So a couple of weeks back, Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan wrote a column called Think you know baseball? No, you don’t.
It was a good article that gave 25 facts about baseball that weren’t typical common knowledge. I liked it and in the back of my mind I thought that I wanted to do something similar about the Yankees at the end of the year.
The thing is it takes a while to sift through all of these stats and while I was gathering information Jeff over at WasWatching did pretty much the same thing I was working on.
He did a great job and you should definitely read his article, but I’m still going ahead with my own version because I already put a lot of work in to it and I won’t be denied. It also works because we don’t have many overlapping facts, maybe one and a few similar ones, but I think both articles work. They are pretty much 25 random facts that we’ve each chosen.
So read his article and read my own. I think they are both pretty good. And thanks to FanGraphs for helping me with most of this article.
1. The Yankees see a lot of changeups
When it comes to pitching against the Yankees it seems that the book on them is to throw lots of changeups. They’ve seen the third most changeups in baseball percentage wise at a 11.8 percent rate.
Major league pitchers should consider changing their habits though as the Bombers hit the changeup better than the slider and the pitch they have the most trouble against, the cutter.
2. They’re actually pretty good at hitting sliders too
According to FanGraphs, the Yankees are actually the best team in baseball when it comes to hitting the slider. Their wSL rating is at 7.6. The worst team when it comes to hitting the slider is the Chicago Cubs with a -50.6 wSL rating.
3. They’re pretty good at hitting other pitches too
They hit the slider pretty well, but their wCH and wCB are both ranked third overall in baseball at 9.4 and 10.2 respectively. I guess that’s what happens when you are the top offense in baseball.
4. Kevin Long has taught them well
The Yankees have become one of the top offenses in baseball from laying off the outside pitches. They have taken the least outside the zone swings, swinging at bad pitches just 26.2 percent of the time.
5. Really they are just very patient overall
Not only do they swing at the fewest outside the zone, they swing at the second fewest pitches in baseball. Their swing percentage is 43.4 percent, only the Red Sox at 43.1 percent have swung at less pitches in 2010.
6. They might not swing a lot, but…
The Yankees don’t swing a lot, but they do make a lot of contact. In fact, they make contact the third most in all of baseball on pitches in the strike zone at 90.3 percent. Only the Twins and Royals make more contact on inside the zone pitches at 90.7 percent and 91.6 percent respectively.
7. When it comes to not swinging at first pitches…
It helps that the Yankees see fewer first pitch strikes than anybody in baseball at 56.7 percent. When you’ve got a dangerous offense like they have, they tend to get a lot of respect. It helps to not expand your strike zone too.
So what are they swinging at?
8. Brett Gardner loves his fastballs
Brett Gardner swings at more fastball in baseball than anybody not named Juan Pierre. 70.5 percent of the pitches he swings at are fastballs. 71.6 percent of the pitches Pierre swings at are fastballs.
9. More than fastballs, Gardner loves not swinging
Gardner swings at a smaller percentage of pitches than all but one at 17.9 percent. He also swings at fewer pitches in the zone than anybody in baseball at 44.8%. His total swing percentage of 30.9% is also the lowest in baseball.
He makes up for that by making a ton of contact. Gardner actually makes more contact on pitches in the zone than anybody, except one, in baseball at 97.5 percent contact rate.
10. Mark Teixeira can’t lay off the changeup.
Enough about hitters, let’s talk about pitchers
11. Yankee pitchers have had a tough time…
Partially because they give up a lot of home runs. The Yankees HR/9 rate is the third highest in baseball at 1.12. It’s partially because they have the second highest HR/FB rate in baseball at 10.7 percent.
12. They do have some nasty curveballs though
In fact, Burnett’s curveball is the hardest in baseball clocking in at 82.2 mph on average. His changeup has some speed to it as well, coming in at 89.8 mph, making it the second fastest changeup in the game.
13. They have nasty cutters too
Alright, so this one is mostly because of the great Mariano Rivera, but the Yankees have the best cutters in baseball. Their wCT rate is 34. The next best team in baseball is a mere 21.
