Monday, September 24, 2012

On RISP Fail And Expectations

(Has Curtis really been a RISP Failure this year?  Courtesy of the AP)

Despite being 2nd in the American League in runs scored, this has generally been considered a down year for the Yankee offense, and in some respects it has been.  For the better part of this season they've been a mostly one-dimensional team that seems to alternate between stretches of big-time production and big-time lack of production at the drop of a hat.  One of the biggest talking points when discussing this down offensive year has been the team's struggles to hit with runners in scoring position.  The Yankees' on again-off again relationship with RISP Fail was out in the open again this past weekend against Oakland, when they went a combined 6-28 in the 3 games, winning 2 close ones and losing another while being a few hits with RISP away from much more comfortable victories in each.

The RISP Fail theme has been around for so long this season that the perception is almost starting to become that the Yankees "can't" get big hits with runners in scoring position, which is not entirely true.  A look at the high-level team numbers will show that, but a look at the individual statistics is what adds fuel to this fire and, in my opinion, continues to drive this RISP Fail storyline.

Wild Weekend Thoughts & Afterthoughts

(Eduardo gets the Josh Hamilton walk-off treatment.  Courtesy of the AP)

If you don't already know from my 2 previous mentionings of the topic, or if you just forgot, I spent the weekend in Chicago with a couple of my buddies for a bachelor party.  The hijinks that ensued upon our Saturday morning arrival were right on par with the craziness that defined the Yankees' weekend series against Oakland.  They got a lights out pitching performance from CC on Friday, only to lose the lead in the 9th and win on a walk-off HR in the 10th; Saturday's game was up there with the wackiest games in MLB this season, and yesterday was another close game full of missed opportunities, blown calls, errors, and late-inning drama.  Seeing as how I missed most of that, I figured I'd use this morning to catch up and give my thoughts on the events that transpired while also sprinkling in some observations from my own wild weekend in Chicago.

Game 152 Wrap-Up: OAK 5 NYY 4

(Rough day, huh?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The first 2 games of this series represented opposite sides of the starting pitching spectrum.  On Friday night, CC Sabathia threw 8 shutout innings that were about as dominant as one could pitch, against any lineup.  On Saturday afternoon, Ivan Nova couldn't even make it out of the 3rd before getting the hook, putting a tremendous amount of stress on an already overworked bullpen, stress that was only increased when the game went 14 innings.  The Yankees were hoping for length from their starter yesterday, and that's exactly what Hiroki Kuroda has provided many times this season when the team has needed him to step up.  He didn't do that yesterday, and the Yankees couldn't hold onto a lead that would have given them the series sweep.

Game Notes:

- Kuroda got burned early when he gave up a double, a walk, and a wild pitch to allow a run to score with 2 outs in the top of the 1st.  He was having trouble controlling his splitter, both in and out of the strike zone.

- That control problem spread to his other pitches in the 2nd.  After giving up a cheap single to Josh Donaldson to lead off the inning, Kuroda left a slider up to the immortal Cliff Pennington and watched it soar over the fence for a 3-0 Oakland lead.

- After failing to capitalize on putting the leadoff runner on in 2 of the first 3 innings, the offense struck in the bottom of the 4th.  Nick Swisher hit a 2-run home run to plate Robinson Cano, and a pair of follow-up singles came around to score on a Raul Ibanez double and an Eduardo Nunez groundout to make it 4-3 Yanks.

- Kuroda seemed to calm down through the 3rd and 4th, but got into trouble again in the 5th after giving up a single and a walk.  Yoenis Cespedes lined a 1-1 sinker that didn't sink enough to right for a game-tying single and the shutdown inning was blown.

- Eduardo Nunez won the game on Saturday by putting a ball in play that turned into an error, something he's usually on the opposite end of.  He got back on the right (wrong?) side yesterday, committing a throwing error in the 6th that led to an unearned go-ahead run and the end of Kuroda's day.

- The offense had plenty of chances after the 4th, but never scored another run.  They left 2 runners on in the 5th, 2 in the 6th, and 1 each in the 7th and 8th to cap off a 2-9 day with RISP and another series chock full of RISP Fail.

- The bullpen pitched 3.1 solid scoreless innings in relief of Kuroda, highlighted by some strong work from David Phelps and Boone Logan, but with the offense sputtering it ended up being for naught.