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Yankees State of the Union Entering April 19: Yikes

I decided that I’m gonna blog on Mondays this year to recap everything that happened in the prior week. Since there were only three games in the Red Sox series, the first one of those comes today. And I gotta tell you guys, it’s pretty brutal that my first blog of the season comes after that disgusting display in Baltimore. But we have a lot to recap, so let’s get right into it.

The offense is (still) bad

The big concern coming into this season was the Yankees’ offense. Their lineup finished 2021 19th in runs scored & 13th in OPS. With no impact bats outside of Josh Donaldson being acquired, Brian Cashman banked heavily on his internal options to be better. Full seasons of Rizzo/Gallo, DJ/Gleyber bounce backs, a healthy Hicks. The early returns on that bet are not great, as the Bombers rank 25th in runs scored & 16th in OPS.

Some good news is that LeMahieu & Hicks have been productive (although Hicks has had some dreadful ABs with runners in scoring position). Rizzo has been solid as well, sporting an .896 OPS and 3 HR in the early going.

But that’s just about where the good news ends. Gleyber looks more like the 2020-21 version of himself rather than 2018-19. Gallo has had a combination of bad luck & brutal ABs contribute to his .424 OPS. Donaldson has been awful early on. The icing on the cake is IKF & Kyle Higashioka creating an absolute black hole at the bottom of the order.

Giancarlo Stanton has cooled off a bit, but still leads the team in RBI with 8. I’m not worried about him one bit. However, our other slugger is concerning me right now.

Judge may be pressing

Aaron Judge did not sign the Yankees’ 8-year, $230 million contract offer on Opening Day. I have no problem with that – if Judge wants to test free agency, he has that right. What I’ll have a problem with is if his contract situation weighs heavily on his mind & causes him to have a down year. And how could it not? The guy just turned down a quarter of a billion dollars. I’ve been hoping that Judge has a huge year and gets the contract he’s looking for, whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just help the 2022 team. Unfortunately early on, he hasn’t helped his case.

Through 10 games, Judge has a .779 OPS, over 150 points lower than his career mark of .937. The big guy has just one homer (also his only RBI), and is just 1-9 in his 11 “high leverage” plate appearances.

Do I expect Judge to be this underwhelming all season? No, I don’t. But this Yankee team doesn’t have a prayer of doing anything without a vintage Aaron Judge season. We need to see him start creating more offense ASAP.

The pitching has been fantastic

The Yankees currently lead the AL with a 2.53 ERA, 4th in MLB. Their 3.00 starter ERA is behind only the White Sox in the AL & 5th in MLB. The bullpen’s ERA of 2.08 is second in MLB, behind only the Rockies. And yet, they have a 5-5 record to show for it. But let’s give the pitching credit where it’s due.

Luis Severino has looked like his old self so far, and that’s huge. He’s hardly pitched since 2018, but when he’s on, he’s a legitimate front-end starting pitcher. Seeing Sevy look this good is not only a good sign for the Yankees’ chances this season, but it warms my heart.

Jordan Montgomery & Jameson Taillon have also both looked good thus far. Monty had a rough first inning against the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball, including getting drilled with a Xander Bogaerts line drive. But he settled down and kept the Yanks in the game. He followed that up with a scoreless five innings in Baltimore Friday. Unfortunately, in classic Yankees fashion, the offense failed to support Monty in either game, ultimately losing both.

Taillon has turned in a pair of solid starts against Toronto & Baltimore, allowing a pair of two-run homers to George Springer & Cedric Mullins. Besides two of the best hitters in the AL clipping him, Jamo is pitching very well so far.

And Nestor Cortes jr., what can you say? He’s quickly changing the narrative from “quirky soft-tossing lefty that’s a nice story” to “legitimately good starting pitcher.”

Insane how good the rotation has been despite Gerrit Cole’s performance – I’ll get to him.

The bullpen is unbelievably deep. Lucas Luetge, Wandy Peralta, Chad Green, and Miguel Castro are all legitimate weapons. Clay Holmes is in “best reliever in baseball” territory right now. Johnny Lasagna had a rough outing yesterday & hasn’t been all that sharp so far, but I’m not worried about him just yet. Depth options Ron Marinaccio & JP Sears have performed well in their chances. And what can you say about Mike King? Two absolutely heroic outings on Opening Day & Thursday against the Jays.

Aroldis Chapman is a mental midget loser and I hate that he’s on this baseball team. But other than him, this bullpen is just unbelievable.

What’s the deal with Cole?

Gerrit Cole has been underwhelming in his two starts, allowing 6 ER in 9.2 innings, including 3 homers. To be fair, he settled down in both and gave the Yanks a chance to win the game. And the guys who clipped him in Rafael Devers & Vlad Guerrero jr are two of the game’s best. I mean, look at the pitch Vlad hit his second homer on:

So am I worried yet? No, I’m not. But at the end of the day, we need Cole to be better. He got paid $324 million for a reason. He’s gotta get these guys out, give us more length, and be dominant. Obviously the discussion around him is what will he be post-spider tac. My honest answer is that after struggling in two post-crackdown starts in 2021, he was fantastic until his hamstring injury. But there are no excuses anymore. Be the dominant ace we pay you to be. That better start on Tuesday in Detroit.

Yankees “to the Sun”

I air my grievances with certain Yankees every Sunday, so I’ll add that in here as well:

Looking ahead

The Yanks play three in Detroit Tuesday-Thursday before returning to the Stadium to face the Cleveland Guardians (I’m still not over that awful name). The pitching matchups should look like this:

Tuesday: Gerrit Cole (005.59 ERA9 SO) vs. Tyler Alexander (005.06 ERA, 4 SO)

Wednesday: Luis Severino (102.25 ERA11 SO) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (015.87 ERA, 7 SO)

Thursday: Jordan Montgomery (003.24 ERA6 SO) vs. TBD (Casey Mize was just placed on IL)

Friday: Jameson Taillon (0-1, 3.72 ERA, 8 SO) vs. Cal Quantrill (103.72 ERA4 SO)

Saturday: Nestor Cortes jr. (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 17 SO) vs. Aaron Civale (0-1, 6.14 ERA, 8 SO)

Sunday: Cole vs. Shane Bieber (0-0, 2.70 ERA, 9 SO)

Cole/Bieber round 3 Sunday should be very interesting. Just win both series. Can’t ask for a sweep as much as we may need that right now. The bottom line is you’re better than both teams, but they’re still competent. Take 2/3 from each, have a 4-2 week, and right this ship.

Check back in next week for what’s hopefully a better update. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @ncostanzo24 for up-to-the-date Yankees information and terrible jokes.