Why I'm Not Buying the Yankees (at least, not yet)

In Beyond the Box Score's weekly rankings, we find the Yankees currently sitting in 8th place. Unlike the Rays and the Red Sox, the NY Yankees (along with the Blue Jays) have managed to come out of the gate quite well this year, leading the American League east with a 9-5 record. They've knocked an incredible 27 home runs to start the season, with six players hitting four or more so far (Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Russell Martin).

As amazing as that is it's one of the biggest factors giving me pause in buying into the Yankees at this point. 

When you look at how they've scored their runs and combine that with how their pitchers have performed it's hard to step back and say objectively that this team is among the elite teams in baseball.

Let's start with their offense. Those 27 home runs are largely the product of a home run to fly ball (HR/FB) rate of over 20%. Generally speaking, teams average about 7-8% for the year. The Yankees are certainly not average given their lineup and their home ball park, but a rate of 20% is very high. Last year, the Yankees finished with a HR/FB rate of a little over 12% and 10.6% in 2009. Even if we given them a 12% rate this year, they should have hit 16 home runs, not 27.

For some perspective on what that does to their runs scored, holding all else constant, a decrease from 20% to 12% would decrease their runs scored from 77 to 65. Even if we adjust for their low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) so far (.260 vs. .300), they still should only have scored 68 runs.

Generally speaking, it wouldn't be too shocking if the Yankees finish with a solid offense. What's more interesting is their pitching.

Through 14 games, the Yankees have given up 68 runs--12th most in the league. That certainly isn't horrible, but it also isn't good. I actually think it could be worse--much worse. 

The Yankees staff has the 6th most beneficial FIP-xFIP difference in the league (-.036). Essentially, isolating their K's, BB's, and HR's allowed we find them at 10th best in the league (3.77). But given what we would expect based upon the average HR/FB rate they should actually be 20th in the league (4.13).

Additionally, the staff has the 19th highest K/BB ratio, and the 18th highest K/9-BB/9. Combine that with the fact that they have a line drive rate (LD%) of 23.10% (highest in all of baseball) and you have to be worried about their abilitly to keep runs off the board long-term.

If the pitching isn't going to get much better (with current personal it's hard to see, but the Yankees can certainly make mid-season moves), and with the offense likely to come back to earth a bit given the inflated HR%, it's hard to say that the Yankees are an elite team or a sure thing to win the AL East right now. That's not to say a few mid-season moves can't right the ship. But if you ask me today I can't honestly say that I'm buying just yet.

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