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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

Fastballs And The 2024 Yankees

By Andy Singer

March 5th, 2024

Photo Credit - Nathan Ray Seebeck - USA TODAY Sports

I want you to think back to a Yankee team that feels like it played forever ago. I know it was a very different time, but I want you to think back all the way to the 2022 season...I know I'm asking a lot (for me, it feels like a lifetime ago already). The 2022 Yankees were a good team that was stumbling in the season's second half due to injuries and some hard statistical overcorrection. By the time the trade deadline came around, Brian Cashman knew that the team did not have a good chance of winning the World Series with the team in its present state. On many levels, it was an unorthodox trade deadline for Cashman, and his moves were divisive even then. Cashman acquired Frankie Montas, Andrew Benintendi, and Harrison Bader at the trade deadline, while jettisoning a stunning amount of upper level pitching depth and a good mid-rotation starter in Jordan Montgomery.

We know now that the moves did not bring the Yankees a World Series. Frankie Montas was hurt and remained hurt throughout his stay with the Yankees; Andrew Benintendi looked like a good fit until breaking a bone in his hand/wrist, effectively rendering him useless in the playoffs; and Harrison Bader was hurt when he was acquired, had a stunningly good offensive performance in the playoffs, and promptly underperformed due to injury in 2023. It was an ugly result, and Cashman has been skewered over and over again for the results, particularly in light of Jordan Montgomery's success since leaving the Yankees, a starting pitcher that Cashman noted probably wouldn't have made the 2022 playoff rotation.

Those comments have lived on in infamy, rightfully so, however a very critical piece of his comments have remained buried. As part of Cashman's poorly iterated comments regarding the Bader/Monty trade, Cashman noted that the trade was made with the playoffs in mind, that the team felt that Bader would make the team better in the playoffs. Some of you may recall that I keyed in on these comments and took a deep dive into Bader's statistical profile. As far as I can tell, I am the only one writing about baseball that predicted Bader's offensive explosion in the playoffs due to his incredible ability to have success against 94 MPH+ fastballs, a skillset that is at a premium in the playoffs due to the increase in velocity the league experiences in October. In addition to making gobs of contact, I found that Andrew Benintendi was also exceptional against 94+ MPH fastballs, completing the trend. The 2022 Yankees weren't awful against 94+ MPH fastballs, but the team had struggled in that department in the playoffs in both 2020 and 2021, so Cashman made specific moves to cure that ill. In that way, Bader was absolutely a success, regardless of what came later, and we'll never know if the Benintendi trade would have worked similarly due to that cruel hit by pitch in August.

In 2023, the Yankees were pretty awful against 94+ MPH fastballs, with only Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Anthony Volpe producing average or better results against such pitches among players who are still on the roster. If I compile the list with players that are on the current roster, what do you notice?

The Yankees' most high profile acquisitions this off-season, Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham, all had varying levels of success against 94+ MPH fastballs in 2023. Soto is an all-world hitter, so this is expected. Grisham didn't make enough good contact, but he got on-base against 94+ MPH fastballs while hitting for some pop, a nice bonus for a 4th outfielder. Verdugo put the ball in play frequently against 94+ MPH fastballs while getting on-base and maintaining a low strikeout rate. Even if the collective of Soto, Grisham, and Verdugo merely repeat their 2023 performances against 94+ MPH fastballs, the lineup is significantly deeper and can't just be blown away by velocity before being caught cheating against breaking balls low and away as we've seen in the past.

However, there's good reason to expect even more from this group in Yankee Stadium in 2024. Check out their spray charts against 94+ MPH fastballs in 2023:

For Soto, we see that he would have had 4-5 more likely home runs in Yankee Stadium last season even with out any changes to his spray chart. Grisham would have turned in 1-2 more homers in Yankee Stadium as well, though I am far more intrigued by the possibility of unlocking more from Grisham's swing given his odd proliferation of short pop-ups; if hitting coaches can help Grisham improve his contact quality, Grisham's all-field fly ball approach will work even better in Yankee Stadium. Verdugo is a different case entirely. Verdugo was clearly hitting to his ballpark, attempting to pepper the Green Monster as many before him had also done. Given Verdugo's ability to tailor his approach to his home ballpark, I wonder if some of those opposite field fly balls turn into short porch hunters.

Clearly, the Yankees wanted to get better offensively overall regardless of the specifics, but the specifics here show that the Yankees still care about this aspect of offense, particularly with an eye towards how this skillset plays in the playoffs. If the goal is to win a championship in 2024, the Yankees have a greater ability to hit hard fastballs up and down the lineup than they've had in a long time.


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Mar 05

Minor note: Benintendi broke his hamate bone swinging a bat on September 2, not by getting hit by a pitch in August.

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Mar 05
Replying to

After 15 1/2 years, I can tell you Dad Brain never goes away, and things are a blur forever, though luckily there are discreet moments, images, events that stick with you. :-)


Alan B.
Alan B.
Mar 05

Andy, while I appreciate your article and the merits (GREAT, GREAT article by the way) of what you say in it, the truth is, since the Cashman pitching mantra, which said mantra precedes the analytical pitching takeover, is anti-FB. Now, if the Yankees don't believe in throwing the FB, why would they believe in teaching how to hit it? Yes, I know hitting the FB is Baseball 101, but in an analytically-driven organization such as the Yankees, where exit velocity, barreled up hits, pitch usage, and even more velocity matter, those are just things that look good, they don't necessarily help you to win games. Are the guys that come up with this analytical crap at their desks even baseball…

Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Mar 05
Replying to

Ok, so the answer for the current rotation (just the assumed 5):

If we include sinkers, cutters and 4-seamers: ALL 5 threw fastballs more than 50% of the time in 2023

If we exclude cutters, only Schmidt falls beneath the threshold.

The idea that the Yankees are anti-fastball is a complete fallacy, and in fact, much as people claim Monty completely changed his pitch mix away from NY, the numbers don't support it at all (I've shown this previously on the blog). Have they de-emphasized the fastball compared to the days of yore when pitchers would throw the fastball 70% of the time? Yes, necessarily so, and most of baseball has made the same adjustment.

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