By Sweeny Murti
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The Yankees are hitting just .220 (130-592) with Runners in Scoring Position.
The Yankees are hitting just .176 (13-74) with the bases loaded.
At 44-28 (.611) the Yankees have the best record in baseball.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
We have spent most, if not all, of the first 72 games talking about how poor the Yankees have hit in the clutch, unable to drive in runs. We have done it so much, we believe the Yankees are in first place for some otherworldly reason because they can’t possibly hit this bad in the clutch and still be a good team. And worse yet, how will they ever avoid another first round upset in the playoffs?
And there we have it. This is why we have spent so much time wringing our hands over this subject. The Yankees were bounced out of the playoffs last year by the Tigers because of their inability to get a big hit, going 3-for-21 with RISP in the three games they lost in that series (by a total of four runs), including 2-for-9 in that excruciating Game 5 defeat.
This big bad Yankee lineup was shut down. Again. And what can they do to keep it from happening yet again? They seem doomed for the same fate based on how this season has gone so far.
The simple is answer is don’t panic. The Yankees are second in the AL in OBP and SLG. It is nearly impossible for numbers like that to add up to continued missed opportunities. The Yankees still put runners on base. Constantly. The last thing they need to do now is change their approach.
Could they use some more hits with two outs, drive in a few extra runs? Of course they could. But don’t think the Yankees can start bunting and moving guys over, that whole “small ball” thing. You know who plays small ball? Teams that can’t hit home runs, that’s who. The 1985 Cardinals hit 87 home runs all year. They hit singles and stole bases because they couldn’t hit the ball out of the park. These Yankees have 115 and aren’t even half way through the season!
Of course, home runs will be harder to come by in the postseason. This Yankee team can’t possibly beat better pitchers in October with the offense they have now, can they?
Let’s stop to recognize (as my friend Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger did the other day) that since May 10th the Yankees have won games against David Price and Felix Hernandez (back-to-back nights), Justin Verlander, Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, and Gio Gonzalez. All-Stars, Cy Young winners, and maybe the two best pitchers in the NL this year. Not a bad group. Yes, this Yankee offense beat them all.
It’s also worth noting that the 1996 Yankees were 11-for-50 with RISP in their six-game World Series victory over the Braves, and the 2001 Yankees were two defensive outs away from beating the Diamondbacks in the World Series, despite going just 6-for-36 with RISP in the seven game series.
Remember all those clutch hits in ’01 by Jeter, Martinez, and Brosius? Home runs. All of them. And Alfonso Soriano nearly hit the series-winning home run in Game 7. But then in the bottom of the 9th… oh, never mind. You know how that ends.
The bottom line is this—yes, this Yankee team is a bit flawed offensively at times. And they score a lot of runs on home runs. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t automatically mean they are destined for another early exit in October.
*While Rafael Soriano has been near flawless since taking over the closer’s role, his post-save ritual of grabbing and untucking his jersey from his uniform pants seems to be something of a topic in the Twitter-verse.
So I asked Joe Girardi, current keeper of pinstripe decorum, if he had any issues with Soriano’s celebratory undressing.
“No, I don’t,” Girardi said. “It’s been something that he’s done. I don’t think that he’s showing anyone up…and that’s always my concern … or if he’s doing something that’s saying ‘Look at me, look what I’ve done.’ I don’t see him pounding his chest or big arm movements. He just pulls his jersey up.”
“Maybe it’s more comfortable,” Girardi added with a laugh.
Of course, some of this could just be a reaction to seeing someone other than Mariano Rivera close out games now. All Rivera ever did was walk off the mound to start shaking hands, even after many postseason saves.
“Whenever there’s a change there’s going to be things that people question, and I understand that,” Girardi said. “But I have not heard anything from the veteran guys in our clubhouse to say ‘What’s he doing?’”
Girardi added that if he thought Soriano was doing anything to show up the opponent he would address it with him, but again added that he doesn’t think it’s the case here.
*The Yankees are 14-4 in their last 18 road games. Three of those losses are by one run, and two of those three are walk-off losses.
*Shouldn’t Brian Cashman get some credit for bringing in Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley? And Boone Logan? And Cory Wade? It is fast and easy to blame him for things gone wrong, but give credit where credit is due.
*On the morning of May 6th, about seven weeks ago, Robinson Cano had one home run. He’s hit 16 home runs since then.