Following a crisp 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on June 8, the Yankees were sitting pretty. They had a one-game lead atop the AL East, and after a highly-anticipated series in Boston, the team faced a relatively easy slate of Interleague opponents. It all looked so good on paper.
Two weeks later, the outcome is much bleaker than anyone would have expected it to be. The Yankees went to Boston and got swept in a three-game set. They eked out a 2-1 series victory over the Mets thanks in large part to a freak play in the bottom of the 9th inning of the first game. Then, they dropped two out of three to both the Nationals and Marlins, the fifth and fourth place teams in the NL East, respectively. I predicted a 10-5 run through the NL. Already, the Yankees are 4-5 and 4-8 over their last 12.
Since holding onto that first place lead, the Yankees have lost five games in the standings to the Red Sox. They sit four out of first place, just one game ahead of the third-place Blue Jays and two ahead of the charging Rays. My, how times have changed.
While yesterday’s 1.1-inning outing from CC Sabathia provided an exclamation point on a bad stretch, the pitching has generally not been the problem. Yanks’ hurlers have a 3.84 ERA over their last 12 games and are striking out 8.4 men per 9 innings over that stretch. Opponents are hitting just .234/.316/.409 off the Yankees’ staff.
The problem has been the offense. While Yankee pitchers have done their jobs, the team is hitting just .248/.329/.409 over that same stretch of games. Ten double plays and a lack of timely hitting have left the Yanks on the wrong end of five one-run games since June 8. That’s just bad luck.
Meanwhile, the big bats are the ones slumping. Take a look at this sortable table below. It shows every Yankee with five or more plate appearances between June 9 and June 21 arranged in descending order of OPS.
As the chart shows, two-thirds of the Yankee lineup have been producing at OPS levels under .700 for the better part of two weeks. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher and Alex Rodriguez are dragging down the offense. More problematic as well is the prolonged absence of Hideki Matsui from the Yankee lineup. As Interleague play moved to the NL parks, the Yanks lost one of their hottest hitters.
For the optimists among us, this chart provides some comfort. These players won’t continue to perform at below-average rates for much longer. That these players ran into slumps as the pitchers heated up is the Yanks’ bad luck, though. It’s small comfort to look ahead and hope for the next hot streak, but it will come soon. When it does, the Yanks can charge up the standings just as swiftly as they fell.