In recent years, a common lament about the Yankees’ offense has been it hits “too many home runs”. Needless to say, that theory makes little sense. After all, having a power laden offense has been a Yankees’ hallmark since the days of Babe Ruth, which is why the team has affectionately and admiringly been called the Bronx Bombers. However, in 2012, that nickname could just as easily apply to the team’s starting rotation, which has not only bombed with regularity, but also surrendered more than its fair share of home runs while doing so.
Thanks to the three long balls Hiroki Kuroda surrendered during last night’s 8-1 loss the Blue Jays, Yankees’ starters have now allowed more home runs than any other rotation in baseball. Even more jarring, the team’s starters have allowed a whopping 1.65 homers per nine innings, which would easily rank as the highest ratio in team history. In fact, if not for the Twins’ rotation, which has allowed 1.76 home runs per nine innings, the Yankees’ group of starters would be on pace to allow the most home runs per game in baseball history (the 1987 Angels allowed 1.60/9 innings).
Entering the season, Kuroda’s rising home run rate was a concern, but unfortunately for the Yankees, the Japanese right hander hasn’t been the only starter on the team who has been victimized by the long ball. The nine homers allowed by Kuroda ties him with both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, all three of whom rank among the bottom-10 in terms of homers allowed per nine innings. When you also consider the sky high home run rates of Freddy Garcia and Andy Pettitte (albeit in only one start), it’s a wonder that the team hasn’t suffered from an epidemic of whiplash.
*Averages do not include totals from yesterday’s action.
Based on the record of each individual pitcher, there’s good reason to believe the number of home runs allowed by the Yankees’ rotation will regress to the historical mean. That’s good news because the team’s poor defense doesn’t exactly complement a pitching staff that is prone to the long ball. Having said that, the extent to which the Yankees’ rotation will be able to curb its home run tendency is impossible to predict. What seems certain, however, is if the Yankees’ continue to cede their power advantage, the team’s supremacy in the A.L. East may not be far behind. In other words, if the bombs in the Bronx continue to come from opposition bats with the same alarming frequency, the Yankees’ chances of making the post season could go up in smoke just as quickly.
Note: Ratio above 100% means Yankees hit more homer runs than the opposition.