First of all, hitting with RISP isn’t a skill. You can’t teach someone to hit with RISP because a batter has no control of the runners who are in scoring position in the first place. There’s not a magic button a player who struggles with RISP can push to turn themselves into someone who can hit with RISP. Usually guys have to be in the right place at the right time to hit with RISP. They also have to be mentally prepared. That's how I see it anyway.
The Yankees hit .234 (11-47) in last year’s ALDS against the Tigers, including a sub-par 2-9 in the final game of the series, and right in the middle of those RISP failures was Nick Swisher. Swisher is a guy who has always struggled with RISP, as he’s a career .236 hitter (though he has a .376 OBP) in RISP situations. He’s even worse in the postseason as he’s hit .031 (1 for 31) with RISP. Is it bad luck? Is he just facing tough pitching? Is it mental? For me, I think it’s mental, and so does Swisher. Swisher recently hired a mental coach to help him out in that department, and maybe it winds up paying dividends. Read the story HERE.
Derek Jeter, on the other hand, comes off as a guy who is mentally strong. I’m not saying Swisher isn’t mentally strong, but Jeter isn’t a guy who gets too amped up like Swisher does in the big moments, which could be why Jeter is a career .302 hitter with RISP. Saying he’s more discipline than Swisher would be fairer, though being discipline comes from being mentally tough. Being mentally tough doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll hit with RISP, however. You need to be in the right place at the right time, and you need to get a good pitch to hit. Being mentally prepared is just all a part of the process. As Yogi Berra says, “90% of the game is half mental.”
So far this season the Yankees are hitting .228 (8-35) with RISP, and while it’s a small sample, fans are already worrying (though I’m sure some of you are less worried after Monday’s 3-10 showing against the Orioles), but fear not. Last year the Yankees had the fifth highest batting average in the American League with RISP, believe it or not, checking in at .273. The 2009 World Series Champion Yankees hit .272 with RISP, also good for fifth. Those numbers may not sound great, but they can certainly be a lot worse.
The Yankees and their supposed problems with RISP may be a bit overblown. I know there are going to be those games where the Yankees go 2-13 with RISP and lose by a couple of runs, it’s inevitable. Why is it inevitable? Because that’s how baseball is, it’s a 162 game season and crap happens over the course of a 162 game season, even to the best of teams. There are also going to be those games where the Yankees go 10-18 with RISP and win a game by a wide margin, it happens. Again, hitting with RISP isn’t a skill, you can’t teach it. You have to be a little lucky. You have to be in the right place at the right time, you need to get a good pitch to hit and you have to be mentally prepared.
--Jesse Schindler, BYB Lead Staff Writer
Follow me on Twitter @SchindlerJesse
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