Much has been made of the somewhat secretive process of decreasing fencing distance heading from the right field foul pole toward the bleacher seats in the new Yankee Stadium.
Many more whispers have carried through the Bronx on the same wind currents helping to transform doubles into home runs and lazy fly balls into heart-stopping warning track peril.
The Yankees, who have subsequently launched 132 home runs into the stands, have actually failed to take advantage of the offensive opportunity in front of them.
On the eve of tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby, it was important to take a closer look at the record-setting souvenirs delivered by Yankee sluggers.
While power stats have accumulated in rather impressive fashion, the impact of the pinstriped muscle-flexing has left much to be desired. In many cases, they have provided less “bang for their buck” than a seeing-eye single by Brett Gardner.
Yankee home runs have generally been as “solo” as a socially awkward teenager at the middle school winter formal. They are often quietly sitting alone in the corner watching a halfhearted edition of The Electric Slide—wondering if anyone is noticing their presence.
To illustrate this with a little statistical analysis, not even one member of the Yankee double-digit power contingent has hit more than half their home runs with a teammate manning the basepaths.
This list includes Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter.
They have accounted for 116 of New York’s 132 home runs (88 percent), but have produced “socially awkward teenagers” 70 times. This means that three out of every five homers that they hit is no more damaging a result than a sacrifice fly.
To put this into perspective, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox have hit just 36 percent of their round-trippers with nobody on base. Bay in particular has “gone solo” just five times out of 20 opportunities.
The Red Sox are so dangerous because they can truly change the game with one swing—always one hanging curveball away from a three-run homer. Their longballs provide damage, and help to shrivel opponent morale like a slug battling a salt shaker.
New York may be on an alarming power pace, but it needs to find a way to reserve its blasts for more destructive game situations.
Solo home runs can be quite dramatic when timed correctly, such as Johnny Damon’s walk-off in the 11th inning against Minnesota on May 17. The majority of the time, however, they are a minor bump in the road for an opposing starting pitcher.
In fact, many of the game’s great hurlers prided themselves on limiting teams to solo home runs, as they will nine times out of 10 not be the reason a team wins or loses a game.
Hitting well in key situations has been a problem for the Yankees, and even their home runs have been timed poorly during the flow of ball games.
They are currently sitting on a goldmine of power potential, and could soon be dishing out as many “grand slams” as Roger Federer and Denny’s Restaurants.
Yankee home runs need to stop acting like a socially awkward teenager, and much more like the captain of the football team.
After all, nobody likes to be left home alone on Saturday night.