Last August, I noticed that the Yankees were hitting fly balls at a much higher rate . I chalked it up to the giddiness of Yankee hitters at a smaller ballpark, saying:
It could be that the lefties are trying to get as many big swings as possible thanks to the hitter-friendly dimensions, and to be honest, it seems to be working. [Damon, Matsui, and Cano] are seeing improvements in their slugging, with Damon and Matsui up about sixty points each from last year…The new Yankee Stadium has become a haven for fly balls to leave the park, and the Bronx Bombers are certainly taking advantage of it. I can’t say for sure if the Yankees are purposefully trying to hit more fly balls, but if they were, could you blame them?
However, since the end of last season Fangraphs has released Home/Road splits, a valuable asset for assessing, well, something like this. Here are the updated numbers in terms of Fly Ball % (the percent of balls put in play that are considered “fly balls”):
Player 2009 2008 '09 Home '09 Away'08 Home Teixeir 43.80% 36.50% 39.70% 48.00% 31.00% Damon 42.30% 34.20% 45.80% 38.80% 36.40% Swisher 45.60% 44.50% 46.40% 45.00% 45.40% Posada 42.90% 39.70% 38.00% 47.60% 43.80% Matsui 42.00% 34.50% 41.00% 43.40% 26.70% Molina 38.70% 33.00% 44.20% 40.70% 33.60% Rodrigue37.70% 39.90% 36.90% 38.60% 39.90% Cano 33.40% 33.20% 32.00% 35.00% 36.50% Cabrera 29.60% 34.90% 26.80% 32.70% 41.30% Jeter 22.70% 23.80% 25.40% 20.10% 24.30%
The short moral of the story? More data is always a good thing. While a few players saw leaps in their overall Fly Ball %, this was ironically due mostly to their road numbers as opposed to an air-driven frenzy at the new Yankee Stadium. The only real guys you can say were trying to get under the ball were Teixeira, Matsui, and Molina. Considering Teixeira’s 2008 was not with the Yankees and Jose Molina didn’t have that many at-bats, the conclusion has to be changed. It would appear that the 2009 Yankees did not have a conscious effort to hit more fly balls, apart from Hideki Matsui, who saw a staggering 14.3% increase in his fly balls at home from 2008 to 2009. Up next: the 2004 Phillies.