Yanks killing themselves with double plays

Swisher's walk-off blast ends homestand on high note
The long, short road ahead
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Of the many things that irk me during the course of a baseball game, none stings worse than a double play. Fielding errors might induce teeth grinding and passed balls might make me yell at the TV. But nothing makes my blood temperature rise like the ol’ 4-6-3. Can’t the batter have the common courtesy to just strike out in that situation?

This season, for the most part, the Yankees have avoided the double play. They’ve hit into 105 of them, fourth fewest in the AL, despite putting more men on base than any other AL team. Only Tampa Bay has a better men on base to double play ratio. It might seem like they hit into a lot; Derek Jeter, after all, seems to hit a grounder to second or short every time there’s a man on first with less than two outs. But that’s just confirmation bias at work. The Yankees do not hit into a lot of double plays.

Lately, though, the problem has seemed worse than ever. That’s what got me looking at the data. I was pleased to find the team’s overall success in avoiding the double play, but I wondered if that was something that had changed lately. Looking at the game log, it appears as though the GIDP trend started on August 20, when the team hit into two of them. Since then they have had eight multi-GIDP games, including four straight at the end of August. Because of this, I’ll use August 20 as the line of demarcation.

From the start of the season through August 19 the Yankees grounded into 81 double plays, or one every 58.4 PA. In that period they put 1,532 men on base via hit, walk, hit by pitch, or error, minus home runs. That means they hit into a double play once every 19 times a man reached base. It’s an inexact measure of GIDP efficiency, since we don’t know how many times exactly they were in double play situations. But for our purposes it will work just fine.

Beginning with the Seattle series, the Yankees have grounded into 24 double plays in 721 PA, or once every 30 PA. They’ve put 240 men on base during that period, so they’ve grounded into a double play once every 10 times a man reaches base. So yes, they have certainly hit into more double plays lately. It makes me want to lob a brick through my TV. It seems like they’ve killed so many run-scoring opportunities. Only, they really haven’t.

In the 19 games since August 20, the Yankees have a team .359 OBP, which is a bit better than the .349 mark that they had produced through August 19. Yet despite putting more men on base, they’ve scored fewer runs. Of the 268 men who reached base since August 20, 107 have scored, or 40 percent. From April 4 through August 19 they put 1,678 men on base and had 644 of them score, or 38.4 percent. That seems a bit off, right? If they’re killing more of their base runners via the GIDP, would they be getting fewer of those runners around to score?

Much to our delight, the Yankees have hit more home runs during this GIDP skid. Before August 19 they hit a homer every 32.4 PA. Since then they’ve hit one every 25.75 PA. Double plays might be frustrating, but home runs are pure joy. So while we’ve seen the Yankees kill more of their base runners than before, we’ve also seen them sock some dingers. So shouldn’t the corresponding trends even out and leave us with relatively equal happiness?

To those who can look past their petty emotions, sure. But most of us can’t do that. We live and die by this team. We watch them 162 times a year, and even though we know they’re going to lose 60, 65 games those losses still sting. Included in the emotions we feel during the game is loss aversion. People prefer to avoid losses rather than acquire gains. So while the homers have helped the team score a larger percentage of its base runners, we still react with greater intensity to the double play, because we can’t stand the loss. So while the homers and double plays might balance out in reality, they do not in most of our minds.

Thankfully, the double play thing is most likely a blip on the radar. We are, after all, talking about just 13.2 percent of the team’s plate appearances this season. There will be hills and there will be valleys. I imagine that as September wears on we’ll see fewer GIDPs. If the Yanks can also sustain their current HR pace, that’s going to be all the better for the offense. In the meantime, though, I’ll remain frustrated every time there’s a runner on first with less than two outs and someone hits an easy grounder to second or short. Makes me tear my freaking hair out.

Swisher's walk-off blast ends homestand on high note
The long, short road ahead
  • kosmo

    Jeter (20) Cano (16) Tex (14) Swish (10) account for 60 GIDP or close to 60 percent.

    • andrew

      And would you believe that they also have 60% of the Yankees plate appearances?! No way!!

      • http://www.twitter.com/TomZig Tom Zig


  • http://deleted Richard Deegan

    DPs do sting, but there is something to me five times worse. While I can mentally “excuse” a DP (Gee, right at…a few inches to the left and…just another half a step…almost made it at second, etc), I go nuclear when an eighth-place hitter is walked, and neutron when, Mo Forbid, the ninth-place hitter is walked. Just seems to me like there’s been too much of that in recent days, and most wind up costing runs. Ten again, could be just my expectational bias.

  • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    I dunno. The passed balls still might get me angrier.

    • larryf

      we only have 1 pitcher who induces passed balls for the most part. They happen because of catcher exhaustion. Very rare to see them with CC/Andy/Phil/Mo etc…

      That said, neither frankie or Jorge are very good receivers…

      And what about “pitch selection” conferences on the mound. Do we lead the league in those?

      • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

        I think I just enter the Burnett starts so irritated that everything that occurs really stands out

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

        And what about “pitch selection” conferences on the mound. Do we lead the league in those?

