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Reasons for optimism about the 2022 Yankees

The contrast between the first and second half of the 2022 Yankees is as drastic as it has ever been for any team in baseball history. Through Saturday’s action, they have exactly 28 losses before and after the All-Star Break, but 40 fewer wins in the second half. Their lineup frequently looks like Aaron Judge is playing for a triple-A team and regardless of what happens the rest of the way, they need to clean house in the offseason. Make no mistake, it’s bleak in the Bronx, but there’s still room for optimism for the 2022 season.

Lineup Optimism

In with the good, out with the bad. Starting with the infield, Anthony Rizzo appeared to be headache-free as he joked around with teammates in the dugout recently. According to Brendan Kuty of nj.com, he could rejoin the team in about a week. Having him back in the lineup will be doubly beneficial, not simply because of his own talent but because his replacements have been especially dreadful. With D.J. LeMahieu injured as well, Marwin Gonzalez is the only player on the roster with experience at the position and he’s batting .056 in the second half. As for the rest of the infield, Gleyber Torres, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Josh Donaldson have all been disappointing and Oswald Peraza is no savior, but Aaron Boone can at least play matchups and ride a hot hand if someone goes on a tear.

In the outfield, Harrison Bader could make his long-awaited Yankees debut on September 20 according to Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post. His presence will move Judge back to right field and Oswaldo Cabrera into a super-utility role that likely suits him best. After Friday’s catastrophe, Boone appears to have finally given up on Aaron Hicks. Miguel Andújar and Tim Locastro should see the bulk of the playing time in left field for the rest of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton’s timing was way out of sync when he returned from the IL on August 25, but lately, he’s been hitting the ball much harder. From September 5-10, six of his seven batted balls have exceeded 100 mph exit velocity. That includes his first home run since July 15 (albeit off of a position player). We’ve all seen how he can carry a team singlehandedly when he gets going and a hot streak may be just around the corner.

Pitching Returns

The Yankees’ starting rotation has been their guiding light recently, but it can still use reinforcement. Luis Severino will make one more rehab start in the minors. If all goes well, the team expects him to start against the Pirates on September 21. After that, they could ride with a six-man rotation for the remaining two weeks of the regular season. In the playoffs, they might piggyback their starting pitchers other than Gerrit Cole, limiting them to twice through the order.

Zack Britton, Miguel Castro, and Aroldis Chapman are all rehab teammates in double-A Somerset. If everything goes according to plan, they should all rejoin the Yankees in the near future. Scott Effross isn’t far behind, as he has started throwing bullpen sessions. With four quality arms returning to the bullpen before the playoffs, the Yankees will have a good problem making selections for the playoff roster.

Playoff odds

In spite of their struggles, the Yankees built up enough of a lead that they are all but certain to play in the postseason. Tampa Bay is surging and Toronto remains close, but through Saturday’s action, Baseball-Reference gives the Yankees a 95.4 percent chance of winning the AL East and greater than a 99.9 percent chance of making the playoffs in some way. Their odds of reaching the Championship Series, going to the World Series, and winning the championship are higher than any other team in baseball except for the Dodgers.

It seems as though the sky has been falling for the past two months. However, the 2022 season was never going to be about how well they performed from April through early October. The goal is still to win the World Series. They may not look like the kind of ballclub that can win it all right now, but by the time the playoffs start, they could resemble the first-half Yankees once more.