But hey, if the team’s pitchers are actually getting hit harder, they should give up a higher BABIP right? Well, yes — BABIP tends to stabilize between 100 and 120 points above LD% — if you give up line drives 25% of the time (a very high rate), you would expect to give up a BABIP of somewhere between .350 and .370. And that makes sense, right? Line drives are just a lot harder to get to when compared to fly balls or ground balls, both of which turn into outs more often than not.
Well, turns out that the Yankees are smack dab in the middle of the pack, having given up line drives 20.8% of the time, good for 16th place out of the 30 major league teams.
So what does it all mean?
Means that the Yankee pitching staff has been very unlucky this far this season. And to take it a step further, most of the Yankee pitching staff has been very unlucky. The biggest victims have been Soriano (.412), Garcia (.409), Nova (.389), Robertson (.368), Hughes (.366), Mo (.357), Rapada (also .357), and Wade (.350). The only pitchers who have had below average BABIPs thus far have been Boone Logan (.235), and David Phelps (.167).
So, let me get this straight. Almost every pitcher on the Yankees this year can be considered somewhere from unlucky to extremely unlucky? Well, maybe not. Garcia has given up a crazy 35.6% line drive rate, and Soriano an even worse 37.5%. Sabathia actually clocks in on the lucky side as well – his 27.3% line drive rate would suggest a BABIP above .370, well above his .321 rate. But in the aggregate, yes. The bad luck well outweighs the good luck.
Want to see the good? The Yankees lead all of the majors in strikeout rate, whiffing 9.37 batters per nine innings as a team. Want to know how good that is? Just like the BABIP rate, if the Yankees were to hold that rate through the season, it would be the top number since the nineteenth century. (The best rate of a full season team in living memory was the Mark Prior/Kerry Wood version of the Chicago Cubs in 2003, who were at 8.68). How about the walks, though? The Yankees have thus far issued under three free passes per game, which equates to 12th best in the majors. In combination, the Yankees K/BB is 3.16. That’s good for fourth in the majors, behind the Cardinals, White Sox, and Rangers.
In sum, the Yankees have been really, really unlucky on balls in play, in combination with being very good at striking out opposing hitters, and above average at limiting free passes. Combine the expected reversion of luck (the tendency of luck to even out over time) with the addition of Andy Pettitte at the back end of the rotation in a month, and you’ve got one of the best pitching staffs in the American League despite the loss of presumptive #2 Michael Pineda and setup man Joba Chamberlain.
Should be quite the season.