Are the Yankees Relying Too Much on Analytics?
It’s no secret that analytics have become a huge part of Major League Baseball today. Even since Billy Beane and the Moneyball Oakland Athletics started using baseball sabermetrics, the numbers movement has taken the game as we know it by storm. Pretty much every baseball team nowadays uses analytics in some way, shape, or form.
The New York Yankees are no exception.
In fact, out of all the teams in the MLB, the Yankees are one of the most analytics driven. That’s all well and good with me for the most part.
It’s been proven that managing using analytics works more than it doesn’t in today’s MLB. They help you figure out the angles of the game to get the most out of your team. Like it or not, baseball sabermetrics are a necessity in today’s game and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, this is where we have to ask when is too much just too much, and where do we draw the line? And have the Yankees crossed that line?
Are the Yankees relying too much on the analytics? It’s time we look at the evidence that suggests they might be and why it could be problematic.
Resting Players Too Much
Let’s face it guys. The Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr. days are over and done with. Position players are not playing 162 games a year anymore, and pitchers will rarely pitch complete games. One of the biggest advantages of analytics is letting organizations know when to rest players and when to pull pitchers. Combining the analytics with sleep study as well as team doctors and teams know exactly what games to rest a certain batter and what pitch count is a certain pitcher’s limit.
Again, for the most part, I’m perfectly fine with this. But once again, the Yankees might be taking it too far in this regard; it seems as if they will always rest players whenever they planned too and refuse to adjust when necessary. One of the biggest examples this season was the Aug. 9 game again the Texas Rangers. Neil Walker had a two home run night, one from each side of the plate, and was hitting .340 in the second half up to that point. He was not in the lineup the next day. Furthermore, when Neil Walker was struggling in the first half, the Yankees rarely rested him.
I don’t care what the analytics say, there is such a thing as hot and cold in sports, and baseball is no exception. You have to reward players when they start having the success that Walker was having at the moment, especially when you consider how much he struggled in the first half. But it seemed the Yankees had Aug. 10 penciled in as an off day for Walker, and there was nothing he could have done to change their minds. You have to take into consideration what decisions like these can do to a guys confidence.
One Dimensional Offense
Looking at the game of baseball today, there is no doubt we are living in a live ball era. There are more home runs and strikeouts in the game than ever before. And analytics have a lot to do with this. Teams now value power numbers and metrics such as slugging percentage, exit velocity, and launch angle while fundamental numbers such as batting average, on base percentage, and stolen bases are being devalued. They don’t care if you bat your weight and strikeout 40% of the time if you hit enough home runs.
That’s exactly how this Yankee team is built right now. This season, the Yankees have hit a grand total of 247 home runs, breaking the franchise record of 245 set back in 2012, and closing in on the all time home run record by a team in a season, 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Furthermore, they’re second in the Majors in slugging percentage with .448. On the downside, the Yankees rank only 15th in batting average at .248. and have the ninth most strikeouts with 1322.
So what’s the problem you might be asking? It’s quite simple. By following the analytics and building their offense around the home run, the Yankees have become a one dimensional offense; they score pretty much all of their runs via the home run and have nowhere else to go. This has proven to be problematic multiple times throughout the season, and especially of late, where the Yankees couldn’t score runs because the opposing pitcher shut down the home run. When you field a lineup that can only score via the home run in the postseason, where you’re going to be facing the best pitchers that know how to shut down the home run, it’s not going to end well.
Lack of Fundamentals
Out of all the concerns with the Yankees and analytics, this one is by far the biggest. Fundamental baseball has been a problem for them all season. Too often the Yankees would make silly errors in key moments, whether it be defensively or on the base-paths. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, their reliance on hitting the home run takes away from their ability to hit for contact when needed. You shouldn’t be swinging for the fences when all you need is a single to tie the game or take the lead. All this lack of fundamental baseball has to potential to bite the Yankees hard come October.
Now this is purely speculation; I could be and hope I’m wrong about this but it has to be asked. Is it possible that this is what the Yankees wanted when they decided to not bring back Joe Girardi and hired Aaron Boone? Brian Cashman said one of the reason’s the Yankees decided to move on from Girardi was him being too assertive and stiff with the players. They wanted someone who was more laid back, and Aaron Boone fit that requirement to a T.
Why do the analytics matter when it comes to this? That is where we have look at the two styles of managing. Joe Girardi definitely used his front office’s analytics during the years he managed with the Yankees. However, he never forgot to stress fundamentals to his players despite that. Whether or not he should’ve been as stiff as he’s been with some of the players is another debate. Regardless, the Yankees never neglected the fundamentals under Joe Girardi.
Now all of a sudden, fundamentals are a problem under Aaron Boone, which again begs the question. Maybe the Yankees wanted someone who wouldn’t make a big deal over fundamental errors the way Girardi did. Instead they wanted a manager more concerned with analytics. Since Boone is a rookie manager and still developing his own style, he’s obviously going to rely heavily on the analytics, and maybe that’s what the Yankees want. Maybe they’re stressing analytics to a point that they’ve neglected the fundamental aspects of baseball. We should all pray that this isn’t the case.
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