Despite leading the American League in on-base percentage, the Yankees’ per game run production only ranks in the middle of the pack. One of the most glaring reasons for this disconnect is the team’s lack of production from the middle of the order. Over the first 10 games, hitters occupying the 3-4-5 slots in the Yankees’ lineup have combined for only one home run and six RBIs to go along with a .688 OPS.
Note: sOPS+ compares a team’s split to the adjusted average for the league. A reading above 100 is considered above average.
One the most surprising (and startling) statistics from the Yankees’ first 10 games is the fact that the team has yet to drive in a run from the cleanup slot. During that span, Alex Rodriguez has had the bulk of the at bats in the four hole, but Robinson Cano has also played a supporting role (along with cameos from Eduardo Nunez and Eric Chavez). And yet, despite the presence of these two superstar players, the Yankees still have a big fat zero in the RBI column for their cleanup batter.
By failing to knock in a run from the cleanup slot over the first 10 games of the season, the 2012 Yankees became the 19th team since 1918 to suffer that ignominious fate. The good news is almost two-thirds of the other 18 finally broke through with an RBI in game 11. As for the bad news, only two of the teams wound up making the post season (1964 Cardinals, which won the World Series, and 2000 Athletics, which won the AL West) and all 18 combined for a .470 winning percentage. Needless to say, Yankees’ fans might want to look elsewhere for an omen.
Note: Includes all streaks of at least 10 games.
Considering the Yankees’ lack of production from the middle of the order, the team has done well to score 4.9 runs per game, which is 10% higher than the league average. The Yankees ability to score without production from the heart of the order is attributable to their lineup depth, which is something not every team on the list above has enjoyed. Although two of the 18 teams did average more runs per games than the Yankees during their dry spell, almost half scored fewer than three runs per game while waiting for their cleanup hitter to finally drive in run.
In terms of runs per game, the 1942 Chicago White Sox’ rate of 1.8 was the lowest, but the crown of futility easily belong to the 2003 Tigers. It took 18 games that season for Detroit to finally get an RBI from its fourth hitter, but by the time Dmitri Young finally broke through with a three-run homer, the season was all but over. During that stretch, the Tigers went an abysmal 1-16, setting the stage for a 43-119 campaign that ranks as the sixth lowest winning percentages in modern baseball history.
Note: In 1948, Ferris Fain accounted for all but one cleanup PA for the Athletics. The only other PA was taken by Rudy York.
One final note about the Yankees’ current stretch of cleanup hitter futility might make Arod feel a little better. Although the Yankees’ All Star third baseman has been the main culprit in the fourth hole, at least he doesn’t have to claim responsibility for every at bat. Of the 19 teams without a cleanup RBI in at least 10 consecutive games from the start of the season, only three featured a hitter who accounted for every plate appearance. Although Larry Doyle, Arky Vaughan, and Lance Berkman each had to endure a very frustrating start to their seasons, all three rebounded to provide well above average offensive production, so maybe the same fate is in store for Arod.