The 2014 Curse of Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium

The Yankees begin a 10-game homestand tonight, and normally that would mean a good chance for them to gain some ground in the playoff race at the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. But this isn’t a normal season and Yankee Stadium has hardly been a friendly place.

The Yankees are a mediocre 18-23 (.439) at home and 29-24 (.547) on the road this season. A winning record on the road is not atypical of a Yankee team, but their poor performance at home is nearly unprecedented.

Since the original Yankee Stadium opened in the Bronx in 1923, the Yankees have had only five losing seasons at home.

The 2014 team is on pace to finish with the second-worst home win percentage of any team in franchise history at either version of Yankee Stadium, behind only the 1966 squad which went 35-46 (.432).

You can’t blame the difference on playing harder opponents at home. The combined current win percentage of the teams they have played on the road (.505) is nearly identical to that of those they have faced at home (.507).

You also can’t blame their poor home record on bad luck. They are 5-4 in one-run games at home and their run differential at home (-45) suggests they should have a worse record at Yankee Stadium (15-26) than they actually do!

So what exactly has been the issue with the Yankees playing at home this season?

The Hitting
As you can see in the chart below, the team is actually hitting better overall at home but is not producing runs at the same rate compared to on the road.

YANKEES BATTING THIS SEASON

Games Runs/G HR/G BA OBP SLG OPS
Home 41 3.6 1.1 0.255 0.316 0.406 0.721
Away 53 4.3 0.6 0.249 0.312 0.362 0.675

 

Digging further into the numbers, we see the reason behind their lack of scoring at home — the Yankees have been hitting much worse in the clutch at home than on the road. A bullet-point look at the ugliness:

•  .203 BA with RISP at home (.284 on road)
•  .174 BA with RISP and 2 outs at home (.241 on road)
•  .152 BA with RISP in 7th inning or later at home (.292 on road)
•  .205 BA with RISP and score within 3 runs at home (.299 on road)

Even the expected bump in home run rate at Yankee Stadium cannot compensate for the fact that the team’s bats have simply gone cold in key scoring situations at home.

Their inability to generate timely hits in the late innings has produced a 0-3 record in home extra-inning games (5-2 on road), and a 1-6 record at home when the game is tied after the sixth inning (4-1 on road). Both of those marks are the second-worst in the majors this season.

The Pitching
Not only are the Yankees struggling to score runs at home, they are also allowing runs at a higher rate at home than on the road.

YANKEES PITCHING THIS SEASON

ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BA WHIP
Home 4.24 9.02 2.67 1.38 0.257 1.31
Away 3.72 8.05 2.55 0.88 0.248 1.25

As you can see in the chart above, the biggest difference in their home/road pitching is the rate of home runs given up at Yankee Stadium, a fact that should shock no one.

The short right porch at the ballpark is clearly hurting the team’s pitchers. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, five of the 58 homers allowed at home by Yankee pitchers would have only been home runs at Yankee Stadium or one other ballpark. The Yankees have given up only one such home run on the road.

Even more telling is the difference in the rate at which flyballs hit to right field have gone over the fence. A flyball to right field allowed by a Yankee pitcher is twice as likely to become a home run at Yankee Stadium compared to on the road this season.

The good news is that the Yankees should have an easier home schedule the rest of the season: the current combined win percentage of their remaining opponents is .493. The bad news is that the Yankees are a mediocre 26-26 against teams with a losing record.

The Yankees still have 40 more home games to avoid re-writing the record books. But based on the results so far, this season could end up being one of the worst that has ever been experienced by Bronx-bound Yankee fans in the long and storied history of this franchise.

Former ESPN researcher; forever baseball and Yankees fan. Now living in northern Vermont and the color of the front door of our house is Yankee blue. Also write about college football and basketball and the NFL. Bleed Huskies blue (that's UConn, of course).

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