While both scores would indicate that the Yankees offense performed similarly, Sunday's loss and Tuesday's win were about as diametrically opposed as could be. On Tuesday, they hit a sparkling 3-5 with runners in scoring position while on Sunday they went a ghastly 1-17 with RISP. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a game-winning run-scoring single in the eighth on Tuesday, while the entire lineup fell flat on their faces when any high leverage at-bats came up on Sunday. Undoubtedly Ellsbury will get the "clutch" status in the minds of fans for the next few weeks, while the biggest contributors to Sunday's debacle will be deemed as unable to get "big hits." However, aside from off-hand observations that the Yankees aren't doing well in the most important moments, how are they actually faring in what are typically considered "clutch" situations in 2014?
When it comes to batting with runners in scoring positions, our simple observations are indeed correct: this team has not been very good. Coming into Wednesday's matchup with the Mariners, in 608 plate appearances the Yankees were hitting .254/.320/.348 (.669 OPS), 30 points lower than the team's overall OPS. If a team that is already 22nd in the league in wRC+ is hitting even worse with runners in scoring position than normal, things get real ugly in the run scoring department. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, things have been even worse as they had a triple slash of .214/.288/.286 (.573 OPS). So the fact the Yankees got two two-out run-scoring hits in the game on Tuesday is reason enough to pop champagne.
Delving a little more into the saber side of the Yankees clutch performance this year, they rank 18th in the Clutch metric, which is basically Win Probability Added in high leverage situations. Tuesday's hero Ellsbury leads the team in both WPA and Clutch, while Derek Jeter is last on the team in both. Considering he has zero extra base hits with RISP and is batting .118 in late and close situations, that's not terribly surprising. But hey, that double on Tuesday was critical to the Yankees winning the game and he notched two hits yesterday , so maybe those clutch stats will start normalizing and "Captain Clutch" will return for one last ride.
It's generally believed that there's not a lot you can do about a team's failings in the clutch. Pushing Jeter down in the order so he gets fewer at bats wouldn't hurt, but that's a pipe dream not really worth entertaining at the moment. The best the Yankees can hope for is that the hitters' performances in high-leverage situations stabilize and the team begins to hit closer to what their career numbers dictate. Or that they start acquiring some better hitters. And no, bunting and playing "small ball" would not alleviate this team's issues in these situations. The Yankees clearly need all the outs that they can get in order to get these potential runs across the plate.