What a fun past few days for the Yankees. The acquisitions of Joey Gallo, Anthony Rizzo, and Andrew Heaney have imparted life into the 2021 Yankees, who swept the Marlins in Miami over the weekend. Watching this year’s club had been a drag before the trade deadline, but now, things are looking up.
It was really refreshing to see the Yankees go for it at the deadline even with not-so-great playoff odds at the time. It was especially satisfying to see the front office address the lack of left-handed bats. We’ve been clamoring for that for a while! And to see it pay off immediately thanks to Rizzo’s big weekend was fun. Lefty power, what a concept. It’s almost like the Yankees have a history of big left-handed boppers.
The hole the Yankees have dug themselves still leaves the team with plenty work to do, but it’s hard not to feel much better after this past weekend. I have thoughts on the playoff hunt and more after the page break:
Well, this is going just as we expected: the Yankees have won 9 of their last 12 games, even after a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined some of the most important players on the roster. The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailBirdsYankees have really stepped up – and very well may have saved the season. That was just the bare minimum, though. The Yankees now face their toughest and most important stretch of the season.
Suffice to say, I have some thoughts. Let’s get to ’em.
1. Setting the Stakes: So, yeah. The Yanks are now on the road, where they’ll play four in Boston and three in Tampa Bay. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say it will make or break their season – or at least their chances at a division title. If they go on a tear, they’re right back in it. If they get demolished, their chances are all but gone. And if they tread water, well, they still have a chance, but they made it a whole hell of a lot more difficult.
The Yankees currently sit 7 games behind Boston (6 in the loss column) for first place of the division. They’re 6 games behind Tampa (5 in the loss column) for second place. This stretch will be crucial. (They’ll still have a chance in the Wild Card, where they’re the team just outside the dance, 3.5 games behind Oakland, though it’s just 2 in the loss column.) Their playoff odds, per FanGraphs, stand at 43.4% going into the big stretch.
That will change a lot over the next week.Unfortunately, the Yankees will at least start the weekend still playing shorthanded. Aaron Judge won’t be back until at least Sunday, nor will Gio Urshela or Kyle Higashioka. (It’s theoretically possible that they’ll return sooner, at least the vaccinated among them – but we’ve heard nothing to that effect so far.) There is some good news, though: the Yanks could get both Jonathan Loaisiga and Nestor Cortes Jr. back this weekend.
Loaisiga rejoined the team on Tuesday, threw on flat ground, tossed a bullpen, and is expected to be activated for the weekend. Boone also hinted, earlier this week, that Cortes could also return against Boston. It doesn’t solve the roster crunch – I’d prefer the Yankees attack be at full strength right now – but it’s better than nothing.
Finally, the Yanks’ rotation is well-positioned going into this stretch. There won’t be any former Oriole reclamation projects, bullpen games, or fliers, barring injury. The starters line up as such:
Thursday, July 22 (@ BOS): Jordan Montgomery
Friday, July 23 (@ BOS): Gerrit Cole
Saturday, July 24 (@ BOS): Jameson Taillon
Sunday, July 25 (@ BOS): Domingo Germán
Tuesday, July 27 (@ TB): Jordan Montgomery
Wednesday, July 28 (@ TB): Gerrit Cole
Thursday, July 29 (@ TB): Jameson Taillon
That is good news. Cole, Taillon, and Montgomery are clearly the Yanks’ best, most-reliable starters right now. (If that’s a good thing is a different question.) They’ll be taking the mound in 6 of the 7 biggest games of the season. Can’t ask for much more than that. Now they need to go out and perform. Wouldn’t hurt to get a 2006 or 2009 mid-summer sweep of Boston going. Is that too much to ask?
Remember when the Yankees beat up on the Twins last month? Good times. It felt like just what the doctor ordered for a struggling Yankees team. They played fairly well for a couple of weeks thereafter, only to go back into a slump at the end of June. This current series against the Mariners has a bit of a similar feel to that Minnesota one. After an ugly homestand, the Yanks are beating up on a not-so-good Seattle ballclub away from the Bronx.
Whether or not the Yankees can build off a series win against Seattle remains to be seen, but as I’m about to discuss, the schedule is about to get very tough. So without further ado, I have some thoughts on the team’s upcoming games, the trade deadline, and the amateur draft. Let’s get to it.
How many of you went to sleep with the Yankees up 7-4 and the bullpen seemingly locking things down? Or during the second rain delay, fully expecting the game to be called at five innings? I envy you all. Much better than staying up past 1 o’clock in the morning to watch that abominable loss.
Hal Steinbrenner is going to speak to the media this morning, and as I noted yesterday, don’t expect him to say anything that will satisfy the masses. He’ll probably state his frustration, reiterate his belief in the current group, but note that this is unacceptable. A bunch of words that won’t do much of anything. Bleh.
So, I have thoughts, rambling ones at that. I don’t know if they are coherent as I’m operating on five-ish hours of sleep, but let’s get to’em.
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.