The playoff picture is coming into focus now that the Yankees have clinched home field advantage in the Wild Card Game. Just five games left in the season means it’s time to look ahead to October baseball and what we can expect. Usually it’s a good thing to win home field advantage, but given the nature of Yankee Stadium, could it be the best thing for the Yankees?
When you think of Yankee Stadium, you think about home runs, and when you think about home runs, you think about Aaron Judge. It’s true that Judge has hit 31 of his 50 home runs at home. He’s also a better hitter in general at Yankee Stadium, with an almost 50-point disparity in wRC+ value between home (194) and away (147).
Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, and Starlin Castro all rely on the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium to help them keep their numbers up, but not every player needs the Bronx to succeed. Gary Sanchez has basically performed just as well on the road as he has at home. Didi Gregorius has actually struggled in the Bronx with an 84 wRC+, while compiling a 132 wRC+ on the road.
This might end up as a net positive for the offense, but you also have to factor in the pitching staff. Luis Severino has been the team’s best and most consistent pitcher all season long. For this reason he is expected to start for the Yankees in the Wild Card Game, but having it take place at Yankee Stadium might put him at an unfortunate disadvantage.
It’s safe to say that Severino is good no matter where he pitches, but when everything comes down to one game, these stats can mean everything. Most of his success in 2017 has been buoyed by an excellent 2.24 ERA and 2.42 FIP on the road. Meanwhile, he’s only at a 3.86 ERA and 3.77 FIP in friendly confines. It’s by no means bad, but when you consider that he’s weighed down by an astronomical 1.38 HR/9 at Yankee Stadium, it’s easy to start worrying about what could happen in one game.
The bullpen, however, has things mostly under control when the team is at home. Dellin Betances, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle have all been able to limit home runs. Kahnle has trouble keeping inherited runners from scoring, but that’s another problem entirely. Where the bullpen might be in trouble is with Aroldis Chapman.
Now, he’s been about the same wherever he goes, but the only home runs he has allowed all year have been at Yankee Stadium. If Chapman is going to be relied on as the closer once again, this could end up being a scary ninth inning. He hasn’t allowed a run in September, so you have to hope that he can keep this going at least through next week.
As they often say about Yankee Stadium—live by the short porch, die by the short porch. Judge and the rest of the bats will clearly benefit from playing a one-game playoff at their home ballpark. By the way he’s swinging the bat, Judge will probably do fine no matter the location. The pitching is another story. It can be tough to pitch in Yankee Stadium, and Severino’s stats show us why. Hopefully he can keep the Twins in order so that it doesn’t even matter where they happen to be batting.