Station to Station baseball has slowed offense

Yanks have missed Gardner’s speed

The Yankees offense has been abysmal as of late and many have bandied about reasons for it. They are still hitting HRs at a high rate and they are actually hitting for a higher average as a team this year than last (.269 to .263).  So what could be the reason why the team is averaging just 4.78 Runs per Game after scoring a 2nd best in MLB 5.35 per game last year?

One of the easy to isolate reasons is their collective lack of hitting with Runners in Scoring Position.  Over their last 3 games, they are a dreadful 3 for 33 and for the season are hitting .240.  For comparison’s sake, the new model of greatness in MLB Texas Rangers franchise is hitting .317 with RISP!  Last year’s Yankee team hit a respectable .273 with RISP to account for 6th best in baseball, so this is definitely a big factor for the drop in runs scored.  More hits in big situations will cure a lot of ills.  But there is another factor of the game that is slowing this Yankee offense – speed.

The team speed is gone.  Brett Gardner has been on the shelf for much of the year and Eduardo Nunez was foolishly jettisoned to the tour of NY AAA team recently.  This has left an aging team to totally play station to station ball, sitting back waiting for the HR.  Joe Girardi said after Tuesday’s game that the team must find ways to score runs without the HR.  He was right but he also has to be the one to help facilitate that by calling some steals, hit and runs and even an occassional bunt.  The Yanks are dead last with just 3 sac bunts this yr. With Gardner & Nunez gone, team speed is poor but Granderson, Jeter and others can still run – give the sign!

The team is 19th in MLB with just 21 stolen bases this yr after finishing 4th last yr with 147.  They’ve been very successful when they run, at a 81% success rate.  The Yankee philosophy seems to be – don’t risk running yourself out of an inning when someone can hit a big HR at any time.  That’s understandable to a degree but how many times have Double Plays taken the team out of innings.  Starting the runner has the added bonus of creating holes in the infield and staying out of DP’s which have plagued the team as of late.  A few games ago, the team had 1st and 2nd with 1 out and Jeter at the plate with a full count. With Jeter’s propensity to hit ground balls and DP’s, I felt this was a perfect time to start the runners.  Girardi didn’t and Jeter hit a grounder to 3rd that was an easy 5-4-3 DP.  Had the runners been started, the 3B would have had to cover the bag and the ball would go into LF fort a run scoring base hit, putting runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.  Of course if he struck out, it likely would have been a strike him out, throw him out DP but Jeter grounded into a DP anyway so why not take the aggressive gamble?

Obviously losing Gardner has led to less running.  The other strength of Gardner’s offensive game is his ability to work pitchers.  The Yankees have always been a team to work counts and drive up the pitch count of the opposing starter.  This year that has not been the case.  They are only 12th in MLB in pitches seen after finishing 2nd last yr.  They also had 4 of the top 17 players in Pitches Seen per plate Appearance last yr.  Granderson led MLB with 4.44 P/PA, followed by Gardner, Tex & Swisher in the top 20.  This yr, Granderson has dropped to 15th, Swisher to 46th and Teixeira all the way to 129th!

So, in addition to not hitting with runners in scoring position, the team is not working pitchers and playing severe station to station baseball with a big decrease in SBs.  Some of these issues will be improved when/if Gardner comes back but what else can be done?  Well, I was against sending Nunez down.  With Gardner out, the team could not afford to lose their only other dynamic baserunner, especially at a time when the team needed an offensive spark.  I believe the team was overloading him with all of these positions (especially 3B where he is extremely uncomfortable) and should have let him concentrate on 1 or 2 max.  With Gardner out, they had/have the opportunity to play Nunez everyday at either DH or LF. If they felt he couldn’t play LF, Ibanez & Jones could play LF with Nunez and Jeter alternating between SS & DH.  Since Nunez has been demoted, Jayson Nix has started 3 of the 4 games – 2 at SS and 1 in LF.  That should have been Nunez!

What does everyone think? Would more running, hit & runs, etc. help this team stay out of the parade of Double Plays they’ve been hitting into and spark them to score more runs?  Or should they just continue to play station to station baseball and wait for the HRs? And what about Nunez – should he be playing in the Bronx or touring NY State with the Empire State Yankees in AAA?

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on May 17, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Could not agree more Fish. Sending down Nunez was absolutely ridiculous. Cant be sending down a guy who was hitting .300 and is their only speed threat on the team. Should be starting in LF

  2. Speed is hardly the issue. It starts with RISP fail & ends there.

    If they just managed to hit the same in those situations as they did last year it would have already accounted for an extra dozen or so runs at a minimum.

    Tex has been God awful in those moments. Cano just recently started coming through. Swisher has been schitzo, comes through some times, fails miserably others. Granderson has been getting too much of a free pass seeing how he has been hitting behind a guy with an OBP that has been over .400 from day one and only has 10 more RBIs than HRs.

    Yet despite the RISP failures and slow starts by some bangers they are in the top 6 in runs scored. They’ll finish the year in the top 3 I would imagine, once a couple of the traditional slow starters pick up some steam.

