What Went Right: The seventh inning on

Pettitte could be back for 2010
Matsui noticeably absent from Elias Rankings

Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than last.


Swisher celebrates one of the Yankees’ 15 walk-off wins. Photo: David Pokress

Against the 2009 Yankees, no lead was safe. Teams with four or five run leads heading into the seventh inning still had to beware. The slightest slip-up could lead to yet another Yankee comeback. Many teams fell victim to the Yankees late-innings machine, notably the 11 teams that lost to the Yankees in their final at-bat (with apologies to the Twins and Jays, who ran into the walk-off buzzsaw three times each). Those 15 wins made a huge difference in the Yankees season.

The Yankees led the AL in runs scored, OBP, SLG, and were just .002 behind the Angels in BA. From the seventh inning on, they led all these categories by a wide margin. Their 336 runs topped the next closest team, the Angels, by 48. They also led in all of the triple slash categories: .009 in BA, .020 in OBP, and .079 in SLG. That last stat owes much to home runs, which the Yanks led with 92. The next closest team, the Rays, had just 63.

Offensively, there was no team better than the Yankees from the seventh inning on. Yet for the team to enjoy those come from behind victories they also needed some key pitching performances. Without a shutdown bullpen to hold the other team in place, not even the Yankees’ late-innings offense can win that many games. To that end, the Yankees pitchers did their job, holding opponents to a .303 OBP from inning seven on, second to only the A’s at .302. They were also second best in slugging, .368, and tops in batting average against, .225. Unsurprisingly, they also struck out more batters than any other teams from innings seven on.

Let’s take a look at the individuals who were part of this incredibly run and how they contributed to wins with late-inning performances.

Derek Jeter: .341/.426/.512

Jeter had a stellar season at the plate, thriving in the leadoff slot. One of the highlights of the summer was watching Jeter slap the first pitch of the game into the shallow outfield for a base hit (or, in the case of Josh Beckett, over the fence for a homer). Yet Jeter saved his best performances for late in the game. Of his 18 home runs, eight came after the sixth inning. He also walked 24 times to 27 strikeouts, and stole five bases without being caught. When a comeback was in the works, Jeter was leading the charge.

Robinson Cano: .335/.371/.510

The knock on Cano in 2009 was his dearth of production with runners in scoring position. This naturally led to a narrative that painted Cano as a poor clutch performer. Yet in the later innings, when the Yanks mounted comebacks, Cano was at his best. His 105 total bases from the seventh inning on were second best on the team to Mark Teixeira. He also had two walk-off hits. While none of this erases Cano’s struggles with runners in scoring position, it helps dispel the idea that he can’t hit in the clutch. When the Yanks needed production late in the game, Cano was right there.

Brett Gardner: .330/.408/.527

Gardner hit just three home runs in 2009, and two came after the sixth inning. One of them was integral in a comeback against the Twins, an inside-the-park home run that got a quiet crowd on its feet. Gardner didn’t come to the plate as frequently as others on the team, but when he did, he produced.

Johnny Damon: .304/.401/.553

Early in the season, it seemed like Damon was coming up big all the time. Even when the Yanks eventually lost he provided some late-innings heroics. Ten of his 24 homers came in late innings situations, including his walk-off shot against the Twins. Damon also displayed excellent patience in the late innings, striking out just 26 times to 25 walks.

Hideki Matsui: .302/.403/.597

Early in the season Hideki struggled, but when the games moved into the later innings he thrived. He was one of three Yankees with an OPS over 1.000 from the seventh inning on. Nearly half of his 28 home runs came in that span as well (13 of 28). When we think of late-inning performances, it’s easy to think of A-Rod and his walk-off homers or Melky and his heroics, but Matsui was a huge part of the team’s success in that regard. His performance in the late innings might have been underrated.

Melky Cabrera: .298/.370/.427

If Melky could hit in innings one through six like he did from inning seven on, he’d be a major asset for the Yankees. I do think, after watching him improve in the 2009 season, that he can be that, though that’s a topic for another post. Melky had his share of walk-off moments, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He hit his best in the late innings, and that helped the Yankees achieve a number of come from behind victories.

Alex Rodriguez: .297/.428/.633

I can’t count how many times I sarcastically yelled “unclutch!” when A-Rod came up with a big hit in 2009. His two walk-off home runs only begin to tell the story of how he came up big in the late innings. Two of his biggest hits of the year, in fact, don’t show up on the walk-off highlight reels. His game-tying home run off Brad Lidge set up a Melky Cabrera walk-off. My favorite A-Rod hit, though, came in June against the Red Sox. Down 2-1 in the eighth, A-Rod smacked a double to put the Yankees ahead. They eventually lost the game, but that hit was just huge.

