All the Yankees do is hit home runs. This is a good problem, no? Jay Jaffe talks turkey over at PB:
The real, underlying problem is that the Yankees aren’t hitting particularly well with runners in scoring position. Their .245/.334/.431 line in such instances actually ranks fourth in the league in OPS and sOPS+; they’re 15 percent better than league average in this regard. They’ve accomplished this despite ranking just seventh in batting average with RISP, and 13th — second to last! — in BABIP (.258, 24 points below average) with RISP, because they’re second in isolated power, and third in unintentional walk rate under such circumstances.
Now as we know, balls in play aren’t entirely under control of either the batter or the hitter, though on a year-to-year basis, they correlate better for the latter. The Yankees hit .300 on balls in play last year, fifth in the league and five points above league average; they were at .292 with RISP, one point above average. With a virtually identical cast of main characters this year, they’re hitting .274 on balls in play, 12th in the league and 11 points below average, and 24 points below average with RISP. Yet the Yankee offense is still the AL’s strongest; in fact, they’re stronger relative to the league than last year. The Yanks are scoring 0.96 runs per game (or 22 percent) more than average in 2011, compared to 0.85 runs per game (or 19 percent) more than average in 2010. Yet because a small handful of hits haven’t dropped in as they normally would — and because they’re allowing more runs relative to the league than last year (from 0.14 below average to 0.02 below average) — they’re suddenly too reliant upon the home run.
It’s true that without the home runs, the Yankees would be in worse shape. This is akin to saying that without legs, your ability to outrun a ravenous cheetah would suffer somewhat. The home runs have allowed the Yankees to overcome the days when their offense is otherwise kept at bay. Fourteen times this season, the Yankees have collected at least three hits in a game with runners in scoring position. During those games, they’ve hit .310/.440/.551, averaged 8.14 runs, and hit 1.93 homers en route to an 11-3 record. Meanwhile, they’ve failed to collect a hit with runners in scoring position in 11 games, batting a Posada-esque .187/.311/.363, averaged 2.81 runs and 1.36 homers. They’ve gone 5-6 in those games, which is pretty impressive when you consider that teams scoring exactly three runs have won 36.1 percent of the time this year, and those scoring exactly two runs have won 21.8 percent of the time. Extrapolating from those two figures, a team scoring 2.8 per game should win 33.2 percent of the time, so the Yankees are about 1.3 wins better than average on that score.
[Image via Keep Cool But Care]