Sep
20

RISP FAIL: The Culprits

By

The one constant through this recent stretch of poor play has been the Yankees’ complete inability to get runners in and tack on those important insurance runs. It burned them yet again yesterday, and since this 4-9 stretch started on Sept. 5th, the Yanks have left 115 runners on base. That’s 8.8 runners per game, or over 1,425 runners per 162 games. Last season they stranded a total of 1,238 runners, and before this stretch they were on pace to strand just 1,198 batters this season. It’s an obvious problem.

It takes a team effort for an offense to struggle this bad with men in scoring position, so we can’t pin it on one or two players no matter how much we want to. Lance Berkman and his pair of GIDP’s yesterday is hardly the root of the problem, it’s just a microcosm of how things have been going. Here’s a quick look at the regulars (sorry, Colin Curtis) and how they’ve performed with men on second and/or third during this stretch of suckiness (click to enlarge) …

As you can see, the only guys pulling their weight in these spots have been A-Rod and Cano. Everyone else has, putting it kindly, come up short. The good news is that if you take out the disaster that is Austin Kearns (who only played regularly because of injury), the regulars have only struck out 11 times in 110 plate appearances with men in scoring position during this stretch, a 10.0% strikeout rate that’s far, far better than the 18.1% league average with RISP.

Putting the ball in play hasn’t been the problem whatsoever, the hits just aren’t dropping in. It’s not a sign of being “unclutch” or anything like that, it’s just dumb luck. Baseball can be cruel like that. At some point things will get back to the way they should be and were for the vast majority of the season and these balls are going to start finding the grass. It’s inevitable.

As a team, the Yanks have hit just .197 with a .315 on-base percentage (somewhat inflated by five intentional walks and two hit by pitches) and a .098 ISO since that magic Sept. 5th date. That’s just an unsustainably bad pace. Even the Mariners, who are in danger of having the worst offensive season in the expansion era (seriously), have hit .230 with a .320 OBP and a .109 ISO with RISP this year.  Before this stretch, Joe Girardi‘s boy hit .265 with a .366 OBP and a .171 ISO with RISP on the season, and it’s only a batter of time before they return to that level. The Yankees are simply too talented to keep performing this poorly for an extended period of time.

And you know what, there’s one other thing to keep in mind here. We’re talking about an incredibly small sample of data. 118 plate appearances is nothing, and neither is 13 games. That’s just about 8% of the season, and no one should be rushing to make conclusions based on that amount of data. But given the time of year and the division race, things have a tendency to get blown out of proportion. Yes, this lack of getting the man in completely sucks and it’s frustrating as hell, but it won’t last and it’s certainly not some fatal flaw that is just now being exposed. It happens, and it’ll pass hopefully sooner rather than later.

* * *

And as far as this squeeze bunt/suicide squeeze stuff, please, just stop it. It’s not a high-percentage play like most make it out to be, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It takes a perfect bunt to execute; not a good bunt, not a very good bunt, a perfect bunt. If it’s too close to the catcher, the runner coming in from third is toast. Same thing if it’s too close to the pitcher, first baseman, or third baseman. And if it happens to go foul, then you’re done, because the element of surprise is gone. Good teams never ever ever pull these kinds of plays, they rely on their players to hit the ball and get the run in. Smallball simply isn’t a long-term winning strategy, plain and simple. Go ahead and tell me the last time a smallball team won a World Championship. I’ll wait.

Categories : Offense

123 Comments»

  1. Steve O. says:

    Yes, this lack of getting the man in completely sucks and it’s frustrating as hell, but it won’t last and it’s certainly not some fatal flaw that is just now being exposed. It happens, and it’ll pass hopefully sooner rather than later.

    So you’re telling me the offense isn’t doomed? That we will, in fact, get a hit with a runner in scoring position? And that some things happen for reasons of random variation? Huh.

  2. Waitaminute Waitaminute Waitaminute Waitaminute Waitaminute you mean we shouldn’t be bunting every time there’s a runner on 3rd, we shouldn’t DFA Kearns and Berkman, and the panic from ESPN and the MSM about the Yankees “offensive woes” is overstated?

    You’re just a goddamn cheerleader, Mike.

    Seriously though, the offense is more capable of carrying the team than any offense in all of baseball. This bad stretch has been frustrating and the worst they’ve looked in a long time, but even during this they’ve sandwiched in some games where they exploded for 11 and 8 runs respectively. This isn’t the 2010 Mets, relax people.

  3. ZZ says:

    Putting the ball in play hasn’t been the problem whatsoever, the hits just aren’t dropping in. It’s not a sign of being “unclutch” or anything like that, it’s just dumb luck. Baseball can be cruel like that. At some point things will get back to the way they should be and were for the vast majority of the season and these balls are going to start finding the grass. It’s inevitable.

