Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trouble in Big Spots

Mark Simon over at ESPN New York wrote an article on the Yankees troubles in late & close situations this season. Just a quick refresher: Late & close is defined as a situation in the 7th or later where the batting team is either tied, up one, or down by and the tying run is on deck.

Onto the article:
This season, in late-and-close situations, the Yankees are hitting .243, right in line with the American League average, .244, with a .727 OPS that rates 33 points above average.

A streak of four straight seasons in which the Yankees had a batting average (and we're talking batting average because we're looking for hits here) at least 10 points above the AL average for "late-and-close" situations is in jeopardy.

One of the reasons that the 2010 numbers looks so paltry is because of their performance last season -- a .316 batting average and a .945 OPS, with more late-inning dramatic wins than any other team.
So if you're a Yankees fan, who do you want up in these kinds of spots?
This year, the Yankees who have performed best under small samples of pressure are Marcus Thames (12-for-27 with three home runs) and Robinson Cano (.328 with four home runs).
But those guys only get so many chances. The hitters who are bringing the numbers down are two who you would figure you'd want at the plate-- Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira-- who are hitting a combined .216 in 153 at-bats, each with an OPS below league average. That's a lot of big late-game outs.
He also briefly mentions Fangraph's clutch rating system, "a measurement of how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment." Three Yankees, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Captain Clutch himself, Derek Jeter, rank in the bottom 10 of the AL.

I know neither are having amazing seasons, but you have to wonder how guys like Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon would have helped in these spots.

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