The Yankees lost badly to the Blue Jays last night for the second straight night, dropping a 7-1 decision one night after being mauled 16-7 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score (they gave up 8 in the first inning). I don’t want to talk about that, though if it continues I will certainly have to.
What I want to talk about instead is that, with those losses, the Yankees fall to 27-31 in games played at night, while they are 26-5 in games played in the daytime. This is certainly a remarkable split, and likely the result of pure chance, but the split is wide enough to warrant at least a cursory closer look.
Conventional wisdom is that daylight favors the hitters. They see the ball better, and theoretically it carries better, as well, so that historically batting averages, home run totals, runs scored: all go up in the daytime compared to night baseball. I don’t have data to verify this, and may not do the research, but it stands to reason.
Sure enough, the Yankees as a team have a line of .278/.356/.485/841 in day baseball, with only .248/.330/.421/751 at night. What appears to be mostly at fault here is the batting average, which accounts for 60 of the 90 point drop in OPS.
The biggest culprit appears to be Jeter: at night he is hitting a Mendoza-like .235/.290/.282/572 – a terrible line even for a super-slick fielding shortstop, which (sad to say) Jeter is clearly not. Not only shouldn’t he be leading off, he clearly shouldn’t be playing at all. Under the sun, though, his line is a wee bit better: .345/.414/.512/926. Wow! That looks like a Hall-of-Fame player in his prime, even at DH. To post such a line as a shortstop, well, it is MVP territory and beyond.
So I thought maybe age: perhaps OLD eyes don’t see the ball at night. So who is the young stud on the Yankees? Brett Gardner. Oops: Day .330/.414/.454/868 Night .240/.316/.371/688. Not quite as bad as Jeter, but quite a split.
Then there is the pitching. Of course the pitchers’ record is 26-5, but what about the ERA? Maybe they are winning all those games because they are hitting so well? Not so fast: the TEAM ERA in Day games is 2.68, while at night it is 4.03! The two minor-league deals are the most dramatic: Freddy Garcia is 4-1 1.57 in the daylight and 3-6 5.12 at night, and Bartolo Colon is 4-1 2.04 under the Sun and 2-4 4.39 under the lights.
Is this split real? I don’t know, of course. Statistically it could still be chance, though that chance is getting smaller. It doesn’t meet the 99% standard most statisticians use (that is, there is more than a 1% chance that it is random luck), but that 26-5 record is the best of the past 55 years, and tied for the best ever since the widespread introduction of lights.
What does it mean? Well, I worry about the fact that almost 100% of the postseason is played at night. Uh-oh!