Friday night, Francisco Cervelli laced an opposite-field hit down the right field line. It hugged the stands as it reached the outfield wall, and then hit some sort of “hyperspace” button . . . picking up speed and scooting past a surprised Michael Cuddyer. Cervelli easily cruised into third with his second triple of the season.
When it comes to Yankee backstops, its been a while since any of them possessed any footspeed. Its been 665 plate appearances since Jorge Posada’s last triple. Its been four years since any Yankee catcher has had as many as two triples in the same season. You have to go back to 1998, and discover that Cervelli’s current manager was the last catcher to amass more than two triples in a year.
Back in the days of the cavernous YS I, triples were much more plentiful. Through its final season (1973), there were 105 instances of a Yankee amassing ten or more triples in a season (home and road combined). You might notice that Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey holds the Yankee record for most triples by a catcher in a year, ripping ten in 1927. In the final season of the original Stadium, the team triples leader was none other than catcher Thurman Munson, with four.
YS II, with its somewhat more humane dimensions, didn’t lend itself to many triples, nor, with the exception of Rickey Henderson, did the Yankees focus on team speed much. Henderson hit only 11 triples in 363 career games at YS II, and only 16 total triples in 2,700+ Yankee plate appearances. During the 33 seasons playing their games in YS II, the Yanks only had three players reach double figures in triples, and none since Jerry Mumphrey in 1982.
In terms of catchers in the YS II era, Munson held the record for most triples in a season, with five in 1977.
Now, the latest incarnation of Yankee Stadium has not exactly been a triples paradise. In fact, last year it was the toughest park in which to hit a three-bagger, with only 15 collected in the year. But “Frankie” is helping to reverse that trend, as so far in 2010, the Stadium is the 9th-easiest for triples (small sample size alert applies, of course).
Could Cervelli lead all American League catchers in triples? Within the last three decades or so, its taken anywhere from four to six to lead the league. Arguing against Cervelli’s chances are his minor league numbers . . . two triples in 828 career plate appearances. Frankie better hope for some more “hyperspace” hits.