On the road in Tampa Bay a few weeks ago, Brett Gardner started a fad bigger than Beanie Babies, Silly Bandz, or those demon children Furbies; he grew a pitiful excuse for a moustache. In the coming days, the rest of his Yankees teammates followed his lead, sprouting whiskers of their own, in an expression of misguided masculinity, superstition, and team-wide solidarity. Since then, those moustaches have provided a great deal of comic relief, but with a 14-4 record sporting lip foliage, the power of the ‘stache is undeniable.
From Tom Selleck to Ron Burgundy to more recently, Ron Swanson, thick moustaches were a birthright and a true symbol of manliness. For the Yankees they serve as a workaround for the “no beards” policy, and as a sacrifice to the baseball gods.
For the team as a whole, the ‘staches have been an overwhelming source of strength. The Yankees have won every series since adopting them on April 17th and as of Wednesday morning, find themselves three games ahead in the AL East. But on an individual level, the moustaches are having more varied levels of success. Some players are taking to them well but others weren’t born to handle the burden of the moustache. So now it’s time to perform the very first ever With Or Without Stache (WOWS) analysis to determine whether any Yankee hitters should break out the razor or whether they should all keep rocking the ‘stache.
Fun fact about Mr. Ellsbury: according to Baseball Reference, his nickname is Tacoby Bellsbury. Through April 17th, the “day of stache-ing,” Jacoby Ellsbury was hitting like the leadoff hitter of Joe Morgan’s dreams. A decent average, good on-base percentage, but nothing but singles (only one extra base hit). He was hitting like a side taco at the aforementioned Taco Bell; you’re left wanting more. Now, he’s satisfying you like someone wrapped your taco in a quesadilla or shoved a a burrito inside your enchilada, in other words, the entire rest of Taco Bell’s menu.
Jacoby has turned it on ever since he sprouted his moustache. We’ve forgotten all about those “oh is this all he is now?” or “now I know why Philly fans hate Ben Revere” thoughts we were totally having a week into the season. He’s cut his early-season strikeout rate nearly in half, down slightly below his career average of about 13%, a key for a speedy hitter who does damage by putting balls in play. Jacoby’s also turned more fly balls into line drives this year. He’s currently rocking the highest line drive rate of his career at 28.6% and a career-low fly ball rate of 27.5%. Keeping the ball out of the air is a recipe for success for him and he’s among the top line drive hitters in baseball to this point. These crazy numbers might be fueled a bit by an absurd .435 BABIP since April 17, but in the past few weeks he’s been hitting exactly like the player Brian Cashman expected him to be.
Verdict: Never shave above the lip again
|*Used April 18 not April 17 as first With Stache date|
Ok I’ll admit, I fudged the date a bit on A-Rod’s WOWS splits. But in my defense, the alleged date of Brett Gardner’s facial hair inspiration was a turning point in A-Rod’s season to this point. So rather than April 17, I used April 18 as the first “With Stache” date for Mr. 660 and let’s be honest, nobody got the memo before then anyways.
April 17 was the opening game of a series sweep in Tampa Bay and A-Rod carried the team to victory that night. He hit two home runs, including this blast, and knocked in the game winning run in the eighth inning. I also have a faint recollection of him picking up the save but that might have just been my imagination.
After that game, A-Rod was sitting on an MVP-level slash line and an OPS of 1.313 (#13 for lyfe). He was knocking the cover off the ball, walking more than ever before, and I was raving about his new, possibly bionic hip. Since then he’s been hitting on the interstate. But if you look at a few of his peripheral numbers, he’s actually improved parts of his approach, but just fallen victim to an expected foe. His batted ball stats show he’s hitting about the same proportion of line drives, fly balls, and ground balls this season as he has throughout his entire career. From the STATCAST leaderboard at Baseball Savant, he’s still among the league leaders in hit velocity. His strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up, but his BABIP has been perilously low ever since “growing a ‘stache.”
That’s where the real problem lies for A-Rod. He’s been “unlucky” with a .162 BABIP since April 18, a telltale sign that the baseball gods are angry with him. And why might they be angry? Well for one, I’ve seen no evidence that he even tried to grow a moustache. There were allegations he never took to the idea at all, and some tongue-in-cheek comments from A-Rod himself in the New York Post that “it’s going to take [him] a long time” to grow one.
Hey A-Rod, sack up and grow a hideous moustache like the rest of your team. Here are some blueprints for your new getup. I think I speak for most of us here in saying you should give the ‘stache a chance.
Verdict: Stop BS-ing and grow one already!
Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports