Woof, that was a rough weekend. I did not enjoy watching either of those baseball games – and, on top of that, Luis Severino got hurt. This Yankees season is starting to feel cursed. It really is. In any case, here are some thoughts about the state of the Yankees right now.
1. It’s Getting Late Early Around Here: The Yankees are 33-32 (.507) after 65 games, which is their worst start to a season since 2008 – and we all know how that season ended. Seasons can change fast, especially for a team as talented as the Yankees, but if that’s going to happen, it needs to happen fast. Some numbers:
- The Yanks are on an 82-win pace right now over a full season, with 97 games to go before season’s end. They have a negative run differential (-7), despite very good pitching.
- They are 8.5 games behind first place Tampa Bay (8 on the loss side).
- The Yanks cannot beat good teams: they’re 16-21 against opponents with a record above .500.
- Home field advantage has all but disappeared, as they are 17-16 in the Boogie Down.
- In order to get to 90 wins, they need to go 57-40 (.588), or a 95-win pace, the remainder of the way.
- 95 wins, which feels like the entry way into the postseason, will require a 62-35 (.639), 104-win pace the rest of the way.
- And, finally, to reach 100 wins, a threshold I thought they’d easily reach on Opening Day, they need to go 67-30 (.690), which is a 111-win pace over a full season.
All of this is to say that things are looking increasingly bleak in Yankee-land these days. Again, this is not impossible – far from it – but the sand is quickly moving to the bottom of the hourglass. It’s mid-June already, so there needs to be a sense of urgency in the Yankee clubhouse. There probably is, but this speaks for itself:
Okay, so this has all been pretty negative. There’s a lot of negativity out there in the Yankee fandom right now, so let’s end this bullet on a positive note. We’ve seen talented Yankee teams stumble out of the gate and then finish a season with ferocity. Here are two prominent examples that should hopefully give us some hope:
- 2005: 39-39 after a 10-2 loss to Detroit on July 1st. Finished 95-67, won the AL East. They went 56-29 (.658) the rest of the way.
- 2007: 23-30 after a 11-6 loss agains the Red Sox in Boston. Finished 94-68 to win the Wild Card.
Does that make this likely? Not at all. Are these Yankee teams the same as those Yankee teams? Also no. But those were also teams fans said were overpaid, over-reliant on the HR, and poorly constructed – but they were talented and turned it around. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the 2021 Yankees, who have largely the same team as the infectiously fun 2019 team, can do the same. In fact, I still expect them to do so. But if they don’t do it soon, it will likely be too late.
2. Giancarlo Stanton and the Outfield: I am very annoyed by the Yankees’ inability to use Stanton in the outfield. Come on. I know he gets hurt a lot, but he’s a professional athlete. He really can’t stand out in the outfield even once a week? This weekend was especially egregious, in my opinion, and it is a big reason why fans are so frustrated right now.
Stanton went 6-15 (.400) against the Twins with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. He was a major catalyst in an offense in a season-long malaise. Better, he actually looked like he was rounding into form after missing time to injury and being forced to rehab at the MLB level. I’m not a professional coach, but that seems like a timing thing to me. You want a guy like that to keep playing and stay in rhythm. Instead, Stanton took one (1) at-bat in Philadelphia. One.
That means that he will have taken one at-bat against live pitching in four whole days, given the off-day sandwich. Look, that is preposterous. It really is. The Yankees are scuffling and desperately need offense. They won the series against the Twins, but left frustrated after the Chapman meltdown on Thursday. The Phillies themselves are struggling, too, so it was a prime opportunity to build on success in Minnesota. Instead, one of the Yanks’ best hitters was sidelined because the Yankees refuse to treat him like a professional athlete.
The man played in the National League his entire career. He hit 59 home runs and won the MVP while playing the outfield every day. I appreciate trying to keep him healthy, obviously. But Stanton often gets hurt while swinging or at the plate. I have a hard time imagining that the outfield poses such a huge risk. And, as illustrated above, we’re at the point of the season where the Yankees need to show some urgency. Playing your best players as often as possible is the bare minimum.
3. Stop Hitting Rougned Odor Third: Please, for the love of god, please stop hitting Odor third. It’s only happened twice this season, but that’s two times too many. But that’s mostly because: 1) Judge is healthy and 2) the Yankees hit Odor new somewhere every day. Consider that Odor has started 38 games for the Yanks this season. In 13 of those, or 35%, he has hit 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. Ridiculous.
Lest we forget, Odor is not hitting. His season line is .198/.273/.389 (84 wRC+), which puts him about in line with his career averages. To be fair, it’s better than his last few seasons. That counts for something! But it should not count for a middle-of-the-order presence on the New York Yankees. I don’t care how bad the offense is.
That brings up a different, related point: they do this because he is a left-handed hitter. That’s fine. Everyone likes balance, and I get wanting to break up the order a bit. But – and this is a big but – the approach makes no sense. The Yankees have no left-handed hitters. No matter where Odor hits, many righties will precede and follow him, especially if Brett Gardner is not playing on that day. The thing about lineups is that they’re circular. It doesn’t matter if he hits 2nd or 9th.
But again, I get it. It raises a different question, though. If lefty-righty balance is so important to the Yankees – and it clearly is, given the way they’ve built lineups in 2019, 2020, and 2021 – then why is Rougned Odor your best left-handed option? Feels like the Yanks want to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t address the imbalance in the offseason, which suggests it is not a priority. (I tend to agree with this viewpoint. The righty-heavy lineup does not bother me. The Yanks hit righty pitching in previous years.) Then, during the season, they construct their lineups to break up the righties. Infuriating!
To me, this starts at the top. There is a clear analytical framework here to break up the righty hitters. We’ve seen it for years. But there are either: 1) not enough resources to bring in at least one legitimate lefty presence or 2) an inability from the front office to actually get a good lefty bat, despite having the resources. I firmly believe that it is the former.
Cashman is a great GM and has shown that to be the case time and time again. (Yes, even this year.) This is a function of the CBT obsession. Given the lack of resources, the front office targets pitching and the bullpen to improve every offseason and largely ignores the offense. In a world of limited funds, that makes sense – the offense has been great prior to now. They can live with an ubalanced lineup, even though they’d rather not. It’s pretty clear: that’s why Odor, who only counts as the minimum salary against the tax, is even here. He is a lefty hitter who costs nothing. A win-win for both sides, but a loss for the fans.
I could be wrong – wouldn’t be the first time – but there is a clear problem here, and it’s somewhere at the top of the organization. Maybe it’s Hal (likely), or maybe it’s Cashman (less likely), but there is a problem. It’s hurting the team, too. No doubt about it.
There are other things we could discuss right now, much of them positive. Zack Britton is back, which will bring a ton of depth to the Yankee bullpen. Luke Voit, god bless him, is rehabbing in Scranton. They miss the real Luke Voit in a serious way. The MiLB affiliates are doing really well, and many of the big guys we are following are performing this season. All of this are the positives in a sea of negativity. But we’ll get to all of this in the coming days.
For now, let’s just hope that the Yankees are able to weather this brutal storm and turn the ship around. If they don’t soon, it will probably be too late.