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Yankees Mailbag: RISP concerns and Trevor Story discussions

The mailbag checks in after a week of unlucky results for the offense.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Good morning everyone, it’s time to get into the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Neil S. asks: A lot of Yankees fans have complained about the team’s apparent tendency to fail at driving in runners in scoring position. Some people even say that this is a big problem with the Yankees lineup, but I have my doubts... Can you bring up some data to discuss whether or not this is really an issue or something that is overblown by people?

There’s no individual statistic in baseball that you can point to and figure out how teams hit well with runners in scoring position, but there is some math to be done to figure out how important it is. The folks at FanGraphs did this back in 2014 to lead a discussion around the 2013-14 St. Louis Cardinals, who had an absurd drop off in production with runners in scoring position and a simultaneous drop off in wins.

The summary of the discussion is that while the ‘13 Cardinals had been a great team and did well with RISP and the ‘14 Cardinals were so-so and didn’t do well at all in that area, the two weren’t intrinsically connected. The ‘14 Cardinals were a worse-hitting team across the board, and the fault was more or less that they struggled to hit in general rather than just in this particular category.

The data supporting this links OPS as an incredibly accurate statistic to correlate with scoring runs, and ISO was a decent but significantly lower metric as well. For directly relating offense to wins, WAR and wRC+ were the strongest connections, though neither were much stronger than 50 percent as the data did not consider pitching at all.

How does this relate to the Yankees? Well, for one thing, we’re only six games into the season, so we’ve hardly had a chance for any of their offensive statistics to stabilize just yet. Even if you wanted to overreact to this small sample though, RISP simply wouldn’t be the place to do so. It doesn’t factor into wins nearly enough — even though it certainly looks and feels frustrating in the moment — to warrant much concern.

Larry S. asks: Would a trade of Voit, Hicks, and Albert Abreu be enough to get Story and a top 20 prospect from the Rockies? Then Torres can move to second, and DJ take over first.

I’m not sure if you mean a top 20 prospect within the Rockies’ system or a top 20 prospect in MLB overall, but either way I’m going to say it’s not. The Rockies are a terrible team that have signaled a full-on rebuild in the wake of trading Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story is their best remaining piece to move.

Granted, Story is only on a one-year deal, so the return that the Rockies could get from trading him before the deadline isn’t going to be massive, but they’re going to want prospects back instead of veterans. Abreu isn’t a top prospect, and Voit and Hicks won’t be bringing back top prospects either if the Rockies are assumed to flip them as well post-trade. They’re certainly not going to want to send a prospect out on top of dealing Story.

As for why the Yankees would be doing this, I understand that at this moment Story would be an upgrade over Torres but it’s a bit of an overreaction to try and solve the team’s early issues with a massive trade. Ignoring the probability of another team outbidding the Yankees for Story, they would be trading a defensive liability in Torres at short for a lesser defensive output with LeMahieu at first. The Machine certainly proved that he can cover the position for the Yankees, and it’s a valuable flexibility to have, but his skill at first is definitively less than having him at second. On top of that, Torres at second is a downgrade over LeMahieu at second, so at this point all that’s happening is the team would be evening out their defensive skill instead of having one trouble point.

There’s going to be plenty of discussion on Torres’ play at short and the Yankees’ options there, but there’s a lot of complexity to the situation beyond saying that Torres either should or shouldn’t be the shortstop. The Yankees are going to let things play out, in part because the shot Torres had last year was nullified by the pandemic and his own struggles getting in shape after the delay and in part because this season has barely begun.