In a horrible weekend series with Baltimore, the Yankees displayed the same tired, fatal flaws that kept them from winning the division last year and resulted in a first round exit from the postseason.
The starting pitching was inconsistent.
Hitters were brutal with situational hitting.
The team plays down to their competition.
They tack on garbage time runs which helps skew the numbers.
Players can’t stay healthy.
Let’s start with the starting pitching, which was actually solid over the course of the series as a whole. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton both had good starts. Tanaka went 5.2 innings, allowing one earned run and striking out five. He would’ve gone six if Brett Gardner hadn’t misplayed a fairly catchable ball into a triple. Paxton was as good as advertised, allowing the same one earned run in 5.2 innings. He dotted his fastball on the corners all afternoon, mixing in sweeping sliders to keep lefty’s off balance. J.A. Happ, however, was dreadful. Happ immediately gave the game away in the first inning, as Renato Nunez drilled a three run homer into Monument Park. After a scoreless 2nd, he served up a solo homer to Yankee killer Trey Mancini in the third, putting the Yankees in a hole they could not dig out of.
It’s just one start, and it’s early, but this was a pitiful non-competitive effort. Happ did have to sit through a three hour rain delay, and the weather wasn’t perfect, but these excuses are not viable. J.A. Happ should be able to beat a minor league lineup like Baltimore’s in the snow, in a dome, or on a little league field. The Yankees passed on the best starting pitcher available, Patrick Corbin, for Happ. Part of their reasoning was his experience in the AL East. Happ is supposed to be beat the bad A.L. East teams at home. Sadly, this start was eerily similar to his ALDS dud against the Red Sox last October.
Another problem that won’t seem to go away. The Yankees somehow left 33 men on base over three games. They hit 6-for-29 with runners in scoring position, a .207 average. It’s even worse than it sounds when you consider they were playing at home against mostly minor league level pitchers. The strength of the Yankee offense is power and patience. They walk a ton, but despite all of the hoopla over walks and OBP, walks don’t drive in runs. Hits drive in runs, and the Yankees don’t have enough hitters that can get hits with runners in scoring position. As soon as the Yankees are in a hole, they all start swinging for the fences. This just adds more strikeouts to an already strikeout prone lineup.
Playing down to their competition
A fairly obvious concept to anyone who consistently watches the Yankees. They play great against Cleveland, Boston, Houston, and the other great teams, but play poorly against weaker teams. Last year the Yankees went 12-7 vs Baltimore while Boston went 16-3. They also split with the Marlins, Tigers and Mets. There is no excuse for consistently losing to bottom feeders, especially at home!
Garbage time runs
The Yankees pad their statistics by tacking on garbage time runs that don’t mean much. On Saturday, they scored two runs in the ninth on a Troy Tulowitzki solo shot and a Luke Voit RBI single. On Sunday, they scored a run in the 9th on a DJ LeMehaieu single when the game was out of reach. Scoring runs is never a bad thing, but it does inflate the offensive numbers and make the offense look better than it’s actually preforming.
At some point, the Yankees medical staff and strength and conditioning staff must be held accountable. For all of the hype regarding sleep schedules, analytics and performance metrics, at some point you have to stay on the field. The Yankees clearly have an injury problem. Sure, injuries happen to every club, but it’s happening to the Yankees at an alarming rate. Four games in, they are down the following players:
For those scoring at home, that’s the shortstop, third basemen, center fielder, DH, 2/5 of the starting rotation, and a stud reliever. Not only do the Yankees constantly lose players to injuries, they have no idea how to project the rehab timelines. They thought Judge would be back in three weeks last year, and it took eight. They thought Hicks would be fine for opening day, and he probably won’t be ready until mid-May. Someone has to be held accountable for these constant bungling of injuries. Steve Donahue? Brian Cashman? Matthew Krause?
The Yankees obviously have plenty of time to recover and right the ship, but as we saw last year, every game is precious, and it’s going to be a long season if they can’t eat up the cupcakes on their schedule. If they don’t fix their 2018 flaws, they’ll be right back in the wild card game for a third year in a row.