The 2015 New York Yankees offense looked a lot like the 2014 and 2013 versions before yesterday's 14-run outburst. However, there was one thing they did well on Sunday that they were actually doing well during their previous games last week -- drawing walks.
According to Sweeny Murti, the Yankees have only swung at 40.8 percent of pitches this season (before last night's game), which is the fewest in the AL. The Yankees are fifth in MLB with a 9.7% walk rate so far this season. This is a far cry from the last two years when they were 17th last year (7.4%) and 16th in 2013 (7.7%).
Looking at the Yankees individual on-base percentages and walk rates were not pretty last year. Carlos Beltran (.301 and 8.2%), Mark Teixeira, (.313 and 11.4%), Brian McCann (.286 and 5.9%), Jacoby Ellsbury (.328 and 7.7%) and Brett Gardner (.327 and 8.8%) all simply did not get on base enough and were below their career averages.
If new hitting coach Jeff Pentland wanted to get the Yankees to have a better approach at the plate than they did last year, that's a good thing. Most of those hitters may be declining, but they should still be able to have good plate discipline and their career numbers suggest they do. Look at Alex Rodriguez at age 39. His eye is as good as ever and he has made the biggest difference in the team's walk rate so far this season with a healthy 16.7% rate.
My thought last year was that maybe pitchers were challenging these hitters more because they were not afraid of them like they used to be. Only Beltran and Teixeira swung at more pitches outside the stirke zone than their career average, and it was only marginally more, so that theory may have some merit. Even if it doesn't, there has been a noticeable difference this past week in the Yankees' plate discipline compared to last year. Look at how last night's seven-run rally started in the 1st inning. Ellsbury lead the game off with a walk, Gardner singled on a hit-and-run, and Teixeira walked. With the a lot Yankees hitters in decline, they have to have walks to score enough runs. Last night they worked that strategy to perfection.
Look at how the Yankees offenses were built from 2009-2012. All everyone wanted to talk about was the power of those teams and the "too many homers" nonsense. Those teams also had great approaches at the plate that were reflected in their walk rates. They were fourth in MLB in walk rate in 2009, second in 2010, first in 2011 and third in 2012.
Power and patience is the best way to build your offense. The Yankees may not have as much power as they used to, but they have more speed than they did before with Didi Gregorius, Ellsbury and Gardner. If they continue to have the same patience that they have shown over the first week, more good things should happen for them with the bats.