Once upon a time, there was a team that was so bad on offense that they did this.
The #Yankees have played 327 outs this season. They have held a lead for 5 of those outs.— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) April 11, 2015
Ah yes, the Bronx Bombers themselves, your 2015 New York Yankees! This shouldn’t come as a total shock, as the Yankees are running out what's left of guys like Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran in the middle of their order. As a group, the Yanks are hitting .278 on the wOBA scale, which isn't very good at all (here's a rundown of wOBA for the uninitiated, but basically it's a version of OBP that gives credit for how many bases one acquires when reaching base). Yet somehow, the Yankees are only 17th in the league in wOBA. In fact, it's almost unfathomable that the Twins were managing a .228 wOBA coming into Sunday's action. Basically, offense is a rare thing this April. Oh, and the Yankees one win came courtesy of a Brett Cecil meltdown that included Brian McCann being hit by a pitch after Teixeira was intentionally walked to load the bases.
"Rally lite" indeed. We knew that the Yankees weren't going to be an offensive juggernaut. ZiPS projected that Jacoby Ellsbury would lead the squad with a .340 wOBA when all is said and done. Yet the Yanks still manage to be 22 points below league average (78 wRC+) in an extremely offensively depressed environment. Yes, we only have a week's worth of games to analyze, but at the same time. . .is anyone all that surprised that the Yankees aren't leading their games very much? This is Beyond the Box Score, so we're really not supposed to look at batting averages. That's why we're ruining baseball with things like wOBA, wRC+ and WAR. So don't tell my editors that I'm about to talk about batting averages, okay?
Alex Rodriguez himself currently leads the Yankees with a .275 batting average, and has generally been the team's most consistent presence at the plate. Then comes Ellsbury at .250, and Brett Gardner at .235. Teixeira leads the team with a .390 wOBA, but does so largely via his two home runs and 20% walk rate while hitting a measly .188. You don't have to hit for average to win, everyone knows that. Yet it's pretty hard to score runs when the team is being paced at .275. Maybe that's what happens when Stephen Drew is given regular playing time. Let's take a look at why the Yankees aren't hitting for average.
Strikeouts aren't to blame for the most part, which is surprising given the team's recent tendencies. New York is striking out at a 21.5 percent clip, which put them pretty much in the middle of the pack coming into Sunday's games. If it's not strikeouts, the answer lies somewhere in the batted ball profile and. . .woah.
New York is only batting .217 when they put the ball in play. That's. . .bad. Very, very bad. How the heck is that happening? Their 40.6 percent ground ball rate isn't ideal, but it's the sixth-lowest in the league. However, they have the fourth-worst line drive rate in the league (14.7 percent) and the second-highest fly ball rate (44.8 percent). Fly balls are pretty high-percentage outs, especially when considering all the batted ball data teams have available to help position their outfielders. The Yankees are also only converting 9.5 percent of those fly balls into homers, and have only had men on base for one of those long balls.
A .217 BABIP is pretty much the definition of unsustainable, so we shouldn't expect the Yankees to never take a lead ever again. Yet. . . are we surprised at New York's newfound expertise in warning track power? This is an aging team without many offensive weapons besides the occasional burst of power. The 2014 Yankees finished the year with a .282 team BABIP, ahead of only the Athletics and the Padres. The only new full-time position players that weren't on the team last year are Didi Gregorius (who's never had a glowing offensive reputation) and the ancient Rodriguez. A mark lower than .282 is far from out of the question. And when taking into account the questionable starting rotation. . . this could be a very ugly year in the Bronx.
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All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com.
Nicolas Stellini is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.