Station to Station baseball has slowed offense
The Yankees offense has been abysmal as of late and many have bandied about reasons for it. They are still hitting HRs at a high rate and they are actually hitting for a higher average as a team this year than last (.269 to .263). So what could be the reason why the team is averaging just 4.78 Runs per Game after scoring a 2nd best in MLB 5.35 per game last year?
One of the easy to isolate reasons is their collective lack of hitting with Runners in Scoring Position. Over their last 3 games, they are a dreadful 3 for 33 and for the season are hitting .240. For comparison’s sake, the new model of greatness in MLB Texas Rangers franchise is hitting .317 with RISP! Last year’s Yankee team hit a respectable .273 with RISP to account for 6th best in baseball, so this is definitely a big factor for the drop in runs scored. More hits in big situations will cure a lot of ills. But there is another factor of the game that is slowing this Yankee offense – speed.
The team speed is gone. Brett Gardner has been on the shelf for much of the year and Eduardo Nunez was foolishly jettisoned to the tour of NY AAA team recently. This has left an aging team to totally play station to station ball, sitting back waiting for the HR. Joe Girardi said after Tuesday’s game that the team must find ways to score runs without the HR. He was right but he also has to be the one to help facilitate that by calling some steals, hit and runs and even an occassional bunt. The Yanks are dead last with just 3 sac bunts this yr. With Gardner & Nunez gone, team speed is poor but Granderson, Jeter and others can still run – give the sign!
The team is 19th in MLB with just 21 stolen bases this yr after finishing 4th last yr with 147. They’ve been very successful when they run, at a 81% success rate. The Yankee philosophy seems to be – don’t risk running yourself out of an inning when someone can hit a big HR at any time. That’s understandable to a degree but how many times have Double Plays taken the team out of innings. Starting the runner has the added bonus of creating holes in the infield and staying out of DP’s which have plagued the team as of late. A few games ago, the team had 1st and 2nd with 1 out and Jeter at the plate with a full count. With Jeter’s propensity to hit ground balls and DP’s, I felt this was a perfect time to start the runners. Girardi didn’t and Jeter hit a grounder to 3rd that was an easy 5-4-3 DP. Had the runners been started, the 3B would have had to cover the bag and the ball would go into LF fort a run scoring base hit, putting runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Of course if he struck out, it likely would have been a strike him out, throw him out DP but Jeter grounded into a DP anyway so why not take the aggressive gamble?
Obviously losing Gardner has led to less running. The other strength of Gardner’s offensive game is his ability to work pitchers. The Yankees have always been a team to work counts and drive up the pitch count of the opposing starter. This year that has not been the case. They are only 12th in MLB in pitches seen after finishing 2nd last yr. They also had 4 of the top 17 players in Pitches Seen per plate Appearance last yr. Granderson led MLB with 4.44 P/PA, followed by Gardner, Tex & Swisher in the top 20. This yr, Granderson has dropped to 15th, Swisher to 46th and Teixeira all the way to 129th!
So, in addition to not hitting with runners in scoring position, the team is not working pitchers and playing severe station to station baseball with a big decrease in SBs. Some of these issues will be improved when/if Gardner comes back but what else can be done? Well, I was against sending Nunez down. With Gardner out, the team could not afford to lose their only other dynamic baserunner, especially at a time when the team needed an offensive spark. I believe the team was overloading him with all of these positions (especially 3B where he is extremely uncomfortable) and should have let him concentrate on 1 or 2 max. With Gardner out, they had/have the opportunity to play Nunez everyday at either DH or LF. If they felt he couldn’t play LF, Ibanez & Jones could play LF with Nunez and Jeter alternating between SS & DH. Since Nunez has been demoted, Jayson Nix has started 3 of the 4 games – 2 at SS and 1 in LF. That should have been Nunez!
What does everyone think? Would more running, hit & runs, etc. help this team stay out of the parade of Double Plays they’ve been hitting into and spark them to score more runs? Or should they just continue to play station to station baseball and wait for the HRs? And what about Nunez – should he be playing in the Bronx or touring NY State with the Empire State Yankees in AAA?