The Yankees lost two out of three games in their opening series of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The two games they lost were largely due to lack of production from the lineup. This sparked a lot of conversation about if the Yankees have a problem with runners in scoring position and if they should change their approach at the plate.
Tons of tweets and callers into sports radio over the next few days took place. Even prominent radio hosts like Chris “Mad Dog” Russo made sweeping statements about how the Yankees still have the same problems that have plagued them in recent years. That perceived problem is situational hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position.
I am not going to declare that this problem is nonexistent, and I plan on doing more of a deep dive into this to get more statistics relating to this subject at some point this season. But I will say that it was quite silly for people to be making sweeping judgements based on at least one game and at most three games.
One of the players this discussion centered around was Aaron Judge. He did not have the desired results in the Blue Jays series, and he even admitted that he let the team down on Opening Day. This was no reason for people to be worried about long-term performance, but that did not stop Yankees fans from doing that.
In that first series Judge had a .250 AVG, .250 SLG. and a .272 wOBA. His expected stats based on the way he hit the ball vs Toronto was a .402 xAVG, .568 xSLG and a .415 xwOBA. This just goes to show that three games is a very small sample size, and that even with Judge not looking totally locked in he got pretty unlucky with the results over the weekend.
This is before Judge quieted concerns in the next two games. He is 5 for 8 with two home runs since then.
Giancarlo Stanton is another player that fans were concerned about. He was hitless in the two games he played against the Blue Jays and he even said people should not worry. He went on to hit a grand slam on Monday and 2 for 4 on Tuesday.
I think the people who were concerned about long-term performance were a vocal minority, but I think these developments show that there was no need for that concern in the first place.
Some more details I want to add relates to the notion that the Yankees struggle with runners in scoring position. Right now I think that is overblown and most teams fans probably think their team struggles in that situation as well.
Another aspect that I would like to add is that it seems that some people think a good team is supposed to go something like 8 for 10 with runners in scoring position in a given game. That is incredibly unsustainable if it even happens. If the Yankees were to go 4 for 10 in a game with runners in scoring position that would be a good game.
I’d like to credit YES Network statistician James Smythe for these stats that show how the Yankees compare to the rest of the league in runners in scoring position situations since 2017.
Yankees 0-for-9 with RISP today, and despite Twitter thinking they can never hit with RISP, their MLB ranks in this "since 2017" era:
2020 13th 5th
Since 2019 3rd 2nd
Since 2018 7th 4th
Since 2017 7th 5th
— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) April 1, 2021
As I said before I want to go more in depth and find more specific stats relating to this topic in the future. Some people would respond by asking for those stats only in close games, insinuating that these numbers might be inflated by hits with runners in scoring position in blowouts.
These are very specific statistics and they are very hard to find. It might take going through and ranking the teams myself, but I plan on looking into those questions in the future. But that is for another day.
As for now, we know the Yankees have a great lineup and there should be no concern about whether they will score runs. Those concerns about Judge and Stanton were not from many, but they were heard. The only concern should be about whether they can stay healthy, not about how they perform when they are on the field.
Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images