BBB weighs in: State of the Yankees at the All-Star Break

With the All Star Game upon us tonight, the writers of Bronx Bomber Ball decided to give their input on the state of the Yankees plus look ahead to the second half and improvements that can be made to cement this team as a surefire World Series contender. 

Photo Credit: Major League Baseball

Alex Weir

What a weird, amazing, slightly annoying, and overall, unbelievably surprising season this has been. We weren’t even sure if there would BE a season six months ago, and here we are watching the Yankees put forth the most wins they’ve ever had pre-All Star break in their history. Not too shabby. I will keep my thoughts brief, so everyone else isn’t just repeating what I say…

Easily the most impressive thing about this team is their resilience; they really have only been blown out one time this year back in Minnesota. Other than that, they always feel like they have a fighting chance, and most of the time it pays off. This is mostly why the last week or so, before the last two slaughterings of the Red Sox Saturday and Sunday, was so difficult. Losing a game to the Pirates, two to the Red Sox, two to the Reds, and then another to the Sox at home was not the ideal plan, and it stung even more because the Yankees had chances to win basically every one of those games except the Pittsburgh one. Bullpen struggles and the classic RISP fails led to the first real slump of the season, which was tough, and led to a lot of speculation as to whether the Yankees really were as good as their record indicated. 

Even though they bounced back against the Sox, the upcoming doubleheader in Houston may be the most important day of the season. The Astros are the only team so far that the Yanks have struggled against: they are 2-3 against them, and had it not been for a couple of late rallies, they could be 0-5. If the Yanks can go in and look…competent…against their main competition in the AL, everyone will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. 

Oh, also, Matty Mustache forever. Long live Matt Carpenter.

 

Mary Grace Donaldson

The last few days leading into the All-Star break have been a roller-coaster of emotions for Yankees fans.  Yes, the Yankees are 64-28.  Yes, they have a 13-game lead.  Yes, no one else in the division has fewer than 30 losses.  The Yankees have no excuses to not win the A.L. East -- except, of course, they rest on their laurels and get complacent.  As fans, we can certainly celebrate (especially after the past two victories against the Red Sox) but we also cannot rest on our laurels. 

There are a few notable issues, and in a previous version of this take, I pointed out that the Yankees had a Jameson Taillon problem.  However, based on his most recent performance against the Red Sox, the Taillon problem might not be as glaring as it seemed.  Taillon went six innings, allowed only two hits and struck out five.  That’s not to say that the Yankees shouldn’t look to add a starting pitcher at the deadline, what with Sevy hurt, but all it took was one quality start for Taillon for me have more confidence in him.

Of course, the Yankees also have a Joey Gallo problem.  Turn on any program related to New York sports -- be it TV, radio or podcast -- and someone will be screaming about Gallo's uselessness.  However, thanks to the offensive efforts of (most notably) Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Carpenter and Gleyber Torres, coupled with the massive division lead, the Joey Gallo problem is almost hidden.  Key word: almost.  He’s not hurting the team, but he’s also not helping.  A two-run home run in the seventh inning when the Yankees are already leading 11-2 is not a home run that’s going to help the team.  On the season, Gallo is hitting .164, with 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and a whopping 98 strikeouts.  If the Yankees’ position in terms of record and standings were different, Gallo would be hurting the team.  The only other piece to the Gallo situation is that it is exacerbated by the fact that Miguel Andujar keeps returning to AAA to leave room for Gallo on the Yankees' roster.  If I were Miggy, I'd request a trade too. 

The problems of needing a starter, as well as Joey Gallo’s performance, are highly specific.  Overall, the Yankees have shown weaknesses prior to this past Saturday and Sunday, especially with RISP (almost like the RISP problem of seasons past has returned).  The offense can run hot and cold.  The bullpen is missing a few due to injury but also has some unreliable performers -- Aroldis Chapman chief among them.  And, historically, the Yankees can get complacent.  Complacency will be their downfall if they choose to have a downfall at all.  The loss to the Reds on July 12 was not all on Clay Holmes; it was also on the offense as they couldn't score more than three runs against one of the worst teams in MLB.

Winning the series this past weekend against the Red Sox showed me, at least, that these Yankees are not the 2021 Yankees and are not looking to rest on their laurels in complacency.  They came back from a lousy series against the Reds, a rare Clay Holmes implosion, a Michael King wild pitch, three straight days of extra innings and a game they only won because of a wild pitch, to defeat their storied rivals 14-1 and 13-2.  They won a series against the Red Sox, a task they failed to complete in the last Red Sox series.  The 2021 Yankees wouldn’t have realized that there was nowhere to go but up.  These Yankees did.

