Yankees Manage To Thrive Amidst A Sputtering Offense

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Yankees story for 2017 was supposed to be the other way round with the offense carrying the pitching. Of late, though, it’s been the bats that are trying to catch up with the pitching, and that could be a long-term problem.

The Yankees begin play tonight sporting a six-game win streak. And at first glance, you might be inclined to think the team is firing on all cylinders, but they are not. In fact, though, the team is sputtering along like an old Model-T offensively to the point where there’s justifiably some concern.

Strike One

In yesterday’s game against the Cardinals, two-thirds of the team’s outs in the contest were made by a strikeout. Seventeen batters went down without putting a ball in play, and when you consider that the Cards have one of the most porous defenses in baseball, that should be counted as felony neglect to capitalize on an apparent weakness in an opponent.

While strikeouts are tolerated more in baseball nowadays as the game has switched over to one that accents power and the almighty home run that fans come to see, this is getting a little ridiculous.

Maybe, it’s one of those things that become “catchy” on a team like the spread of the flu, and everyone will get well soon. But unfortunately, it’s the continuation of the same problem the team had last year.

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Breaking it down through the ten games played so far, Brett Gardner (13) and Aaron Judge (10) are striking out at a rate of about once every four at-bats. And Greg Bird (18) continues to set the pace at the wrong end of the stick striking out at a rate of once every three at-bats.

Even using the new metrics where home runs are supreme, the same trio has a total of only three so far, and Judge has all of them.

To be fair, though, Ronald Torreyes (there’s that name coming up on the right side of things again) has only four strikeouts, Aaron Hicks (3), and Austin Romine (2) all are whiffing at a rate of about once in every ten at-bats.

To accent, the point, the New York Post dug up the following facts. The Yankees whiffed 17 times on Saturday, tying the most in franchise history. It’s the fourth time they have had that many strikeouts in a game and first since 2010. All four games have been since 1999.

Strike Two

Similar again to last season, the Yankees are not hitting with men on base. Over the last three games, and they all been wins, the team is 1-30 with runners in scoring position.

Mathematically, that is almost impossible to do, but the Yankees have made it look easy.

Consider that after ten games there is no one on the team in double figures for runs scored or runs batted in and the picture is brought in focus more. And how is it possible that Torreyes is still leading the team in RBI with eight?

And you can’t take it for granted that if Gary Sanchez were here things would be different.

Timely hitting wins games. And that’s especially true against a premier starting pitcher who is liable to be in run scoring situations once or twice in a game, unlike, for example, a Carlos Martinez who gave the game away to the Yankees.

Strike Three, Yer Out

We’re betting a long shot if we think the Yankees pitching can carry the team in the way that it has over the past week. Brian Cashman crafted a team for 2017 that accents offense and is more than capable of scoring runs, at least on paper.

Of course, in baseball things don’t always go according to plan, especially with regards to injuries. Who could have predicted in December that the lineup would be missing Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, and now, possibly, Matt Holliday, who went down yesterday with lower back stiffness?

Video Courtesy of the YES Network

In the same way, who could have predicted that Greg Bird would hit .513 while blasting moonshots in Spring Training and then start the season hitting .037 with a gazillion strikeouts?

The only thing that counts in baseball are “W’s, ” and the Yankees are getting their share of wins. But it’s also true that with the possible exception of the Orioles, they have yet to face any team that offers a significant threat.

And a soft spot in their schedule continues with the White Sox (5-5) coming in for a three-game series beginning Monday night and then the Yankees hit the road for a three-game set against the Pirates (5-6).

After that, things tighten up considerably with the first test taking place in Fenway Park.

At this point in the season, nothing is too good, and nothing is too bad. I.E., there is no reason to panic. But the performance of the Yankees offense to date is worthy of everyone’s attention.