The Yankees RISP failures are reaching epic proportions; Is there hope for a turnaround?
**all stats prior to last night's game vs. Toronto**
Amidst a two-month struggle that has seen them drop below the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings, there has been one glaring weakness with the 2017 New York Yankees: their ability to hit with runners in scoring position. Following their win over the Los Angeles Angels on June 12th, the Yankees stood at 38-23, a season high 15 games over .500 and a full four games ahead of the Red Sox. Since then, The Yankees have combined to go 21-29 and have dropped eight games in the standings to the Red Sox.
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A quick look at the league leaders show the Yankees fourth in runs scored with 575 runs. That's great, right? Why go any further. Well, let's examine that stat a bit more. Over their first 61 games, the team scored a combined 358 runs, good for a rate of 5.87 runs per game. That led the league by a wide margin – almost a half run a game better than second place Washington. However, in their 50 games since, they have scored just 217, or 4.34 runs per game. The offense has been the biggest culprit for the team's recent struggles and it's been its most evident as of late.
The Yankees recently ripped off six wins in a row, and eight of nine, between July 20th and July 29th. Since then, however, the Yankees have dropped six of nine and all the offensive momentum they had begun to build has come back to a screeching halt. The Yankees have scored a combined 28 runs over those last nine games – a dreadful 3.11 runs per game average – and that stat only looks worse when you factor out the two games they scored seven (vs. Detroit) and eight (at Cleveland). In the seven other games, they've scored a combined 13 runs. Less than 2 runs per game. It is simply impossible to win in the majors on a consistent basis when you score just two runs per game.
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As of August 9th, the Yankees ranked 18th in Major League Baseball with a .255 batting average with runners in scoring position. That may not sound too awful, but trust me, let's dig into some of the other numbers and you'll see it only gets worse. With runners in scoring position and two outs, the average dips to .229 which ranks 20th in the league.
Additionally, the Yankees rank 26th in baseball in team runners left in scoring position per game. Over the course of the 2017 season, the Yankees have averaged to strand 3.66 runners in scoring position game. Not , the team is 12-20 in one-run games this season, good for dead last in Major League Baseball.
Strangely enough, if we go back to June 13th, the day the Yankees slide began, the team was averaging left in scoring position per game, which was good for the worst in the league. At that time, however, the Yankees were scoring runs at a better clip because they were still hitting tons of home runs. These days, however, with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Matt Holliday (before he was placed on the disabled list) mired in brutal slumps, and with Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro on the DL themselves, this team lacks the pop it had earlier in the year. Their ability to hit the long ball was masking their RISP failures, but it has been a consistent Achilles heel the entire season.
On a positive note, the Yankees aren't going out there and getting blanked every night. Aside from Corey Kluber's complete game gem last week in Cleveland, you won't find many starters who have gone past the seventh or allowed five or less hits against them this year. No, the Yankees have displayed the ability to get on base, but unfortunately that's about as far as it goes. Those haven't translated into runs as often as they should. As a team, they rank fourth in OBP at .336. Only division leaders Houston, Los Angeles and Washington higher. You would expect a team that has no trouble getting on base to score more, but alas, that's not been the case.
Last night's 11-5 win over Toronto was certainly encouraging, as the Yankees rebounded from another 0-for-5 start to finish the game 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position, but this is still something to monitor. We all know the team is capable of putting the ball in the seats, but if they can't improve in the situational hitting department, they will continue to struggle in one-run games the rest of the way. Guys like Sanchez and Judge need to have better plate discipline and get themselves into more hitter-friendly counts. Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes could benefit from some patience at the plate, as it seems like they are constantly jumping on the first pitch. Brett Gardner and Todd Frazier, on the other hand, could stand to be a little more aggressive as it seems they are constantly taking strikes one and two right down the middle and not giving themselves a chance in many at-bats.