DOOM I SAY, DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have gone 9-20 in the second half of the season so far. That’s good enough for a .310 winning percentage. Oh good, it’s the 2018 Orioles (47-115) reborn. Watching the Yankees in the last month has been an exercise in masochism. This has been compounded by some of the odd choices that the front office made before the trade deadline. What has caused this drastic drop in performance?
With the trading of Joey Gallo and Jordan Montgomery, have the Yankees angered the Heavens into bestowing a curse upon them? Maybe, but probably not. The Curse of the Billy Goat (Chicago Cubs) and the Curse of the Bambino (Boston Red Sox) were the result of a number of factors that resulted in long periods of malaise. Neither angry goat owners or the sale of Babe Ruth’s contract were the root cause of protracted postseason failures for these teams. The cause of these teams’ failures was a combination of front office choices, player performance, and sometimes some bad luck.
In the same way, the Yankees are not cursed. The fact that they traded Joey Gallo and Jordan Montgomery (Gumby + Gallo = Gumbo, thank you Peter Brody for the idea), does not mean that the Yankees are suddenly cursed. Instead, the Yankees performance comes down to ineffectiveness on offense and pitching along with a spate of injuries. Baseball Reference provides all of the useful statistics for examining team performance.
During the first half of the season, the team sported a triple slash line of .246/.331/.445, good for a .776 OPS. In addition, they totaled 157 home runs over 3523 plate appearances. Since the second half of the season began, the Yankees have slipped significantly. Over 1098 plate appearances, their triple slash line is only .225/.304/.388 with an OPS of .692. To go along with those disappointing numbers, the Yankees have only hit 39 home runs during the second half.
This can really be shown by looking at Gleyber Torres. Over 315 plate appearances in the first half, he hit .268/.325/.484 with 14 home runs. Since the second half started, his performance has absolutely cratered. He is hitting below the Mendoza line with .193/.220/.325 and only 4 home runs in 118 plate appearances. He exemplifies the struggles that the Yankee hitters have gone through.
The pitching staff has gone through the same type of trouble as the hitters. Overall, the pitching staff had a 3.08 ERA over 830.0 innings with 846 strikeouts during the first half. In contrast, the Yankees have had a mediocre 4.28 ERA with 246 strikeouts over 256.2 innings partway through the game on the 21st. Even when breaking down these numbers into starters and relievers, they have both struggled in the second half. In 515.0 starter pitcher innings in the first half, they had very good 3.20 ERA. However, in 153.2 innings over the second half, starting pitchers have a 4.86 ERA.
The picture for relief pitchers is somewhat better, but not a lot. Over 315.0 relief innings, the Yankees had a 2.89 ERA in the first part of the season. Since the start of the second half, the Yankees’ relief pitchers have a 3.41 ERA in 103.0 innings. Part of the underperformance by the pitching staff comes down to the fact that they traded away one of their core starters. Since being traded to the Cardinals, Jordan Montgomery has just a 0.54 ERA over three games started. However, this does not explain all of the issues that the pitching staff has had.
Injuries have put a toll on the Yankees’ ability to win games. Among the many injuries that they have faced include Michael King, Miguel Castro, Luis Severino, Clay Holmes, Matt Carpenter, Albert Abreu, and Giancarlo Stanton. There are lot of brand names and high performers on this list, and this helps explain why the Yankees have struggled so much.
The reasons why the Yankees have failed to win games is not exactly complicated. It is not that they have been cursed by the ghost of Gumby, but rather that they have struggled in the two most important facets of the game. Their pitching and batting has been demonstrably worse than in the first half. At the same time, they have had multiple players go down with injuries and miss time (partly explaining this dip in performance). Performance will always ebb and flow over a season. Unfortunately, the Yankees seem to have multiple players ebb at the same time on both sides of the ball. The Yankees have a lot of talented players, and it’s very possible that they could start doing well again. We will just have to watch and see.