Mark Teixeira: .282/.376/.630

The 3-4-5 combination of Tex, A-Rod, and Matsui dominated the late innings. They all had OPSs above 1.000, and each hit at least 13 home runs in those situations. Teixeira led the way with 16, and also smacked 13 late-innings doubles. His 114 total bases led the team.

Jorge Posada: .254/.364/.468

Jorge didn’t put up the best numbers in the late innings, but that’s only compared to his teammates. In isolation, his hitting from the seventh inning on was pretty good, and he had two walk-off hits to show for it. His walk-off single against the Blue Jays on July 4th weekend prompted one of my favorite questions to Girardi this season, courtesy of Kim Jones. “So Joe, how’d you like the single by Jorge?” I only wish Girardi had answered, “Hated it, Kim. I wanted this one to go at least 16.”

Nick Swisher: .240/.358/.485

Thinking back on the Yankees late-innings dramatics, I don’t remember much of Swisher. His walk-off homer against Tampa was memorable because it was his first walk-off win of the year. But he also had a big homer to tie the game against the White Sox. Swish hit better earlier in the game, though he still had 83 total bases in innings seven on, more than Jorge, A-Rod, and Melky, and just behind Damon and Jeter.

In celebration of the Yankees late-innings performances, we have this:

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Pettitte could be back for 2010
Matsui noticeably absent from Elias Rankings
  • http://thesportshernia.typepad.com/blog/images/2008/05/04/melky_cabrera_cant_believe_it_phixr.png Drew

    Melky love ftw!

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      .308/.382/.426 from 7th on according to baseball reference.

      • http://thesportshernia.typepad.com/blog/images/2008/05/04/melky_cabrera_cant_believe_it_phixr.png Drew
      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        That’s innings 7-9. Extra innings get lost in there. Hence looking at ESPN for 7th on.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          Good call, Joe Paw. I should be flogged in public for doubting you guys.

  • Dela G

    this team seemed a lot like the 07 red sox. Never said die and no lead was safe. Even though i doubted them umpteen times, i had people like TSJC remind me how this team wasn’t going to lose, and about 60 percent of the time, it worked all the time….

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The 2009 Yankees were made with real bits of panther. That’s why they were good.

      • handtius

        quite pungent… …stings your noise. In a good way.

  • Dela G

    also, i’ll never forget the grit gutner homerun against the mets at shea, as i was shocked that he killed a ball that far

    • Dela G

      *at citi field, not shea

      • JGS

        I love it how that part of the field is referred to as “Utley’s Corner”, even by the Mets broadcasters

    • larryf

      amazing for a guy that hits flat-footed. A kLong project for sure but I DO like Bret the Jet

  • Tom Zig

    Shouldn’t you give extra special apologies to the Twins for running into the buzzsaw 3 days in a row AND once in the postseason?

    • http://sports-odds.com/images/stories/yankees-arod-teixeira.jpg JobaWockeeZ

      Yeah and they played Toronto much more often than the Twins.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    Iwent to 12 games this season and saw three walk offs aftr never having seen a walk off before.

    I will never, ever, ever leave a game early.

    Not after what we saw this year.

    • jsbrendog

      yeah i saw robbies walkoff hr. my first walkoff. sweet

      • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

        Melky’s against the Twins, Po’s against the Jays and Teixeira’s against the Twins.

        And I still feel like I’m missing one!

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          Melky’s-Twins was my first game at YSIII my first game with my dad. awesome day :)

    • handtius

      I think I was at 2 or 3, but I can only remember the A-rod pop up one. I was standing behind home plate with my friend who was a Met fan. We stood there for the whole game. It was a sick view. He wanted to go with 2 outs in the ninth. I said lets stick around till the last out is made. Win or lose, I’ve never left early. So we decide, as soon as the last out was made, we’d jet to beat the rush. Up goes the last out, he turns to walk away and it happened in a second. He rushes back, then takes off with out even letting me know. He was so pissed, I didn’t talk to him for like 4-5 days.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      I hate you. :-(

    • http://www.wiredtowns.com Short Porch

      If there aren’t enough Optimist Primes in the stands, comebacks don’t happen.

      Okay stat guys, go to it: Are comebacks more likely in front of

      1. large crowds
      2. In highly charged
      3. Or high leverage (i.e. ‘it would be a big win for us’

      games?

