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How do the Yankees rank in this new swing decision metric?

It’s important to balance aggression and patience, and this metric helps tell whose best at doing that.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

This article from Robert Orr of Baseball Prospectus is one of the best analytical pieces I’ve read all year. In the most recent iterations of the New York Yankees, I’ve often been frustrated with the shape of some hitters’ production. I don’t mean that in a specific way, but rather in a lineup construction way. It’s fantastic to have hitters with the ability to draw walks, but there is a fine line between taking to take and taking because it’s not a pitch you can do damage on. Being aggressive when given the chance and being patient at the right time is the model approach for any hitter. Orr put that exact idea into a number, which is the exact goal of analytics and data driven analysis. Take a concept that is very familiar to players and coaches, try to measure it, then use it to learn and develop.

As Orr said, not chasing isn’t the only important variable in assessing swing decisions. The same can be said for aggression on pitches in the zone. Corey Seager’s most unique skill is his blended approach that balances these two pieces. Orr’s goal to quantify this approach is built off assessing if hitters add run value on each swing they take. The expected run value depends on the pitch count and location combination. If a hitter is good at attacking “hittable pitches” then they are credited. If a hitter is good at avoiding pitches that weren’t damageable – Orr calls it selection tendency – then they’re credited. Expectedly, Seager is the top of the list that combines both of these observations, but I’m here to discuss the Yankees. Thankfully, Orr provided the data for the 2023 season, so let’s see how that looks:

Yankees’ SEAGER Scores

Team Hitter SEAGER Hittable Pitches Taken Selection Tendency
Team Hitter SEAGER Hittable Pitches Taken Selection Tendency
NYY Aaron Judge 23.40% 32.70% 56.10%
NYY Giancarlo Stanton 20.30% 35.90% 56.20%
NYY Gleyber Torres 19.00% 32.30% 51.30%
NYY DJ LeMahieu 14.30% 41.60% 55.90%
NYY Isiah Kiner-Falefa 12.60% 38.60% 51.20%
NYY Harrison Bader 11.90% 37.50% 49.40%
NYY Anthony Volpe 11.60% 36.90% 48.50%
NYY Jake Bauers 11.50% 37.30% 48.80%
NYY Anthony Rizzo 11.40% 38.40% 49.80%
NYY Kyle Higashioka 11.10% 37.00% 48.10%
NYY Oswaldo Cabrera 9.70% 36.10% 45.80%

When rankings look like this, that is an incredibly good sign. Whenever building a metric, you have a good idea of how valuable and/or accurate it is based on what it looks like at either extreme. If you’re trying to measure swing decision quality on the Yankees, Aaron Judge should be at the top. Similarly, a hitter like Oswaldo Cabrera should be on the bottom.

It’s important to state this metric doesn’t control for an individual player’s swing skills, but you should also know Judge ranks sixth overall in all of baseball, so it tells a pretty darn good story. The key aspect of Judge’s high SEAGER score comes primarily from his selection tendency. To define this, Orr says, “how many of the good decisions a hitter makes that were the result of not swinging at bad pitches.” Anecdotally, it makes sense that Judge, as well as Giancarlo Stanton, are heralded for this. Both hitters have a clear understanding of when they can afford to cheat or ambush a pitch, or when they need to be weary of not leaving the zone.

On the contrary, this metric shows how Stanton should be more aggressive on hittable pitches! His ranking isn’t listed here but it’s near average. Like I said earlier, balancing patience with attacking meatballs is incredibly important for any hitter. To add some context, Stanton’s swing percentage on fastballs in the heart of the zone was 68.2 percent. The league average mark was 73.0 percent. Hitters at the top of that list include Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Fernando Tatis Jr. It’s a combination of free swingers and fantastic hitters. Stanton should take a page out of their book and make pitchers pay for leaving him hittable fastballs.

The same could be said for Anthony Volpe, who ranks in the 30th percentile of SEAGER. Heading into next season, Volpe will have to work on learning where his strengths are in his swing, so that he can fine tune his approach.

Lucky for him, he has good examples on his own team that can learn from. With time, he and other young Yankees hitters will hopefully move in the right direction when it comes to their approach, and SEAGER now allows us to track that growth and tell a better story about the balance between patience and aggression. With a new hitting regime in town, let’s see if they can change up the communication style to make it clear to each hitter what their strengths and weakness are.