four-seamers and other types of fastballs this season, with a disappointing .305 xwOBA.

Another thing worthy of attention is the fact that there is a sizable gap between Brett Gardner’s wOBA against fastballs (.416) and his expected wOBA vs. the pitch (.323.)

In an ideal world, maybe pitchers would throw far more curveballs, sliders, and changeups since they are harder to hit. However, they are more physically demanding than fastballs, and they are harder to locate, as well. Baseball has changed a lot in recent times, but not to the point in which the fastball isn’t the most common offering of all. The ability to consistently hit them is a must for a successful batter.

Interesting facts about potential rivals

The American League Postseason field is set, with the Astros, Twins, Rays, and A’s joining the Yankees in the tournament.

Per FanGraphs’ data, the Astros throw the fewest amount of fastballs in the big leagues, with just 45.5%. They like their curveballs, evidenced by their 13.6% collective mark, which is the fourth highest in the bigs.

The Yankees and the Twins like to throw fastballs at the same rate, which is 51.6% of the time. In Minnesota, they throw slightly more sliders than curveballs (15.3% to 13.5%) but in the Bronx, the preference for the slider is much more marked (21.8% to 7.4%.)