First half thoughts and notes regarding the New York Yankees

All MLB teams are off until Friday, which leaves two full days of nothing after the All-Star Game. In regards to the Yankees, I have some thoughts following their first half performance:
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The Yankees are contenders, but they could also be sellers

During the first two months of the season, the Yankees were on fire. On June 12, they were 38-23 and rolling, coming off of a sweep of the Orioles and winning the first game of a series against the Angels in Anaheim. The offense was unstoppable, the starting pitching outside of Masahiro Tanaka was reliable, and the bullpen was solid. Since then? They’re 6-18. That’s not good. The offense fell back down to Earth, the starting pitching has been okay but not great, and the bullpen has been a train wreck. This is legitimate slump that the Yanks need to get out of if they want to continue to contend. If they can right the ship, great! Go out and get some relievers, maybe a starter, a first baseman, and go win the AL East pennant. If they can’t end the slump, however, then they should consider selling. See what teams are willing to offer on Brett Gardner, Starlin Castro, CC Sabathia, and Matt Holliday. The first few weeks of the second half may just be the most important weeks of the 2017 season.
Photo via Adam Hunger of USA Today Sports
Pretty much every position has performed differently from expectations

At the end of spring training, the expectations of the Yankees were that the starting pitching would be shaky, the bullpen would be a strength, the outfield would be okay but not great, and the infield would be solid. However, just the opposite has taken place. With the exception of Tanaka’s struggles, the rotation has been solid behind new ace Luis Severino, breakout rookie Jordan Montgomery, and Sabathia’s continued resurgence. Michael Pineda was lights out at the beginning of the year, but has fallen back down to earth. Even then though, the rotation has been much better than expected.

The bullpen has been terrible the last month or so, however. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman have struggled, and Tyler Clippard looks out of gas. Rookies such as Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, and Tyler Webb have been okay but not great, and Adam Warren has been decent but injured. The lone bright spot has been the emergence of Chad Green, who has been pitching in relief most of the season and has been lights out.

The outfield, meanwhile, has been by far the strongest position for the Yankees. Three of their top four players in bWAR are outfielders: Aaron Judge (5.3), Aaron Hicks (2.8), and Brett Gardner (2.4). Keep in mind that Hicks has compiled 2.8 bWAR even though he’s missed three weeks with an oblique injury. The emergence of him and Judge has been a huge addition to the Yankees offense, and should continue to be in the future.

Finally, the infield has been…interesting. Aside from missing time with injuries, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have broken out with fantastic seasons. Castro is an All-Star, and Didi was on the Final Vote ballot, for what it’s worth. The corners are a different story, however. Chase Headley began the year with a blistering April, hitting .301/.402/.494, but then regressed to hit just .165/.211/.235 in May. June and July have been pretty average for Headley, but his streakiness leave Yankees fans wondering whether upgrading at the position would be a worthwhile use of prospects. And finally, first base has been downright awful. After his scorching hot Spring Training, Greg Bird went just 6-60 with one homer and 22 strikeouts before going on the DL with an ankle injury. His replacement, Chris Carter, racked up a whopping 76 strikeouts in 208 at bats, which ultimately led to his DFA (twice). Tyler Austin went on the DL after just 13 at bats, and current first baseman Ji-Man Choi isn’t much of a long term solution. Something needs to be done about first base, whether it’s a healthy Bird or an outside option, if the Yankees want to contend.
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No matter the outcome, 2017 will have been much more fun than 2016

2016 was not a good year for the Yankees. The first half was full of underperforming veterans, injuries, and a whole lot of boring games where nothing too interesting happened. The second half was much better, due to the emergence of Gary Sanchez, but the team still struggled and was not able to make the playoffs. 2017 has been a different story. Even with the teams recent struggles, this season has been full of young, exciting players such as Sanchez, Judge, Severino, Montgomery, Clint Frazier, etc. TEN rookies have made their major league debut, and all have contributed in some way. The long awaited youth movement is in full swing and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Article by: Alex Weir


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