In the first five games of the 2012 season we’ve seen two things in abundance. First, we’ve seen rough starting pitching performances. But that’s just one turn through the rotation, so it’s a non-issue at the moment. The other is failure with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have been in 70 such situations, and have scored just 20 runs. That’s not encouraging, even early in the season.
The Yankees have faced more situations with men in scoring position than any other team, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In one way it certainly is; they’re giving themselves plenty of opportunities. But one of the reasons they have so many opportunities is exactly because they fail to cash in those opportunities. After all, if they single with a man on second, the following PA does not come with a man in scoring position. If the batter at the plate is retired and there are fewer than two outs, however, the next PA does come with a man in scoring position. That is to say that this is a two-way street.
What I find most odd about the Yankees’ RISP woes this season is that the process seems to be there. They’re getting on base plenty — their .357 team OBP ranks third in the AL — so they’re setting themselves up to score a ton of runs. Even further, they’re putting together good at-bats when they do have RISP situations. It might not seem like that, since they’re failing so often. But they’re seeing a lot of pitches and working deep counts. Here’s how many pitches per PA they’ve seen in RISP situations in each game.
Note: these are hand calculated.
This is against their team average of 3.95 P/PA, so it’s pretty close overall. At the same time, they’ve seen some success when swinging early in the count. With runners in scoring position they’ve put the first pitch in play nine times. Five of those have resulted in RBI. It’s a bit frustrating, sure, when both Jeter and Swisher put the first pitch in play and kill a perfectly good rally. But overall they’ve had some success doing that. In the PA where they didn’t drive home runs, they’re seeing 4.29 pitches per PA, or a third of a pitch more per PA than their season average.
The process, then, seems to be there. It’s just a matter of time before they start to come through in these situations. It’s frustrating for sure. No one wants to sit through these opportunities and see them score no runs. Soon enough, though, we should see plenty of activity when there are ducks on the pond. Remember, even though they were somewhat frustrating last year their BA with RISP in 2011 ranked 5th in the AL, and their OPS ranked first. The hits will drop.