Sometimes we try to make baseball as difficult as we can to analyze, but a simple method can work just as well. That has been the case this year for the New York Yankees, as they have done an insanely good job at getting out to early leads and holding onto late ones. Common sense says that's a good formula for any baseball team, and it's worked for the Yankees. They have won 12 of their past 16 games and have climbed to a season-high 12 games over .500. The Yankees have been dominant in the first inning of ballgames this year. Their 86 first inning runs leads both Colorado and Detroit by 21 runs, who are both tied for second in MLB with 65 first inning runs. New York has hit .319/.383/.536/.919 as a team in the first inning. They have scored in 41 percent of their first innings this season as opposed to 26 percent last season.
This is not surprising when you look at the seasons Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann are having at the top of the lineup. The first inning is the only inning you're guaranteed to have all your top three guys in the batting order hit in the same inning, so it's important to take advantage. With some pitchers the first inning is when they're trying to find their rhythm and can be had. Scoring in the first inning also gives a nice boost and some confidence to your own starting pitcher.
The first inning was a huge part in the Yankees' sweep of Baltimore, as they scored a first inning run in each game. The last two games they used big first innings to blow the game open early. Gardner's RBI single and Teixeira's two-run homer provided the runs on Wednesday and Chase Headley three-run double and Didi Gregorius' RBI single brought home four runs in yesterday's first inning.
The Yankees never relinquished any of their early leads against Baltimore. That's the second key ingredient for their success this season. They have a perfect 53-0 record when leading after eight innings and Mariano Rivera hasn't come out of retirement. Andrew Miller has been a perfect 22-for-22 in save opportunities this season. The Yankees really haven't had any of those back breaking losses that can sometimes have a negative impact on a team for a few days.
Shortening the games to seven inning affairs while at the same time putting up a big number in the first inning is a huge advantage. Get out in front early and just hold the lead. It seems so simple, doesn't it? That formula has been money so far for the Yankees in the 2015 season.