Heading into the All-Star break: if the Yankees can keep up the overall level of play that they’ve displayed all season so far, they have no reason to not find themselves in the postseason. 

 

Andrew Natalizio

Oh how a few days of bludgeoning the Boston Red Sox can change your tone!  72 hours ago I was NOT a happy camper, convinced this team was headed for regression, following an ugly extra-innings lost to the Sox, the fifth loss in six games for the Yankees.  They went 2-for-15 with RISP in the ballgame. They played sloppy on both ends of the ball.  They hit into four double plays.  It was our third straight loss to them after establishing a firm tone in the first two games of last week’s series at Fenway.  But then the bats woke up and everything feels normal again.  Jamo returned to his early season dominance. Cole shoved on Sunday. All is well and good in Yankeeland at the All-Star break.

On the whole, there’s really not much I can say about this team that hasn’t already been stated at nauseum. They’re awesome. They do so many things well.  They are crushing the rest of the competition in the AL East. And they still have the trade deadline ahead to fill some holes in the roster. They have short periods of ugly play but have responded well every single time. They have a mental grittiness that so many teams of prior years lacked. 

But before we continue to gush over this team, let’s just all agree that Joey Gallo has no place on a winning baseball team, and perhaps not in Major League Baseball at all. Okay, got that one out of the way. Next.

The Yankees suffered an unfortunate string of personnel losses late in the first half, sending relievers Ron Marinaccio and Miguel Castro to the IL. The Mooch should be back soon, Castro will be shut down for a month. The worst injury of the bunch, however, was that to Luis Severino who finally looked to be finding some long-term health and success.  The prognosis on his lat strain is that it’s minor and he should be back to throwing in a few weeks.  If anything, this minor injury will help limit his innings in 2022 and keep him fresh for October when we need him the most.

Let’s talk about Matty Mustache, though.  Outside of Aaron Judge’s MVP pace in the first half, Matt Carpenter, picked up off the street, might be the best story of the season for the Yankees.  He’s done nothing but mash (.354/.469/.911; 13 HRs, 34 RBIs plus an absurd 286 OPS+) since his arrival in May and he’s cemented his spot on the roster.  He’ll also be in the conversation for CPOY at the end of the season. We stan Matt Carp.

The Yankees enter the break at a ridiculous 64-28, 13.0 games ahead of their next closest divisional opponent (Tampa), and in addition to owning the best record in baseball, they also  lead the league in run differential, runs per game, runs allowed per game, home runs, team OPS and team WAR (h/t @nyyankeesstats on Twitter).  

The only thing left to prove this year (outside of a championship, obviously)  is clinching the best overall record in the AL, thus securing home field advantage throughout the postseason, Judge perhaps earning his first career MVP award, and putting the finishing touches on the roster ahead of the August 2 Trade Deadline.  Gallo’s gone for sure, but the Yankees could stand to add pitching depth, both in the rotation and the bullpen (although the returns of Loaisiga and Chapman plus pending return of German and Britton will help there) and perhaps make a big swing at - dare I say it - Juan Soto? 

 

Matthew Luzzi 

Sometimes, it is fun being wrong. Laughably wrong at that. During Spring Training, I was about as negative as you could be about this team. My prediction for their win total was somewhere around 80, as I truly thought they would finish 4th in the AL East. Oh how stupid was I.

The Yankees are having their best regular season in 20 years, and we have all been pleasantly surprised to be so wrong about this group. Between the big time power hitters we have, (three guys with 20+ home runs and that’s not including Matt “Babe” Carpenter) our stellar starting pitching, (all five starters in first half stayed healthy and had ERA’s below 4) or something as simple as being one of the worst defensive teams in baseball last year to being one of the best this year…you really have to tip your cap to this Yankees front office. While most of the fan base was begging them to make a splash this past offseason, they made smaller moves that they believed would improve the team and trusted in the roster they already had. Props to them. 

However, with all that being said, we know what it is: it’s still World Series or bust, and whether the Yanks win 120 games in the regular season or 90, none of this means anything without that ring, and if there was ever a year to end this drought we’ve been on, this has got to be it. 

It will be interesting to see how big of a splash the Yanks will make at the deadline. With Sevy going down to injury and the bullpen being pretty decimated at the moment, it is safe to expect a new face or two in the clubhouse by the end of the month, the question remains how ambitious they will get and how willing they are to unload some top prospects. 

