What’s wrong with the New York Yankees? Since the All Star Break they are 7-13. They’ve lost 5 of their 7 series since then and have been swept by the Astros, Mets, and Cardinals in that time frame. Yes, they’re still 10 games up on the Blue Jays and have a 99%+ playoff chance, but they’re struggling right now, especially against good teams. They need to fix whatever is wrong or they’re going to fall short in the playoffs yet again.
In the last 20 games they’ve failed to score more than 3 runs in 10 of them. They’ve been shutout twice in the last week by the Cardinals and Mariners, respectively. A big weakness the Yankees always seem to have is the feast or famine with the home run ball. It has cost them in the playoffs before and this team looks no different. They’ve hit 190 home runs this season, which leads the majors by quite a bit.
In Gerrit Cole’s last 5 starts, he’s 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA despite his 7 scoreless innings on Tuesday night. Frankie Montas got lit up by the Cardinals in his debut last week, surrendering 6 runs in 3 innings at Busch Stadium. Nestor Cortes has never thrown more than 120 innings in his professional career and he sits at 118 currently. Since June 8th, he’s only completed 6 innings in just four of his 10 starts. In 3 of those games, he failed to complete 5 innings. Domingo German has been better recently but still sports an ERA north of 5. Luis Severino is out until at least mid-September.
The starting rotation has been particularly abhorrent since the All Star Break with a 5.08 ERA after a great 3.20 ERA in the first half of the season. Their bullpen has had to carry a lot of the load by pitching 74+ innings since the break. By comparison, the MLB-worst Washington Nationals have had to rely on their bullpen for 76 innings in relief of starters that have a 8.12 ERA in the second half. Over-relying on their bullpen down the stretch could lead to fatigue that affects pitchers in the postseason.
Giancarlo Stanton has been out since July 23rd and they are unsure when he’ll return. Matt Carpenter just fractured his foot after a surprising comeback season and is likely done for the year. They continue to be over-reliant on Aaron Judge and the home run ball in general, which doesn’t always convert to success in the playoffs. New acquisition Andrew Benintendi came into replace the much maligned Joey Gallo in left field and has arguably been just as bad, hitting .175 in 13 games so far for the Bronx Bombers after hitting .320 for the Royals most of the season. The good news with Benintendi is that he’s getting on base at a high clip and his OBP is .327.
One Yankees player that doesn’t have any issues with over-reliance on the home run is Isaiah Kiner-Falefa who was acquired in the offseason along with veteran slugger Josh Donaldson from the Twins. IKF isn’t supposed to be a home run hitter, but the fact that he currently has 0 this season in 370 plate appearances is concerning. His OPS is currently .626 so he’s not hitting many extra base hits in general either. The aforementioned Josh Donaldson is showing his age and only has 11 home runs this season after hitting 26 for the Twins last year. Basically the offense depends on Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, and the injured Giancarlo Stanton with the occasional home run from Donaldson, Gleyber Torres, or one of their catchers.
The hitting has been relatively consistent all season long, despite the over-reliance on the home run. The problem in particular over this stretch has been the starting pitching. Hopefully Frankie Montas’s debut was just a blip and he’ll revert to his Oakland Athletics’ caliber-self. Domingo German has been pretty good over his last few starts and Gerrit Cole is Gerrit Cole. The big question is whether Nestor Cortes can continue his dominant form despite the amount of innings pitched already this season.
The Yankees won’t be slumping like this for the rest of the season. At some point they will right the ship and I have faith they’ll still run away with the AL East. With that being said, however, I believe this slump to be a microcosm of the issues they’ll experience in the postseason. I see three concerns with this Yankees team; the over-reliance on the home run ball for offense; the struggles of starting pitching; and overworking the bullpen as starting pitching continues to struggle. Baseball reference gives them a 27.2% chance of winning the World Series, but based on what I’ve seen, that number should be significantly lower and I believe their Championship drought will continue for at least another year.