It’s less than a week into the season, but the Yankees already seem to have a bit of a problem. No, it’s not the injury problem, which is a huge problem obviously, it’s the fact that this team continues to struggle with leaving men on base. Left on base (LOB) is when a baserunner is stranded on base at the end of the inning. This includes a batter who hits into a fielder’s choice.
Through five games this year, the Yankees rank 29th in all of baseball with an average of 9.4 men left on base per game. They trail only the Pittsburgh Pirates. And remember that’s against two pretty bad teams in the Orioles and Tigers. The left on base numbers for each game so far have been 8, 11, 14, 6 and 10. As a point of reference, the average left on base number for major league baseball last season was 6.8.
This isn’t a new problem. The last several years the Yankees have struggled with leaving men on base. In 2016 and 2018 the team was middle of the pack ranking 17th and 16th with 6.83 and 6.77 average men left of base per game. In 2017 they were dead last in baseball with an average of 7.23 men left on base. As the team has continued to rely on the home run and suffer from the strikeout, their left on base numbers have stayed fairly high. Heck, they broke the home run record last season after crushing 267 bombs. Yet they were also ranked 22nd with 8.73 strikeouts per game. When you feast or famine like that, you’re going to naturally strand a number of runners.
To push this further the Yankees have put a total of 66 runners on base so far this year. They’ve left 49 of them on base. That means they’re leaving a whopping 74 percent of their base runners on base. That, my friends, is really terrible.
Now sure, getting men on base to begin with is important. The worst teams might not even be getting men on base to then leave them on. But the best baseball teams are going to find a way to score runners once they’ve reached base. Yes, not all the time, but certainly at a higher clip than the Yankees are currently achieving.
What makes this all worse is that one of the team’s best contact hitters, Miguel Andujar, is lost for an extended period of time (if not the season). DJ LeMahieu is a worthy replacement, at least as far as contact is concerned, but the Yankees are going to need more if they want to avoid relying too heavily on the home run and thus leading to stranding men on base.