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Bullpen Day Thrives, Yanks top Rays 4-1

Entering the last week of the regular season the Yankees opened a four-game set Monday night in the always dreaded trip to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees came into tonight sitting one and a half games (two in the loss column) above the Oakland A’s for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card game. Aaron Boone decided to go with a “bullpen day” tonight instead of giving the ball to a typical starter.

The team with “plenty of time” has plenty to worry about heading into the season’s final stretch of games


I get it. The Yankees are a 90-win team and only need to go 10-6 in their last 16 games to win 100 games, a feat accomplished just over 100 times since 1892. There are 20+ fanbases in the sport that have it worse off than the Yankees, and it is a very feasible argument that if it wasn’t for the Red Sox historic success, the skepticism surrounding the Bronx Bombers would be minimal.
Photo Credit: Newsday


However, as a fan of a ball club with immense talent and expectations, watching this team play essentially .500 baseball (46-40) over their last 86 games has been a tough pill to swallow. The Yankees have potentially a league best offense and bullpen, and an above average rotation, yet seemingly never win comfortably and have had their fair share of mind-blowing implosions. The Yankees have managed to see their division race hopes transform into a one-game margin between them hosting the Wild Card Game for the second consecutive season and having to hear the Oakland A’s beat their drums in California on October 3rd.

I like to use the Yankees’ August series with Boston as a metaphor for how they have played for over half of the season, unbelievably below expectations and tough to watch on a nightly basis. The Yankees’ downfall is scary and worrisome for many reasons.

This sudden dip in performance has proven to be sustainable as they have been a middle-of-the-pack baseball team for a good portion of three months. This team started the season as the clear-cut best team in the sport. The Red Sox were a solid baseball team, but the Yankees were labeled as historically great and as early World Series favorites. They were a surging team even though, Stanton, Sanchez, Walker, and Bird struggled out of the gate, and they had lost one of their starters, Jordan Montgomery, for the season due to Tommy John Surgery. All signs pointed to the Yankees running away with the division come the dog days of summer and the Red Sox having to play in a one-game playoff to prolong their season. However, the exact opposite scenario has occurred, the Red Sox proved the non-believers wrong and have come out as the better baseball team, despite, what I would still die on a hill arguing for, inferior talent. 

The Yankees went from winning virtually every series they play in to getting swept by Boston in the most important series of the season, splitting series with the Marlins and Tigers, and to losing series to the Twins, White Sox, Rays, and A's in a span of a month. 

The Yankees lack of success for a good part of the season rests on a foundation of under-performance, injury, and poor decision making, which is a recipe for disaster. The team has been plagued with injuries, which is a fair excuse for their decreased success, but with only Judge and Chapman shelved, the Yankees still do not look any better than they did since July. Here are a few notable on going skids on the team:

Sanchez: 6-35, .640 OPS
Stanton: 8-71, .449 OPS
Gardner: 31-146, .621 OPS
Hicks: 11-55, .679 OPS
McCutchen: 5-36, .716 OPS
Bird: 12-96 .438, OPS
Torres: 7-34 .576, OPS
Severino: 6.34 ERA last 12 starts
Lynn: 7.66 ERA last 5 starts
Sabathia: 4.47 ERA last 10 starts
Cole: 6.28 ERA last 11 games

Six members of the proclaimed second coming of murderer’s row have been either below average or just plain atrocious hitters for an extended period of time. Bird has seen his playing time cease in favor of Luke Voit, but Stanton continues to put Shane Robinson-like numbers up in the middle of the Yankees’ order. Severino and Lynn have been rocked for two-and-a-half-months and one month respectively, and the Yankees finally learned AJ Cole was not the answer as he has only pitched in one September game. While these are just skids over the past month or so, with the exception of Severino, Bird, and Gardner, these types of funks have been way too common for the Yankees this season and have cost them in the long-run.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Defense and baserunning have also not been kind to the Yankees for a good part of this season. Sanchez had one of the most disastrous innings of catching, I had ever seen in Oakland, Andujar still scares me whenever he double clutches at third, Torres continues to make his fair share of errors at second base, and the team as a whole as been picked off and thrown out trying to get an advantage on the bases too many times to count. These problems aren't as glaring as the offense and pitching, but the fact that a miscue could cost the Yankees their season, is still a troubling thought. 

This is not the quality of play the Yankees can go into the Wild Card game with. The Wild Card Game bound A’s aren’t the regular season Orioles or Tigers, the Yankees cannot afford to have hitting, base running, fielding, and pitching miscues and still come out with a victory. The A’s are trending positively, with their entire team clicking on all cylinders. Just in the Yankees and Athletics series alone, it was quite evident how explosive their offense is as a unit and how lockdown their bullpen is. A Yankees’ team coming into either Oakland or the Bronx struggling on both sides of the ball spells danger.

With this struggle, has come no sense of urgency. This is why Sonny Gray started baseball games for so long, why Shane Robinson became an everyday player on a perennial contender, why postgame interview after postgame interview made everyone grit their teeth and ask themselves how the “past Yankees” would react to the same type of adversity, and why the "there's always tomorrow mentality" is not always the best mindset. Sure, Brian Cashman went out and acquired JA Happ, Zach Britton, Lance Lynn, Luke Voit, Andrew McCutchen, and Adeiny Hechavarria to improve the team, but the Yankees are only four games above .500 since the July 31st Trade Deadline and two games below .500 since the August 31st waiver deadline. It’s not that the players Cashman acquired weren’t improvement from their predecessors, the team just has not played better consistently, and this is very concerning. Maybe the team knows something that the fans don’t, or they’re just overly confident, despite a lack of results to back it up, but they don’t seem worried that their currently projected to face the red-hot Oakland Athletics in Oakland as essentially a mediocre .500 team.

However, there is still theoretically “plenty of time” to get things right as David Robertson suggested with 16 games left to play. Judge and Chapman are going to be back before the season subsides, a majority of the Yankees players can only improve on their lackluster stat lines, and the adrenaline of a tight-race may light a fire under this team, or Boone can just demonstrate how to frame baseballs to an umpire again. Here’s what I believe needs to happen in the next two weeks to right the ship and put the Yankees in the best position possible to not only have home field advantage for the Wild Card Game, but to win that game and try to advance even further into the postseason:
  • Judge needs to come back and hopefully his mere presence revolutionizes the lineup
  • Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit cannot carry this offense on a nightly basis, they need some help
  • Luis Severino needs to build on last night’s performance, not the fact he was taken out prematurely.
  • JA Happ and Masahiro Tanaka must continue to be the two most dependent starters on the team
  • No more spot starts for Sonny Gray
  • Stop punting games when there’s only a two-run deficit. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Every game matters. 
  • Develop the killer instinct, stop sugarcoating everything in interviews, and show some life. The Yankees must start displaying a do-or-die attitude. 
I believe in this baseball team and think they have not even sniffed their full potential on the diamond, however, I would be lying if I wasn’t a little worried for what’s to come, and it'd be foolish for the Yankees to think everything is fine and dandy. Sometimes knowing where you stand and acknowledging your issues is the first step to finding a solution. 

Article by: Ryan Thoms

Comments

  1. The analytics have killed the drive of this team.

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