Regardless, this has been an amazing team to watch all season and I can’t wait for the second half, as this team gets thrown right back into the fire with a seven-game road trip with two vs Houston, three against the red hot O’s, and a two game Subway series set at Citi Field. Buckle up folks, we’ve got a long way to go before October.

 

Christian DeMoro

There isn’t much that’s been left unsaid, so I’ll keep this simple. 36 games above .500. 13 game lead in the AL East. 4.5 over Houston for the #1 seed. We’re talking state of the Yankees? I’d say it’s pretty damn good.

I didn’t include their run differential in the intro because it deserves its own spotlight. You see +199 and you just have to laugh. To put it into perspective, the Dodgers sit in second at +169 and no one else has +100. Not the Astros, not the Mets – no one. While it is a testament to how solid this offense has generally been (outside of a few cold spells), the pitching staff has been effective in ways you could not have imagined heading into the season.

Outside of Cole and maybe Monty, there was no sure thing in the rotation, and you’d have been lying to say otherwise. Severino effectively hadn’t pitched since 2018 (18 regular season innings), Taillon was coming off his highest workload since 2018 and has had no shortage of injury issues himself, and while Nestor was a great story last year, it was FAR from certain that he’d be anything close to that again. Remarkably, all five have thrown over 85 innings and head to the break with sub-4 ERAs, and Cole and Nestor have even found themselves representing in Los Angeles.

We’re halfway through the season and every week this team finds a new way to blow my mind. Clay Holmes has been the AL’s best reliever. Jose Trevino, acquired for pennies just before Opening Day, is an All-Star. Matt Carpenter is putting up RBI stats we haven’t seen since Gehrig and DiMaggio? Pure chaos in the Bronx. Yes, it ain’t over till it’s over (World Series or bust), but I am certainly enjoying the ride.


Matt Graziano

Coming out of one of the most thoroughly unenjoyable seasons I can remember, and out of an off-season that produced seemingly nothing but bad news through an ongoing, bitter labor dispute, the Yankees have surprised us all.

The 2022 Yankees' season to date is as polar opposite from their 2021 campaign as can be. From the offensively inept and one dimensional 2021 team, the 2022 Yankees are a dominant offensive force and very sound defensively. We've seen the departures of guys like Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez and the moves made to inject a variety of skill sets into their offense and defense are paying off. Jose Trevino earned an All-Star appearance and has been a revelation defensively. The return of Gleyber Torres to 2nd Base, a full season of Anthony Rizzo and the flexibility of DJ LeMahieu have greatly improved the Yankees infield defense from a year ago. Trevino and Kyle Higashioka have teamed behind the plate to control teams attempts to run on the Yankees, while the Yankees seemingly run wild on opponents. 

Something that has carried over from seasons past has been the improvement of the pitching staff under Matt Blake, who has guided this group to the top-3 of the league in team ERA and overseen the emergence of improbable contributors like All-Star Nestor Cortes Jr. While they are somewhat banged up and fatigued at the break, this group will be a strength and advantage for the Yankees in most matchups. While the recent injury to Luis Severino is concerning, the returns of Zack Britton and Domingo German could provide a shot in the arm. The Yankees may look to add more arms still at the deadline

The Yankees offense has been a dominant group this year. It is undoubtedly being led by the MVP campaign of Aaron Judge but they boast a top 6 in their lineup that will be a problem for most teams to keep up with. While Joey Gallo has been a miserable failure, Aaron Hicks has had a bit of a resurgence to make himself a useful player again. The spectacular and improbable rise of Matt Carpenter has been so much fun to watch and him along with Hicks have likely ended Gallo's tenure in NY. In addition to Judge, Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton have each crossed the 20-homer mark and give the Yankees a dangerous 3 headed power combo in the middle of their lineup. Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa have been somewhat disappointing but have not hamstrung the team to this point and could be replaced internally if need be (Oswald Peraza 👀).

While the Yankees appeared to be coasting into the break a bit, they reminded us in their last two outings, that they have a gear that most teams simply cannot reach. Following a disappointing loss to the Red Sox, they responded with back-to-back demolitions to end the first half on a high note. The Yankees stand 13 games clear of 2nd place in the AL East and have afforded themselves a cushion that will allow them to get healthy and begin fine tuning and locking in for the stretch run. With some possible injury returns and trade deadline acquisitions on the horizon, it's possible the Yankees get even better soon and while that's undoubtedly exciting, this team will be judged by what they do in the playoffs. For the best team in baseball, it's been a tremendously successful first half and it's time to put up or shut up.



 

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