Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Middle Of The Order Has Been (Somewhat) Silent Killer This Season

(Courtesy of the AP)

The "the offense sucks" narrative is no longer the big news it was when the turn started in late May.  It's no surprise anymore that the Yankees can't score runs, don't hit for power, and generally boast some of the weakest 7-9 spots in the batting order in all of baseball, NL included.  But if you're looking for a better explanation as to why they've failed to score a run or 2 when they really need it time and time again this year, look no further than the former heart of the order.

Breaking season-long production down by batting order position, the Yankees' biggest strength has been the top 3 spots.  A combination of Brett Gardner's May and June, Ichiro's hot streaks, and Robinson Cano's existence has the top 3 spots in the batting order holding .805, .739, and .810 OPS values on the season.  That's pretty good production and certainly good enough to create plenty of scoring opportunities with the speed at the top.  The bottom of the order, the 7th-9th spots in the lineup, have OPS values of .580/.592/.582.  It's a stunningly identical exercise in offensive brutality, but not one that's unexpected when you think of the gaggle of names who've hit there this year.

Where things fall apart is in the middle of the order, specifically the 4 and 5 spots.  The Yankees are getting just a .637 OPS from the 4th spot in the order in 2013, and a significantly worse .573 from the 5th spot (.189/.256/.317 tripleslash).  The 117 combined strikeouts from the cleanup spot is the most for any spot in the order this season and almost 30 Ks higher than the next most.  The fact that the 5th spot in the order has been less productive than the 9th is insane.

Think about all the times Cano has worked a walk only to have Travis Hafner or Lyle Overbay strike out behind him.  Or all the times the Yanks have put 2 on in an inning only for Vernon Wells to pop up to first to strand them.  All of those bad, unproductive ABs add up and that drought in production just behind the most productive part of the lineup has surely cost the Yankees plenty of runs and a few games this year.

Not that it's really any of the players' faults.  The middle of the order is where the Yankees have had most of their major injuries this season, and the aforementioned players tasked with replacing them are who they are as replacement-level platoon bats.  It's the situation the team is in and it's a situation they chose to be in with how they went about building this year's team.  But as a team so offensively weak, a team for which every run means so much, it's easily the most frustrating in-game part of this team to watch and it's definitely killed them at times.

When the season ends, and the Yankees end up wherever they end up, they'll look back to those spots hitting behind Cano and wonder what could have been.  They used to be able to count on those spots in the order to generate runs even when there wasn't a great scoring opportunity.  Now they're almost lucky if they come through on even the easiest scoring opportunities.

P.S.- Yeah, I know this is basically a "no shit, Sherlock" post.  Blame it on the lack of real trade deadline activity and the off-day yesterday.

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