Injuries are a hard misfortune to mask, especially in a situation like the Yankees are currently laboring through, where two All-Stars are on the shelf for almost a month. Aaron Judge, one of the best hitters in baseball, has been replaced by Shane Robinson. Gary Sanchez, who was mired in a season-long slump before going down with a nagging groin injury, has yielded his spot to Austin Romine.
Romine can usually be seen as a suitable backup, especially given Sanchez’s lack of production this season. Unfortunately for the Yankees, when one of Romine’s hot streaks could have helped mask Sanchez’s power absence, he has flopped. Where Romine showed his value last season while Sanchez nursed his biceps injury, he has failed to produce in an everyday role this season, and it’s partly to blame for the Yankees’ current struggles.
When Sanchez missed a month in 2017 after straining his biceps, Romine stepped up to post an .823 OPS in his absence. He only hit two home runs, but we all know Romine is far from a power threat. His .327 batting average while Sanchez was injured was an enormous success, and the Yankees went 13-5 in that span. This season, since Sanchez first went on the DL with the initial groin strain back on June 25th, Romine has an OPS of just .601, and a batting average a tick above the Mendoza Line.
The Yankees are just 13-12 in that span. Of course, the Yankees have a long list of problems right now, including the absence of Judge, the starting pitching, and the recent bullpen struggles. The defense has had multiple mental lapses as well. Still, a somewhat effective Romine could at least help the Yankees slightly improve, but he hasn’t seized what has been an opportunity to shine.
Even more concerning is Romine’s performance behind the plate. He has often been characterized as a solid defensive catcher who can handle a pitching staff, but that hasn’t been the case since Sanchez went down. The most glaring defect is how baserunners have gone wild on the basepaths against Romine’s inferior arm. Opposing runners have stolen 22 bases on 27 attempts on Romine’s watch since June 24th, when Sanchez first hit the DL.
The Red Sox alone have swiped nine out of 10 bags on Romine since late June. Then there is the case of stopping the baseball, and not just baserunners. In his first 27 games this season, Romine didn’t allow a passed ball. In the 23 contests since Sanchez suffered his groin injury, Romine has allowed three passed balls, two of them coming in the final two games of the Boston series, which we should all choose to forget.
Nobody should expect Romine to be any kind of saving grace for the Yankees. He’s a backup catcher for a reason. However, a little more production shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially behind the plate. Sanchez is still a couple weeks away from returning, and if the Yankees want to avoid sliding even closer to the second Wild Card, or worse, they need some production out of the bottom of the order. It’s likely not coming from Robinson and Luke Voit, so Romine needs to kick it up a notch (or three).