Record-wise, the New York Yankees could be doing a lot worse to start off the 2022 season. They currently sit one game out of first place in the AL East with an 8–6 record. New York has won two of four series thus far, losing one and splitting another. With that said, a major problem that plagued last year’s club is rearing its’ ugly head once again. The team has had a very tough time hitting in the clutch. Through 14 games, the Yankees are batting .177 (20-for-113) with RISP. This inability to get runners home has really hurt them in a few games, such as in recent shutout losses to the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, neither of whom boast top-tier pitching staffs. Struggling to get runners home heavily contributed to New York’s eventual third-place finish and early postseason exit in 2021. If this trend continues, it could spell trouble once again.
Yankees Continue to Struggle with RISP
The Yankees started the year going 4–3 on a seven-game homestand. This was largely due to their pitching, as they only scored more than four runs in one of the games (their 6–5 Opening Day win over the Boston Red Sox). Once they hit the road for the first time, their struggles to bring runners home became more pronounced. The Bombers opened their series against Baltimore leaving eight men on base in a 2–1 extra-inning loss. Two days later, they lost the series by virtue of a 5–0 shutout loss.
New York bounced back with a pair of two-run victories against Detroit, but with a chance to sweep on Thursday, they failed to push a run across. Their most glaring missed opportunity from that game came with runners on first and third with no outs in the eighth inning. Trailing 1–0, all they needed was a fly ball to tie it up. Aaron Hicks popped out, failing to advance any runners. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Anthony Rizzo hit a soft grounder leading to a force out at home. Giancarlo Stanton then grounded out to end the inning. Detroit would tack on in the bottom of the inning, leading to a 3–0 Tigers victory.
Who Needs to Improve
It is clear the Yankees have a team-wide issue hitting with runners in scoring position. Batting .177 as a team with a .556 OPS in these situations simply won’t cut it for the whole season. There are several players responsible for contributing to these low figures. The biggest culprit so far is Joey Gallo. He is 0-for-9 on the season with RISP, with one walk and three strikeouts. Other Yankee hitters who need to improve in these spots include Aaron Hicks (1-for-10, .286 OBP), Josh Donaldson (2-for-13, .539 OPS), and Gleyber Torres (1-for-9, .361 OPS). In fact, only four Yankees regulars are hitting .200 or above with RISP so far this season, with the highest average belonging to DJ LeMahieu (.286). Rizzo (six RBI) and Stanton (five RBI) have driven in the most runs in these spots, although both have left their fair share of runners on as well, like on Thursday.
The good news is there’s plenty of season left for the Yankees to get into an offensive groove. If they can start consistently cashing in with runners on base, they will be a force to be reckoned with given how good their pitching has been. But there’s also some bad news: this problem plagued the Yankees for a large part of last season. It became clear that last year’s roster was not good enough to last deep into October.
Following an offseason where very few moves were made by the Yankees, save for the trade with the Minnesota Twins, it is a worrisome sign that a fundamental issue with last year’s team is presenting itself once again. In order for the Bombers to make a deep run, they will need to cash in runners in postseason play. If they’re struggling this mightily in the regular season, it does not bode well for later on.
Embed from Getty Images