The Yankees Search for Ideal Hitters

Just what are the Yankees getting at when they acquire Dustin Ackley, Aaron Hicks, and Starlin Castro within a few months of each other? The group would seemingly not have much in common other than perhaps age, but the Yankees have found a group of players with similar attributes that should benefit them nicely.

Ackley, 28 next season, Hicks, 26 next season, and Castro, 26 next season represent a “youth movement” for New York, as they attempt to distance themselves from the burdens of the Mark Teixerias of their roster. Given their closeness in age, let’s look at how they should be expected to perform in the coming years when examining their batted-ball-direction aging curves.
AllFieldsAging

Hicks and Castro appear to be heading into their peak pull performance in terms of home run + fly ball distance.  Ackley on the other hand, looks like he’s attempting to stave off the effects of age. Let’s look at how different handedness affects hitters throughout their careers.
AllPulls

Here again, we see Castro and Hicks as right-handers are at their prime for pulling the ball in terms of batted-ball distance. Ackley looks like he’ll decline gradually up until about 32 when the average distance really takes a dive. However, both of these charts simply describe the distance at which these three can be expected to hit the ball. It doesn’t take into account how likely they are to pull the ball, or their results on fly balls over the last couple of seasons.

Fly Ball Data for Dustin Ackley
Year Pull% Hard % FB Distance
2014 20% 36% 275
2015 25% 44% 293

 

Fly Ball Data for Aaron Hicks
Year Pull% Hard%
2014 15% 18%
2015 20% 32%

 

Fly Ball Data for Starlin Castro
Year Pull% Hard% FB Distance
2014 15% 41% 282
2015 17% 35% 279

 

(Fly ball distance is unavailable for Hicks in 2014, and in 2015 only accounts for his left-handedness. Since he’s presumably hitting mostly right-handed for New York next season, I didn’t include the info.)

All three saw an uptick in their likelihood to pull the ball, with Ackley and Hicks seeing a substantial increase in how hard they hit fly balls. Ackley’s distance soared to 293 on fly balls yet was mostly unnoticed due to Safeco’s hampering effect on left-handed hitters. Hicks meanwhile, played in the not-so-friendly Target Field which isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise either. Both should benefit from the move to the more hitter-welcoming Yankee Stadium next year. The Yankees may have noticed that both were showing solid skills yet the results were difficult to achieve in said environments, so they saw an opportunity to swoop in and pluck them.

Castro, on the other hand, pulled the ball slightly more while seeing a dip in Hard Hit% on fly balls, and a drop in distance. If he, along with Hicks, can continue to increase their ability to pull the ball, and combine it with the increase in distance associated with pulled fly balls, the outcomes should look much nicer on paper.

It seems as if the Yankees have found a beneficial meeting of aging curves, players who are pulling the ball more often, and teams who might not have quite the use for these players as New York. If all three can at a minimum come close to last year’s skills in terms of hitting fly balls, the Yankees have a trio of players who match their stadium perfectly.

(The graphs used in this post are sourced from http://www.hardballtimes.com/how-batted-ball-distance-ages/)



Print This Post

newest oldest most voted
Scott
Guest
Scott

Enjoyable read. Cashman has a real knack for picking up distressed assets from other orgs and putting them in positions to succeed in NY. The pull/distance/angle analysis was very interesting.

Balding Vinny
Guest
Balding Vinny

Amazing. Ackley, Castro and Hicks in a matter of months went from below average major leaguers to future hall of famers just donning the Pinstripes. Can’t wait for Mateo to win ROY, MVP and the CY Young when he makes his mlb debut.

Kenneth Matinale
Guest

Mark Teixeira hit 31 home runs in fewer than 400 at bats before suffering a broken leg. Cashman should get young guys who can hit like that. He also should have followed my recommendation and signed Scherzer a year ago and Price this off season.