When the Yankees lost on Saturday to the Red Sox, they did so in rather dubious fashion. The 14 runs allowed wasn’t pretty, but what made the game worse were the 13 two-out runs the team allowed. If only someone could have gotten the third out, the Yanks would have had a chance.
For the Bombers’ pitchers, though, this two-out phenomenon was nothing new and would constitute a weekend theme. Yesterday, CC Sabathia allowed all four of the Red Sox’s runs to score with two outs, and on Friday, 11 of 11 Boston runs would cross the plate with but one out left in the inning.
Beyond Boston, the Yanks’ recent road trip was marred by two-out follies. In Seattle last weekend, Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen lost 10-3 to the Mariners with all ten Seattle runs coming with two outs. In total, the Yanks had a very successful 7-3 road trip, but 41 of the 51 runs they allowed — or 80 percent — came with two outs. While the Yanks escaped unscathed this time around, all of these two-out runs are good for no one’s heart.
On the season, the Yankees have been unable to slam the door on innings. The team has allowed 589 runs, and 248 of those have come with two outs. That’s 42 percent of all runs. Comparatively, the Yanks have allowed 143 runs with no one out and 198 runs with one man out. Across all three situations, the team’s OPS against ranges from .741 with no one out to .749 with two men out, and the team’s walk rate increases from one walk every 12.4 plate appearances with no one out to one walk every 11.7 plate appearance with one out to one walk every 9.1 plate appearances with two outs.
While these variations seem relatively minor, by comparing the Yanks’ two out numbers to the league’s, we can start to see why the team is struggling. With two outs, the team’s sOPS+, a measure of the team’s OPS as compared to the league average for that split, is 104. For both no outs and one out, the team’s sOPS+ is 95. In other words, the Yanks are better than league average with zero and one outs but worse with two outs. Overall in the AL, just 36.8 percent of runs have scored with two outs.
Individually, A.J. Burnett is one of the worst offenders, as we saw on Saturday. He has allowed 37 runs with two outs. That’s just a hair under 50 percent of his total runs allowed. He has walked 33 batters with two outs but just 22 each with no outs or one out. Pettitte, too, has been much worse with two outs than he is earlier in innings.
It’s tough to draw many conclusions from here. We’re looking at a rather selective sample that isn’t really indicative of anything other than past frustration. Will A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte always struggle with two outs? Probably not.
We can, however, confirm what we have long suspected: The Yankees have been worse at getting the third out than they are at getting to two outs. We saw it in Seattle; we saw it in Boston. Even when the team won, we saw those two-out rallies, two-out hits and two-out errors lead to more runs. It goes without saying that the Yankee hurlers need to get that third out. Hopefully, it won’t remain as elusive for some as it has been so far.