    Jeter isn’t Gardner, nor Nunez, but he still has speed that can be utilized. Granderson is still more than capable of swiping 25+ bags. Yet Girardi isn’t even attempting to use them in that way. Gardner would help a great deal, but he wouldn’t change the complexion of the offense that much if the teams speed in general isn’t being utilized, especially while batting ninth.

    As for Nunez playing LF, while that IS the only position he should even be looked at right now that doesn’t mean he isn’t a joke in that position either. He gets terrible reads, takes bad angles and his athleticism won’t be able to bail him out nearly as often as it creates problems.

    If he is ever penciled in at 2B, SS or 3B again Girardi should be taken to the city gates and flogged repeatedly.

    • dj….good to hear from you.

      I def agree that hitting with RISP is the big problem. Unfortunately, how do you change that? Not much you can do to improve that but I think it’s up to the manager to try to manufacture something and ignite some rallies. No Gardner hurts but there are others who can run and you don’t have to be fast to do a hit and run.

      I really think they blew it with Nunez. His defense has been bad since he came up last yr so why decide now when Gardner is injured to send him to the minors? He hit .294, leads the team in SBs and his OBP was 3rd on the team. He could be DH’ing everyday right now if they don’t want him to play the field. Ibanez is the de facto LF right now so I don’t think if Nunez had to play LF there’d be much of a drop-off. Ironically, in a minute sample size (14 abs) Gardner & Nunez lead the team in hitting with RISP at .667 & .625, respectively.

      Ibanez and Jeter are hitting .300 with RISP but check out the rest of the starters:

      Granderson .226
      Swisher .220
      Teixeira .220
      Cano .182
      ARod .176
      Martin .167

      That’s 6 of your 9 starters hitting under .226 with RISP. OUCH!

      • Ouch indeed. I can’t even count the number of times this year we have had the bases juiced and none out but got diddly squat out of it because not only do they not get the big hit, they don’t even put the ball in play to force the defense to get them out. K’s & popups rule the day with bases loaded for Yankees this season…sadly.

        • Amen….the Yanks don’t do a great job of situational hitting. they have too many hitters locked into a certain way of hitting and can’t make adjustments. Sometimes that’s the curse of having a lineup filled with guys who consider themselves All-Stars. They know their way has led to good results in the past and don’t want to adjust or give themselves up in a situation.

          Did you see the scrub from Seattle against Pettitte the other day? There was a guy on 2nd and no outs so he was just trying to hit the ball the other way no matter what…..he chopped at a ball and hit it the other way off the RF foul-pole for a 2R-HR.

          • Haha…sooooo glad you noticed that 2d HR was the product of a guy who was going to “hit it the other way come hell or highwater”

      • Sorry Fishjam, it took me forever to write the loooong reply to DJ. so I missed yours and others. By the way very very good post, you put it out there for them to see and do something about, good . 🙂

  3. Speed is a huge part of the game. Nice article Fish.

    • Speed coming out of the 9 hole isn’t going to be a back breaker.

      If they hit .273 with RISP this season (as they did last year) that equates to about 11-12 more hits in those situations this year (due to the high volume of times they have had RISP, 376 total PAs). That alone is a minimum of 18 runs, based on their current ratio of RISP Hits to Runs generated.

      Those extra runs would find them near 200 runs scored, right up there neck & neck with everyone except Texas.

      Speed from Nunez or Gardner is nice, but even if both maintained a .300 clip it’s 100% debatable that the extra dynamic it brings would add those same 18+ runs.

      None of that is to say speed should be discounted, but Nunez is such a scrub with the glove any extra zing he brings to the offense with his speed is quickly negated by the fact he is a walking,. talking, error just waiting to happen to boot.

      If the team starts generating more productive outs (sac flies, moving runners over), let alone actually starts raking at a marginally better clip with RISP we aren’t even talking about “offensive issues”.

  4. djpostl, good day to you1 You say;
    “Speed is hardly the issue. It starts with RISP fail & ends there.”!
    All I can say is, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the situation.
    Jeter is 38 and has been at fault along with everyone else (no free rides here) A-Rod is also getting old (37) but, even he stold a base the other day. If one uses them to steal bases, they will be done by All Star week end!
    Jeter (when hitting) and A-Rod are two of the guys one doesn’t want to be steeling bases. With a man on, Jeter should hit and run…he has good bat control! A-Rod has been ok but, will need to improve. Cano is getting right field wall happy…where oh where has that perfect level swing gone? Just hit .330 and to hell with HRs.
    In other words, everyone needs to look at what “brung’um” and do it. Swisher and Tex were big OBP guys, why not do it that way again?
    All being said and done, I see two things (other than me) that must change. We need speed and more speed, we need a manager (Donny Baseball?) that will play with the talent he has and use it wisely.
    1)-A managers job is to know his talent (what players can do and not do well)! 2)-Always try to put a player in a position to win! 3)-never ask a player how he is, can he play! 4)-Have a hitting coach really try to get across the point of how many line-drives become HRs.
    Nunez in the OF may be as bad as you think (after what, 20 games) but, what the heck excuse is there for guys like Granderson and about 60% of the other OF guys that are about as bad or even worse. Maybe you think (as a lot do) anyone can play the OF….nay, nay, nay…MLB and high school OF are like, night and day!
    What do you guys think, was this long enough? I do get carried away! lol 🙂

  5. I think you discount just how bad Nunez is with the leather. Granderson takes some “adventurous routes” but Nunez’s Rtot/yr (number of runs above or below the average fielder in the league) are as follows for his career:

    SS = -15, 3B = -24, 2B = -11, OF = -12. Granderson is at +1. Swisher (never confused for being a phenomenal fielder) is at +1. Ibanez, with the range of a Garden Gnome is at -5. Nunez is just that damn bad.

    As I said before, yes, speed is nice. But how much of an impact will it have out of the 9-hole? Nunez had 6 steals and 7 runs scored with 3 of those runs scored having come not because of base he managed to steal, but rather after he got a 2B or a 3B. Nowhere near the impact of a higher AVG with RISP.

    In small samples this year Gardner & Nunez have been great w/ RISP but they are both guys who hit in the .280-.320 range in those situations their entire career. I am trusting years of numbers on tis far more than I am sample sizes of 50 or fewer ABs.

    Which is exactly why I expect to see Cano, Tex and others numbers in this regard to move up from where they currently are. They have done far better than their current numbers in the past and even an “off year” will pick it up.

    On Cano, you hit the nail on the head. Only recently has he started trying to drive the ball to left-center.

    You also hit the nail on the head with part of what ails this team. You talk about hitting coaches…I say coaches in general.

    Where is the legendary “cage rat” Long as we watch Grandy & Tex harmlessly roll over outside pitcher after outside pitch for a feeble ground out to 2d as they kill rally after rally? If Big Sloppy can beat the shift as often as he does by driving balls the other way then those two need to follow suit.

    How come our entire pitching staff, minus a couple of guys are under performing this year? CC, Kuroda, Nova, Hughes, Garcia etc.. have all pitched to varying degrees of mediocrity (or complete shit). What the hell is Rothschild doing to earn a paycheck?

    Girardi’s decision making process leaves a ton to be desired. Why has Grandy been hitting second so damn much? Presumably it’s because he can pull balls into the hole after Jeter is on…but they just shift on him and it becomes nothing but an out. Swisher sees more pitches per AB & has a higher OBP, I prefer him in the two hole any day of the week.

    The list goes on and on of what ails this club, but not having NunE6z in the lineup is far from top of the list.

    • dj…..You have done a great job of summing up what ails the team. Other than waiting for them to start hitting though, Nunez is the only offensive upgrade they could insert into the lineup.

      He could get on base and create on the basepaths the same way Gardner has but with a little more pop. His defense is beyond piss-poor and he should never, ever play another game at 3B. He could be DHing or playing LF without hurting the team. The rtot #s you listed paint a bleak picture but, in fairness, he’s only 26 innings in LF and actually has a sterling +21 rtot out there.

      But besides Nunez, it is soooo frustrating to watch the lefties on the team hit those weak grounders to 2B all day. Every pitcher in baseball runs the fastball/sinker away from them…especially Tex – yet instead of driving that pitch the other way they continue to reach for it and hook grounders into the teeth of the defense.

      It seems to me that most of the Yankee hitters can only be successful if the pitcher makes a mistake over the middle of the plate. While it’s simplistic to say that because all hitters want the ball over the heart of the dish, it just seems like if a pitcher has decent command, he doesn’t even need great stuff to silence the Yanks. I’m probably blinded by the fact that the team hasn’t hit for shit the last 3 games and am overreacting. But I just don’t have that good feeling about this team.

      • I take that back. Cano can hit any pitch in any location. But the rest of the team has big holes. ARod, Jeter & Martin need to be jammed inside with hard stuff, all the lefties (besides Cano) can be worrked away with the sinking fastball. As a pitcher cano would def be the toughest out….if I had a good Fastball I’d challenge him with it. Cano is a tremendous off-speed hitter since he always keeps his hands back til the last moment.

      • Dj and fishjam…
        you guys are on the ball, great points and counter points. Explaining things very well.
        As you all said, there are a myriad of things wrong but, we must go on with what we have…go Yankees!sort of corny hay what? 🙂

      • Lol, our year in summary ” grounds out weakly to 2B”

    • Dj…you have many good points but, with Nunez, you are way off base. In the minors they put him at 2nd at 3rd and ss but, never let him really learn the position because they thought he could be our utility man until Jeter quit. He has never had a position to learn and stay at until he did so. Again, sandlot, high school and even college infield play is like the stone age…that is one of the reasons it takes so long to become a good infielder for the Show. The footwork for each of those places is different, and your footwork gets your arm and body in position to make an accurate throw.
      An old saying that has been truth for ever is; “A coach can teach but, he can’t do it for you!”
      As for speed again, you pointed out why it is good…4 of 7 runs because he swiped base. Add Brett to that mix and extrapolate it for 162 games and see what you come up with…be very surprised don’t you know!
      Any how, the season is to be continued to-night…go Yankees! 🙂

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