Late and close, some haven’t delivered

Bleich likely headed for shoulder surgery
A belated DotF
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens (AP)

It’s difficult to come up with too many criticisms of an offense that’s put up a .363 wOBAbest in all of baseball – which is all the more amazing considering the team has seen a number of starters miss significant time due to injury. Unfortunately, as we saw in last night’s game and in Tampa, the team, even with a high-scoring offense, seems to strand runners in critical situations. A team with great on-base skills and featuring some of the top hitters in baseball will see a lot of situations with men in scoring position. Of course, the more opportunities the team has with runners in scoring position, the more often we’ll see them fail. It’s just a numbers game. But considering the talk of how last year’s team “was so clutch”, it might be interesting to see how the players on this year’s roster are doing.

In 2009, the team hit .272/.370/.433 with RISP. They overall hit well with bases occupied, almost regardless of how many outs there were, and .316/.403/.542 in late and close situations also looks great.

In 2010, with runners in scoring position, the team is hitting .279/.380/.458. Hmm…well that overall doesn’t seem to be a problem. Ok, what about 2 outs and RiSP? .286/.381/.418. Again, it’s not that. Well gee whiz, that’s pretty good. What about high-leverage situations? .283/.370/.473. The numbers say the 2010 Yankees are a fairly balanced offensive team. They hit well in tie games, ahead and behind. They hit with bases loaded, they hit well with no outs, kill teams the second and third time through the lineup, hit with RiSP and actually do well in what are considered “high leverage” situations. So maybe this whole notion that the team just isn’t “clutch” without Matsui and Smooth Johnny is frankly, bull crap.

But wait.

Look again and you’ll find the team seems to have issues with runners on second and third and in late and close situations. The team, with men on second and third, are hitting only .184/.353/.237 this year, with Posada, Jeter, A-Rod having hit one run in (via sac fly) combined over 17 plate appearances. And although the team is bashing pitchers in innings 4-6, too many players are dropping like flies in innings 7-9. Derek Jeter, Winn, Swisher and Teixiera have all had varying struggles in those innings. Add the Bullpen Adventures and you see a nasty witches brew in the cauldron.

The second issue is in “late and close” situations, where the team is hitting .223/.315/.392. When we’re in the 7th-9th and it’s close, Swisher, Winn and Teixiera have just killed their team’s chances of coming out ahead. Teix is hitting a paltry .056/.150/.056, Winn checks in at .125/.125/.125 and Swisher is staring at .143/.143/.143. In fact, if not for Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Marcus “The river giveth, the river taketh” Thames, the team would be entirely dreadful across the board in such situations.

As we can see, Randy Winn – possibly the most hated Yankee on the roster (high five, Boone!) – has struggled enormously. It seems that every time a key situation is brewing late in the game, he’s up. And the rally is over after he’s late on an average fastball. Well, the numbers seem to bear it out. On the year, Winn is striking out 25% of his at bats but over 30% of his PA’s late in the game.

Nick Swisher is hitting very well in high-leverage situations at .450/.500/.900(!), but isn’t doing so when it’s late and the game is on the line. He’s hitting .238/.304/.310 in innings 7-9 and has struck out in 5 of his 14 late and close PA’s. Jeter, whom I’m sure we’re all hoping is just greatly slumping and not declining as a player, is hitting .180/.212/.300 in innings 7-9 and .222/.263/.444 late and clutch.Teixiera might be the most interesting player to study. His slow starts have been well documented. But this start in particular is fairly awful and he just hasn’t been there when called upon. Your #4 hitter can only be so futile for so long in those spots before it costs the team ball games.

Luckily, possibly other than Winn, the talent level suggests these players will certainly be hitting well in no time. There’s no magic “clutch” concoction we can give these players. As they compile more plate appearances in such situations, they’ll start to produce. The 2009 team wasn’t some amazing mix of heart, guts and clutch-itity that separated them from all teams before and after them. They hit well enough to be called “the comeback kids” and had some good fortune (which some might call an anomaly). That’s it. Less than 20 plate appearances (in some cases) is by no means a good number by which we should judge a player’s aptitude in any given situation. All this says is that thus far, the team has had some players slumping at the most inopportune of times. It happens to every team. As we move closer to the dog days of summer, we should expect some of those numbers to improve. And for a team currently featuring a number of AAA players and bench players in their starting lineup due to injury, that’s a scary spot for the rest of the league.

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Bleich likely headed for shoulder surgery
A belated DotF
  • poster

    Doesn’t Jeets have a nine game hitting streak now? Seems to me like he’s picking it up a bit.

    • JMK

      He does have a solid hit streak going, that’s true. But even with that, he’s had a negative WPA in five of the last six games. It’s a very hollow hit streak. He’s mostly had one hit in the games.

