Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shutdown Innings Much?

Everybody is in full-on catharsis mode today after another frustrating 1-run loss chock full of chances to turn it into a W.  That loss was the 8th 1-run loss in the Yankees' recent piss-poor 6-12 stretch dating back to that fateful 4-game series out in Oakland, and has cut their division lead down to 4.5 games (with a still respectable 5-game lead in the loss column).  Matt Imbrogno of TYA is spilling his frustrated guts, as is Mike Axisa of RAB.  One particular part of Mike's collection of observations stuck out to me, because it was something that popped into my head immediately last night when I saw that Phil Hughes had given up 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th after the offense had staked him to a 2-run lead in the top half:

"You know what else is annoying? The Yankees’ pitchers seem to give back every run the offense gives them in the span of an inning these days. Phil Hughes did it last night, Ivan Nova did it the night before, Nova did it again in spectacular fashion in his last start before that … the whole 'shutdown innings' thing seems to have gone out the window. This has become one unwelcome habit. Maintaining a lead for more than one inning should not feel like a miracle."

This thought has crept into my mind on more than on occasion over the last couple weeks, and last night was the tipping point.  I decided to check into just how often the Yankee pitchers have been giving runs back in shutdown innings during this 6-12 stretch to see how often it's been happening.

The Yankee offense has scored at least 1 run in 42 different innings over the last 18 games dating back to the first game against Oakland on July 19th.  That's 42 opportunities for a "shutdown inning" in the next half inning where the Yankees take the field.  In those innings, Yankee pitchers have given up at least 1 run 14 times.  That's 33.33%, exactly one-third of the shutdown inning opportunities that have not been shut down.  I honestly have no clue if that's a bad percentage or not, but it certainly seems high to me.

And it's not just the number of innings where runs have been given back that's a problem, but the number of runs given back.  In those 14 instances where a Yankee pitcher failed to shutdown an inning after his offense scored, a total of 25 runs have been allowed.  That's a 5.36 ERA in those 42 shutdown innings and that's definitely not a good number.  We are dealing with small sample sizes here, and the numbers are inflated a bit by Ivan Nova's 7-run, 2nd-inning bomb job against Baltimore last Tuesday.  Without those runs, the collective shutdown ERA comes down to 3.86.  But during a short stretch where this has been a common problem, I don't think it's unfair to include everything and look at those numbers as they are.

Mike and I surely can't be the only people who feel this way, and the numbers show that it has been a real problem.  There are a ton of little things that the Yankees aren't doing right now that are contributing to their losing ways and this is one of them.  Professional or not, it has to be deflating for the lineup to score some runs and immediately see their work go for naught when the opponent comes right back the next inning.  The pitching staff isn't getting the job done in these shutdown situations right now, and that isn't helpful when the offense is producing as inconsistently as it has been.

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