RISP: Where Yanks big guns go to dieBy
Where would the Yankees be right now without Raul Ibanez? The guy so many people wanted gone after a painfully unproductive spring has pulled his weight and then some. His .273/.330/.568 line translates to a 136 OPS+, which ranks behind only Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson among Yankees with more than 50 PA. Yet Ibanez’s overall production is only part of the story. It’s when he puts up those numbers that has made the greatest impact.
With runners in scoring position Ibanez is 7 for 18 with three doubles and a homer. He has worked four of his eight walks on the season in those situations. That all works out to 8 RBI, and it feels as though all eight of them have come at crucial points in games. On a team that has struggled to hit safely with men in scoring position, Ibanez stands out from the crowd. He, along with Eduardo Nunez (4 for 7) and Chris Stewart (4 for 13), are the only Yankees with a .300 or better batting average with RISP (minimum 10 PA).
After those three the most productive Yankees’ hitter with runners in scoring position is Mark Teixeira. He has drive in 12 runs when given the opportunity, tied for the team lead with Nick Swisher. Teixeira has gone 8 for 31 in those situations; it’s quite sad that his .258 BA with RISP bests anyone hitting one through six in the lineup. After that comes Derek Jeter (.238), Curtis Granderson (.217), Swisher (.192), A-Rod (.192), Cano (.172), and finally Russell Martin (.154). That’s a sad state of affairs when the opportunity to score runs is highest.
Both Granderson (.357) and A-Rod (.417) have gotten on base at a quality clip, but walks aren’t quite as valuable with runners in scoring position. Power can be valuable, though, and Nick Swisher has brought that with a .270 ISO. Teixeira (.226) and Ibanez (.333) have also hit for power with ducks on the pond. But beyond those few exceptions, the Yankees haven’t gotten much at all done when they put men on base. They rank ninth in the AL with a .247 BA with RISP, which is 14 points lower than the league average. Their only saving grace is power; their .416 SLG ranks fourth in the AL.
Overall, the Yankees have fared much better in terms of offense. Their .274 BA ranks third in the league, while their .343 OBP ranks second as does their .465 SLG and 115 OPS+. Yet their overall OPS is 51 points higher than their OPS with RISP. That’s quite the reverse of other OPS leaders Texas and Boston, both of which feature quite higher OPSs with runners in scoring position. Both, in fact, feature significantly better numbers with runners in scoring position. That’s a big reason why, obviously, they lead the AL in runs per game.
We can take some solace in the knowledge that the Yankees will get better in this department. Remember last year when we complained of the Yankees RISP woes, particularly early in the season? They finished hitting .273 in those situations, which ranked fifth in the AL; the leaders, Texas, hit .284 as a team in those situations. The Yankees also led the league in SLG with RISP. Given their superior overall numbers, it’s a near certainty that things will turn around in crucial situations; they almost always do.
On the other hand, it’s a bit troubling that the biggest bats have failed when runs were there for the taking. Derek Jeter, who leads the team in so many categories, is just 5 for 21 with no extra base hits with RISP. Robinson Cano and A-Rod have only five hits as well, and they’ve seen quite a few more situations with RISP; they have three extra base hits between them. Swisher, productive as he’s been with those 12 RBI, also has only five hits. At least three of his, including two homers, have gone for extra bases.
If the Yankees start hitting just to the league average rate with runners in scoring position, we could see a dramatic spike in runs scored. They put more men on base than any team other than Texas. Once they start to cash in those runs, we should see them jump in the standings. That does little to curb our collective frustration when they do fail with RISP, but that won’t last forever. It never does.