When the 2019 campaign began on March 28, many were optimistic about the New York Yankees potentially repeating their successful 2018 run. But with 15 games under their belt, the Yankees have a 6-9 record which was something no one could have predicted.
The Yankees have lost three straight series against teams at home, and are scheduled to face the Boston Red Sox for a two-game set on Tuesday night. Following a sweep of the Houston Astros on April 10, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he believed the Yankees were “really close to turning a corner”.
Aaron Boone feels like the Yankees are “really close to turning a corner.” pic.twitter.com/K9jzBxFwA8
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 11, 2019
The team is currently in a position that they’re not familiar with; the 27-time World Series champions are in third place, and what was once predicted to be an AL East battle between the Yankees and Red Sox has turned into the Rays running away with the division early on.
Despite the slow start, it’s not time to panic. There is plenty of baseball left, and the Yankees will find themselves on a hot streak sooner or later. However, there are plenty of factors that have to come into play in order for the Yankees to actually ‘turn the corner’.
No More Substantial Injuries
On March 28, this was the New York Yankees Opening Day starting lineup:
Brett Gardner CF
Aaron Judge RF
Giancarlo Stanton LF
Luke Voit DH
Miguel Andujar 3B
Gary Sanchez C
Greg Bird 1B
Gleyber Torres 2B
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Let’s fast-forward to April 14. This was the lineup for the series finale against the Chicago White Sox:
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Aaron Judge RF
Gleyber Torres SS
Luke Voit 1B
Clint Frazier DH
Brett Gardner CF
Gio Urshela 3B
Kyle Higashioka C
Mike Tauchman LF
The difference between March 28 and April 14 is the Yankees are missing Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, and Troy Tulowitzki. That’s not even scratching the surface regarding the injury bug; 11 players are currently on the injured list, and most of them don’t have a definitive timetable for their return.
UPDATED. So… when are these guys expected back, anyway?
Andujar: May? (Maybe 2020)
Sabathia: April 13
Sanchez: late April?
Stanton: late April?
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 12, 2019
In a sense, the Yankees are unintentionally following the plot for Avengers: Endgame; With their fallen comrades on the injured list–in this case, Thanos would represent the IL–Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and CC Sabathia lead their new recruits in a fight for the American League East.
The problem is, the team really can’t afford another substantial injury.
Yes, it’s easier said than done, and injuries do happen in baseball. But the Yankees are currently using tape and glue to piece together a roster that is missing their superstars.
The Rotation Has To Be Effective
The rotation should have a boost since CC Sabathia recently joined the highly-effective Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German on April 13, but J.A. Happ and James Paxton have struggled since making their Yankee debuts. In 15 innings, Paxton is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA while Happ is 0-2 with a 8.76 ERA in 12.1 innings.
Paxton in particular seemed determined to ‘turn the corner’; following Paxton’s last start, Yankees adviser Carlos Beltran brought it to Paxton’s attention that he was tipping his curveball, which allowed runners on second base to relay the pitch to the hitter at the plate. In addition to working on his curveball mechanics, Paxton is also talking with a sports psychologist after admitting he was placing pressure on himself following his move from Seattle to New York City.
James Paxton said he’s been putting pressure on himself in his new environment. A talk with his sports psychologist has him back on track.
Also, someone pointed out he tipped his curveball grip, runners at 2nd relayed to the hitter in Houston.
Who told him? Carlos Beltran.
— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) April 14, 2019
With the changes Paxton is willing to make, one can hope he and Happ will successfully assist the team in getting back in the win column.
Yankees Need To Clean Up Their Defense
In the past, the Yankees have prided themselves on having a defensively sound team. But in the early going, it appears the team has left defense behind. Through 15 games this season, the Yankees have 13 errors (.975 FPCT), ranking 24th in all of baseball.
Before we divulge any further, let’s break down which positions the errors came from on the diamond:
Like injuries, errors do happen in baseball. It’s all part of the game. However, 13 errors in 15 games is a big reason why the Yankees currently have a 6-9 record.
This team is capable of playing better defensively, and in order to start winning games, they have to not present potential scoring opportunities to the opposition.
The Bullpen Has To Be Dominant
Coming into the season, the Yankees prided themselves on having one of the most dominant bullpens on paper. Despite losing David Robertson to the Philadelphia Phillies and Dellin Betances to the injured list, the Yankees still had big names like Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Zack Britton, Jonathan Holder, Joe Harvey, and Luis Cessa.
Despite having a strong bullpen on paper, some of the relievers aren’t performing as well as they should; Chad Green has a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings. Jonathan Holder has a 5.19 ERA in 8.2 innings. Zack Britton has a 4.05 ERA in 6.2 innings, and Tommy Kahnle has a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings.
Relievers like Cessa and Harvey have been a massive bright spot for the Yankees so far, but those two alone aren’t enough to fill the void of Betances, who is now scheduled to miss six weeks with a shoulder impingement. If the relievers can’t hold a lead into the ninth inning, there’s no chance for Chapman to lock down a save; Chapman only has two saves in five appearances.
All around, the Yankees have to start performing better as a team if they want to get out of their 6-9 deficit. Despite it being early in the season, it currently appears as if the Rays are leaving the rest of the AL East behind. And if the Yankees want to have any chance of winning the AL East, they have to actually ‘turn the corner’, or they’ll have to settle for either a Wild Card spot or a postseason-less October.