Despite Historic Pace in April, Yankees Offense Leaves Fans Wanting More

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog; follow me on Twitter at@williamnyy23).

The Yankees’ offense is a victim of high expectations. Whenever the team loses a game or two, it has become fashionable to blame the lineup’s inability to get the “big hit” and lament all of the men left on base.  The more logical reaction would be to point a finger at the team’s underperforming rotation, which has compiled the second lowest quality start ratio in the major leagues and put the Yankees in a first inning hole of at least three runs on four occasions. But, that’s too easy. So, instead, fans fixate on the offense’s inability to get the one hit needed to finish off a big comeback.

How good has the Yankees’ offense been over the first month of the 2012 season? Well, for starters, the team’s 5.62 runs scored per game is the best in the major leagues. And, as if that wasn’t sufficiently impressive, the 128.7% premium over the American League average of 4.37 runs per game represents the second highest comparative advantage in franchise history. Only the 1931 Bronx Bombers, who were led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, managed to out score the American League by a wider margin.

Historical Comparison of Yankees R/G vs. League Average

Note: Graphs represents the percentage by which the team over-performed or underperformed the average (100% on the x-axis).
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Despite this compelling evidence, there will undoubtedly still be some Yankees’ fans who remain unconvinced about the prowess of the team’s offense. One of the typical rebuttals centers on the lineup’s inconsistency. Arguments built on that premise suggest that the offense scores in bunches, but over the first 21 games, the Yankees have tallied at least five runs on 16 occasions (including four losses).

Another common complaint about the Yankees’ offense is that even though they score a lot of runs, they are inefficient when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position. However, that’s also untrue. In 236 plate appearances with at least a man on second base, the team has hit .277/.362/.456, which, in terms of OPS, is 27% better than the league average. Although there are some splits, like men on third and less than two outs, in which the lineup has under-performed, it’s worth noting that its BABIPs are extraordinarily low (.189 in this example). Meanwhile, the success rate on balls in play is much more in line with norms for splits in which the offense has excelled. So, if anything, the peripherals reveal that the offense may be even better than the total output suggests. Anecdotally, the same argument could also be made just by looking at the performance of Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, who have posted an OPS+ of 90 and 75, respectively, while batting in the middle of the order.

Considering how poorly their starting pitchers have performed, some might say the Yankees should probably consider themselves lucky to be 12-9. However, good fortune has very little to do with the team’s record. Over the first month, the Yankees have managed to play respectably because of their potent offense and shutdown bullpen, but for how long can those two components of the team compensate for such a poor showing from the starters?  It’s much too early to play the blame game, but if one feels the need, the starting rotation is really the only place to look because, at least in April, the offense has been beyond reproach.

5 thoughts on “Despite Historic Pace in April, Yankees Offense Leaves Fans Wanting More

  1. hawaii dave

    You left out a very important stat. There are exactly 6 teams with a record over .500…..mostly due to the teams in the American league stinking, rather than my beloved Yankees being the Bronx bombers of 1931. So the runs per game are decent but should not be compared to other teams that can’t hit. The .277 BA w RISP surprised me, I would have guessed lower, but if it’s .277 and they can keep it near .280 I will be pleased as punch. i guess I was surprised due to the low numbers w guys on 3rd.

    • What does record have to do with run production? Besides, there are three teams exactly at .500, so if just one goes over, half the AL would have more wins than or losses, or exactly the same percentage as in 1931.

      All of that is irrelevant, however. The bottom line is the 2012 Yankees are scoring runs at a historic pace when compared to the league average.

      • hawaii dave

        What does record have to do with run production? Are you kidding me? The whole philosophical foundation of Sabertronix is run production is the single most important stat in baseball. RUNS, RUNS, RUNS. Didn’t you watch the movie w Brad Pitt? OBP leads to runs….runs win games. And those those teams “at” .500 need to win before they are “over” .500……I’m not a fan of Saberphonix….but this site is….so please don’t ask me what runs have to do with record…ask the stats guys. Personally, I think there are too many teams with diluted talent pools. Want a better game? get rid of 10 teams.

        • You’re wrong. Records are based on run differential, of which run production is only a part. It should be obvious that a team can score a lot of runs but still lose if it gives up more, but maybe not.

          Also, I’d advise taking the time to understand sabermetrics before you disregard it. That should help you avoid having to resort to silly arguments.

          • hawaii dave

            Well, duh!

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