      • poster

        Not denying that, I’m just hoping it’s a sign that he’s starting to pick it up a little.

        • JMK

          No doubt, El Postero. I hope you’re right, but his at bats have not looked terribly promising. Still, it’s early. No need to hit the panic button just yet. Check out TYU – they have some good posts on Jeter’s struggles and the root causes.

          • poster

            Seems like he’s hitting balls to RF a little more at any rate, though that could just be my fallible memory.

  • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    There’s no magic “clutch” concoction we can give these players.

    Matsui’s porn collection

  • rafael

    Is it possible that they’re facing higher quality relievers in these situations?

  • Zooboy

    goldenthong’d

    • Zooboy

      oops, meant that as a reply to Steve H.

  • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

    DAMON AND MATSUI AND MELKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nah, as you said, it’s a small sample size. The numbers that are freakishly bad are likely going to improve and the numbers that are freakishly good will decline.

  • Phranchise

    alright just wondering what happened to dotf last night? cant seem to find it anywhere

  • Pete C.

    I’m not too concerned yet, yeah it’s frustrating watching the futility, but isn’t one of the things I keep hearing about stats is the player will eventually start trending towards his career average in all situations?
    As far as Randy Winn goes, nobody ever said he was more than a 4th outfielder, and while I cringe every time I see him swing the bat I gotta think it’s just a matter of time till Curtis Granderson comes back.
    The part that scares me more is, I wonder if the core (Jeter, Posada, Mo)is getting to old to play at a consistent high level, all at the same time.

    • Hector

      The answer on the “Core” you’re right. Consistency will be leveraged by age and injuries. It’s no secret that we need to get younger in some areas. That’s why letting AJ go was mind boggling.

  • Tom Zig

    We shouldn’t worry too much about Tex. He has a .912 OPS (.941 last year) for his career in late & close situations. Perhaps there will be a regression (progression?) to the mean coming up soon.

    • ty

      starting to worry, he has looked terrible the last week

    • ty

      starting to worry, he has looked terrible the last week

  • Spaceman.Spiff

    Cano is unclutch I thought? No?

  • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

    Also, funnily enough, I was looking at WPA from 2009 a monthish ago, and the Yankees had the most “unclutch” player in baseball in Cano there. He was OVERWHELMINGLY the worst, too. Oh, and out of the top four “unclutch” players in baseball, we had two in Cano and Tex. 2009 turned out pretty okay.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUvg7Empjfg Captain Jack

      That line in the “late and close” situations is completely unsustainable. How many extra wins that translates too I’m unsure, but for sure…we probably won’t see walk off after walk off again. That shit just isn’t sustainable.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUvg7Empjfg Captain Jack

      I recall Teixeira being good in the “clutch” last year…does my mind fool me?

      • ty

        he is playing like he aged 5 years over the winter

  • http://www.thesportsshowlive.com/ JoeyH

    The biggest problem in my eyes hasn’t necessarily been getting the big hit. Take that second Boston game for example. A fly ball would have tied the game. And depending on the defensive alignment, like yesterday when the defense is giving up the run on a ground ball, the ability to put the ball on the ground. Very frustrating but these things can only get better.

  • ty

    tex is really struggling

  • lenM

    Tex sucks, and has since the post season. I’m sick of giving him a pass about starting slow. His swing is terrible and sick. You will not will when you have two overpriced, under playing guys like Tex and A-Rot. Cashman ought to be hung. He saved money and put has beens and want a be’s on a team that is costing them. The savior is not Granderson, (big deal) Mister 186 from the left side and 220 from the right. The Tigers are laughing at the Yankees every time Austin Jackson, and Damon gets up. Mark my words the Yankees are a third place team this year. They have been looking sick against the Mets, and can’t hit worth a shit against there lousy pitching staff.

    • Hector

      100% agree! Yankee fans want to see baseball being played the Right! way. Not overpriced prima donas with monster egos. Can we not build a team like the Rays with our farm system and resources?
      AJ will be as good a Granderson will ever be by the end of this year. Where are the “Baseball”people in this organization? Cashman? please, give me a break. I could get more answers out of “Stan”s Bar” then Cashman.

  • Hector

    Yes, Winn is the least liked player on the field. He’s always been an average player, so it’s not really his fault. When you give up on MVP and Clutch guys, you expect a reasonable return.Winn and Thames are not equitable returns for a World Championship team. As we can see, Austin Jackson is becoming a super player as expected and his replacement is bagned up and may never be as good as Jackson. Why did we not choose to groom him and make him another home grown talent like Cano,Jeter,Posada,Bernie and others? Now Russo seems to be making a bid for the bigs. Does Gerardi and co. see that?