The 2020 season has come and gone. We’re awaiting the conclusion of award season and we’ve all had time to digest what occurred in the past seven months. Now we can breakdown the New York Yankees’ season into the classic “good, bad, and ugly” segment.
With the Yankees being a favorite to win their first World Series since 2009, an early exit at the hands of the rival Rays was cause for another disappointing season. Now we’ll look at what bad occurred this season. We covered the good in part one and will conclude with the ugly in part three.
The pitching staff
The Yankees’ pitching has been the Achilles heel for a few seasons, specifically the starting rotation. In 2019, the staff as a whole compiled a 4.31 ERA, good for 14th in the league. Their ERA+ (which adjusts for park factors) was 105 and came in at 13th in the Majors. In 2020, those numbers even took a small step backward. Their 4.35 ERA placed them at 15th and their ERA+ of 99 came in as the sixteenth best this season. A 100 ERA+ is typically considered average for a pitcher and for 2020, the league average for all teams was an ERA+ of 102.
Even with the addition of Gerrit Cole, one of the game’s premier starting pitchers, the Yankees weren’t able to solve their pitching woes. Injuries definitely played a part, as their depth was tested again, but of the 15 pitchers with the most innings pitched, seven of them had an ERA+ south of 100. Even with a bullpen that is knowing for striking out a ton of batters, the staff finished eleventh in the league in strikeouts this season. On the other hand, the champion Los Angeles Dodgers, rival Tampa Bay Rays, resourceful Oakland A’s, and always savvy Cleveland Indians were among the best teams in each category.
If there is one thing the Yankees have struggled with as much as starting pitching the last couple of years, it’s been staying healthy. This season was no different. There’s one stat I will throw out to sum up the Yankees’ injury woes. Tyler Wade appeared in 52 games in 2020. Wade’s 52 games played is inflated because he is used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement often, but he was third on the team in games played this season. Using him in that capacity is perfectly fine when needed–he’s the fastest and most versatile defender on the team–but the fact he appeared in all but eight games shows the Yankees were in too many close games and needed him too often.
Besides Luke Voit, the ever-injured Aaron Hicks was the only position player to see a full slate of games. With the shortened season of 60 games, it was easy to dream of a healthy Yankee team for a full season, and what that could mean for their World Series chances. Alas, Luis Severino missed the whole season along with Tommy Khanle. Aroldis Chapman missed time because of COVID-19, and Giancarlo Staton, Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres played in 23, 28 and 42 games, respectively.
Many Yankees fans will vehemently let you know they believe the team relies too heavily on the home run ball to score their runs. If you are one of those fans, I have some fuel for your fire. The Yankees actually led the league in batting average with runners in scoring position in 2019. Their .294 average paired nicely with their 587 RBI with RISP, good for third in the league, last year. In 2020, the Yankees finished twelfth in average and eighth in RBI with RISP.
After leading the league in runs scored on the road and finishing second in home runs on the road in 2019, the Yankees also took substantial steps backward this season. The Yankees finished 29th in the majors in home runs away from Yankee Stadium in 2020 and hit a paltry .220, good for twenty-seventh.