Has it been harder for the Yankees to hit homers in the playoffs?

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.

2011:
Playoffs-43.3
Regular Season-24.9

2010:
Playoffs-29.4
Regular Season-27.7

2009:
Playoffs-26.1
Regular Season-23.2

2007:
Playoffs-19.5
Regular Season-28.4

2006:
Playoffs-33.5
Regular Season-26.9

2005:
Playoffs-41.5
Regular Season-24.6

2004:
Playoffs-28.7
Regular Season-22.8

2003:
Playoffs-36.4
Regular Season-24.4

2002:
Playoffs-19.3
Regular Season-25.1

2001:
Playoffs-34.5
Regular Season-27.5

2000:
Playoffs-50.1
Regular Season-27.1

1999:
Playoffs-27.4
Regular Season-28.8

1998:
Playoffs-30.5
Regular Season-27.3

1997:
Playoffs-27.7
Regular Season-35.5

1996:
Playoffs-32.6
Regular Season-34.7

1995:
Playoffs-17.5
Regular Season-40.5

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).

3 thoughts on “Has it been harder for the Yankees to hit homers in the playoffs?

  1. Interesting stuff. I agree with bg’s comment that run scoring as a whole would likely drop because of better pitching, so simply saying that “homers are harder to hit in the playoffs” would not be persuasive to say that being homer-dependent is a bad thing. I would be curious to see if using PA’s instead of AB’s has any effect (on the possible assumption that players trying to hit homers may walk less).

  2. Phil C

    Thanks for that analysis. I have been on the verge of requesting a drone strike on multiple announcing booths because of how much time they have spent giving their expert analysis on this topic. In addition, not one broadcast booth (YES, MLBN, FOX, ESPN) has ever mention that if the Yanks would hit fewer HRs, and therefore score fewer runs, because of the pitching they faced, then logically so would the Yankees opponents. It may not even out because if the sheer number the Yanks hit, but the topic never comes up. I guess these announcers are like politicians and have to fill up the time they get on air and don’t bother with facts.

    Anyway, I have ranted enough.

  3. bg90027

    I think it’s very intuitive that they would hit fewer HRs as the quality of pitching increases but I’d also assume that teams that aren’t “HR dependent” would hit fewer doubles, triples, and singles as the quality of pitching improves in the playoffs.

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