Whenever a team is forced to play a doubleheader, the manager will usually express a universal lament about how difficult it is to win both games. No manager has been more vocal about this perceived dynamic than Joe Girardi, but is it really true?
Since the Yankees joined the American League as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the team has played 1,746 doubleheaders, although a vast majority took place before the modern expansion era. Nonetheless, of that total, the Yankees wound up splitting (including games ending in a tie) or being swept in 1,150 (66%), which seems to lend credence to the age-old concern. Or does it?
On the surface, earning a sweep in only one of every three doubleheaders seems like a disadvantage, but how often do the Yankees win two games in a row anyway? One way to answer that question is to compare the Yankees’ franchise record in doubleheaders to the winning percentage compiled in single games.
Yankees’ Record in Doubleheaders and Single Games, 1901 to 1911
As it turns out, over their 111-year history, the Yankees have had a better winning percentage when they play two games instead of just one. However, it should be noted that almost 95% of the franchise’s doubleheaders were played before 1980, which begs the question, how well has the team done in doubleheaders played more recently?
Yankees’ Record in Doubleheaders and Single Games, 1996 to 2011
Since the dawn of the modern Yankees’ dynasty in 1996, the team has swept 19 of its 42 doubleheaders. In total, the team has compiled a whopping .702 winning percentage in games played as part of a twin bill, or over 100 points higher than the team’s rate of success in single games.
One final way to evaluate the Yankees’ relative performance in doubleheaders is to compare it to the team’s record in all two-game stretches. Unfortunately, compiling that data for 111 years would be somewhat onerous, but we can use a segment as a proxy.
Over the last 10 years, the Yankees have played 1552 distinct two-game stretches. In each individual season, the team’s “two-game win rate” ranged from 34% to 42%, or 36% in total, while the split and sweep rates were 48% and 16%, respectively. Interestingly, those percentages resemble the breakdown of the franchise’s all-time record in doubleheaders (first pie chart above). However, if compared to just the last 10 years’ worth of doubleheaders, those rates come up short. Since 2002, the team has swept 10 of 23 doubleheaders (43%), and been swept only once (4%).
By just about every measure, the Yankees have performed above and beyond their normal rate of success when playing two games in one day. What’s more, their level of dominance extends to every opponent. The Yankees have swept every team against which they have played a twin bill more often than they’ve been swept. In fact, only the Tigers come close to evening the score with the Yankees in doubleheaders.
Ernie Banks may have been Mr. Cub, but when it comes to doubleheaders, the Yankees are the team to beat. Instead of dreading when mother natures forces one onto the schedule, perhaps the Yankees should try to schedule more?