Despite the fact that the 2011 Yankee offense once again leads MLB in runs-per-game and wOBA, there’s still been quite a bit of hand-wringing among the Yankee faithful with regards to various aspects of the team’s situational hitting capabilities, be it hitting with men on base, runners in scoring position and the team’s fairly bizarre inability to really lay waste to opposing teams’ bullpens, among what I’m sure are other complaints I’m forgetting about. In this post I thought I’d take a look at the latter, which, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, has been a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Yankees anecdotally have always seemed to thrive by wearing a starting pitcher down before attacking the seedy underbelly of a given team’s relief corps.
The following table shows American League team run scoring by inning (through games of Thursday, June 2). Yellow highlights indicate the team (or teams) that have scored the most runs in a given inning, and pink highlights represent the fewest.
It would appear that there is indeed credence to the idea that the Yankees have not been doing as much damage as we might generally expect from the team in the later innings. Interestingly, the team leads the AL in runs scored in the 1st, 2nd and 5th innings, and is well above league average scoring in these frames. However, they are below league average scoring tallies in the 6th, 7th and 9th innings, and exactly at league average in the 8th inning. Click here to see a line graph of the 2011 Yankees’ run-scoring by inning vs. the AL average.
The Red Sox have done a lot of their damage in the later frames of their games, leading the AL in scoring in the 7th inning (tied with Baltimore of all teams) and the 8th inning. Curiously enough, despite this late-game prowess Boston is actually tied for last in scoring in the 9th inning, though the 9th isn’t a truly fair comparison as not every team is going to play an equal amount of 9th inning frames.
I also wanted to see how the 2011 Yankees stacked up against previous iterations of the team in terms of run-scoring by inning, to see if this year’s team truly was falling short of the conventional wisdom that the Yankees pound teams in the later innings. I decided to go back to 2006, for no real reason other than the fact that the Yankees have boasted the top offense in the American League in each year since 2006 with the exception of 2008.
The 2011 Yankees projected runs scored by inning for the full 2011 season was simply calculated by taking their average runs scored per inning over their first 54 games and extrapolating that figure out over their remaining 108 games. If you’d like the native file, please feel free to click here to download the spreadsheet I used.
The 2011 Yankees are on pace to score their highest total number of runs in the first inning in the six seasons displayed here, as well as the fifth inning. On the flip side, this year’s team is also on pace for six-year lows in runs scored in the 4th, 6th and 7th innings.
Ultimately what I think we can take away from this graph is that yes, the Yankees are indeed scoring less frequently in the later innings of games than they have in recent seasons — the significant dropoff in run-scoring in the 6th and 7th innings in particular is actually pretty shocking. Anecdotally one might expect the team to be scoring more frequently than normal in those frames, considering the fact that (a) Those innings generally represent the point in a given game where the starting pitcher should be running out of gas, if they haven’t already been removed for middle relief, and (b) Middle relief is usually a lot more hittable than specialized — 8th and 9th inning — relief.
It’s even stranger when you consider that the 2006-2010 teams each scored over 100 runs in both the 6th and 7th innings of their seasons, while the 2011 version is only on pace for 69 runs in the 6th and 75 in the 7th.
One other interesting takeaway from this chart — you already knew this, but the 2009 team was the king of the final inning triad, with the most run scored in each of the 7th, 8th and 9th of all six of these Yankee teams. Perhaps that’s why the lack of scoring in the later innings has been so baffling for Yankee fans this season — we’ve been trained to expect them to come back and pile it on late, although a closer look at the chart shows that the late-inning fade may have actually begun last season, as the 2010 team has the second-fewest runs scored in the 7th and tied for second-fewest in the 8th.
In any event, at the end of the day a lot of this could just be statistical noise, as there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme nor reason as to why a team has a tendency to score a certain amount of runs in a given inning per the random fluctuations in the above line graph, and it seems likely that the run-scoring distribution for the Yankees could very well even out as the season progresses — after all, we’re only one-third of the way through.
That being said, through the first 54 games of the 2011 season, the numbers do in fact show that the Bombers have not been as potent offensively in the later innings as Yankee fans have grown accustomed to, compared with both the American League as well as Yankee teams of recent vintage.
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