In 2012, the Yankees and Red Sox tied for 3rd place in pitches per plate appearance. In 2011, Boston was ranked first, and the Yankees were number two, and the year before that, the Red Sox again ranked first with the Bombers in third. When the two teams play each other, you’ll more than likely see an enduring battle that can last upward of 4 hours, at least that’s what the announcers will tell you. By the end of the night, even the umpires can’t help but complain.
Both teams have developed a reputation of working pitch counts, and knocking starting pitchers out of games early. Walks, relentless fouls, and full counts are a staple product of the American League East. For the last few years, New York has been second to Boston in how they work pitchers, but in 2013, there were thoughts that the Yankees could finally have a team to surpass the Red Sox in this stat.
Granted, there are a number of injuries, but leading off your team of incessant battlers is Brett Gardner. In 2010, Gardner led all of baseball in pitches per plate appearance (4.61), and in 2011 he ranked 9th (4.18). For all the strike outs he earns, Curtis Granderson actually has one hell of an eye at the plate, and over the last three years has moved from 16th (4.12) in 2010, to 1st (4.43) in 2011, to 6th (4.26) in 2012. Kevin Youkilis rates right up there with the other two, and in 2011, his pitches per plate appearance ranked 11th (4.18), and in 2012 they were 3rd (4.34). Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, and Alex Rodriguez are also very good in this category, averaging right under 4 pitches per appearance over their last few years.
When it comes to the other parts of the team, Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter have been very average, usually taking around 3.6-3.8 pitches. Cervelli has shown similar averages, though they’ve been as high as 3.8 in recent years. Brennan Boesch, who may or may not make the team, also has numbers right around the 3.6-3.8 benchmark. The two players who do not like making pitchers work are Vernon Wells and Robinson Cano, who are both extremely low in Pit/PA.
When healthy, here is the planned team with career pitches per plate appearance next to them.
CF Brett Gardner (4.28)
SS Derek Jeter (3.74)
2B Robinson Cano (3.37)
1B Mark Teixeira (3.91)
DH Travis Hafner (4.06) / Alex Rodriguez (3.92)
CF Curtis Granderson (4.14)
3B Kevin Youkilis (4.30)
RF Ichiro Suzuki (3.59)
C Francisco Cervelli (3.63)/ Chris Stewart (3.61)
Overall, if the roster hadn’t been so injured, this team could have easily competed for first place in pitches per plate appearance, but with Vernon Wells and company taking away a chunk of plate appearances from Granderson and Teixeira, the team will likely finish around the 3.82 team average.
So how important is this? Outside of the reputation of long Yankee games, the pitches per plate appearance stat doesn’t look to be much more than a New York media narrative. When ranking in at third place last year, the Yankees saw a total of 3.89 pit/pa, which was only .07 more than the league team average. Overall, they saw 736 more pitches than the average team, which only works out to be 4.5 additional pitches a game. In terms of an opposing players’ pitch counts, we’re talking about maybe 3 more pitches thrown by the opposing starter, and much of this comes from the half a plate appearance extra that the Yankees see per game. While the Yankees are taking a ton of pitches, even the best of teams only take a handful more pitches per game than your league average team.