The Yankees have played some of the most uninspiring baseball over the last couple years that many of us have ever seen, considering the level of expectations of this team. There have been many points this season where they've been almost impossible to watch. Their offense has been nothing short of offensive for the better part of two full seasons. The only reason their record has hovered around .500 is because the pitching has been pretty damn good as a whole.
So, today we're going to look at what numbers they've put up, so we can pinpoint what areas they could get better in. Now, before we get started, I'll add this disclaimer - We aren't going to focus on a specific statistic or weigh one more than the others, we're strictly going to see where we rank in MLB in many batting categories to identify where we need to get better. In other words - We all know batting average isn't necessarily an indicative statistic, but if we're doing horribly in that one specific area, regardless of how much it should be considered, we SHOULD be looking to improve there.
Overall team rankings - as of 9/27/23
The Good -
#8 Hard hit%
That's it. There really is nothing else positive that can be said. It gets much uglier from here.
The Rest -
#24 Runs scored
So, the "Bronx Bombers" rank in the bottom third of the league in runs scored, SLG%, and OPS, while ranking #8 in HR's and having one of the best hitters in baseball locked up for many years.
There's a few stats here that directly impact others, like it's difficult to have a high OBP when you have a low batting average. And while the Yankees rank highly in HR's, the dead last ranking in singles and doubles is pulling down everything, and all of these stats are dragging down the team OPS.
Let's face it - no one needs to even look at these stats to know, the Yankee offense has been horrible. As Josh Diemert pointed out in the game recap, last night marked the 9th time the Yankees have been no hit through five innings this season. The shocking part about that statistic is - I would have thought it happened more. They've been putrid.
If we're going to use these statistics to identify off season needs, we're going to have to do a little more digging and get some more specific data.
#9 Hard hit%
So, they hit the ball hard against RHP. Other than that, they're barely better than the Oakland A's. They CAN NOT hit RHP. This can not be stated enough. This has been a problem for this team that has only gotten worse in recent years. They CAN NOT hit RHP.
7% Hard hit%
One thing you'll notice in all the stats above, is the Yankees have hit the ball hard in almost every situation. It's not a secret, that they have stressed this statistic as being something they focus on when evaluating players. And, it makes sense to think that a player that hits the ball hard would have a better chance at success than a player that doesn't hit the ball as hard. But, I'd argue these stats prove that they've been weighing that statistic much too heavily when evaluating talent. The ability to make consistent contact and bat control are still traits that need to looked at. If the Yankees analytics department believes that Player X hits the ball hard, therefore he's got a better chance of success. Why wouldn't Player Y, that puts the ball in play at an elite clip have the same chance at success? It may look like a different type of success, but success none the less. Luis Arraez ranks in the bottom 3% in Hardhit% and 9% in Barrels and has the best batting average in MLB by far. Giancarlo Stanton ranks in the top 16%(his lowest as a Yankee) in Hardhit% and he's been horrific most of this season. Which player would be a better fit on this team?
Looking at how RHH and LHH have performed this season, should also help figure out what's gone wrong -
#4 Hard hit%
#29 Plate appearances
The most glaring statistics on this page are the performances of Yankee LHH. They have been horrific. They're the only group of players on the team that don't hit the ball hard also. They have a league worst BA and OBP, while ranking in the bottom five in SLG% and OPS. Their RHH have underperformed as a whole as well, just not nearly as badly as their LHH.
So, what does this all mean?
If we're going to use these statistics to determine what players the Yankees should look for this off season, it's pretty clear what they need to add.
Ranking needs - In order
#1 - At least one or two well rounded, above average LH bats. They need LH bats that can hit for average as well as power, and also take some walks in the process. They may find it easier to acquire two separate LHH, where one excels in hitting for power and the other excels in hitting for average and perform much better overall.
#2 - They need a couple hitters that hit RHP exceptionally well. If you remove Aaron Judge from this team, virtually every statistic against RHP would be hovering around dead last in MLB. His excellence against all pitching has raised the overall numbers off the basement floor but they aren't even up the stairs yet.
#3 - I don't care how much anyone values batting average as a statistic, they need to raise their overall team batting average. The Brewers and Twins are the only two teams ranked among the bottom ten teams in the league in batting average that are going to make the playoffs this year. They play in the AL Central and NL Central. They rank #1 and #6 in team ERA and Minnesota has hit the 4th most HR in baseball. So, they have clear reasons why they've been able to overcome their low batting average. But does anyone consider them serious contenders? No - and that's because they can't hit consistently enough.
#4 - My favorite statistic, doubles. They need doubles. SLG% can't just be about HR's. In order to balance a lineup, you need to have the ability to hit for power - without hitting HR's some times as well. I don't care what Bill James said in some research piece a few years ago. Of the bottom ten teams in doubles this year, there's only one team(MIL) that's a playoff team, with only one other possible playoff team(MIA) among them. The Angels are the only team among those bottom ten in doubles that is in the top half of the league in runs scored, and they barely made the cut at #15. Doubles lead to runs. Are they as good as HR's - obviously not. But you aren't going to hit HR's time, you need to be able to score in other ways. Mixing in doubles is the next best thing(triples have a too much of a fluke factor), because it only take one more hit to score a run. They also can drive in a player from first that had walked. This team needs doubles!
#5 - They need a few more stolen bases. I think these numbers might naturally increase with more playing time for players like Jasson Dominguez and Anthony Volpe getting on base a little more as he matures. But, if those numbers don't see an uptick, they should bring in a little speed as well. They'd have a much better chance at scoring some runs if they were able to raise their #21 ranking into the top ten range. A walk and a stolen base, followed up by a single is all it takes to score a run. It only takes about 30 stolen bases to get into the top ten. Maybe those 30 steals leads to 10 runs. It would bump them up a notch on the run list as well.
There is some good news here. It's obvious what they need. They need a couple LH bats that hit RHP well and for a high average. If they can find a way to add those two things to a team that still hits the ball hard and sees some maturation from players like Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez they should see some pretty big spikes in most of these numbers. If they can raise their batting average from .226 to the .250 range, it would result in an increase in OBP of .24 points, which would put them in the top ten in MLB. Adding about 50 doubles would still only barely put them in the top 20 in that category, but would work to elevate SLG% a few more points, which would help raise the OPS a few notches as well.
Most importantly - the lineup needs balance. Not just RH/LH balance, but sluggers/slashers balance as well. Bashers/dashers works as well. Aaron Judge is a damn beast. Unfortunately, he's been the only animal in the kingdom the last couple years. Opponents know that as long as he doesn't bite them, no one else in the lineup will. Two potent LHH is a must this off season. Add them to Judge, a hopefully maturing Volpe, a final year of Gleyber, an up and coming Dominguez, and some combination of Stanton/Rizzo/DJL taking up two spots in the lineup and you start to see a lineup that might be able to have some success.
I have to add one more point here. For everyone clamoring for the Yankees to trade away Gleyber Torres this off season - Hold on for a second. If you look at the areas the Yankees struggle in - Gleyber Torres is one of their few bright spots. He has the highest batting average on the roster. He has 41 more hits than any other Yankee. He leads the team in singles and doubles, and is second in HR's. He's second in walks. One of the best stats that everyone should hold onto when thinking about Gleyber - Anthony Rizzo(a player that's received rave reviews for his approach with two strikes) has the same amount of strikeouts on the season as Gleyber Torres in 211 less plate appearances. The Yankees should absolutely hold onto Gleyber Torres for one more season, if not for any other reason - they need to.
So, next time - I'll take a look at who might be able to fill those needs among free agents and trade targets.