Baseball truly has changed over the past couple of decades. The age-old eye test has given way to SQL databases and predictive models, with some of the world's brightest minds converging upon MLB front offices. But despite the data revolution that has taken over the game, the Yankees have made the pre-season projections look silly with baseball's oldest saying, "Keep your eyes on the ball." Despite hitting more than their fair share of home runs, the Yankees have done a great job of making contact as well:
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Keep in mind, the Yankees were supposed to struggle offensively for the third straight season after their historic 20-year title window. Instead, they have baseball's fifth-best team OPS and are currently leading the AL East. For a more detailed look, here is a detailed look at the Yankees and their ability to make contact:
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have always been very tough outs because of their short, quick swings. Mark Teixeira's success has come as a shock to everyone, especially from the right side of the plate. Against lefties, Tex walks 20% of the time and strikes out less than 10% of the time, a welcome change after the last couple of years. Alex Rodriguez is the only one with anything that can be called a swing and miss problem, but he has made up for it by hitting the ball ridiculously hard. According to Baseball Savant, A-Rod is 14th in average exit velocity among hitters with at least 100 balls in play.
The Yankees' ability to make contact thus far can be looked at as both a gift and a curse. When it comes to youth, the Yankees aren't exactly the Marlins. The second half could very easily bring about some major regression for players like A-Rod, Tex, and Brian McCann.
But a fan with a glass-half-full mindset would look more towards what contact ability has meant for teams in the postseason. Over the last five seasons, the 2014 Giants were the only team to make the World Series with a swinging strike rate north of 10%. But even that team's numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as they didn't add the virtually strikeout-proof Joe Panik until the second half of the season.
Stellar hand-eye coordination has translated well for the Yankees, especially against premium pitching. This season, they have tattooed elite pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Garrett Richards, Felix Hernandez, and Jacob deGrom. If they reach the postseason, premium pitching will undoubtedly be a common theme as they go for number 28. If they continue to make contact, the Yankees will be a force to be reckoned with in October.
Unless stated otherwise, data is courtesy of Fangraphs.