The Yankees' One-Trick Pony Offense Will Cost Them October Baseball

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 31, 2012

Alex Rodriguez has become a $30 million albatross.
Alex Rodriguez has become a $30 million albatross.Harry How/Getty Images

The New York Yankees offense is capable of doing one thing better than most clubs this season, and that's hit home runs.

To date, the Bombers have hit exactly 76 home runs, tied with the Texas Rangers for the most in baseball. Only one player—centerfielder Curtis Granderson—has more than 10, but the Yankees have six players who have hit at least seven balls out of the park.

So it goes for the Yankees. They led baseball in home runs last season with 222. At this point, they're basically an Earl Weaver ballclub: hope the pitching is good enough and wait for the home runs to come on offense.

To beat the Yankees, all you have to do is keep them in the ballpark.

No, really. As The Journal News was kind enough to point out after the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, the Bombers are 0-11 this season when they fail to hit a home run.

This shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. If you've gone anywhere near a television or the Internets in recent weeks, you'll know that the Yankees have had trouble getting runners in this season. Per Baseball-Reference.com, the Yankees are hitting just .223 with runners in scoring position. That average ranks 25th among 30 teams.

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Cano is hitting .330 with nobody on, and .240 with men on.
Cano is hitting .330 with nobody on, and .240 with men on.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

This is a team-wide problem. None of the Yankees regulars are batting over .300 with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, two of the team's best run producers, are batting under .200 with runners in scoring position. Both of them hit over .300 in such situations last year.

The Yankees do their best work when there's nobody on base. Of their 76 home runs this season, 44 have been of the solo variety. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .276 and slugging .476 when the bases are empty.

When runners are on base, the Yankees are hitting .251 and slugging .429.

Last year, things were the exact opposite. The Yankees hit .258 and slugged .428 with nobody on, and they hit .270 and slugged .465 with runners on base, according to Baseball-Reference.com. They hit 222 home runs last season, and 103 came with runners on. 

Concerned? You should be. With the pitching staff as weak as it is, these Yankees are only going to the postseason if their offense can perform like it's used to performing. Hitting home runs is all well and good, but the clutch gene that the Yankees have been known for as long as any of us can remember has all but disappeared.

If there's hope, there's hope in the reality that we're talking about the Yankees. They always find a way to come through in the long run. It's what they do.

Indeed, but it's hard to be optimistic about this team's chances when you look at things objectively. No doubt a lot of people out there want to believe that this lineup is better than it's shown, but nobody should be too sure. There are legit problems, and they're not hard to spot.

Sign of the Times: A-Rod is hitting .154 against power pitchers.
Sign of the Times: A-Rod is hitting .154 against power pitchers.Nick Laham/Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez is pushing 37 years old, and he no longer has any of his old raw power. He's on pace to hit 23 home runs and drive in 62 runs this season, and it's hard to imagine him doing any better.

Mark Teixeira has come along lately, but he too is on pace to hit fewer than 30 home runs and drive in fewer than 100 runs. Even if he gets there, he'll finish with a batting average well south of .300.

Curtis Granderson has a team-best 16 home runs, but he's still striking out a ton, and he's basically removed the stolen base from his offensive arsenal. Joe Girardi is using him primarily as a No. 2 hitter, and that's a complete joke.

Derek Jeter may be hitting .336, but he's hitting .258 with one extra-base hit in is last 15 games. In that same span, he's taken just three walks. If Girardi has any sense, he'll get Jeter out of the leadoff spot as soon as Brett Gardner is healthy.

Robinson Cano has generally been very good, but his .133 average with RISP is a real killer. He needs to do better.

It's not just the key guys who have issues. Nick Swisher may be leading the team in RBI, but he's hitting in the .240s and he has an OBP under .300. That's not like him at all. Russell Martin has been an even bigger headache, and there's little reason to think he's going to be significantly better in the final four months of the regular season.

So despite the fact the Yankees are tied for the league lead in home runs, it makes perfect sense that they're currently eighth in baseball in runs scored. For all its power, this Yankees lineup is as weak as it has been in years.

The 2012 season is proving to be a test of Joe Girardi's wits.
The 2012 season is proving to be a test of Joe Girardi's wits.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The way things are looking now, Yankees fans should forget about the World Series. A trip to the Fall Classic was a legit possibility a couple months ago, but not now. The Yankees don't have the pitching, and they don't have enough offense to make up for their lackluster pitching. Things could change with a big pick-up or two at the trade deadline, but the Yankees have precious few pieces to deal.

The better question to ask is whether this team is good enough to make the postseason at all. Two months and 50 games into the season, the Yankees are 27-23. At this rate, they're going to finish with just under 90 wins, which would be very un-Yankee-like.

Even that's optimistic. The Yankees finished with an even 14-14 record in the month of May, but that record doesn't reflect how poorly they played for most of the month. The only time they weren't mediocre was when they were winning five in a row against the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A's, two dreadful teams.

The notion that the Yankees could be a .500 team for a significant amount of time borders on being unthinkable, but it's a very real possibility this year. They are a flawed team, and the American League is much, much deeper than usual this year. The AL East, in particular, is going to be a brutal battleground all season long.

Since answers to the team's pitching woes are not forthcoming, the Yankees have no choice but to sit back and hope that their bats wake up. If they can find a way to finish among the league leaders in runs scored, the Yankees will be just fine.

Nobody should hold their breath. This Yankees offense is what it is. And in a word, it's mediocre. The same goes for the team in general.

Alas, mediocre teams don't play baseball in October.

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