Wednesday was an odd day for the Yankees. Michael Pineda threw 6.2 innings of one-hit ball, flirting with a no-hitter for six innings. The Yankees took home a 2-1 victory – just their 9th win of the year in one-run games.
But something even rarer happened: The Yankees won a game without hitting a home run.
With that win, the Yankees improved to 6-13 in games in which they did not hit a home run. To some, that is a problem: As Ryan Hatch at NJ.com argues, the Yankees are “living and dying by the home run this season.”
Joe Girardi agrees that the Yankees rely on the home run, but he doesn’t see that as much of a problem. “That’s who we are,” he said Monday. “We have guys that hit the ball out of the ballpark. We were designed to hit the ball out of the ballpark at Yankee Stadium,” Girardi said.
He’s right. The Yankees have long designed their team to hit a lot of home runs. The lineup is packed with lefties – Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew, Carlos Beltran – who were brought to the team to hit fly balls over the short porch in right field. And, indeed, it works: Yankee Stadium sees over 1.3 home runs per game, the third most in the league, and the Yankees are currently ranked 5th in the majors in runs per game.
Saying the Yankees hit too many home runs because they lose when they don’t hit home runs is circular. When the Yankees win, they are more likely to have scored runs, which means they are more likely to have hit a home run. On the other hand, when they lose, they are more likely to have faced good pitching, and thus less likely to have hit a home run.
In fact, that’s not just true for the Yankees, it’s true for everyone. So far in 2015, major league teams are 271-547 (.331) in games in which they did not hit a home run. In 2009, when the Yankees had the best record in baseball and won their division by 8 games, they were 12-23 (.343) when they didn’t hit a home run. That means if the Yankees had won just one more of the 19 games this season in which they didn’t hit a home run, they would be well ahead of the league average and their 2009 numbers.
Additionally, the Yankees have far less homer-less games than the average team. Major league teams have an average of about 27 homer-less games this season, while the Yankees have just 19, or 30% less. Because all teams are less likely to win when they do not hit a home run, the Yankees are actually at an advantage, playing less low-win-percentage games than the average team.
Altogether, there is no evidence that the Yankees’ offense is out of the ordinary, or structurally deficient. Teams will always be more likely to win when they hit a home run, and less likely to win when they don’t – that is nothing new.