After a historic start that led to comparisons with the Yankees of decades prior, the 2022 side has fallen back down to earth. During their post-All-Star Game skid, their once solid division lead is looking shakier by the day. Given that the team’s highs are so high yet their lows are so low, one question on baseball fans’ minds is ‘Just how good are the Yankees?’.
A Fall From Grace
The Yankees’ start during this season was nothing short of incredible. They went into the All-Star break with a record of 64-28, putting them on pace to garner 113 wins during the regular season. They had the best record in baseball by four games, led the league in runs scored, and were only better by the Los Angeles Dodgers in terms of run prevention. However, the side has gone 10-20 since the Midsummer Classic. One could be quick to say that the wheels have come off for the Yankees and that they are on the brink of blowing the division altogether.
Pitching, Hitting, Or Both?
When looking at the Yanks’ recent struggles, two games truly sum up the run they’ve been on. By highlighting these games, one can see precisely why they have been struggling.
One would be quick to label hitting as the problem for the Yankees during their horrid run. During this season, the Yankees have been shut out 11 times in comparison to 11 times between 2017 & 2020. This boom or bust nature has defined the Yankees’ offense in recent weeks, with the side being shutout 5 times in their last 15 games. In their marathon 13-inning defeat against the Mariners, the side put up a measly three hits all game, while making multiple baserunning errors in extra-innings.
Another loss that occurred in heart-breaking fashion was against the Red Sox, in Boston, following a blown save in the bottom of the ninth following Clay Holmes walking multiple batters. The once dependable, fearsome, shutdown reliever in Holmes has had huge issues with his command. Between July 9th & August 13th, Holmes pitched 11 innings, putting up an ERA of 9.00, converted 1 out of 5 save opportunities as well as walked 11 batters. A phantom IL stint for ‘back issues’ followed a few days later. Given his command issues can be blamed on a slight shift towards the right in the release point of his sinker, one can hope that this IL stint should see him fix his mechanics and return to his best.
Overall, one can blame this recent skid on atrocious hitting as well as pitching that hasn’t come through in big moments. It almost seems as if, when the offense shows up, the pitching doesn’t and vice-versa.
Despite their recent struggles, the Yankees are still clearly an excellent baseball side. Furthermore, bad luck is the primary factor behind the level of underperformance the Yankees are experiencing. The Yankees’ run differential from the 37-game span up to August 20th was -1, although poor, it is not the run differential of a side that would go 12-25. As of the time of writing, the side holds an 8-game lead in the AL East and is still the favorite to secure the division crown. Any collapse would be one of the historic proportions and still looks highly unlikely.
Furthermore, once they reach the playoffs, their four-man rotation of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Frankie Montas, and Luis Severino is up there with the best in baseball. Aside from Michael King, whose presence is sorely missed, the Yankees roster will likely be fully fit come October. As a result of this, if the bats can get hot, they are more than capable of winning it all, despite what reactionary fans may currently be saying.
What Happens Next?
While this current streak of form has been nothing short of dire, the Yankees can expect to see improvements in the coming weeks. As stated prior, the primary reason behind their struggles has been poor hitting, particularly with runners on base. The return of Giancarlo Stanton from injury in the coming days should bolster the offense. Not only will Stanton’s bat replacing Aaron Hicks be a positive for the side but it will likely mean Aaron Judge‘s levels of production will increase as a result. During the team’s offensive slumps, opposing pitchers have been able to pitch around Judge given his teammates represent such a small threat from the plate. This has resulted in Judge seeing fewer first-pitch strikes and thus leads to worse results as he is still expected to be the hero and lead the Yankee offense while seeing very few hittable pitches.
In addition, the return of a rested Clay Holmes in the coming days and Luis Severino in a few weeks should see the pitching being more stable, particularly in closely-contested games.
To conclude, the Yankees are still one of the premier sides in Major League Baseball, despite a month-long drop in production. Although perhaps not the runaway World Series favorites they were 50 games into the season, they still represent a force to be reckoned with within the sport and will only be bolstered by the returns of Clay Holmes, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and potentially Matt Carpenter, provided his foot can heal quick enough.
Thus, in the words of former Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain on Twitter, ‘THEY WILL BE FINE’. No team starts a season with a record of 64-28 through sheer luck. They are a team that plays winning baseball.