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The Yankees are comically bad at hitting with runners in scoring position

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The Bombers are batting .161 with RISP since June 1st.

Gleyber Torres has slashed a torrid .333/.403/.737 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in only 68 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
Gleyber Torres has slashed a torrid .333/.403/.737 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in only 68 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Stat wizard Katie Sharp recently unearthed this doozy: The Yankees entered Monday as the worst team in baseball at hitting with runners in scoring position.

After going 3-for-36 (.083) with runners in scoring position over the last four games, the Yankees’ RISP batting average since June 1st dropped 18 points to .161 — still the worst in baseball. The team managed to achieve a 21-12 mark over that stretch, but they were 7-for-86 (.081) with RISP in those 12 losses. In the eight games dropped by two runs or less, they were 6-for-68 (.088).

Some of those defeats really stung, too. In Monday’s 11-inning 5-3 loss to Atlanta, the Bombers hit a season-worst 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Four times they advanced a runner to second base with less than two outs and failed to score him. A total of 12 men were left stranded during the game.

A week earlier, the Yankees went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Sunday’s 12-inning defeat to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Two days before that, they went 1-for-9 with RISP in the 2-1 series-opening loss to Tampa. Twice in that game, they wasted leadoff hits — including a double.

The previous Sunday at Yankee Stadium, New York went 0-for-7 with RISP — foiling the bid for the four-game series sweep against Tampa. There was also the loss in the twinbill at Detroit on June 4th where they went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees wasted a pair of runner-on-second with no outs opportunities in that defeat.

The team was one win short of going .667 over that 33-game stretch — a 108-win pace over a full season. So why even fret about the team’s batting average with runners in scoring position? Normally, there would be little cause for concern. The problem is, this year the Yankees are battling for the division title against a team that is also flirting with a 108-win pace.

Only 11 teams in baseball history have won 108 or more games in a season. The feat has never been accomplished by two teams in the same year. In fact, since divisional play began in 1969, there have only been three instances where two teams in the same division won 100 or more games during the same year. The Yankees (103 wins) and Orioles (100 wins) did it in 1980, followed by the Braves (104 wins) and Giants (103 wins) in ‘93. In 2001, the Mariners (116 wins) and Athletics (102 wins) became the first and only division rivals to accomplish this during the Wild Card era.

The stakes are even higher now, however, with the single-game elimination Wild Card round. If the season ended today, the Yankees would host Seattle in the Wild Card game. It looks good on paper, but anything can happen in a one-game winner-take-all affair. There’s nearly half a season to be played, and a lot can happen. It is entirely possible that the Yankees could find themselves facing Justin Verlander at Minute Maid Park in the Wild Card game this October. If that happens, we will remember the many close games that the Yankees lost because they failed to hit at all with runners in scoring position.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious solution to this team-wide problem. Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge are the only Yankees regulars hitting over .245 with RISP on the year. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird:

2018 Yankees RISP

Player AB H 2B-3B HR RBI SF BA OBP SLG OPS
Player AB H 2B-3B HR RBI SF BA OBP SLG OPS
Gary Sanchez 62 14 6 4 27 1 .226 .364 .516 .880
Neil Walker 49 12 2 0 13 1 .245 .309 .286 .595
Gleyber Torres 57 19 2 7 34 2 .333 .403 .737 1.140
Didi Gregorius 83 15 1 3 28 7 .181 .257 .301 .559
Miguel Andujar 58 13 3 3 23 2 .224 .299 .431 .730
Brett Gardner 51 11 2 0 13 3 .216 .317 .275 .592
Aaron Hicks 50 12 3 3 24 4 .240 .344 .520 .864
Aaron Judge 61 18 1 3 28 3 .295 .452 .459 .911
Giancarlo Stanton 81 18 5 2 25 4 .222 .316 .370 .687
Tyler Austin 28 7 1 3 14 1 .250 .313 .607 .920
Greg Bird 25 3 1 0 4 0 .120 .267 .200 .467
Austin Romine 27 9 2 1 15 1 .333 .406 .519 .925
Ronald Torreyes 23 9 1 0 6 0 .391 .417 .435 .851
Table by Brett Borzelli, stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Four American League teams are currently on pace to win 104 plus games, which has never happened before. With a 1-6 mark on the road in the postseason last year, it would behoove the Yankees to do go to any and all lengths to clinch the top playoff seed. Every game counts — now, more than ever. While everyone focuses attention on a starting pitching upgrade — which is needed, to be sure — the real Achilles Heel on this team is their failure to hit with runners in scoring position. I hope that doesn’t come back to bite them.