    How do we know it is just dumb luck?

    Luck has probably factored in at some level, but do we even know if it is one of the main contributing causes? Over this small a sample couldn’t consistently poor at bats resulting in weak contact be a or the explanation?

    • Chip says:

      Remember the bullet that Jeter hit with the bases loaded? That’s bad luck. It’s not like they haven’t been taking their walks and working the count. I refuse to believe a team with nothing but above-average regulars is suddenly a true-talent .206 BABIP team.

      • ZZ says:

        I acknowledged luck is likely a factor. Baseball has so many variables that at some level luck will always play a role. Nor did I say this is the true talent of the team, but it is possible a team this talented did not play to their true talent for a short stretch. I was simply throwing out another possibly or another potential contributing factor.

        What I am questioning is how we are attributing this to simply dumb luck. One hard hit ball by Jeter that stands out in your mind does not answer that question.

    • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

      Having watch almost all the game in the mostly woeful offense stretch, I can tell you poor ABS prolly contributed more to it than just dumb fucking luck. Cano, for example, lineup yesterday with runner on third and one out, that is dumb luck.On the other hand, Kearns and Curtis struggle mightily in Tampa were beaten by off speed offerings and by themselves( expanding the zone). And There is nothing random about those ABS.

      I think bad approach in those ABs contributed mightily to this stretch of struggle. By the way, the last I checked we are batting .259 with RISP which is 16th in the ML , even taking in consideration with all the runners we put on , we could still do better than that average.

      • By the way, the last I checked we are batting .259 with RISP which is 16th in the ML , even taking in consideration with all the runners we put on , we could still do better than that average.

        Leaguewide BA in all situations is .258.

        The fact that we have more RISP situations than anybody else and have a BA in those situations that mirrors the leaguewide BA in all situations is probably nothing more than a simple regression to the mean. Give the 15 teams in front of us the number of RISP situations we’ve had and I bet they hit pretty close to our .259 as well.

  4. Steve O. says:

    Go ahead and tell me the last time a smallball team won a World Championship.

    I’d be glad to. ’04 and ’07 Red Sox. They didn’t hit a single HR the whole season. Just bunts, steals, and sacrifice flies. That’s the way you play the game the right way.

  5. JGS says:

    Go ahead and tell me the last time a smallball team won a World Championship. I’ll wait.

    http://www.baseball-reference......+white+sox

  6. How most people will read that lovely chart:

    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah LANCE BERKMAN AND AUSTIN KEARNS SUCK CASHMAN IS A MORON blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

  7. Chip says:

    Go ahead and tell me the last time a smallball team won a World Championship. I’ll wait.

    The 2002 fightin’ Sciocias! Any team with David Eckstein is automatically gritty and smallball, just ask Tony La Russa. Albert Pujols could only hope to one day be half the man that Eckstein is

  8. ROBTEN says:

    since this 4-9 stretch started on Sept. 5th, the Yanks have left 115 runners on base. That’s 8.8 runners per game, or over 1,425 runners per 162 games.

    As frustrating as the “RISPocalypse” might be, what the above tells me is that we should be just as encouraged about the fact that, as a team, the Yankees are incredibly good at getting men on base to begin with.

    The hits with RISP will come, but this issue only happens if there are men on base first.

    • Steve O. says:

      This. The better the offense, the more players get on base. Conversely, with more men on base because of the better offense, the more players get stranded.

      It’s science.

    • ZZ says:

      The level of encouragement should depend on how you analyze the situation. If we are talking about the team over a 162 game season, then getting a lot of men on base is going to result in a lot of runs.

      However, if we are analyzing the situation pertaining to how this team will perform offensively in the postseason it could tell a different story due to the nature of the typical high level pitchers they will be facing.

      • In order to do it that way, though, you’d have to break our total RISP tripleslash into what our RISP tripleslash is against likely playoff pitchers.

        It’s only indicative if we’re comparing apples to apples. You can’t sound the alarm bell until you demonstrate that our RISP struggles have been present against the elite pitchers of the Rays/Twins/Rangers/etc.

        • Steve O. says:

          This. Also, I think it’s only relevant against the top tier pitchers. Guys like Liriano, Lee, Price, etc.

        • ZZ says:

          I am not sounding the alarm bell. I was more just suggesting being cautious before sounding the celebration bell.

          Personally, as I wrote the other day I am concerned about the offense from a fundamental standpoint in the playoffs, but this issue is slightly different than RISP numbers being discussed.

      • Steve O. says:

        However, if we are analyzing the situation pertaining to how this team will perform offensively in the postseason it could tell a different story due to the nature of the typical high level pitchers they will be facing.

