To put it mildly, Yankee Stadium is not a pitchers' park. For 2015, ESPN's park factors rated Yankee Stadium as the tenth best overall hitters' park in the majors, and fourth best for home runs. This isn't surprising considering the ball travels well through the Bronx air, and there are hitter-friendly dimensions almost all around the stadium, especially in right field where it's just 314 feet down the line.
The Yankees have certainly built offenses fit for the stadium. For years, the lineups have been anchored by power-hitting lefties who can hit one over the short right field porch with a flick of the wrist. What people don't notice, though, is that while pitching in "The House That George Built" is an unenviable task, the Yankees have actually built a pitching staff that is well-suited for the stadium.
From the starting rotation to the bullpen, the Yankees' pitching staff is filled with guys who limit fly balls, and instead have higher strikeout and ground ball rates. When pitching in such a hitter-friendly park, keeping the ball out of the air is always a good thing.
In 2015, the starters did a nice job in all three facets: striking guys out, producing ground balls, and limiting fly balls. Here are their composite stats and MLB ranks among starting rotations.
K/9- 7.51 (12th)
GB%- 48.3 (4th)
FB%- 30.9 (7th lowest)
GB/FB- 1.56 (6th)
Individually, this is how 2016's six starters stack up.
|MLB starter average||7.4||45.2||33.7||1.34|
*bold indicates a metric better than the MLB average among starting pitchers
Of the 24 statistics listed, 20 are superior to the average 2015 starter. Although fly balls go for hits less often than grounders or liners, for the purpose of this exercise, a lower FB% is a good thing given how frequently fly balls head out of Yankee Stadium, and because fly balls do much more damage than ground balls. This table breaks that down further.
Courtesy of FanGraphs.com using 2014 data
The main takeaway here, though, is that the Yankees' starters are pretty, pretty good in these areas. All six guys are above average in both GB% and GB/FB, and they're all better than average in at least three of the four statistics we're examining.
Obviously, there is more to pitching than these four metrics, but in a hitters' park, teams definitely want pitchers who excel in these areas. It's clear the Yankees have starters that do just that. Pineda and Severino excelled in all four areas; Sabathia's K% was just a tick below average; Nova just isn't a strikeout pitcher but likely won't even be in the rotation; Eovaldi jumped to a clip of 8 K/9 in the second half after developing his splitter, and Tanaka's fly ball/home run problem is well-documented, but he had a HR/FB ratio of 16.9% last season, which is extremely high even in a hitter's park, and a good bet to regress this season.
It's not just the starters that are a good for Yankee Stadium, though. The bullpen is also extremely well-suited for the ballpark in the Bronx. The trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances would be great in any ballpark, but are particularly apt for Yankee Stadium because of their ability to shut down lefties, ensuring there won't be many (any?) late-inning home runs down the right field line.
We know how great the three are, but just for fun, here are their numbers from 2015 anyway.
|Aroldis Chapman vs. R||47.2||.193||3||14.73||37.8||39.8||0.95|
|Aroldis Chapman vs. L||18.2||.141||0||18.32||34.6||46.2||0.75|
|Andrew Miller vs. R||50.2||.129||4||14.03||46.9||37.8||1.24|
|Andrew Miller vs. L||11.0||.233||1||17.18||54.5||13.6||4.0|
|Dellin Betances vs. R||42.2||.174||4||15.61||39.5||38.3||1.03|
|Dellin Betances vs. L||41.1||.134||2||12.41||56.8||24.3||2.33|
*bold because it's just unbelievable
So, yeah, as we already know, nobody is going to be touching these three, lefty or righty. Chapman's FB% is a bit high, but he strikes so many people out that it really doesn't even matter. Lefties rarely ever get the ball in the air against Miller or Betances--not that fans should have had any concerns about these three.
The Yankees may not have a great starting rotation; there are injury and consistency questions marks throughout. Understanding that they play in a bandbox of a ballpark though, the front office has filled the rotation and the bullpen (which would be great anywhere) with players who won't be as prone to "Yankee Stadium specials" given their ability to produce strikeouts and ground balls rather than fly balls. The pitching staff seems well-positioned to limit the damage.