Early Yankee BABIP Problems

Can you judge a team's offense after just eight games? Probably not. But you can look at trends to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. According to most statistics I am looking at, the Yankees are a middle of the road offense. The one thing lagging behind everything else is the team's batting average on balls in play or BABIP. The Yankees are ninth out of thirty teams in runs scored. No doubt that fourteen-run explosion the other night helped that out quite a bit. The team is seventh in ISO, so the power numbers are decent. They are eleventh in wOBA. And they are fifteenth in on-base percentage.

Looking further at the numbers thus far, the team is ground ball / fly ball neutral. In other words, they are not leaning heavily in one batted ball type or the other. The team hasn't hit a lot of line drives to this point and are 28th in that category.

On the flip side, they are sixth in home run to fly ball ratio, so, again, when the team gets a hold of one, it goes out.

The Yankees are doing a good job at not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. They have the third lowest rate of doing so. That means the team is making pitchers throw strikes. And, they have the fourth lowest swinging strike percentage. That hasn't led to a high walk percentage though as they are eleventh in walk percentage. They are sixteenth in strikeout percentage.

All this points to a short sample sized middle of the road offense that should start walking more as the season goes along.

Line drive percentage and BABIP sometimes go hand in hand. There is no more successful contact type in baseball than the line drive. The BABIP on such contact is always over .650 in baseball as a whole. A low line drive rate will hurt BABIP in most cases.

But with the Yankees, you also have to look at the number of Yankee hitters susceptible to the shift. If you were to rattle off in your head the Yankees who see the most shifts, you would list Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew, Carlos Beltran and, to a lesser degree, perhaps Chase Headley and newcomer, Garrett Jones.

Again, remember that this is all small sample sizes and too much can't be made of such things yet, but those guys you would associate with shifts have the lowers BABIPs on the team. Here is how they rank currently:

  1. John Ryan Murphy - .429
  2. Alex Rodriguez - .385
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury - .346
  4. Chris Young and Gregorio Petit - .333
  5. Brett Gardner - .263
  6. Brian McCann - .250
  7. Garret Jones - .222
  8. Chase Headley - .208
  9. Carlos Beltran - .200
  10. Didi Gregorius . 182
  11. Mark Teixeira - .167
  12. Stephen Drew - .118

Stephen Drew, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann all have line drive percentages hovering at the 6% range, which is freakishly low. I would explain Gardner's .263 BABIP almost solely on his early line drive percentage.

After watching most of the games, at least half of the team's batters face constant shifts. And, to me, it is predictable that the BABIPs of 6 through 12 in the list above are all guys that see a lot of shifts. This is not going to change until those six players make a conscious effort to beat the shift.

We already know that won't happen with Mark Teixeira as he has flatly stated as such. What we see of his BABIP in the early going can be expected to be a problem all season. For the fans, this is extremely frustrating because it seems more selfish than difficult to do.

The Yankees aren't the only team that faces a lot of shifts. But they are among the top five in baseball thus far. And as long as half the team continues to make the shift worthwhile, then teams certainly have an advantage making batted balls work to their advantage.

It's early yet and the sample sizes are small. But this 28th ranked BABIP Yankee offense bears watching...and head slapping.