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Thoughts After a Rough Weekend in Philadelphia

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.

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15 Comments

  1. ORL

    The biggest problem this team has is Hal Steinbrenner; it all starts with him. You can’t be a team that has World Series aspirations and then take your foot off the pedal every two or three years because of the luxury tax penalty. The Yankees and their ability to outspend most if not all the other MLB teams is a major asset. To forgo that tool because he feels a team under a $200 million payroll can compete for a World Series as well as a team over that threshold is ridiculous. The roster is left with glaring issues that cannot get addressed and leaves Cashman scrambling for bargain-basement finds to address weaknesses like the starting rotation and bench. More importantly, when the plan doesn’t work out (Taillon is ineffective; Kluber is hurt; Gardner is washed up), you have no financial wiggle room to go ahead and fix things in-season.

  2. Cashman had the off season to address lefty righty balance and didn’t. Either Frazier or Voit should have been moved and a lefty bat brought in. Remember when Stick had the guts to move rising star Roberto Kelly for Paul O’ Neill. That’s what was needed here. And bringing in Odor as a cheap afterthought is not doing it.

  3. mikenyc2007

    Three simple truths IMO
    1. you cannot have a $200m cap on your payroll and say you are analytic-driven, yet pay a non-Mariano reliever (free agent signing) almost 10% of total payroll when the same job can be done by others for far less.
    2. you cannot tell me that a professional athlete, who consistently gets hurt when not moving around for a hour, then is asked to be explosive, then sit down for another hour, and then be explosive ( rinse/repeat) is not in greater jeopardy of getting hurt than if he is in the OF moving around all game…. because a) he did that for years and didn’t get hurt, and b) now does the former and cant play 2 days in a row.
    3. Boone has to go. Being quite and passive with this group of silent, mediocre players isn’t the mix for this team at this time. Yes, Boone cannot pitch, and its not his fault Odor is on the roster… but it is his fault for the lack of energy on the team, the lackadaisical play from everyone, and the fact there are no consequences to these actions – and yes, sometimes a player needs to be pulled from a game, or embarrassed in the press, or shown up by the manager…. everyone is motivated differently. Boone hasn’t gotten the memo, and his players are neither focused nor successful…. so he can either change, resign or play out the string and get fired.

  4. The Original Drew

    The Yankees need: (in order)

    1) Starting caliber CF (preferably someone that is a left handed bat but I will take competent ball player first)
    2) Mid rotation starting pitcher. You can’t sit there and hope that Kluber or Severino will come back and be healthy or effective. You’re #2 can’t be German or Montgomery
    3) Middle IF help that is better than Odor or Wade. That shouldn’t be hard to find because they both stink.

  5. James Scully

    These issues became real issues when the Yankees didn’t resign Didi. He was a middle of the order left-handed bat and a middle infielder that allowed the infield to have an overabundance of talented guys: Urshela, Didi, Torres, LeMahieu, Voit. Hicks has always been more injury prone than Didi and he was signed prior to the 2019 season while Didi was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Didi was also a tremendous clubhouse glue guy. the public-facing claim was that he wasn’t resigned because Torres was the shortstop of the future. The truth was he wasn’t resigned because of the luxury tax.

    The luxury tax threshold is the single biggest reason why I’ve watched no more than ten games this year after spending twenty-plus years of my life watching 120-150 games per year. These struggles are all self-inflicted. I don’t blame Brian Cashman, he’s working within the confines of the rules mandated to him. The richest team in baseball is proverbially fighting with one hand purposely tied behind their back.

    • DZB

      I totally agree – these are self-inflicted problems thanks to an unwillingness to spend money, despite being an incredibly rich team. It’s their business and they can run it however they see fit, but from a fans perspective, we don’t have to like it or support their greediness.

  6. Mooooooose

    Aaron Boone & the front office: why don’t you love us?

  7. Esteddardban Florial

    1. It’s over, Bobby. It’s better to stop hoping so you won’t be heartbroken down the road. This ballclub is bad. Poor leadership, poor fundamentals, poor roster construction, poor discipline, poor health. Just bad all around. I predict a .500 season at best. I think we’ll sell of we’re smart. In the 2008 season Girardi actually had a much worse roster than this and still squeezed out a decent record but Girardi got thr best out of his players. Boone gets the worst.

    2. The Stanton situation is everything that’s wrong with the Yankees today. They treat him with kid gloves so he won’t get hurt and he’ll end up getting hurt anyway. A 31 year old giant muscular man can’t stand out in LF for 2 hours or he’ll get hurt? It’s just dumb. Andujar isn’t exactly Gardy out there so you wouldn’t lose much defense if Stanton just slowly jogged to the ball. These are athletes and they treat them like it’s the geriatric ward.

    3. Odor was Cash trying to get back to his big left handed hairy monsters but he’s no Hideki or Grandy or even Brian McCann. He needs to be dumped in the East River. DJ, Judge, Stanton, Gio, Gleyber, Gary and Andujar should hit 1-7 regardless of the pitcher because those are your best hitter. Sucks that they’re all righties but that’s Cash’s fault for counting on Hicks, letting Didi go and signing the corpse of Jay Bruce.

    4. Britton and O’day returning won’t do much when the lineup can’t score runs and thr starting pitching can’t use spider tack. Voit returning will help but he wasn’t good earlier this year. But he is an upgrade over the hitless “hard hitten” Chris Gittens.

  8. H. Avis

    The Yankees, as currently constructed, are nothing more than a 500 club. They have far too many critical holes in their lineup and starting rotation. It’s time for a major reset, top to bottom.

    • Coolerking101

      What we have here is the result of a Yankee strategy which emphasizes being in contention every year rather than caring about championships. The Yankees never go all-in. They are obsessed with never rebuilding and hurting the bottom line. They rather compete every year and lose, than win one or two championships and then miss the playoffs (and the revenue that comes from contending annually).

      The Red Sox traded their two elite prospects for Chris Sale. You have to be willing to cash-in your chips for World Series. This team doesn’t need a rebuild. It needs to trade Dominguez and some other guys for a package that includes an elite starting pitcher and at least one quality lefty bat(s).

      • Steve

        No one is giving you an elite pitcher for Dominguez until he actually plays and lives up to the hype.

        • Coolerking101

          He’s a consensus top 100 prospect without a single pro game. If he’s that well liked, you can be sure many a teams (who certainly scouted him previously) will covet him.

      • DZB

        I agree that this is at least in part due to a preference to always be competitive without ever going all in. I appreciate the drive to always compete, so I don’t complain about that part. They could easily do that, and also spend more money. This has worked well for the Dodgers and I think they are the model for the NYY to try to match.

  9. Yanks317

    Fangraphs has the entry to the playoffs firmly at 90 wins (I say firmly because after the division winners they have BOTH of the WC teams projected for 90 wins). I noticed the RaB Twitter account say 93 and you have 95 here. I thought that was much too high, though I know the wildcard teams in the AL have really been high in recent years. It seems like there are less tanking teams right now. But I wonder if that’ll reconcile after the deadline. Certain teams in the WC race will add significant pieces and drift upward from 88-90. Still I’m optimistic that 95 is too high. There are more relevant teams this year than in the recent past.

    • Bobby

      Likely true. I put 95 just to be on the safe side — I could see 90 wins not being enough, whereas winning 95 all but certainly gets them in. It’s a fair point, though.

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