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Mythbusting the Yankees and the ALCS

A lot of the narratives out there are just...wrong

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the heart of every Yankees fan was broken late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, fans and analysts alike have been debating why the Yankees lost the series and what they could have done differently. It’s important, however, when having these discussions, to be accurate, and at the moment, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Because of this, I have compiled the four biggest myths that have been circulating on the Internet, and have explained why they were wrong.

Myth 1: The Astros were more successful with RISP

Throughout the entire series, everybody was talking about how Yankees hitters were not successful with RISP. Find any article on the series, and it will list an ability to capitalize with runners on base as the reason the Yankees lost the series.

They’re not wrong; the Yankees were terrible with RISP, going 6-for-35, leaving 42 runners on base (a .172 average). The Astros, however, were even worse, going 5-for-46 (a .109 average) with 45 LOB.

Myth 2: The bullpen blew the series.

This is an unsurprising myth, given the fact that the Astros won two of their games on walk-offs; how else do you lose in a walk-off than on a failure by the bullpen?

Easily. Because one hanging slider does not mean that the bullpen performed poorly, it means that the other team capitalized on a mistake. In 30 innings (averaging five innings per game), Yankee pitchers coming out of the bullpen allowed just nine earned runs, a 2.70 ERA. This doesn’t count Chad Green‘s three earned runs in Game Six, as those technically came as a starter. Even so, non-Green and Adam Ottavino relievers combined for five runs in 22 innings, or a 2.04 ERA.

If you want to quibble over Boone’s insistence on pitching Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga over Luis Cessa, go right ahead. The vast majority of the bullpen, though, is not to be blamed.

Myth 3: The Yankees’ reliance on the home run doomed them

All we kept hearing over the course of the series is that the Yankees were waiting for the big home run too much, and that is why they lost games. The Yankees hit 10 home runs, after all, and got outscored 22-21.

Except to make that argument completely ignores the fact that both the Yankees and the Astros scored 15 runs off the home run in the series — virtually identical results — and won two games off of home runs. The most consistent way to score runs off a good team is to hit home runs.

Myth 4: The Astros completely outplayed the Yankees.

Given the results of the series, I do not blame you for this take at all. Consider, however, these stats:

Yankees vs. Astros 2019 ALCS stats

0.214 BA 0.179
0.289 OBP 0.281
0.383 SLG 0.318
0.673 OPS 0.6
0.172 AVG w/RISP 0.109
15 XBH 12
3.13 ERA 3.44
2 K/BB 2.91
1.152 WHIP 1.2

I know it doesn’t seem that way because of how it ended, but the Yankees, on the whole, played just as well as the Houston Astros. Instead, the entire series came down to sequencing.

Let’s take a look at the 11th inning of Game Two for a second. In that inning, Yankees batters grounded out, flew out, walked, singled, and struck out in that order, leaving two runners on base. The same events, however, could have produced an inning where a run scores, had they been arranged as walk, single, groundout (runners move to 2nd and 3rd), fly out (scores run), and strikeout.

Obviously, the butterfly effect would prevent the same exact events from happening the same way, but the point is that Yankees batters actually did as good a job at getting to Astros pitching as Astros hitters did to Yankees pitching. In the end, the series came down to moments.

Play this series out 5,000 times with the players playing exactly as they did in the actual series, and the Yankees probably win approximately 2,500 of them. When it comes down to it, we’re unfortunately not in any of those realities.