14. Speaking of Rivera…
Rivera throws the highest rate of cutters, throwing the pitch 85 percent of the time. Only two people in baseball throw it harder too. His clocks in at an average of 91.6 mph.
He also gets a ton of people chasing the pitch as he has batters swing at his pitches outside the zone 40.1 percent of the time. More than anybody else in baseball.
15. CC Might throw hard, but…
CC Sabathia throws one of the hardest fastballs for any lefty, but it is his changeup that makes him so effective. CC’s changeup is rated the third best in baseball with a wSL of 17.8.
16. Let’s call him Avaiator Hughes
If you haven’t noticed, Phil Hughes is a fly ball pitcher. He has the third lowest GB/FB ratio in baseball at 0.76 thanks to the third highest fly ball percentage at 47.3 percent.
17. Hughes and D-Rob are almost exact opposites
Hughes and David Robertson both get a lot of strikeouts, but they go about it in different ways. Hughes gets a lot of swings at strikes in the zone as hitters swing at his strikes 69.7 percent of the time, the second highest rate in baseball.
Meanwhile Robertson’s zone pitches are swung at only 55.3 percent of the time, the second lowest rate in baseball among relievers. In total, batters only swing at his pitches 39 percent of the time which is again the second lowest among relievers.
18. Burnett’s 2010 is among the worst Yankee seasons ever
In 2010 Burnett had an ERA of 5.26. That’s not only bad, it’s historically bad. In the history of the Yankees it is the third worst ERA among all starters who qualified for the ERA title.
19. Here are the best hitters of particular pitches
Best fastball hitter – Nick Swisher, wFB 22.2
Best cutter hitter – Nick Swisher, wCT 2.5
Best slider hitter – Robinson Cano, wSL 12.7
Best curveball hitter – Robinson Cano, wCB 6.2
Best changeup hitter – Curtis Granderson, wCH 8.0
Best sinkerball hitter – Brett Gardner, wSF 2.2
20. Here are the best pitchers of particular pitches
Best fastball pitcher – Phil Hughes, wFB 16.7
Best slider pitcher – CC Sabathia, wSL 17.8
Best cutter pitcher – Mariano Rivera, wCT 16.7
Best curveball pitcher – Andy Pettitte, wCB 6.6
Best changeup pitcher – CC Sabathia, wCH 8.8
Let’s talk defense
21. Yankees had their first positive UZR since 2002 thanks to this man
UZR started in 2002. Since then the Yankees have always had a negative rating. Not in 2010 thanks to Brett Gardner.
Gardner had the highest UZR in baseball at 21.7. Break that down further and you’ll see it’s not just about his legs. Well his range is a big part of that, his range rate is 16.0, first among left fielders. What really separates him though is his arm. With an arm rating of 4.8 he leads all left fielders in baseball.
22. Gardner’s legs aren’t just good for defense
Brett Gardner swiped 47 bags this year. Think that’s a lot? It is. Gardner’s 47 steals are the most since Rickey Henderson set the Yankees record with 93 steals in 1988.
23. Robinson Cano might be worth a gold glove
Robinson Cano doesn’t have the greatest range in baseball, but he does make up for it in some ways. He’s the third best second baseman at turning double plays with a 1.3 rating as part of UZR.
He also has only made three errors this season giving him an error rating of 5.5, first among 2nd baseman.
24. The rest of the infielders don’t have great range either but…
All of the Yankees infielders have negative range as part of UZR, but they do all make up for it in other areas.
Alex Rodriguez is ranked fourth among third baseman at turning the doubleplay with a 0.8 rating as part of UZR. His error rating is also fourth among third baseman with an error rating of 5.3.
Derek Jeter is the top rated shortstop in error rating at 6.4 as part of UZR.
Mark Teixeira is second among first baseman with an error rating of 3.9.
25. 2010 has been mostly error free
The Yankees might not be the top rated defense in baseball when it comes to modern defensive statistics, but looking at old school stats they’ve done pretty well. They are first in fielding percentage in baseball and have set the team record with only 69 errors. The previous club low was 83.