Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs was doing some work recently in an attempt to use Pitch F/X to see if certain teams / hitters were getting more/less favorable strike zones. The basis for this analysis was data from Pitch F/X, which Jeff then translated into a rate statistic of “Difference / 1000.” The explanation in one of his posts on the subject is simple and it seems silly not to quote it here:

“A positive number means a player or team saw more called strikes than expected, and a negative number means a player or team saw fewer called strikes than expected.”

The post also notes that the league average is approximately -5. The caveat is that this data is not perfect because a hitter has much less control over their destiny with regards to where the pitch to them ends up being thrown. Regardless, how did the Yankees starting nine (determined by who accrued the highest number of PAs) fare in these categories?

Derek Jeter – PA : 741 | Diff/ 1000: -6
Alex Rodriguez – PA: 532 | Diff/ 1000: -7
Robinson Cano – PA: 697 | Diff/ 1000:-3
Mark Teixeira – PA: 525 | Diff/ 1000: -2
Curtis Granderson – PA: 685| Diff/ 1000: -5
Raul Ibanez – PA: 425 | Diff/ 1000: -6
Nick Swisher – PA: 624 | Diff/ 1000: -14
Russell Martin – PA: 486 | Diff/ 1000: -15
Eric Chavez – PA: 313| Diff/ 1000: -6

Two thirds of the lineup was “above average” in seeing less called strikes than they “should have.” The umps liked Yankee hitters in 2012.

However, the Yankees lineup is known for its patience and ability to work the count. Is it possible that the team made its own luck and was getting rewarded for demonstrating relatively more patience? Perhaps. The 2012 Yankees checked in within the Top 5 lowest swing percentages on pitches outside the strike zone for the entirety of Major League Baseball. A consideration of the 100 hitters that demonstrated the best Diff/1000 scores (minimum of 400 PAs) reveals that 67% of them registered an O-Swing percentage that was better than the average for that same group in 2012, which seems to help corroborate the theory.