        Better pitchers allow less baserunners, and they also let less baserunners score. Although this high-powered offense will still do well in regards to baserunners.

        It’s science.

      • ROBTEN says:

        Yes, certainly a higher caliber of pitcher will make scoring runs difficult, but the fact that over the course of a season they get a lot of men on base and score a lot of runs would tell me that they are in a better position than other teams which, over the course of the season do not do so, to continue this (i.e. getting men on base and scoring runs) in the post-season.

        Further, if it is correct that they were on pace to strand less runners than last season until recently, then it seems to me that we are talking about a short-term phenomenon that, as Mike says, gets blown up because of when it is occurring, rather than a fundamental flaw in the team heading towards the playoffs.

  9. Mister Delaware says:

    The right answer is the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, 25 years ago, led by Poughkeepsie native Ricky Horton and his left arm of fire.

    (Tough to say only Rodriguez and Cano are doing what’s expected, no? I have zero problem with Granderson or Jorgie’s lines.)

    • Except the 1985 Cardinals weren’t world champions. They lost to the Kansas City Royals. (It may stun the younger folks to know that the Royals were once one of the best teams and best organizations in baseball……)

        • Feh. The Cardinals had 782 opportunities to win that Series — including, y’know, the entire seventh game. Blaming it on Denkinger is churlish. The Cards got beat by the Royals playing better than them, not by one bad call.

          • Double-checking the stats, the Cards hit .185/.248/.269 in the ’85 WS. The Royals hit .288/.366/.381. The Royals’ BA was twenty points higher than the Cards’ SLG. The Royals outscored the Cards 28-13. The Cards were lucky to have it go seven games….

            • Sweet Dick Willie says:

              That being said, if Denkinger gets the call right, the Cards win the Series in 6 games.

              • That’s not remotely a given. Denkinger’s call was on what would’ve been the first out. It was followed by a single, a bunt forceout (that might not have even been called with only one runner on instead of two, especially with Jim Sundberg), a passed ball, an intentional walk, and a single. Without the bad call, you probably still wind up with the bases loaded and two outs and the top of the Royals’ order up.

                Given that sequence of events, the Royals probably still would’ve come from behind to win, unless you believe that the Cards were so devastated by a single bad call that Todd Worrell just fell apart. In which case, frankly, the Cards deserve to lose. Bad calls happen all the time….

  10. Jonathan says:

    I may be missing something, but what’s wrong with Jorge’s numbers/performance here?

    The most frustrating part of yesterdays game for me besides throwing away Teixeira as a pinch hitter and pinch hitting him for Gardner was Marcus Thames AB. On 2-2 Mike Gonzalez threw him a breaking pitch that he barely got a piece of to stay alive. Then he threw another breaking pitch and missed to go to 3-2.

    First off, if you have the confidence to throw it 2-2, you definitely do for 3-2 and secondly, he had a base open and didn’t have to go after him. Also, for Gonzalez’s career his fastball has been worth 9.4 vs 39.3 for his slider. It was pretty clear what he was going to throw there and I was screaming it at the Tv. Thames isn’t exactly a contact/speed type player there but he was swinging out of his ass and needed to cut down and just try and put the ball in play up the middle somewhere. It seems in situations like this our guys just try and do way more than they need to. It’s admirable that they want to be the hero but it hurts the team when they do that. Thames has been great for us but that AB in general was atrocious. On the other hand, it’s never easy to pinch hit in the middle of an AB.

  11. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Eve tough others fell short outside Cano and A-Rod at least every regular did not make much outs. Jeter is really that really struggled in this stretch.

  12. Damian says:

    Dumb, blind luck? You guys obviously don’t know anything about baseball if you can’t identify when a team lacks KILLER INSTINCT. This Yankee team has a fatal flaw, and that’s it. Case closed. Last word.

  13. CS Yankee says:

    I’ve been out-of-pocket during this bad stretch and just returned this AM (but things seem to be the same), so I do have some questions.
    1) How did Jeter not have ant GIDP (as the chart above shows)?
    2) Why are people still dumping on Kearns & Phat Elvis?
    3) How good was Pettitte in his return?
    4) If Tampa couldn’t move up after our bad stretch, the gotta be primed for 2P, right?

  14. nsalem says:

    Small Ball Champs Marlins ’03 Royals ’85 Cards ’82 Dodgers ’66.
    Arguments can be made that these teams won despite their offensive ways rather than because of. I think our current offensive woes are health related rather than bad luck. All of our starters are either injured
    to some extent except for Cano and Jeter(?) and Cano seems to be in bad need of a couple of days of rest. I look at yesterday as a shit happens kind of loss and the notion that a squeeze play with a man on third and no outs is absurd unless you had 3 horrible hitters due up, which wasn’t the case. The most important event of yesterday was Andy’s positive performance which far outweighs the pain of the loss.
    This game was not lost in the 11th inning by Thames or the ninth by ‘Mo, but rather in innings 1 through 9 where we had more than our share of chances to break this game wide open against pitching that was not exactly dominant.

