A little over a week ago, our own Andres Chavez composed a list of the three most indispensable players on the Yankees’ roster. The names listed were Jonathan Loáisiga, Aaron Judge, and Gerrit Cole. Andres spelled out the fact that without these players healthy and performing, the Yankees would be in dire straits. Just days later, it’s safe to say that Andres couldn’t have been any more correct.
Let’s start with Loáisiga. He last pitched on September 3 before hitting the injured list with a right shoulder strain. I can’t stress enough how important he’s been for the Yankees out of the bullpen this season. He leads all major league relievers with 2.2 fWAR and has thrown the third-most innings in the American League out of the ‘pen with 68.0.
In his absence, the Yankees now lack the high-leverage option that Loáisiga represented. Since he’s been on the shelf, the New York bullpen owns a 6.85 ERA, which, in simpler terms, is 17 earned runs in 22.1 innings. That’s not going to win you games. In fact, the last time the Yankees won a baseball game was also the last time Loáisiga was on the mound. He’s the team’s bullpen ace and without him, Aaron Boone has to find someone else to step into his role for an extended period of time. With the postseason rapidly approaching and the Yanks barely clinging onto a Wild Card spot, they need to get things straightened out behind the starting rotation. Until then, the Yankees have to cross their fingers that Loáisiga can return as soon as possible.
Speaking of aces, Gerrit Cole exited his most recent start very abruptly as he had to call it quits due to left hamstring tightness. The team doesn’t seem to be extremely concerned about it, but he may need to miss a start or more. Obviously, losing the AL Cy Young frontrunner is never what you want, especially now that the team is on an extensive losing streak and slipping down in the Wild Card standings. If Cole does miss his next start or two (or more), he may be replaced with the likes of Andrew Heaney, who is, well, not particularly good. Andres listed Cole has the No. 1 player the Yankees couldn’t lose to injury. With the Wild Card Game just under a month away, Cole needs to be healthy in order to help the Yankees advance to the ALDS. If he’s not, you’re looking at one of Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes Jr., Corey Kluber, or Jameson Taillon on the bump for the Yanks in a win or go home game, as opposed to one of the most talented pitchers on the planet.
Finally, the last person to cover on the list is Aaron Judge. We know he’s not injured, but he’s currently in the worst slump of his season. He was in an 0-for-22 skid before reaching on an infield single in Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays, and has just three hits in the month of September. So while No. 99 isn’t hurt, he’s not helping the team at the plate much. That especially hurts when the Yankees have one extra-base hit in their last 30 innings and four total runs scored in their last three games. They own a 1.5 game lead for the second Wild Card spot and are only one game up in the loss column from the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The offense has gone missing not only of late but pretty much the whole season. New York is averaging 4.3 runs per game this season, which is 20th in MLB and the fifth-worst in the American League. The only AL teams worse? The Mariners, Royals, Orioles, and Rangers. Not a good look for the Yankees—who were American League favorites before the season.
With Jonathan Loáisiga and Gerrit Cole both injured and Aaron Judge performing at a level that he doesn’t normally play at, the Yankees are nowhere near guaranteed a playoff berth as their three most indispensable players on the entire roster are going through hardships at the same time. The “next man up” has been a saying for a few seasons now, and it seems like it has to continue this year if the Yankees want to make noise by the season’s end.