Are the Yankees trying to hit more fly balls?

The title of this post posits an intriguing question, and although we cannot truly get to the answer (apart from delving into the minds of the players), the numbers are interesting. The new Yankee Stadium has turned out to play like a bandbox, and the Yankee players may not just be taking advantage of it serendipitously. Below are some of your 2009 New York
Yankees accompanied by the relevant stats:

Player  2009 FB% 2008 FB%Career FB%2009 IFF%Career IFF%
Teixeira    45.5%   36.5%     39.5%     9.4%     10.1%
Damon       44.6%   34.2%     35.0%    14.6%     15.9%
Swisher     44.2%   44.5%     45.1%    10.9%     10.7%
Posada      43.4%   39.7%     37.8%     7.1%      6.6%
Matsui      41.8%   34.5%     35.9%    13.2%      7.3%
Molina      41.0%   33.0%     33.7%     4.0%      5.8%
Rodrigue    38.1%   39.9%     40.1%     8.6%     10.7%
Cano        32.7%   33.2%     31.0%     6.9%      8.1%
Cabrera     31.7%   34.9%     32.2%    10.2%     12.4%
Jeter       25.4%   23.8%     23.8%     0.9%      2.9%

There are a lot of things you can take away from this, and by no means does one of the things have to be that the Yankees have a conscious effort to try and hit more fly balls in hopes of getting more homers. While these players definitely stood out, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera have all seen drops in their FB% from last season. However, it is hard to ignore the numbers, especially when the jumps from last season for guys like Damon, Matsui, and Teixeira are so big. 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. All three are seeing improvements in their slugging, with Damon and Matsui up about sixty points each from last year. Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter are up less from last year, but these are fly ball frenzy years for them relative to the rest of their careers. Posada is slugging eighty points better than last year and better than he did from 2004-06. Jeter is up about sixty points from last year and has a better wOBA than he did from all of 2001-2008 in all but one 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?

Thanks to Fangraphs.com for the data.

UPDATE: The great Tom Tango, over at his The Book Blog, wrote that I should include all the data when doing something like this. I agree, and I assume he meant to include all the Yankees, so I’ll include the rest of the starters/players with enough service time for the numbers to mean anything, and update the list to include the player’s career FB%, which is right after last year’s mark, along with their 2009 and career infield fly numbers.

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Comments

  1. Jake said...

    I wouldn’t read too much into Molina’s data, as there is probably a sample size issue; he’s a backup catcher who was hurt for half the year.

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