NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin: What Cost Yanks More, Starting Pitching Or Overrated Hitting

twitter.com

Aaron Judge didn’t help the Red Sox win the ALDS because he was blasting a boom box that played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” right outside Boston’s clubhouse after game two. Luis Severino didn’t help the Red Sox win the ALDS because he allegedly “warmed up late.”

The bottom line is Judge could’ve been blasting “Sweet Caroline” and it wouldn’t have mattered. Severino was lousy in his game three start and would’ve been lousy if he warmed up for an hour because he hasn’t shown he can be a successful post season pitcher yet.

Plain and simple, the Red Sox beat the Yankees because they were better. Instead of trying to pin this loss on theoretical alibis, we’ll examine why Boston was better.

Of course, there’s no denying that the Yankees starting pitching was one of the main perpetrators of this loss. Along with Severino, J.A. Happ, C.C. Sabathia and even Masahiro Tanaka (who was the best of the foursome) the rotation did not deliver the performance that the Yankees needed to back up their deep bullpen.

Except for game 3, when the Yankees did not use any of their main relievers, the bullpen did its job. I know the starters put the team in a hole but why couldn’t they climb out of them. Except for game 3, the Yankees other two losses were by one run. Thanks to some outstanding work from the pen, those were two games where they had opportunities to win but the Yankees’ offense couldn’t come through. A good offense would’ve found a way to get those much needed runs, especially against a Red Sox bullpen that was considered their achilles heel.

After all, the Yankees were second in Major League Baseball to Boston in runs scored and runs per game, they led the majors in home runs with a record setting total and they were third in walks and OBP so why did this offense fail to produce at the wrong time of the season.

You like numbers, we’ll give you some numbers like this one that tells much of the story. This high powered Yankee offense ranked 16th in Major League Baseball in hits, not to mention 9th in strikeouts and 24th in stolen bases.

The Yankee bats failed in the clutch and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise because they did the same things during the regular season when they were putting up those impressive home run and walk stats.

There are a couple of reasons why this Yankee offense really underachieved and was probably overrated when it comes to the win column. Some are obvious (Gary Sanchez’.186 batting average, Luke Voit’s “carriage” turned back into a “pumpkin”) but there are also some that “flew under the radar” and need to be addressed.

IMBALANCED OFFENSE

Balance throughout the lineup doesn’t just mean having a mixture of left handed and right handed hitters sprinkled throughout. It also means having power hitters and .300 type hitters, who make consistent contact and don’t strike out a “ton.” The Yankees were lacking in both.

The Yankees have a lot of right handed hitters, but a shortage of left handed batters made them susceptible to right handed pitching. Left hander Chris Sale didn’t win this Series by himself. In fact, if the Yankees could’ve won the two games at Yankee Stadium, Sale would not have factored into any victory. Instead, it was the right handers, Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello who gave the Red Sox enough length to overcome their flaw in the bullpen. BTW: That flaw did just fine with right handed pitching against the predominantly right handed Yankee lineup.

I believe that the Yankees philosophy of stressing On Base Percentage over Batting Average is why they’re lacking .300 hitters and why they overrate the walk. You can have three walks in an inning and not score a run. Three singles in an inning is likely to produce a run as you can advance two or more bases on a hit while a walk is only one base. Walks are important but you need hits to back that up.

BATTING ORDER

This was one of my pet peeves.

The Yankees batting order did not maximize the ingredients. The lead off spot became like a “black hole” as Brett Gardner and a cast of others did not provide a presence at the top of the order.

There seems to be less importance placed on the first inning than later on in the game. In the post season, it’s very important to get a lead and the Yankees did not do that in the three losses. Boston’s lineup wasn’t as “deep” but their top three was much better and they scored 50 more runs (168-118) in the first inning than the Yankees did.

If Aaron Judge is the Yanks’ best hitter, he should not be batting second. Judge needs to have two chances to come up with a man on base in the first inning, not one when he hits second. I know all about the second place hitter getting more at bats in the long run than the player hitting third but if your only chance to dictate what three hitters would be guaranteed an at bat in an inning, you must take advantage of that chance. Besides, it’s when those at-bats occur that count, not how many. Using Aaron Hicks or Didi Gregorius in the three hole behind Judge doesn’t scare opposing pitchers. The Yanks would be best served by finding a more productive left handed hitter to break up the righties.

Gregorius would be better served in the two hole, followed by Judge and Stanton, who could offer protection for the Yankees’ best hitter. That would also depend on who is in the lead off spot. The Yankees did not want to use two lefties at the top if Gardner led off but the 35 year old should not be counted on to be an everyday player anymore, even if he does return.

FAILURE TO MOVE RUNNERS WITH PRODUCTIVE OUTS

How many times did the Yankees have a runner on second and he never moved. Not having any semblance of a running game exacerbated the problem. The Yankees were ranked near the bottom in stolen bases. I don’t want to hear that “they don’t run anymore” because of the analytically based 70% success rate that is needed to justify a steal. Having a threat to run can seduce pitchers to make a mistake. You can’t measure that with a nominal percentage. The Red Sox used their speed to burn the Yankees as they were thrown out only once all season long. Another example of how Boston is balanced offensively while the Yankees are not.

SACRIFICE FLIES

When the Yankees did execute the fundamental of getting a runner in from third with less than two out, it was also an indictment of their lack of clutch hits.

The Yankees led Major League Baseball with 59 sacrifice flies. Nearly a third (19) of those came with the bases loaded. You could make the case that the Yankees did a good job of getting runners in from third with bases loaded and less than two out However, 15 of those sac flies came with one out and there were no follow up hits. That tells me that the Yankees failed to maximize scoring opportunities with bases loaded, even when they did something right.

A sac fly that ties a game or gives a team the lead is what you want. A sac fly like the one Sanchez hit in the ninth inning the other night is a lift for the defense and a let down for the offense. How did you feel the other night when Sanchez near walk off, turned into a sac fly. It was like winning a consolation prize.

The Yankees will dedicate this off season to finding starting pitching but they can’t ignore the fact that their offense and everyday lineup needs some tweaking.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *