Advanced statistics are taking over the game of baseball. Let’s take a look at which stat is most important for each player.
On Monday, March 11, James Wagner of the New York Times, published an article in which he asked several different Yankees what stats they liked to measure. In an age of analytics and advanced metrics, it’s an interesting look into the psyche of the players. Some of the players are into new age stats, for instance, Stanton told Wagner that he checks his “chase rate.” Others are less into new stats.
CC Sabathia, you might have guessed, looks at ERA, wins, and losses. Wagner’s exercise got me wondering, “What statistics should these players be looking at?”
The Everyday Lineup
- Aaron Hicks (CF)
PA- Plate Appearances
What could Aaron Hicks do in a season in which he was healthy the whole year? As I’ve talked about before, Aaron Hicks has been the fourth best centerfielder in fWAR per plate appearance in the last two seasons. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season though. Could this be the year Aaron Hicks hits 30 home runs? If he bats leadoff most games, he should get over 650 PAs easily…if he remains healthy. The Yankees have bet on Hicks’ future and locked him up for another seven seasons. Let’s see if he can stay on the field enough to produce.
- Aaron Judge (RF)
FB% – Fly Ball Percentage
Judge’s Sophomore year rates were slightly down compared to his monster rookie campaign, especially his slugging percentage and ISO. Looking at many of his advanced metrics, however, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out why. Judge had roughly the same batting average, slightly higher BABIP, his hard contact percentage was higher, and he made contact at roughly the same pace. The one big difference? His Fly Ball Percentage fell from 43.2% to 35%. In fact, he hit more balls on the ground than in the air. Pitchers did a much better job getting Judge to put the ball on the ground and Judge’s power numbers were way down because of it. Judge needs to elevate the ball more to do more damage this season. Based on his contact rates and HR/FB rate, if he hits the ball in the air more, he should be able to hit close to 50 home runs again, if not more.
- Giancarlo Stanton (LF)
O-Swing % – Chase Rate
Here’s one that lines up perfectly. Stanton looks at his chase rate, and rightfully so. O-Swing % looks at the number of pitches a batter swings at that are “outside the zone,” hence O-Swing. In Stanton’s MVP season, his O-Swing decline from 32.3% to 27.4%. His contact rate jumped to a career-high 70.4%. In the Bronx however, Stanton’s O-Swing returned to 32.5% and his contact rate dropped back down to 67.8%. Stanton, like Judge, hits the ball extremely hard.
- All he needs to do to wreak havoc is make contact. He needs to lower his chase rate and he can have an even better season than he did last year when he still hit 38 home runs with 100 RBIs.
- Gary Sanchez (C)
LD% – Line Drive Percentage
Gary Sanchez was injured in 2018. He had a nagging groin injury and had offseason shoulder surgery. His .186 batting average was abysmal, however, he still put up a .220 ISO, suggesting that when he did put the ball in play his swing was powerful. His BABIP of .197, however, tells a different story, that he was either unlucky or didn’t hit the ball hard. The discrepancy can be attributed to his line drive rate. In 2017, 21.1% of Gary’s batted balls were line drives. In 2018, that number dropped to 14.3%. Concurrently, Gary’s infield fly ball rate jumped from 10.8% to 19.2%. Fewer line drives and higher infield flies will definitely lead to a lower batting average. It seems simple, but Gary needs to square up the ball more in 2019.
- Miguel Andujar (3B)
O-Swing% – Chase Rate
Like Stanton, Miguel Andujar needs to be concerned with his chase rate. Where Stanton is looking to improve in the margins, though, Andujar will need to adjust to survive. Miggy had the 12th highest chase rate of anyone in baseball last year, a whopping 39.4%. As pitchers start to figure out the Sophomore, if Miggy doesn’t adjust, his elite contact skills can only take him so far.
- Gleyber Torres (2B)
Hard% – Hard Hit Percentage
In the first half of 2018, Gleyber looked like the favorite for rookie of the year. He slashed .294/.350/.555 and earned a spot on the All-Star team. His second half was nowhere near as good, especially in the power department. His slugging percentage dropped from a robust .555 to a paltry .404. Gleyber simply wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as he did in the first half. His hard hit percentage dropped from 42.5% to 34.2%. Whether this was due to Gleyber’s hip injury, or merely fatigue of a full season affecting him, for whatever reason, he just didn’t hit it as hard as he did the first half, and this led to a lower batting average and much lower power numbers.
- Luke Voit (1B)
HR/FB% – Home Run per Fly Ball Percentage
40.5%. That was Luke Voit’s home run per fly ball percentage in 2018. 2nd? NL MVP Christian Yelich with 35.0%. The number is simply not sustainable. Luke Voit needs to be prepared for a regression, though how big of regression we can’t be sure. Here’s another number: 9.0%. That was Luke Voit’s Soft Hit Percentage, which ranked just ahead of the likes of Joey Votto and Matt Carpenter. Simply put, Luke Voit hits the ball hard. If he can continue to hit it to the opposite field, in the air, maybe he can come close to that 40.5% again.
- Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
GP – Games Played
This one is obvious. Tulo missed the entire 2018 campaign and played just 66 games in 2017. He needs to stay healthy to make an impact. Still, he hasn’t really be a good offensive player since he left Colorado, but he has been stellar on defense. If he can remain healthy and play defense to the level he is accustomed, this will be a win for Tulo and the Yankees.
- DJ Lemahieu (DH)
Oppo% – Opposite Field Hit Percentage
39%, 37.9%, 38.3%, 29.6%. One of those is not like the other. Those numbers represent the last four seasons of DJ Lemahieu’s opposite-field hit rates. Last year he hit an uncharacteristically low 29.6% of his batted balls to the opposite field, his lowest number since 2013. If this DJ is going to try to do his best impression of a certain future hall of fame DJ, he’s going to need to hit it to the short porch in right field.
We’ll take a look at the most important metrics for the pitching staff in part two, next week.