For much of the baseball season the topic of the Yankees struggles have been the struggles of their offense.
For this recent stretch of baseball it has been pitching, mainly blown saves that have let down the team in spite of good offensive performances. The recent offensive performance of the Yankees might have been something that was inevitable and I want dive into some stats to show why.
I will be using Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) and Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) to make my case as to why the Yankees might be seeing some positive regression in terms of their offensive performance. First I will explain why I am opting to use those stats over commonplace statistics like batting average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage.
Batting average treats singles, doubles, triples and home runs all the same while not taking walks into account. On-base percentage adds in walks, but still treats all hits as equal in value. Slugging percentage values certain types of hits more, but not to the most accurate degree.
In short, wOBA paints an overarching picture of every aspect of offensive performance to a more accurate level than other commonly used stats.
Now I want to look at the difference between the Yankees wOBA as a team compared to their xwOBA. The difference between wOBA and xwOBA is that wOBA is based on actual outcomes while xwOBA is based on amount and quality of contact instead of outcomes. Because of these factors xwOBA is used more to project future performance.
The Yankees wOBA stands at .317 currently, 14th in the league. Where it gets really interesting is looking at their xwOBA which is .337, third in the league behind the Astros and Twins. The Yankees wOBA is .020 lower than their xwOBA, that is the second biggest difference in the league only behind the Cardinals.
Aaron Judge goes deep to left in Seattle – where have we seen that before – and adds on to the lead! His 20th HR of the season makes it 5-1 Yankees.#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/tmnP8QyrR4
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 8, 2021
In short, the Yankees offense has not produced to what is expected based on the way they are hitting the ball. These stats are not foolproof as the xwOBA stat is not advanced enough yet to take defensive shifts into account, but having a wOBA that is .020 lower than xwOBA is such a big difference that it is reasonable to expect better offensive performance in the second half of the season.
This type of positive regression has already been seen on an individual level this year with Gary Sánchez. Early in the season his wOBA was about .050 below his xwOBA, now his results are backing up the way he is hitting the ball.
Does this mean that all of a sudden the Yankees will turn into an offensive machine like they were in 2017-2020? No, but this recent stretch of good offensive play in addition to these numbers show reason for optimism.
The Yankees currently sit 3.5 games out of the second wild card spot and 8.5 games back of the division lead with eighth games coming up against the Red Sox. They need their pitching to regain some form, but if that happens along with this offensive performance continuing then there is very much a possibility of a playoff appearance.
Photo: Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports