Last night during the game, Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill were, of course, discussing the Yankees “problem” (ugh) of hitting too many homers. Kay asked Paulie if it really was harder to hit homers in the playoffs. O’Neill quickly affirmed Kay’s question, citing better starting pitching and the fact that because of that better starting pitching, you rarely get to face your opponent’s mediocre middle relievers. Because of what O’Neill said, many think this current Yankee incarnation won’t have much success in the playoffs since they rely on the home run too much to score runs. Nevermind that almost every big hit the Yankees had in their last World Series march was a home run, but let’s take a trip down Hypothetical Lane. My softball team has been drafted in the Majors to play one game against a great playoff pitcher. Let’s say Justin Verlander is the guy we’ll face. We’re all pretty good softball players and held our own on the diamond when we were playing hardball. Now, what’s more likely when we face him? A) We’ll string together a bunch of hits, walks, sacrifices, etc. to manufacture runs against Verlander OR B) One or two of us will get a luck swing that ends with a homer? Obviously, neither one would happen; we’d all strike out on three pitches and get sent back to the dugout stuttering over the dazzling pitches that retired us. But, if one of those things were to happen, I’d say it’s option B. Getting back to the point, though, I went backed and looked at all the times the Yankees have been in the playoffs since 1995 to see if it has been harder for them to hit homers in the post-season than in the regular season. Here’s what I found, using AB/HR.
So in these 16 seasons, the Yankees have had a better AB/HR in the playoffs just six times, and haven’t done so in a while (2007). However, there were some years (2009, 2005, 2004, 2003) where it would definitely be hard to outpace the regular season marks that those slugging teams put up. If we take the average of all these marks, the playoff average is 31.2 AB/HR and the regular season average is 26.4. So it has been slightly harder for the Yankees to hit homers in the playoffs.
What’s interesting is that in the years they won the World Series (2009; 2000; 1999; 1998; 1996), they’ve hit homers at a better rate in just two of them (’96; ’99). In the years that they went to and lost the World Series (’03; ’01), they hit at a lower rate of homers. In the years when they went one-and-done (’11; ’07; ’06; ’05; ’02; ’97; ’95), they hit a lower rate four times (’11; ’10; ’06; ’05). In the two years where they reached the ALCS (’10; ’04), they hit a lower rate as well. These numbers are definitely all over the place and to me, that says that the Yankees’ chances of winning a playoff series don’t necessarily rest on how many homers they’re hitting (though it’s obviously never a bad thing to hit more homers in a short period of time).