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The Yankees couldn't shake their old habits in the second half

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In the first half, it looked like the Yankees were running on all cylinders offensively. But after the All Star Break, they slipped back into their old ways.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

While the Yankees sit at home watching the rival Mets in the World Series, it is easy to look back upon the first half with fond memories. Everything seemed to be going smoothly with the Bronx Bombers leading the AL East behind a high-octane offense.

As fun as the glory days of 2015 were, it is hard to remember that the Yankees weren't free of issues in the first half. Masahiro Tanaka and Andrew Miller both missed a month with forearm injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury tweaked his knee in Washington, never to return the same. Out of the bullpen, David Carpenter and Esmil Rogers - well, you get the point.

The Yankees offense was a force to be reckoned with in the first half, with Ellsbury and Brett Gardner wreaking havoc on the basepaths and the middle of the order driving them in. The same team which sent the likes of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Garrett Richards packing in the first half reverted to its old ways, hitting into an inordinate amount of flyouts and often struggling to get anything started on offense.

While the Yankees were a flyball hitting, pull-happy team in the first half, it worked because they got away with it. Mark Teixeira was the best three-outcome hitter in a while, hitting 31 home runs in just 111 games this year. When he got injured, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, and even Brett Gardner put up Tex-like peripheral numbers, but couldn't quite achieve the same results. Here are some figures from Tex's season as a whole, in addition to McCann, A-Rod and Gardner in the first and second halves:

Player Pull% FB% Hard% HR/FB BABIP
Mark Teixeira 55.4% 42.3% 35.3% 23.5% .246
Brett Gardner (1st Half) 34.9% 31.1% 28.6% 13.3% .363
Brett Gardner (2nd Half) 34.9% 37.4% 23.1% 8.6% .247
Alex Rodriguez (1st Half) 46.2% 35.9% 38.6% 22.5% .307
Alex Rodriguez (2nd Half) 45.1% 42.6% 30.9% 21.7% .238
Brian McCann (1st Half) 49.0% 44.6% 33.0% 15.4% .271
Brian McCann (2nd Half) 51.0% 50.3% 29.6% 14.3% .191


The second-half struggles of all three of these hitters can be attributed to the law of averages. All three had excellent starts to the season and were bound to come back down to earth at some point. But it is hard to explain how all three of them struggled to this extent. Perhaps some of the blame should fall on the recently fired Jeff Pentland, for failing to conquer the shift just like his predecessor, Kevin Long.

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, we can say with a high level of certainty that fatigue caught up to him. The big question for A-Rod was whether he would be able to keep up with major league heat, and he passed the test with flying colors in the first half. But as this chart from Brooks Baseball shows, he started coming up empty more and more against fastballs and sinkers as the season progressed:

Despite a season that exceeded expectations, the Yankees find themselves back where they started. They have a vacancy to fill at the hitting coach position and a team full of hitters who live and die by the short porch in right field. If they want to reach the next level, they will have to be ready to make the necessary adjustments as the season progresses. Of course, a 162 game sample size and human fatigue will make this goal harder, but where there's a will, there's a way. Adding a couple bats in the offseason would allow Joe Girardi to rest his players more often. The right hitting coach would help them hit more line drives and less shallow fly balls. Either way, the Yankees' hitters have their work cut out for them if they don't want to end up back on the golf course a year from now.

*Data is from Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball.