It’s no secret that the Yankees offense had struggled a lot with runners in scoring position in the regular season, batting .256, tied for 11th in baseball (14 total teams ahead of them). The theme has only gotten worse in the postseason: 6/28 with runners in scoring position (.214).
Game four was an unmitigated disaster, going hitless in nine at bats with runners in scoring position. The highlight (or lowlight) was in the 8th inning. Ichiro and Mark Teixiera led off the inning with back to back singles. On a 3-1 pitch, Robinson Cano rolled over to second base, but the runners went to second and third. In came Darren O’Day, and out went A-Rod and Nick Swisher.
The Orioles haven’t been great with RISP, either (9/36, or .250). At the same time though, the Yankees have superior pitching to Baltimore: Jason Hammel is the only starter with an xFIP below 4 for them. Oh, and more importantly, this is a Yankee team that had a league leading .342 wOBA in 2012. Baltimore? .315, perfectly league average. Enough with giving the Baltimore pitchers credit, this is a offense that is stacked in terms of talent.
The blame can be spread far and wide:
Curtis Granderson was very prone to the strikeout in the regular season (195 times, 28.5%). But nine strikeouts in seventeen plate appearances? Unacceptable. He’s been on base twice all series, and ironically his lone hit was with a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately, it happened to be Teixeira who’s bum calf couldn’t allow him to score from second.
Next in line: Swisher. Two hits and two walks in 17 plate appearances. The guy with the second highest OBP for the Yanks in the regular season has practically been an automatic out. Not to mention, he’s 1/34 with RISP in postseason play as a Yankee. You would think that talent eventually would allow Swish to have one good postseason, but it just hasn’t worked out for him. He’s making it a lot easier to let go this winter.
Cano’s turn for some heat: he’s hitting .111 with two hits this series. Just from watching, it’s pretty clear that the Orioles are being very careful with him. Cano is obliging, by chasing a lot of bad pitches out of the zone. We may look into that further if game five doesn’t go the Yankees way.
Who else? Ichiro. He hasn’t gotten any flack after becoming a fan favorite, but he only has four hits in 20 at bats.
Russell Martin has hit .214, but isn’t a guy the Yankees are really counting on to produce offensively. Plus, that big home run in game one gives him a pass.
Lastly, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Alex Rodriguez. Two for 16 this series, but an alarming 0/12 against righties. He’s also struck out nine times total. Those numbers vs. righties may propel Eric Chavez into the lineup against Jason Hammel tomorrow.
Derek Jeter, as usual, has been the guy to count on (8/19). Teixeira has been good enough (5/15), but has only had two at bats with RISP and has one hit. Obviously Raul Ibanez’ game three performance was pivotal, but only got the start in game one. In my mind, he must start tomorrow, especially vs. the righty Hammel. He had the second best wRC+ at home for the Yankees, 138.
Should Joe Girardi make significant changes in the lineup tomorrow? Despite how bad some players are performing, it’s hard to sit Granderson, Swisher, or Rodriguez for players like Gardner or Chavez who ability wise are inferior. The lone move I anticipate and expect Girardi to follow through with is Ibanez at DH, although I would not be surprised if Chavez got the nod at third base tomorrow.
On the bright side, ace CC Sabathia gets the nod for game five. Obviously it stinks not to have him for game one of the ALCS if the Yankees move on, but it’s good to have him as insurance in a deciding game. The way the offense is going, he may need to put up a bunch of zeroes to help the Yankees move on and face the Tigers.
Although I did hedge my bets by saying Yankees in either three or five, I still believe they’ll pull this one out.