Another Post About That Thing

That home run thing. About how the Yankees are too home run dependent to win in the postseason. Given some great regular seasons that have ended in early exits from the playoffs, I can understand where the connection was made. It's harder to hit a three run home run off of Justin Verlander than it is to hit one off of Bruce Chen. It's also harder to hit a single, draw a walk, avoid a strikeout, and not embarrass yourself against Justin Verlander. Justin Verlander is a real jerk.

There are a few subtle changes of strategy that cause a discrepancy in the playoff run environment. As a function of shortening the rotation to only the top 3-4 starters, being more aggressive with the top bullpen arms, and a fly ball suppressing fall climate, the pitching is better. As a function of nailing the Chris Stewarts of your team to the bench and going with the A-lineup every night, the hitting is better. Most people would probably say that those tradeoffs favor the pitching side a little more.

That has been extended to claim that home runs are especially diminished, meaning that a home run hitting team -- like the Yankees -- will be particularly susceptible to an offensive drop off. But rather than blind conjecture and confirmation bias, let's actually compare some regular season and postseason data. Since 1996:


If there is a large drop off in playoff home run hitting, it is absent from the 1996-2011 data. The only compelling shift seems to be a slight decrease in hits and a slight increase in strikeouts. In 152 playoff games over that span, the Yankees have homered in 101 and hit a grand total of 165 home runs. While that is actually slightly less than their regular season rate, it definitely calls into question the validity of all the hand-wringing.

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