When discussing the question of to what can the Yankees attribute their recent success, I let you know yesterday that Brian Cashman’s General Managing skills are certainly not it. Today, we’re going to talk about the “small ball” myth. Prior to the Yankees 11 win 2 loss recent stretch we have over one hundred years of baseball data that tell us that teams that bunt, steal, hit and run, and use “situational hitting” (more on this in a minute) do not score more runs than teams that don’t do those things. The same hundred plus years of data tell us unequivocally that teams that get runners on base then hit the ball very hard score the most runs – pretty much everything else is a distant, distant 3rd place.
So when you hear Michael Kay, in between chats about his texts, his kids, his food and Meredith Marakovits in a canoe, tells you the Yankees owe their recent success to more small ball, you now too, can laugh along with me (or hit the mute button, depending on mood).
Here’s the deal:
During their 11-2 streak, the Yankees have a team .350 OBP and .458 SLG. For some perspective, the league averages are .322 and .424, respectively.
Over the same 13 games they’ve hit 20 home runs and 24 doubles – over a full season, that’s 249 HR and 299 doubles. Only 4 teams this century have those numbers over a full season so we’re talking about a pace that’s in the top 99th percentile of power production.
The runs allowed per game has been pretty close to the same over the past 13 games compared to the first 15 so it isn’t pitching and defense. There have been more or less the same number of close games and blowouts over the last 13 games when compared to the first 15, so luck and/or randomness isn’t too much of a factor here either.
They are simply getting on base very well and hitting the ball hard very often. Baseball is almost never more complicated than that.
Now, to be fair to the smart alecks out there who may check some other numbers: In totality, the offensive numbers aren’t that different from the last 13 games when compared to the first 15 games. They’ve been better lately, but not that much better. So what gives?
When you remove the April 7th, 15 run, seven HR, 4 double outburst at Camden Yards, the numbers become much different. Although that game counts in every manner as much as every other game, it is an example of how an outlier can affect numbers in an otherwise small sample size. Take that game out of the other 14 games from 3/28/19 to 4/14/19 and they become clearly inferior to those of the recent hot streak.
PS: Re: “Situational hitting”. What does that even mean? Two on, down by three and a batter blasts one 450 feet – to me that’s pretty good situational hitting yet it never gets called that. Beats the hell out of hitting it weakly to the 2nd baseman and reducing the team’s run expectancy.
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