        /2009 Phillies during the World Series’d

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    For me it depends on the type of double play, and obviously the situation. There’s nothing worse than the double play after an afternoon of the offense doing nothing. After Gardner hit into that one yesterday, I nearly slammed my head on my desk.

    Sometimes though you just have to tip your hat to the defense. That one turned on Cano (I think) in Chicago where Alexei made a diving stop and then the 2b made a bare-handed turn… I couldn’t even be mad.

    • Klemy

      Those and the line drive right at first base…I can’t get mad at those either.

  • IvanS

    The reason for putting Jeter at leadoff dating back to a year or two ago was to avoid the DP when Damon got on and to give Damon the hole between first and second when the 2B cheats toward the bag. That worked fine when Jeter was getting on base at a high percentage. This year, having Jeter batting leadoff hurts you because of his numbers and having him batting behind Gardner hurts because of the DP possibilities. The solutions would be to either bat Jeter lower in the lineup (the horror) or send Gardner often and early in counts when on base, which other teams will be watching for.

    • larryf

      I am ready for the horror…

    • Tom Swift

      Gardner should be leading off, followed by Swish. But I doubt Girardi will move Jetes down to seven or eight, where he belongs.

      • Tarheel Yankee

        in this lineup, jeter should be hitting ninth, with gardner and swisher 1 and 2. but, you’re right, it will never happen.

        • Klemy

          I’d pay to see that some going down the stretch, just to see how many bases Gardy would steal with Swish working the count.

        • Jerome S

          I’m thinking Gardner+Grandy as the 1-2 vs. righties and Gardner+Swish 1-2 vs. lefties.

          • larryf

            A lefty should preferably always be batting after Gardy to help the SB. A minor improvement may be expected…

        • http://www.twitter.com/TomZig Tom Zig

          I have a way to convince Girardi to put Jeter 9th. It’s the double lead off guy!

  • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    Also, with the White Six loss last night, I had the magic number at 13. Am I just doing the match wrong again?

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      Only look at the loss column when evaluating the magic number. Both the Red Sox and White Sox sit at 62 losses, so the magic number remains at 14.

  • chriskeo

    we know they’re going to lose 60, 65 games

    / Ken Davidoff’d

  • http://twitter.com/YanktheMike yankthemike

    I think watching the yankees turn a double play ( the relief factor) outweighs watching them GIDP
    ( frustration factor) i’m sure they must be some sabremetric to confirm this

  • Not Tank the Frank

    Loss aversion. I love it when RAB breaks out the big psychology guns to help explain why I’m an irrational mess after a Yankees loss. Who needs a therapist? Not me…

    • larryf

      Baseball vs football psychology question: is it better to be an irrational mess for only (potentially) 24 hours after a Yankee loss or in ecstasy for 7 days after your football team wins?

      • Nigel Bangs

        As a Yankees/Raiders fan, I’m going to side with baseball on this one.

      • seimiya

        I don’t think being a mess for seven days after your football team loses is worth it, even when they win. On the sixth or seventh day, you’re no longer remembering the stellar plays, the MVPs of the game, how you won. And for me, knowing how we won is a key part of the fact that we won.

        Or at least, me. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, thought, so maybe that’s just my crappy memory.

        sports fan psychology: we are rooting for total strangers to hit balls with sticks, based on their uniform.

        • Jerome S

          Five years of my life I’ll never get back.

  • MattG

    And since August 20th, how many times has Jeter batted second? That’s part of the problem.

    I amazed my non-baseball fan wife the other day, when I called Jeter’s 6-4-3 at a moment she just happened to nearby the mlb.tv monitor. Little did she know I had about a 50/50 chance of nailing that one.

    Fine, I exaggerate.

    • Thomas

      Since (and including) Aug. 20th, Jeter has batted 2nd in 9 games of the 17 games he started (he PH in the other). He has only batted 2nd in 6 other games (all starts).

      Batting 2nd he has grounded into 4 DP (1 DP per 16.5 PA) compared to 16 (1 DP per 35.6 PA) when batting first.

      • vin

        He has been especially putrid since August 20:

        .157 .250 .243 .493 (ops)

        I think his ineptitude during this time frame is probably more of the culprit than him batting 2nd.

        Side note: he’s had one of the hottest hitters in the game batting behind him for most of that period.

  • vin

    With everyone calling for Jeter to be moved down in the order, it gives me hope that he can now get on a roll, ALA Teixeira.


  • J-Wod

    I’m wondering if the increased HR output and the increased GIDP are related… could it be something in the way the hitters are swinging? I know it seems counterintuitive– HRs are fly balls, GIDP grounders– but, any thoughts on this?

  • http://www.yankeenumbers.com Mr. Sparkle

    In regard to how the GIDP hurts us more to watch, I also think it hurts extra that it’s Jeter who SEEMS to be hitting into a lot of them. He’s come up in a lot of key spots where we’ve been used to seeing him come through over the years and it just seems lately he’s been hitting into routine DPs instead. The August 16th Detroit game comes to mind when they lost 3-1. They had a bases loaded situation in the 9th, one out and Jeter at the plate and he hit into the DP to end the game. (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA201008160.shtml)

    That one really hurt to watch.