Two Out Nightmares

The Yankees' starting pitching has been better lately. Ivan Nova would have notched the team's seventh consecutive quality start if the relief pitching hadn't betrayed him. Six innings pitched with three or less runs allowed will get the job done. One nagging problem that keeps popping up this season is the starters' inability to get the third out of an inning.

To illustrate the problem here, we have to first establish what normal is for the league and MLB as a whole. OPS against is what I am focusing on here. 

  • AL - 2016: No outs = .739, One out = .720, Two outs = .727
  • AL - 2015: No outs = .733, One out = .720, Two outs = .713
  • MLB - 2016: No outs = .730, One out = .726, Two outs = .718
  • MLB - 2016: No outs = .732, One out = .723, Two outs = .708

As a general rule, what we can see is little significant difference between pitchers' OPS against based on outs or a slight decrease as each out is recorded. In every case, the batting average against went down with every out recorded and bases on balls were more prevalent with two outs than any other out situation (which seems strange).

Now we get to the Yankees. I will look at the team first which, for the sake of time, includes relief outings and then I'll focus on individual Yankee starters:

  • Yankees - 2016: No outs = .673, One out = .640, Two outs = .869
  • Yankees - 2015: No outs = .713, One out = .711, Two outs = .743

It is easy to compare and see that the Yankees totally buck the trend and last year were considerably worse with two outs. This year, two outs has been a disaster. The team has also--as you can imagine--bucked the trend with batting average per the number of outs per inning..

When the opposing team had no outs in 2015, they had scored 171 times and had walked 130 times. With two outs, the opponent scored 271 runs and walked 211 times. You just have to look at Total Bases against Yankee pitching in 2016. With no outs, Yankee pitching has allowed 204 Total Bases. With two outs, that figure jumps to 277.

So this has been going on for at least two yeas now and with that kind of history, then the conclusion would seem to be that Yankee pitching pretty much stinks after recording two outs in an inning.

The disturbing thing is that most Yankee starters have various levels of this problem. Let's look at them individually. I'll start with Luis Severino because he was pretty much terrible in every situation. I'll list each pitcher followed by the OPS against with zero outs, one out and two outs:

  • Severino: No outs = 1.077, One out = .701, Two outs = .958
  • Michael Pineda: No outs = .639, One out = .621, Two outs = 1.358 (!)
  • CC Sabathia: No outs = .576, One out = .546, Two outs = .920
  • Nathan Eovaldi: No outs = .613, One out = .763, Two outs = .734
  • Masahiro Tanaka: No outs = .504, One out = .761, Two outs = .585
  • Ivan Nova: No outs = .620, One out = .758, Two outs = .769

As you can see, only Eovaldi and Tanaka do not fit the pattern and even Eovaldi has given up ten of his 24 runs with two outs. I did not check all the relievers except for Dellin Betances and he shows the same trend with each number of outs seeing a dramatic rise in OPS against.

Pineda is the poster boy here. He has given up 27 runs with two outs and eleven with no outs and one out combined. Seven of his ten homers allowed have come with two outs.. It is frustrating to see him look so good until he gets two outs.

Obviously, there has to be a reason why this sort of thing happens with Yankee pitching. What are the possibilities? Do Yankee pitchers have too much of a pattern of pitch selection each inning so that by the end of the inning, the other team knows what is coming? Do the Yankee pitchers--like Pineda--just get sloppy and lulled to sleep with two quick outs? Does Brian McCann or the pitchers tip their pitches and are figured out as the inning goes along?

It has to be something. I looked at the Atlanta Braves pitching splits the last couple of years Brian McCann was there and I do not see a similar pattern. I do not see a pattern with Joe Girardi clubs in general and I went back to the last couple of years Larry Rothschild was the pitching coach with the Cubs and I don't see the pattern there either.

There has to be something to this because the pattern is so clear for the last two years and the pattern goes against the flow of logic based on league averages. The Yankees have a talented pitching staff and if the starters could collectively figure out how to consistently get the last out of an inning without any trouble, it will only get better.