      You just don’t go 36-8 at home unless there’s something else going on involving full, loud stadiums, basically 45,000 not at all ready to leave early.

      The first two months people were kind of feeling their way around the park. We’d all been unrooted, after all. The team scuffled. The stadium seemed foreign.

      We wrote off April really. It wasn’t that A-Rod was out, Wang scuffling, and the bullpen was getting ‘blown out’ by that wind tunnel to right. It just took at least a solid month for the ticketholders to start getting familiar with their new seats. We didn’t feel like tourists any more.

      The season’s turning point was no doubt the May 8th A-Rod homer on his first at bat, followed by his walk off against The Twins on May 16th. The walkoffs in that Twins series told me that the Yanks were a special team. Getting Alex back the way he came back, with his head screwed on straighter thanks maybe to dating America’s Sweetheart, and with the old gang knowing that this could be their last campaign together it all just got real professional from the 7th on. Nothing rattled them. Robertson and Hughes joined Mo in the bullpen, and just got icewater in their veins. All the hitters too. A shut down bullpen just gives you the extra swagger at the plate.

      What a lineup of professional hitters such that you may never see again in your life. So much that we spent most of our time fretting about Swish and Melky of all things. They did their jobs at the plate,but more importantly added some youth and fun to a very veteran lineup. They enjoyed the comebacks more than anyone, especially when it was their turn.

      No, you did not want to miss a pitch watching some true professionals at work, because you knew that if any team that ever stepped on a diamond could come back, they could.

  • http://sports-odds.com/images/stories/yankees-arod-teixeira.jpg JobaWockeeZ

    Their 336 runs topped the next closest team, the Angels, by 48.
    UNREAL.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Not only that, but our OPS of .887 from the 7th inning on was a full 100 points higher than the second place team (also the Angels).

      1 NYY – .293/.378/.508 (.887)
      2 PTZA – .284/.358/.429 (.787)

      Oh, and our 92 homers? Also first. Second was the Phillies… with only 69.

      We had 934 total bases. Nobody else had more than 800.

      “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
      Jay-Z

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        The Yankees are just the shit.

  • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

    When I saw the headline, I thought this post was about the bullpen. Shows you that the Yankees were great in the late innings on both fronts.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

      I love me some bullpen.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        … nah, too easy.

        • Tom Zig

          She really sets herself up for that.

          • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

            By the time I’d been awake ten minutes this morning I’d already mentioned swallowing, exploding heads, vibrations and long showers.

            Just ask Mayo.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              She’s even more awesome live, fellas.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    They all had OPSs above 1.000

    i dont even know what this means!!!

    seriously, you know that has to keep opponent pitching itchy the whole time–even if no mean are on base, you could be two pitches from tied at any given second…

    Mo seemed to give up a lot of walks this year, but we also played a few more innings this year than in the past decade :)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      They all had OPSs above 1.000
      i dont even know what this means!!!

      It’s some newfangled stat. I’m just coming to grips with it myself.

      Sincerely,
      Tim McCarver

      • Tim McCarver

        did you know that the ball crosses the plate at a slower speed than it was released??

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          :: head explodes ::

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            i just got a bloody nose…not saying causation but…

        • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

          The clock is turned back one hour tonight, so be careful you don’t miss the start of tomorrow’s game because of it.

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            Or if you do, just wait…

  • JackISBACK

    I don’t know why, because its probably the least deserving of all, but I can’t get enough of the Castillo drop. Maybe its because I hate the Mets, but whatever it maybe, thats my favorite walk off the year just because it was so random. Alex’s HR in the 15th would be second, I love how Tazawa was just standing there watching like he expected the game to go on or something.

    “And to folks out there, “walk off” comes from the pasts, when a team wins the game, and they could just literally walk off the field with the win, while the losing team is disappointed as they “walk off” the field as well. So its a term that really you can say ah.. um.. ah.. fits both teams equally, which I just thought was amazing to whoever coined that phrase”

    [/JoeMorganed]

  • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

    Favorite walkoff win (not counting playoffs or Red Sox): the five run epic comeback v. the Angels for 2 reasons. 1, I called it in the eighth, bravely fighting off LoHud trolls. 2, I thought right after they won, “Wow, this team really has a chance to do something special.”

    I also loved the Castillo dropped ball, just because it was the Mets.

  • Sam

    Raise your hand if you’re ready for 2010?

    • LI Kevin

      I did it but but nothing happened.

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