Despite playing a stretch of games in oppressive heat, a cool breeze has been following the Yankees around in August. During the month, the number of swings and misses by the team has reached historic levels, which is probably at least partially responsible for the bats going cold just when everything else seems to be heating up.
Lost amid the drama of the team’s stirring 7-6 triumph over the Rangers last night were the 17 strikeouts recorded by Cliff Lee and a handful of Texas’ relievers. That total matched the Yankees record for most punch outs since 1920, a ignominious feat matched only two other times in team history.
Most Strikeouts in a Game By Yankee Batters, Since 1920
|8/11/2010||TEX||Cliff Lee||W 7-6||9||41||17|
|9/30/2001||BAL||Jose Mercedes||T 1-1||15||56||17|
|9/10/1999||BOS||Pedro Martinez||L 1-3||9||28||17|
Anyone watching the team closely over the last two weeks probably shouldn’t be surprised by last night’s strikeout total. In seven of the last 11 games, the Yankees have been set down on strikes at least 10 times. Before that stretch, opposing pitchers had only recorded double digit strikeout totals in 10 of the previous 102 games. Lowering the bar a little, the Yankees have struck out at least nine times in five straight games, another first in team history. Although matched by a similar stretch in 1968 and 2001, the current swing and miss epidemic has been responsible for the team’s highest five game strikeout total. For the entire month of August, the Yankees strikeout total of 94 leads the majors, ahead of such free swinging teams as the Diamondbacks (90), Rays (89) and Cubs (87).
Longest Streak of Nine Strikeouts or More By Yankee Batters, Since 1920
So, what’s the reason for the Yankees recent surge in strike outs? The easiest answer is to look at the opposing pitchers. With names like Garza, Shields, Morrow, Beckett, Lester and Lee, it’s easy to see why the Yankee batters have been heading back to the dugout with their heads down more frequently than normal. Judging by the monthly progression of the team’s strikeout-to-PA ratio, the recent run of superior opposition pitchers seems to be the most likely culprit. Considering that the team still ranks all the way down at 19th in all of baseball, there is probably no reason to sound the alarm about this recent strikeout epidemic.
Yankees Monthly Run and Strikeout Totals
At the individual player level, the Yankees have three players (Swisher, Teixeira and Gardner) in the top-10 for most strikeouts in August, and nearly every starting regular has seen a rise in their strikeout rates during the month. The most dramatic increase has come courtesy of Mark Teixeira, whose strikeouts have more than doubled in August even while he has posted an OPS of 1.021. Brett Gardner, however, has not been so lucky. His strikeout rate has increased all the way to a whopping 40%, while his OPS in the month has plummeted to .300.
As the Yankees embark on a stretch against some weaker pitchers, their collective strikeout rate should normalize somewhat. If it doesn’t, however, the team may have a real problem on its hands. In the meantime, the Yankees may as well enjoy the breeze because it isn’t going to be any cooler in Kansas City.