Dispelling the RISP Fail myth

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Ah, RISP Fail, a phenomenon that really gained traction — merited or not — during the 2010 season. Last year’s team posted a .267/.357/.441 line with runners on, good for a 103 tOPS+, and 12% better than league average (112 sOPS+); and a .258/.363/.420 line with runners in scoring position, which was essentially exactly how they hit in all other situations (100 tOPS+), and a mark 9% better than league average.

While those full-season numbers with runners on and RISP are plenty respectable, the RISP Fail meme grew to apocalyptic proportions during the 2010 season’s final month, as the team hit just .225/.350/.331 (.681 OPS) in 338 September plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Coupled with an anemic offensive performance against Texas in the 2010 ALCS, and the team’s seeming futility with runners in scoring position became an easy scapegoat for the team’s shortcomings.

So was there any truth to this perception? Below are two charts showing the team’s numbers with runners on and with runners in scoring position going back to 2007. As an aside, the reason I’ve chosen 2007 as the cutoff for the majority of the historical team-wide comparisons I’ve been doing thus far is because several seasons worth of data helps detect patterns and/or trends, but going back any further than five years will likely make any conclusions less meaningful given that the composition of both the team and the league was quite a bit different. Even going back to 2007 doesn’t really tell you anything about the 2011 team, but simply showing the 2010 and 2011 numbers paints a fairly limited picture.

Anyway. (click to enlarge)

It turns out the one year fans may have actually had a legitimate gripe regarding the team plating baserunners was 2008, the only season of these five they were below-league average both with runners on and runners in scoring position. Though the 2010 season did end up coming in as the second-lowest of the five in terms of sOPS+, lending perhaps some credence to the frustration with the team’s periodic inability to hit with RISP, at least in comparison to how Yankee teams of recent vintage fared.

Fortunately the 2011 team put the 2010 Yankees to shame when it came to hitting with both men on and runners in scoring position, posting five-year highs in both tOPS+ and sOPS+ in both splits. In fact, they were the second-best hitting team with runners on and the best-hitting team with runners in scoring position compared to the league in 2011:

BOS .294 .364 .474 107 127
NYY .270 .349 .465 106 120
DET .288 .349 .444 105 115
TEX .277 .335 .438 94 110
BAL .266 .329 .432 109 106
CLE .271 .345 .412 113 106
KCR .277 .330 .419 101 103
CHW .259 .333 .401 108 100
TBR .242 .326 .406 102 99
TOR .248 .324 .406 100 98
LAA .252 .316 .406 102 96
OAK .254 .321 .376 105 90
MIN .253 .317 .360 104 85
SEA .241 .307 .357 108 81


NYY .273 .361 .455 108 122
BOS .278 .359 .452 101 121
TEX .285 .354 .450 102 119
DET .280 .350 .426 101 112
CLE .269 .354 .409 115 108
KCR .276 .333 .426 104 107
BAL .263 .332 .416 106 104
OAK .266 .340 .399 118 102
LAA .255 .334 .405 108 102
TOR .237 .331 .387 98 96
CHW .239 .324 .373 98 90
TBR .224 .322 .371 92 89
MIN .248 .319 .354 103 84
SEA .222 .306 .325 98 73

Interestingly, Cleveland of all teams really turned things on when they had runners on, compared to the way they hit in all situations, with an AL-high 113 tOPS+ with men on, and a second-best-in-the-league 115 tOPS+ with runners in scoring position. Strangely enough, Oakland led the league in tOPS+ with RISP, hitting 18% better than usual in these situations, though given their overall season line of .244/.311/.369 that’s still not saying much.

Also, next time you’re concerned about the Yankees’ hitting with RISP, just be glad you’re not a Mariners fan. The folks in Seattle must be among the most patient in the world; I’m not sure how you follow a baseball team that not only put up a .233/.292/.348 line over 162 games, but actually managed to hit 2% worse than that with runners in scoring position.

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  • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

    Would be great to dig a little deeper to see what the RISP in close/late was. Remember, the Yankees were a sub .500 team in one run games and 4-12 in extra innings. Would not be shocked if their one-run game RISP was way lower.

    • Larry Koestler

      As wonderful as B-Ref’s splits page is, unfortunately it doesn’t offer situational RISP splits (unless they’re located somewhere else that I’m not aware of). The Yankees’ overall slash line in Late & Close situations, regardless of whether they had men on base, was .221/.316/.348, which was 30% worse than how they hit in all situations, but only 5% worse than league average.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

        I think that was the source of frustration– not the overall “RISP Fail” — but that close/late they were demonstratively worse than otherwise. I’d be willing to bet that triple slash goes down even further in RISP situations close and late form their overall number.

      • mike

        keep in mind the rest of baseball was facing the Yanks pen…

  • MattG

    Not pictured:

    All Yankees not named Rodriguez: 199 tOPS+
    All Yankees named Rodriguez: -37 tOPS+

    note: not scientific, data derived from blog comments and casual observation only, margin of error: 0%

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com Eric

    People are always going to complain about the Yankees’ performance with RISP unless they bat 1.000 in those situations. Simple characteristic of irrational Yankee fans.

    • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com Eric

      Also, there’s another commenter with the handle Eric? This is an outrage. Let’s throw down.

    • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

      People are always going to complain about the Yankees’ their team’s performance with RISP.

      This is the most universal truth of all universal truth. Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, Marlins fans, Mets fans, White Sox fans, Padres fans, Astros fans, Cardinals fans. They ALL complain about how their team “can’t hit” with RISP.

      • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

        I should add that it shouldn’t matter what the team hits with RISP unless it was like 1.000. And then someone would still probably find some way to complain. “If a better defensive 3B was playing there, it wouldn’t have gotten through! It was a wall-scraping HR!”

    • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

      There are many people who would still find a way to complain if they hit 1.000 with RISP.

      • Soriano is a Liar

        They only hit singles, we need a team with some power!

  • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

    Pistols at dawn? Sorry…new around here.

    • RetroRob

      Eric and Eric, report to the shores in Weehawken.

  • mt

    This RISP Fail stuff was exactly an issue in close games – I think data above shows it – we were second in the league in RISP overall but Late and Close we were 30% worse than our overall which in turn was 5% worse than league average.

    Can we compare Yankeess late and Close RISP versus its overall RISP compared to other teams late and Close RISp versus its overall RISP? For exmaple, we were 30% worse than overall. No matter what the level of a team (even Seattle) are teams generally better than their overall in Late and Close? If not how much worse are they? I would imagine that our 30% worse is pretty high.

    To me RISP does not matter as much in a game when you are leading by a lot or behind by a lot (yes, in any one game a team can come back but probablities over the course of a season ar that multi-run comebacks are not common.)

    The related RISP Fail (which leads into Late and Close) is that we would score runs early against a starter and then stop against starter or the middle bullpen.

    • MattG

      “Can we compare Yankeess late and Close RISP versus its overall RISP compared to other teams late and Close RISp versus its overall RISP?”

      OK, but why bother? Its not like the information would be predictive. The Yankees lost too many close games last year, because of randomness. That’s it.

      The more you sub-divide the data, the less relevant the results. The larger dataset shows the Yankees were fine in RISP situations. If for some reason they failed in the close games, that’d be almost completely attributable to sample size issues alone.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

        One interesting stat I cam across was that later games got the progressively worse the hitting got worse.

        In 2011 the Yankees OPS by inning


        To put this in perspective in 2010

        9th: .760
        EX: .762

        So as the games went on in ’11, the Yankees hitters got progressively worse. In ’10 while they bottomed out in the 8th, the Yankees were a fairly consistent good hitting team. This obviously contributed to “RISP Fail” situations, but the team was especially weak in extra innings, when the games tied/close if they went down at home.

        I do think the “RISP Fail” meme came from the litany of one-run losses when the Yankees would inevitably leave runners in scoring position fairly constantly. It’s a small sample size, but game 5 of the ALDS was a picture of why folks got frustrated.

        On a close/late comparison the Yankees batted 40 points less than the Red Sox (who were also arguably the best team May-Sept. Close/Late, the Yankees were basically the KC Royals who had similar stats.

        I think there is something to the “RISP Fail” but it does not have to do with leaving runners on in the 4th inning up 5-0 to the A’s in June, but in those close/late situations where the Yankees were worse than the league over the course of the year. Just my two cents.

        • pat

          I would assume the OPS’s decrease by inning because they’re usually facing better and better relievers as a close game progresses.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

            Except other teams did not decrease as drastically with no recovery (Red Sox did not for instance).

            • Soriano is a Liar

              That sure helped the Red Sox in the postseason. Wait?

              (not trying to snark at you btw. Just the Sox, at whom we can all laugh)

          • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

            A look at the other playoff teams from the AL does not yield the same massive unchecked drop in OPS from the 6th on.

        • Larry Koestler

          I actually did a study on the Yankees’ run-scoring by inning last month at TYA, due in part to the fact it seemed the team would frequently get on board early only to languish in the later innings, and this is another situation where perception is probably greater than reality.

          Per that post, the 2011 Yankees actually had the 2nd-highest run-scoring tally in the AL in the 7th inning (to only Boston); 3rd-highest tally in the 8th (Boston and Texas led); and the 8th-highest tally in the 9th (Cleveland led). However, the 9th inning tally is a moot point since the Yankees played fewer of them than every other team except Texas.

          The idea that the Yankees didn’t hit as much in the latter innings only holds weight when you compare the 2011 team’s output with the performances of Yankee teams of recent vintage. The 2011 team posted its lowest tOPS+ in the 7th inning of the last six Yankee teams; its third-lowest tOPS+ in the 8th inning; and second-lowest tOPS+ in the 9th inning. The team’s also on a three-year decline in tOPS+ in both the 7th and 9th innings, but that’s more a function of the 2009 team performing out of its mind in the 9th inning than anything else.

          • mt

            2011 RISP Fail concerns in a season where we did poorly in one runs and extra inning games (albeit a small sample) are definitely magnified by our memories of that incredible 2009 team’s success in those same situations.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/EricDKoch Eric

            Eitherway, I loved the article Larry — and as I said I am new around here. Looking forward to talking baseball with you all.

      • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana


  • Kosmo

    I´m more of a fan of 2 outs RISP than just RISP. I think it reveals more about hitters in pressure situations.