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BABIP indicates Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury should improve in 2016

A few Yankees who struggled this season are due for a positive correction in 2016.

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The Yankees offense was among the best in the American League this season, but they didn't come without their fair share of struggles. Down the stretch and in their lone playoff game, runs became scarce for the team as a whole. Two Yankees in particular, namely Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, who were expected to be a big part of the lineup, couldn't get it going with the bat all year. Are these guys done as useful players or is there a good reason for their disappointing 2015 campaigns?

Luck, or lack thereof, can be somewhat quantified in the baseball world by using BABIP (batting average on balls in play). That means a player could be seeing the ball well, hitting it hard, but not seeing results because those well-hit balls are finding an opposing fielder's glove at a higher rate than usual. While there are other factors at play beyond pure luck, BABIP with respect to line drive rate can be used to track this phenomenon to see if a player was bad or just unlucky.

The table below lists the nine Yankees who are likely to contribute the most for the Yankees in 2016. Their 2015 BABIP and line drive rates are given in comparison to their career rates to see if there are any candidates for a rebound this year. Please note that the career line drive rates given here are only since 2002, when FanGraphs started tracking them.

2015 Career Difference
Brian McCann .235 16.7% .278 19.9% -.043 -3.2%
Mark Teixeira .246 18.9% .285 20.7% -.039 -1.8%
Starlin Castro .298 17.0% .321 19.9% -.023 -2.9%
Didi Gregorius .297 21.2% .288 20.7% .009 0.5%
Chase Headley .317 26.6% .329 21.8% -.012 4.8%
Brett Gardner .312 20.8% .319 20.6% -.007 0.2%
Jacoby Ellsbury .301 24.1% .319 21.3% -.018 2.8%
Carlos Beltran .297 21.6% .300 19.9% -.003 1.7%
Alex Rodriguez .278 18.2% .316 17.9% -.038 0.3%

Unsurprisingly, both Headley and Ellsbury seem like prime candidates to improve, as their BABIPs were well below career average but their line drive rates were among the league's best. In general, every Yankee on the list, with the exception of Didi Gregorius, was below their career BABIP number, which means that the Yankees could see a team-wide boost on offense. In certain cases though, such as with McCann and Teixeira, any significant correction in BABIP seems unlikely. In the vast majority of their at bats over the past few seasons they've been faced with an intense defensive shift. That means that batted balls are finding opposing gloves more frequently by design instead of through a stroke of luck.

Still, the evidence here suggests that the offensive revival enjoyed by the Yankees in 2015 was no fluke. The lineup should be as good or even better next summer.