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Some weird Yankees stats for a weird start to the season

It’s been a weird start to the season, but it’s important to remember that it’s only been 16 games.

Cleveland Guardians v. New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

As of writing this, the Yankees are currently tied for first place in the AL East after a much-needed blowout and series sweep of the Cleveland Guardians. Prior to this game, however, the Yankees offense left a lot to be desired, as only one of their previous nine victories was decided by more than three runs. To say Sunday’s result was a much-needed blowout might be an understatement.

Naturally, for a season that has begun in such a bizarre way for the Yankees — yes, they’re tied for first and the pitching has been excellent, but the offense has looked very rough at times — there are bound to be some weird statistics to go along with them. Here are some of the weirdest:

*Author’s note: All stats as of Sunday, April 24th AM, as the statistics pages were not updated to account for Sunday’s game against the Guardians prior to writing this post.

Joey Gallo’s truly bizarre ISO

Prior to coming to New York, Joey Gallo had 385 hits. Of those, 145 were home runs (37.7 percent) and only 159 were singles (41.3 percent). He was the literal definition of a slugger. ISO, shorthand for isolated power, measures a players raw power by considering only his extra-base hits. For his career, Gallo’s ISO is .276, which ranks seventh across all of the majors since he made his debut in 2015. It’s no secret that Gallo has gotten off to a very rough start at the dish in 2022 — In 15 games, he has just six hits, and all of them have been singles. This means his ISO is .000. That’s, well, not ideal.

Author’s note: Joey Gallo hit a double on Sunday, so I believe that his ISO is .020 now, but I’m not the best at math so I’ll wait for the official FanGraphs update. Either way, still not ideal.

Clay Holmes, Groundball Merchant

Clay Holmes has been an absolute beast on the mound since coming to New York by way of Pittsburgh. His start to the 2022 season is particularly remarkable, though. So far this year, he has leaned even more heavily on his sinker, throwing it a whopping 85.6 percent of the time, compared to 58.9 percent in 2021. And what does he have to show for it? An absolutely ridiculous 85 percent groundball rate. Yes, you read that right: 85 percent. For context, his career mark is 64.4 percent, the current MLB average is 45 percent, and Aaron Bummer led all qualified relievers last year with a mark of 76.1 percent. Just absurd.

Gerrit Cole’s loss of control

From 2013 to 2021, Gerrit Cole posted a 2.32 BB/9 and 6.4 percent walk rate. Talk sticky stuff all you want, but even before he turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the world with the Houston Astros, he rarely walked people. As of Sunday morning, his BB/9 sat at 5.56 and his walk percentage was a whopping 14 percent, almost double his percentage from his previously worst year. To put that into context, Aroldis Chapman struggled to find the zone for a significant portion of 2021, as we all painfully remember, and both his BB/9 (6.07) and his walk rate (15.6 percent) were comparable.

Michael King’s BABIP Problems

Michael King has been a revelation out of the bullpen. His success makes what I’m about to tell you even funnier: despite a sparkling ERA (0.84, career 4.30), incredible FIP (0.28; career 3.79), and ridiculous strikeout rate (43.9 percent, career 24 percent), all of which could’ve been discussed here, his BABIP currently sits at .429. In 10.2 innings pitched, he’s given up nine hits, with only one of them going for extra-bases. His career mark is .307, and he finds himself in the 75th percentile in average exit velocity. So, though hitters have struggled to make consistent contact against him, when they have made contact they’ve gone for (mostly) singles. In other words, despite this incredible start, he still might be pitching into some bad luck.

Josh Donaldson hits lasers now

For his career, Josh Donaldson’s line drive percentage is 18.4 percent, per FanGraphs. This makes sense, of course, as Donaldson has been very vocal about the importance of launch angle. For context, the current MLB average is 22.7 percent, so his thinking is right in line with what we’re seeing across the league. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that, through the first five series of the season, Donaldson’s line drive percent is a whopping 30.3 percent. You’d think this would eat into his flyball percentage, but it actually hasn’t — he currently sits at 39.4 percent, which is slightly above his career average. Instead, he’s just not hitting the ball on the ground anymore. Since 2010 his groundball percentage has sat at 42.9 percent, but this year it’s down to just 30.3 percent. He’s also made soft contact just three percent of the time. Yes, you read that correctly: three percent. For what it’s worth, his career mark is 14.9 percent.

So, what’s the point in an exercise like this? Well, it’s to serve as a reminder that we are dealing with incredibly small sample sizes right now. Is it possible that Gallo isn’t a slugger anymore, or that Holmes exclusively gives up groundballs now, or that Cole doesn’t understand where the strike zone is anymore, or that Donaldson can’t get any more loft on his hits? I mean, possibly, I suppose, but it’s much more likely that these numbers will stabilize over the course of the season. For now, take everything with a grain of salt.