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Looking at the Yankees’ divisional woes

There are plenty of things that the New York Yankees need to improve upon in order to salvage the 2021 season.  The most important, though, will almost certainly be raising their game against divisional opponents.

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After last night’s loss against the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees’ record sits at 33-30. Against non-AL East teams, the Yankees’ record is an outstanding 19-9. The problem is that they’re currently 14-21 in the 35 games that they’ve played against the four other AL East squads. Between now and the end of the year, the Yankees will play another 41 games against divisional opponents. Those 41 games account for a little more than 40% of the team’s remaining contests, which means the Yankees need to perform well in them.

Struggling to Score

It’s no secret that the 2021 Yankees have a hard time scoring runs. The current iteration of the Bronx Bombers have done anything but bash the baseball, which is why they rank No. 26 in runs per game (3.89). Against AL East teams, the Yankees’ scoring numbers are slightly worse than their overall mark. In 35 divisional games, the Yanks have scored 125 runs, which works out to 3.57 runs per game. A large potion of those runs, however, have come against the Baltimore Orioles (53 runs in 10 games). Against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto, the Yankees are averaging just 2.88 runs per game.

Focusing in on the Yankees’ offensive numbers versus Boston, Tampa, and Toronto is a harrowing exercise. In their 25 games against those three teams, the Yankees have posted the following stats:

  • .199 BA
  • .281 OBP
  • .332 SLG
  • .613 OPS
  • 74 wRC+

A team batting average under .200 and a wRC+ that is 26 percentage points below league average are both inexcusably mediocre. Nobody can deny that the Sox, Rays, and Jays all boast talented pitching staffs; however, if the Yankees plan on seriously competing for the AL East crown, these numbers simply have to improve.

Pitching as a Positive

The Yankee pitching staff may have cooled off a bit over the past few weeks, but pitching is still a strong point for this team. Assuming that the veteran bullpen arms can regain their form, the recent pitching woes will likely work themselves out.

Fortunately, the Yankee staff has been pretty good against the AL East this year. Here are the Yankees’ pitching stats through the team’s 35 divisional games:

  • 3.73 ERA
  • 1.16 WHIP
  • 3.78 FIP
  • .227 BA Against
  • 10 K/9
  • 2.8 BB/9

While the Yankees’ team ERA in divisional games isn’t jaw-dropping, it certainly isn’t cause for concern. In fact, if the Yankee pitchers can continue to perform respectably against the other AL East teams, then a bit more offense should definitely result in a much better winning percentage.

Proving Grounds

Because Major League Baseball likes to pack as many divisional games as possible into the final stretch of the season, the Yankees don’t play many AL East games in the near future. Outside of three games versus Toronto and another three versus Boston, the Yankees won’t play any other divisional games until after the All-Star break.

With just a few divisional games on the horizon, each contest will take on added importance. A pair of series wins against Toronto and Boston would be a great way for the Yankees to build momentum as the first half of the season rapidly draws to a close.