Will Kevin Long be the sacrificial lamb?

For those of us who watch almost every game, the entire 2014 season has been a series of games with one common theme: A total lack of offense. A full fifty of the team's games have featured a lineup that scored two runs or less. That is a full 31% of a season's games, never mind that the season isn't over yet. In contrast, the Orioles (congratulations) have had five such games. Fifty...five. With a disappointing season following an active off season big with the check book, who will pay the price for such a performance? Will it be the hitting coach, Kevin Long? Should it be?

Let's look at some more putrid numbers. In the Yankees' last seven days, they have registered the following triple slash line: .174/.244/.284 with a .201 average on balls in play. Take that same slash line over the last fourteen days: .194/.256/.321 with a .220 BABIP. Take it even further to the last 28 days: .228/.290/.373 with a .254 BABIP. Those are exceptionally bleak numbers. To show a little perspective on how bad those numbers are, Brendan Ryan's lifetime batting average and on-base percentage (.236, .297) are higher than what the entire team has done in the last 28 days.

The Yankees have a .693 OPS with runners in scoring position this season. They have a season OPS of .587 with runners in scoring position with two outs. The team has a .618 OPS in games that are "Late and close."  The team has a .660 OPS in high leverage situations. They have a .629 OPS against "Power pitchers."  The 2014 Yankees have a .670 OPS against teams with less than a winning record.

The list goes on and on. Every time our own Katie Sharp tweets a statistic, it shows something the Yankees are doing that is the worst since 1990 or 1991. The offense is as brutal as anything we have imagined.

Add to this picture the constant talk about the Yankees not adjusting to shifts and other pitching or defensive strategies put in place against them. Yankee batters have hit the ball in play to the opposite field only 15.5% of the time. Compare that to the Orioles who have done so at an 18% pace. You can somewhat understand lefty batters trying to hit the ball to the Yankees' short porch, but the 15.5% is exactly the same for lefty batters and those from the right side.

This leads me (and a lot of other people) to thinking that the Yankees simply refuse to fight or adjust to the strategies employed against them. This failure ultimately falls on the manager and general manager for not forcing the issue to adjust or sit. Hey, the bosses are in charge and ultimately responsible for performance of any team. But the focus will be squarely on Kevin Long as he is the hitting coach.

Before we get into Long's case, a minute here will be taken to discuss what probably won't happen. I doubt that Brian Cashman will be forced out. He may walk out, but he won't be forced. I could be wrong, but his moves in the off season were good ones that just didn't pan out. And most of his trade deadline (or after) pickups worked quite well with the exception of Stephen Drew and Esmil Rogers.

Whether the Steinbrenners stick with Cashman or not will be much in speculation until a decision is made by both parties.

Joe Girardi will be off the hook. It is perceived that for the last two season, he has done as well as can be expected in making lemonade from lemons. According to run differential, the Yankees have won five more games than what would normally be expected. The team was six over in that category last year. While there is an occasional complaint in how Girardi manages a game, I would think he would be safe.

That brings us to Kevin Long. What would be the case against Kevin Long other than the numbers I've already provided? Let's list them whether the criticisms are fair or not:

  • How many players brought in by the Yankees from other teams actually become better hitters with the Yankees? There was a half season of Curtis Granderson before he sank again in a mire of strikeouts. Who else? Part of this can be explained by the Yankees' penchant for bringing in older players who are past their primes (their baseball cards, so to speak). But a case can be made here.
  • The failed experiment with Derek Jeter at the start of the 2011 season that was reversed when Jeter spent a couple of weeks in Tampa with someone else. That scenario seemed to repeat itself with the failed Brian McCann crouch-more-and-stop-the-toe-tap jingle from earlier this season. McCann improved when he simply went back to his old ways.
  • The lack of offensive development by young players called up to the Yankees who failed to make any impact. Zoilo Almonte, Zelous Wheeler and others seem to fit this category.
  • The lack of an offensive strategy when facing particular starting pitchers. Obviously data is available for pitchers the team faces on a regular basis, but far too often those same pitchers get the batters out the same way from start to start. Too many of the batters seem to be guessing and guess wrong on fastballs down the heart of the plate that go by harmlessly. Batters should have a plan of attack, not be up there guessing.

All of those are points of debate and, like I said, may be fair or unfair. After all, the batters are the ones who have to make it happen and go up and hit. Perhaps it is not Kevin Long's fault the Yankees bring in pull hitters that dominate their signings.

Is it a positive that the players put Kevin Long in a guru-type position and believe in him so strongly (Jeter being an exception)? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You would think that a player believing in a coach would be a good thing.

And how much influence does a coach have when all things are said and done? Like a manager, how do you measure such things? It comes down to how the players play.

The season has been a disappointment. You can point to injuries. You can point to flaws in how the team was structured. You can point to a perceived lack of development from the minor leagues. Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi may or may not share some responsibility. But when I polled my colleagues in our inter-email system, the one response that resonated was: "Negative infinity chance Long survives this.  He's the easiest scapegoat of the bunch and somebody has to take the fall for the terrible offense.  He's the best fit."

I guess I could have just used that line to summarize the entire post and saved all that typing. Fair or not, deserved or not, Kevin Long cannot possibly survive the season the Yankees have put together in 2014.