  15. Steve O. says:

    I think we can all thank Damian on the birth of a meme. KI.

  16. Can’t we just say it’s A-Rod’s fault?

  17. CS Yankee says:

    As far as the last “small ball” champs, wasn’t that the Cardinals of 2006. They put on a clinic for the Tigers.

    Series like those can make a manager look real bad. Most might not think that a Pujois/LaRussa team could play that way but you can win with small ball if;
    1) You have really, really solid pitching.
    2) The other team also has solid pitching.
    3) Your team can’t hit their butt with a shovel.

  18. Brian says:

    Not saying I disagree with this article, but wouldn’t the last smallball WS champ be the Marlins in 2003?

    Pierre and Castillo were tied for second in the Majors with 15 SHs each. The team did have two players with 30+ homers. Though, no one else had 20. Only three players with 300 PA had an OPS of more than .800.

    As a side note, it’s kind of funny that Luis Castillo had 21 SBs and 19 CSs that season. I wonder if that’s the lowest percentage by someone with 20 SBs.

    • Steve H says:

      That’s a tough one. They did have a lot of small ball tendencies but were 6th in the league in SLG%. They did run the bases like they hell, but got caught a ton too.

      • Brian says:

        Very true. But 6th in the NL in SLG% is fairly middle of the pack. As a team, they had an OPS+ of 97. They certainly weren’t bludgeoning the ball, but they weren’t bunting the entire game either. Maybe they aren’t completely smallball, but it’s probably the closest thing in recent years.

        They also were very good at just putting the ball in play. Didn’t strike out or walk much. Ranked 14th and 13th in those. I don’t really know what that means. Just interesting.

        • Steve H says:

          I think the fact that despite only being successful on 67% of steal attempts and yet they continued to do it probably implies small ball team. They stole 50% more bases than the next highest SB team.

  19. Steve H says:

    They stole 59 bases as a team, had 6 guys in double digit HR’s including 5 with at least 19 and hit 184 as a team.

    They may have small balled a series, but they weren’t a small ball team.

  20. Jim says:

    So because someone wants a squeeze in a particular situation, they want the Yankees to become a small ball team? Talk about putting words in people’s mouths. Not to mention, it seems you never heard of a safety squeeze Mike.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I fail to see the difference between a safety squeeze and weak ground ball. There’s maybe two players on the Yanks that could successfully bunt for a play like that, and about 18 than could ground a ball to the right side.

      • Steve O. says:

        There isn’t a difference. In fact, I’m glad you brought it up, because it shows how well placed a squeeze bunt has to be in order to bring the run in. Exactly like a weak groundball.

        Jim, what everyone is saying is that they don’t want the Yankees squeeze bunting because that bullshit is for teams who swing whiffle bats.

      • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

        One can have greater control of the direction and possible speed of the ground ball (I am assuming we are talking about a good bunter here ) than inadvertently hitting a soft ground ball. That’s the differences to me.

        Better bat control so to speak.

    • Kev says:

      The problem is that if you allow Pena to hit in that situation, you’re completely selling out the squeeze play. With the runner on first, he’s in there to sacrifice him over, and everybody knows that. With the runner on third and no outs, the corners are going to be creeping up so close to the plate that they likely catch a ball that doesn’t go directly into the dirt (which doesn’t bring the runner home without a suicide squeeze, which is exactly that against a guy that’s walked better than four per nine over his career). Why are they creeping so far in?! Might have something to do with Pena’s career .282 OPS against lefties not convincing them that he’s going to be swinging the bat…

      ..or maybe I’m crazy..

  21. Yank the Frank says:

    Luck is for rabbits. It’s time we started making our own luck.

  22. theyankeewarrior says:

    Berkman’s failure to come through with runners on is the ONLY reason he has frustrated some Yankee fans thus far. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, he’s already won over the entire fanbase and the masses are calling form him to be re-signed in 2011 by carrying the slumping Yankee offense to a 4 game lead in the east with his crazy batting line since returning from the DL.

    In this universe, he’s gotten a bunch of hits with no men on and has come up all-but-empty with RISP in a SSS. This will most likely change as September turns into October.

    Sounds yummy.

  23. forensic says:

    I just don’t understand why people are acting like this is some small blip that just started occuring two weeks ago. Obviously, recently it’s taken it to the extreme, but the team has hit .230 with RISP over the last 50 games. Almost a third of the season. That’s not blind, dumb luck, that’s a pattern.

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