Sure, the Yankees hit a lot of home runs, but if you want to look at the real key to their success this season, look no further than their ability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP).
As a team, the Yankees are hitting an incredible .305 with RISP. For the season, the team is hitting .267. Can you believe that? The Yankees are actually hitting better with RISP than they are overall. The clutch switch has most certainly been flipped on. That batting average with RISP leads the majors right now with Colorado a close second at .303. But nobody else is even close to that. The next highest team is Minnesota who’s hitting .281.
Compare that to last season, where the Yankees hit just .253 with RISP. And to think that team won 100 games. The 2017 Yankees hit .261 with RISP. There’s been a huge jump this year.
So who are contributing the most? Well, it shouldn’t surprise anybody but The Machine, aka DJ LeMahieu, has been just that with RISP. In players that have a minimum of 50 plate appearances with RISP, LeMahieu leads the majors with a .473 batting average (along with an excellent though not league-leading .494 OBP and .703 slugging percentage). For those who aren’t great at math, that means he basically gets a hit every other time he bats with a runner on at least second base. People want to start making an MVP case for him? That’s a pretty good place to start.
For a good portion of last season, only Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres were hitting well with RISP. That success has carried over into this season. Torres is hitting .400/.427/.769 with runners in scoring position this season including 7 home runs and 3 doubles. Judge, though in a still fairly small sample size of 28 plate appearances, is hitting very similar to that with a slash line of .412/.593/.765. Fans love Judge and Torres, and their clutch hitting continues to be a big reason why.
But the truth is basically every Yankee has been hitting well with RISP — a fact that just wasn’t true in past seasons. Outside of small sample sizes from Didi Gregorius and Edwin Encarnacion, every Yankee is hitting at least .267 (Aaron Hicks) with RISP. One of the best batting averages with RISP has been fan favorite Gio Urshela at .377. And though he doesn’t hit for power, his slugging percentage is less than 40 points higher than his average, he continues to put the ball in play with RISP. It’s a circular lineup, and when everyone is hitting well, you don’t need all nine hitters putting on a power display.
So if it feels like these guys keep coming up with big hit after hit, it’s because they are. It’s a ton of fun to watch. Sure, the Yankees still need better starting pitching, but this is a big reason why this team looks to have separated themselves from last year’s squad, and why they’re 5.5 up on Tampa Bay and a whopping 10 games up on last year’s World Series Champion Red Sox.