Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why The Yankees Will Have Trouble In The Playoffs

Simply put: Quality lefties give them trouble. The last two nights will attest to that.

Against Cliff Lee and David Price in the past 2 games, the Yankees managed 5 hits in 16 innings. They didn’t score one run.

In fact most of the top lefties in baseball pitched well against the Yankees’ supposed juggernaut of a line-up. This year, Cliff Lee in 23.1 IP had a 3.09 ERA with 18 Ks and a .945 WHIP. Dallas Braden had a 2.09 ERA in 11 IP. The Yankees did shell Price once in July, but in the other 2 starts, Price held them to 3 runs in 15.2 IP. Matter of fact, Price over his career, has a 3.22 ERA against the Yankees in 6 starts. Dallas Braden has a 2.45 ERA this season against the Yankees. Jon Lester has a 2.95 ERA and 17 Ks in 18.1 IP. In 2 games, Johan Santana had a 3.29 ERA against the Yankees this year. His teammate Hisanori Takahashi, in 2 starts did even better—12 IP and no earned runs. Clayton Kershaw pitched 7 innings of 2 run ball. Heck, the ancient Jamie Moyer pitched 8 innings of 2-run ball.

Now this isn’t to say the Yankees never hit well against a lefty—it’s just to say that there is plenty of evidence to say that they have trouble against quality lefties. And in a short playoff series where they might face Cliff Lee, David Price or Francisco Liriano (3.46 ERA this season with 14 Ks in 13 IP) twice in the series....well that doesn’t bode well.

So what’s going on—why is this happening in such a potent lineup? Let’s take a look at the righties in the Yankee lineup. Jeter is batting just .274 against lefty starters, down from .322 lifetime; and .313 against all lefties, down from .344 over his career. For Rodriguez, it’s even worse: he’s batting .244 against lefty starters and just .212 overall against all lefties. Take his career cumulatively and it’s down from .289 and .290 respectively. For Posada, the song remains the same; lifetime, Jorge’s BA against lefties is .296; this year it’s .264.

Let’s go further. The 2009 Yankee right-handed batters hit .286 against lefties. This year’s model features righties hitting just .269 against lefties. The entire Yankee lineup hit .286 against lefties last year with a .480 slugging percentage; this year that number is down to a .259 BA with a .429 slugging percentage. Makes you wonder where the Yankees would be without Marcus Thames’s .315 BA and .468 slugging percentage.

Also, throw in the fact that Curtis Granderson (.245 BA against lefties) and Brett Gardner (.252 BA against lefties) essentially replaced Melky Cabrera (.268 BAA lefties), Johnny Damon (.269 BAA lefties) and Hideki Matsui (.282 BAA lefties with a .618 slugging percentage). Brian Cashman replaced these players—and in the case of Gardner, with a nice player— but did next to nothing to shore up the lineup against quality left-handed starters.

Next year, maybe Jesus Montero comes up and solves the problem (.284 BA and .530 slugging against lefties in AAA), or the Yankees sign Jermaine Dye or someone else off the trash heap and they discover the Fountain of Youth. But for right now; heading into the playoffs—with the aforementioned Rodriguez and Jeter underplaying against lefties, with Nick Swisher hobbled, Lance Berkman absolutely pathetic against lefties and Cano cooling off after a hot start—where do the Yankees turn for help? What happens if Swisher is really injured or Teixeira gets into a slump?

The Yankees have enough problems now with their pitching (Does anyone besides Sabathia stand up? Will Pettitte able to be the Risen Savior? What the heck is up with Joba?), they don’t need problems with their lineup. But that is what the have now with nagging injuries, creeping age issues and the inability to hit quality lefties. They have a real problem. And October is coming.

1 comment:

Pete S said...

If they remain healthy, I think they're numbers will improve. Jeter and A-Rod have been hurt, and I doubt either is all that close to 100%. Jeter wouldn't admit he was hurt even if he were playing at 60%. A-Rod has the pressure and desire of being perceived to be as tough a player as Jeter is (or even close). In short, they aren't healthy and trying to play through it.

As for the play-offs, it is scary. As you pointed out, there will be a front line lefty to beat no matter who they play against.