Perhaps the most robust and lasting piece of knowledge to come out of sabermetrics is the importance of walks. Even TV broadcasts now regularly give a player’s on-base percentage, a nod to the fact that batting average fails to capture the full offensive picture because it excludes walks. ┬áThe Yankees were among the earliest adopters of this knowledge, with GM Gene Michael emphasizing OBP in the early 90′s.

Twenty years ago in 1994, the Yankees were the very best team in baseball in walk rate, taking free passes in 11.5% of their plate apperances. Even as other teams caught on, the Yankees always managed to be among the highest BB% teams. This has continued over the last decade: From 2003-2013, no team was better at drawing walks than the Yankees (9.7%). Last year was, of course, an offensive nightmare. Yet, even with all the injuries and replacement level hitters, they still managed a middle of the pack walk rate, finishing tied for 15th (7.7%)

This year the Yankees are 23rd in MLB, walking in only 7.4% of their PAs.

Part of the issue is that the Yankees are currently employing more free-swinging players than they usually do: Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Jacoby Ellsbury are not high BB% players. However, multiple hitters have seen a drop from their career average walk rates, including the three aforementioned players. The most alarming are Brett Gardner (down to 7% from 10%), Brian McCann (down to 4% from 9%), and Carlos Beltran (down to 5% from 10%). The Beltran drop continues a trend he started last year.

This is something Kevin Long needs to address. The Yankees built a run of success on the foundation of patience and power. You know that players like Gardner, Ellsbury, Ichiro, Roberts, and Jeter are not able to put up the power numbers of the Yankees’ championship teams. However, as a team, they can and must improve upon their their current walk rates.