If the Yankees fail to make a deep run in the post season, will we look back and say it was the pitching that did them in, or would it be the hitting that cuts the season short, or maybe both. Maybe the below average defense costs them a big game. The Yankees are a flawed team but which flaw is the most glaring.
The consensus would offer an educated guess and say that the pitching, or lack of it, would be to blame, but the triumvirate of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino and J.A. Happ are capable of giving the Yankees some solid starts. The bullpen, though shaky at times lately, could turn into a positive factor in the post season. That was the same scenario as last season when the Yankees went all the way to game 7 of the ALCS. The pitching produced but the offense went south, particularly on the road.
To me, the problem may lie with an offense that is not as good as advertised.
Of course, not having Aaron Judge in the lineup is a huge factor but even when the AL Rookie of the Year was playing, the Yankees were beginning their struggles to score when opportunities presented themselves. Judge being out has only exacerbated the problem.
A well balanced offense can help overcome the deficiencies but the Yankees are not a well balanced offense. They hit a lot of home runs, but they strikeout too, too much. They are short on left handed hitting (Greg Bird has been a huge disappointment and Brett Gardner is experiencing his usual second half swoon) and are lacking in .300 hitters. That goes right along with their situational hitting numbers that are (I’m being kind) sub par. They don’t move runners, (how many times this season have they had a runner on second with no out and have not moved him to third) they don’t run the bases well and then there are the strikeouts. All these fundamental deficiencies kill rallies and cost games, especially in the post season.
With RISP, the Yankees are 20th in baseball with a .248 average. It’s even worse with bases loaded. The Yankees have hit .239 with the bags full, good for 22nd in MLB.
Here’s another stat that sounds good but is really not that enlightening.
The Yankees lead Major League Baseball with 53 sacrifice flies. That sounds good. The Yankees are getting a runner in from third with less than 2 out, but nearly a third of those sac flies have come with the bases loaded. To me that says that the Yankees are not maximizing those innings, when they do get the bases loaded, because they don’t follow up the sac fly with a hit to sustain a rally or produce another run or two.
It’s obvious the Yankees score most of their runs via the home run but that dries up when they go on the road. Their home/road splits are startling. Let’s be frank, the Yankees take advantage of the short right field dimensions at their park, which they should, but those fly balls become outs at other ballparks.
At Yankee Stadium, the Yankees post a slash line of .264/.345/.475. On the road, .234/.310/.418. The home/road run differential is 398/345; home runs-127/107, walks-290/263. The only home/road stat where the number increases is strikeouts. The Yankees strike out 683 times on the road as opposed to 590 at home.
In my opinion, the batting order has been dysfunctional. Judge was hitting second but, many times, especially in the first inning, he was batting with no one on base. Brett Gardner has not had a good season and does not distract or intimidate an opposing pitcher as a threat to steal. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have had outstanding rookie seasons but have also experienced growing pains, while Gary Sanchez has had an awful season on both offense and defense. Giancarlo Stanton is streaky and needs to be the everyday clean-up hitter. Injuries have played a role, but Manager Aaron Boone is always altering the lineup depending on “the match ups” but he’s also shown a penchant to rest a hitter when he’s going well instead of riding it out. That strategy may come from up top because Joe Girardi would also rest players when it wasn’t really needed.
If the Yankees expect to go anywhere this post season, they’re going to have to win on the road. In last year’s post season, the Yankees were undefeated at home (6-0) but only 1-6 on the road. Their offense clicked at home but was invisible away from the Bronx.
With their problems scoring away from Yankee Stadium, they can’t afford to follow the same script which is why they desperately need to have the AL Wild Card game at home.
The Yankees finish the season with 7 road games (4 at Tampa Bay and 3 at Boston) so they need to racking up some wins on this final, nine game home stand (7-2 or 6-3 at the very least) is a must.
If the Yankees have to play in Oakland, a “one and done” may be the end result.