By Howie Karpin, The NY Extra/thenyextra.com
When it comes to the Yankees’ offense, I refer to a quote from the great Vince Lombardi, “What the hell’s goin’ on out here.”
The Yankees hit the 1/3 mark of the regular season with a 29-25 record and a team that, at this point in time, does not resemble a World Series contender.
This 2021 Yankee lineup was supposed to be the strength of their team. If it wasn’t for the pitching, which has been surprisingly good, who knows how bad of a hole they would be in, even at the Memorial Day juncture of the season.
With the Rays in town for four games, followed by three with Boston, this week is a pivotal portion of the regular season. It didn’t start well for the home team. The Yankees’ fourth consecutive loss was marked by a remarkable number in their 3-1 loss against the Rays. In 8 of their 9 innings, the first two Yankee batters made out.
In the fifth inning, Brett Gardner drew a one out walk but was wiped out by another GIDP (ground into double play) by D.J. LeMahieu who has made that a nasty habit this season. Those grounders are not finding holes and the Yankees have hit into a league leading 52 DP’s.
Breaking down the GIDP numbers will turn your stomach. With the bases loaded and no one out, the Yankees have hit into 7 double plays. LeMahieu has hit into five double plays this season and four with the bases loaded.
The Yankee offense you’ve been seeing in the first 54 games is the one that has underachieved in the past four post seasons.. This year, there are the same old problems with runners in scoring position but the malaise is even greater because the Yankees are not getting a lot of hits, so they generate few rallies. The Yankees numbers with runners in scoring position are atrocious and there are some games where they’ve had very few opportunities.
Another number that reflects the absence of rallies is the number of solo home runs that the Yankees have hit. Out of their 62 home runs, only 18 have come with men on base.
In the last full season of 2019, the Yankees averaged 9.2 hits per game and 5.8 runs per game. That was the peak production of the offense since they began to “re-tool” in 2016. The average hits per game last season dropped to 7.8 and the runs per game dipped to 5.25. Shortened season or not, the numbers are declining. In 2021, the Yankees are averaging 7.4 hits per game and 3.7 runs per game. They’ve scored 2 or fewer runs in 21 of their 54 games.
About those numbers with RISP,. Over the weekend in Detroit, the Yankees were 0 for 14 in the first two games and 2 for 11 on Sunday. That’s 2 for 25 against a Tigers pitching staff that doesn’t exactly remind you of the 1990’s Atlanta Braves’ arms. Gleyber Torres’ single in the 8th inning on Sunday snapped an 0 for 20 drought with RISP.
Even when healthy, the Yankee lineup lacks balance. Not having enough left handed bats is a part of it. Another factor is the Yankees have too much of the same ingredient, right handed power hitters who strike out a ton and kill rallies.
LeMahieu is the outlier because he hits for average and has been a noted clutch hitter. It hasn’t been happening this season for, arguably, the Yankees MVP the past two seasons and that has had a profound impact on the offense.
Can the Yankees keep counting on their pitching to bail them out because that’s how the first 54 games have been played. That’s only a third of the season. After awhile, the pressure of not getting any offensive support will wear on a staff and breakdowns will begin to occur.
The Yankees are reportedly in the market for a center fielder. There were reports that they were looking at Delino DeShields Jr. who is currently at triple-A for the Rangers. Detroit, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Arizona are not playoff contenders and may be already weighing their options.
Karpinisms:Baseball needs to assess its replay review system. The original intent was to overturn any egregious calls, but now they’re looking for minutiae that is favoring the fielders.
When a player slides into a base with such momentum, it’s difficult to hold on the bag at all times. Fielders are stationary when they’re making a tag so now we see players called out when they’re less than a centimeter off the bag. If the idea is to add more offense to the game, allowing the runner to hover the bag if they beat the throw would be more desirable.
What’s also needed is an amendment of the extra inning rule. If they’re gonna use it, it should begin with the 13th inning, if a game gets that far. Play three regulation extra innings and then go to the gimmickry.
BTW: I expect a change in the format for double headers. Look for future twin bills to feature a 9-inning first game and a 7-inning night cap.
Mike Trout’s absence reverberates throughout the Angels lineup but Shohei Ohtani is missing him the most. Ohtani was putting up great numbers hitting second in front of Trout with 13 home runs and 33 runs batted in, but he’s gone into his first real slump of the season. Since getting two hits on May 18th, (a day after Trout was hurt) Ohtani has played 11 games and is 7 for his last 31 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI’s.
The Orioles 14-game losing streak reminded me of one of the greatest lines from a manager after a loss.
Lou Piniella (we wish him well as he deals with health issues) was managing the Tampa Bay Rays at the time and they had just lost to the Yankees to extend their losing streak to 11 straight games. A Tampa Bay reporter asked Piniella, “Hey, Lou did you ever dream you’d be managing a team that lost 11 games in a row? Piniella’s response. “I don’t have to dream it, I’m f’-in livin’ it.”