Small Ball Comes to the Bronx: The New York Yankees and Winning the Old Way

Ryan Vooris@ryanvoorisContributor IIIJuly 29, 2011

The Yankees have been winning in ways their fans might not recgonize.
The Yankees have been winning in ways their fans might not recgonize.Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Early in the baseball season, there was a lot of talk that the Yankees were "too dependent on the home run." That they couldn't play small ball and manufacture runs. That they were going to start losing once the home runs stopped coming.

Well, the home runs have (relatively speaking) dried up. And amazingly, the Yankees have proven that they can play small ball. And do it well.

New York's home run totals have dropped each month of the season from 43 to 39 to 34 to 19 thus far in July. Meanwhile, the Yankees have done an excellent job doing the little things they were supposedly incapable of doing.

The Yankees have stolen a staggering 27 of 30 bases this month, fueled mostly by Brett Gardner, who seems to have put his early season struggles behind him.

The Yankees lead the American League in steals currently with 102 and their percentage (75 percent) is slightly above league average as well (held down mostly by the inexplicable start Brett Gardner had on the bases).

The walks are a bit down this month, but the Yankees are still tied* with the Red Sox for most in the American League, with 50 more than the third-place Tigers.

*The Yankees, in fact, are better at drawing walks considering their hitters have drawn 14 more unintentional walks, which is really what we're talking about when we mention small ball. The Yankees also have 126 fewer plate appearances as a team than Boston.

The Yankees have even laid down 26 sacrifice bunts, which, while not great, is slightly above league average. And let's be honest: sacrifice bunts are kind of useless to quantify. You need a unique set of circumstances to even be in position to attempt one.

You need the right guy at the plate and on the bases. You need the right situation. Heck, the Red Sox have the fewest in the American League, and it doesn't seem to be affecting their offense. The Red Sox also have 36 fewer steals than the Yankees**

**Perhaps more telling is that the Sox only have three players who are even remotely threats to steal (Pedroia, Crawford and Ellsbury are the only hitters with more than two.)

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The Yankees, while getting a majority of their steals from Gardner, Granderson and Jeter, still have 14 from Nunez, eight from Martin and four from Cervelli, which, considering how rarely he's on base, is more impressive than it sounds.

Heck, even Robinson Cano, who was atrocious on the bases (20 SB, 23 CS prior to this year) is 6-for-7 swiping bases.

It all adds up to one undeniable truth: The early-season criticism has proven to be baseless. The Yankees, while still a power hitting team, do the little things needed to "generate" runs.

They steal bases as well as any team in the American League. They walk more than any other team in the American League. And they will even drop a bunt or two down. And the team's 61-40 record seems to indicate the wins are still bountiful.

So feel free to rid yourself of the misguided notion that the Yankees are nothing more than a team of sluggers waiting on a three-run home run (oh, the horror!). It's just not true

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