Diagnosing The Offensive Struggles

We are almost a month into the season, and like all teams, the Yankees have some players hitting the ball well and others that aren’t.  Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira Alex Rodriguez, and Russell Martin are all hitting the snot out of the ball while Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher have been doing quite differently.  But why?

(NY Daily News)

A lot of people who are reading this probably just rose their eyebrows when they saw I wrote that Cano has been struggling.  I mean he had a 13-game hitting streak and his hitting line is .304/.309/.544.  That isn’t cold at all.  Well, he can be doing a lot better with his plate discipline.  The reason that Robbie was able to raise the level of his game so much last season was because he walked a career high 57 times and had an OBP of .381 (also a career high).

However, this has regressed greatly in the early-going in 2011 as his BB% is only 1.2% while his K% is at 17.7%, about 5% higher than 2010.  His swing% has also gone up by more than 5% as it is at 57.9%.  If this isn’t enough, you can just look at his line and see that his OBP is only five points higher than his batting average.  Cano needs to relax a little more and start working counts a bit more.  He can’t start swinging at pitches way out of the strike zone, something I have seen him a do a few times so far in this young season.

Jorge Posada is a little bit of a different story than Cano.  Posada has not hit for average at all.  His line is only .145/.243/.435.  Now there are some positives here as he walking quite a bit as shown by the OBP and he is obviously hitting for the power as shown by the relatively high slugging percentage.  However, that average is not good.  His K% is at 30.6%, about 5% higher than last year and with six of his nine hits being homers, his BABIP is a horrendous .081.  This could be because his LD% and GB% are down while his FB% is way up.  Posada has to get that LD% up in order to get that average up and become a little more productive.

As you can see, Posada's 2011 K% is something he's not used to. (Fangraphs)

Another guy who’s struggles have definitely not slipped through the cracks is Brett Gardner.  Gardner is batting .136/.190/.256.  His biggest problem is that he is striking out a lot more and walking a lot less than last season.  His BB% is down to 6.2% from 13.9% and K% is up to 32.2% from 21.2%.  This is because he is being more aggressive.  According to Fangraphs, not only is he swinging at more pitches in the strike zone, but he is also swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone.  I think he was being a little more anxious in the lead off spot and that has caused the rough start.

The last guy I am going to write about is Nick Swisher.  This is the toughest case of them all because year to year not a lot has changed in his numbers.  His LD%, GB%, and FB% are all about the same as they were in 2010, except he is walking quite a bit more and striking out quite a bit less.  However, his batting average is only .227 with a .341 OBP, however.

He is also the only everyday player besides Derek Jeter to not have a homer so far.  This is odd for Swisher because he 29 home runs in each of his first two years in pinstripes.  I don’t think his low average has anything to do with him doing something wrong (although he did have some mechanical flaws from the left side that needed fixing), but rather just bad luck.  He has hit the ball hard a lot, but it just gets caught.  If he keeps these numbers up, the average should start to climb by itself.

It's been frustrating for us too, Nick. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

So there are the four main Yankee strugglers and why they are having trouble.  The good news is that it is only April and the team is getting by without them so far.  But as things start to change and the weather starts to get warmer, hopefully their bats start to warm up because the others won’t keep up what they’re doing for the entire season.

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